Rachel Reeves promises homes and economic growth in first speech as chancellor

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves delivers a speech at the Treasury, to an audience of leading business figures and senior stakeholders, announcing the first steps the new Labour Government will take to deliver economic growth, in London on July 8, 2024. (Photo by Jonathan Brady / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN BRADY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Rachel Reeves gave her first speech as UK chancellor on Monday. (JONATHAN BRADY via Getty Images)

The UK’s first ever female chancellor has pledged a “planning revolution” to help speed up housebuilding as part of a wide-ranging plan to reboot the UK economy.

Rachel Reeves also she would bring back compulsory housebuilding targets and end the effective ban on onshore wind farms in England in order to fast track national infrastructure projects.

She promised her government would build 1.5 million homes over the next five years, as pledged in Labour’s election manifesto.

In her first speech as chancellor, Reeves said that boosting growth is “a national mission” and the “guiding light” in Labour’s approach to planning reforms that will “get Britain building again”.

The new government will support local authorities with 300 additional planning officers across the country.

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The chancellor added that Angela Rayner, the deputy prime minister, will write to local councils and planning authorities to review green belt boundaries, and “brownfield and grey belt land” will be prioritised for housing where needed.

However, Reeves said this was not a “green light” to any kind of housing development, and that the right “mix” of affordable housing and homes for social rent would be built.

Reeves said she will set a date for the autumn budget before the summer recess. She said that she intended to “do things properly” when it comes to delivering the budget.

“I will ask the Office of Budget Responsibility to produce the forecast and we’ll go through the proper process and the time it takes to do that and I will produce that budget in the autumn. But we will set out the date for that budget before summer recess,” she said.

Reeves added that the Labour Party faced a “dire inheritance” but she said this was “our downpayment”.

The chancellor also said “Britain is a place to do business”, as she said Labour will not use their large majority to renege on their tax promises.

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“Over the weekend, I made clear to Treasury officials that the manifesto commitments that we were elected on will be kept safe and they will be delivered on. That includes robust fiscal rules and it includes our commitments to no increases in national insurance and the basic higher or additional rates of income tax or VAT,” Reeves said.

“To investors and businesses who spent 14 years doubting whether Britain is a safe place to invest. Then let me tell you, after 14 years, Britain has a stable government. A government that respects business, wants to partner with business and is open for business. In an uncertain world, Britain is a place to do business.”

The chancellor refused to make “promises” on when HS2 will be delivered.

Answering questions from the media after her first Treasury speech, Reeves said: “We are not going to make promises without saying where money will come from.”

Reeves has said she will look at the pensions system as a way of driving growth in British businesses.

She said she will set out her new policy intentions for critical infrastructure in the coming months.

Reeves has ordered an assessment of state spending so that she can understand “the full extent of our challenge”.

“I have repeatedly warned that whoever won the general election would inherit the worst set of circumstances since the Second World War.”

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Reeves said the new Labour government inherited “14 years of chaos and economic irresponsibility”.

The initial assessment, she said, showed that “had the UK grown at just the average rate of other OECD economies these last 14 years, our economy would be over £140bn larger” which “could have bought in another £58bn in tax revenues in the last year alone” for public services.

Reeves has announced an immediate end to the “absurd” ban on new onshore wind developments in England as she unveiled a series of reforms to the planning system.

The chancellor also suggested decisions on new onshore wind farms could be taken at a national level rather than a local one.

Reeves said: “And as of today we are ending the absurd ban on new onshore wind in England.

“We will also go further and consult on bringing onshore wind back into the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime meaning decisions on large developments will be taken nationally, not locally.”

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