Â James Brokenshire has pledged that councils will be on the â€˜front-line of house buildingâ€™ following a government decision to lift borrowing caps.
Speaking at the County Councilsâ€™ Network annual conference, the housing secretary said the removal of the cap on councils borrowing against assets to build new homes was a â€˜game changerâ€™.
â€˜Councils will once again be on the front-line of house building and itâ€™s been great to see how warmly this has been welcomed by councils up and down the country,â€™ said Mr Brokenshire.
â€˜Itâ€™s wonderful to hear the ambitions so many have to take this chance to deliver the next generation of social housing, and why with the long-term funding that we have committed to the housing association sector too, I think there is a real opportunity to drive innovation and look at different ways in which that can be provided,â€™ added the housing secretary.
The abolition of the cap was announcedÂ last monthÂ by the prime minister, Theresa May at the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham.
â€˜But county councilsâ€™ involvement wonâ€™t just end here, because a key part of ensuring we have a housing market that works for everyone is to make sure we build to last,â€™ added Mr Brokenshire
â€˜When it comes to initiatives such as neighbourhood planning, county councils can engage well and ensure buildings reflect local tastes and preferences.â€™
The housing secretary also touched on the issue of local government reorganisation, following the recent decision to abolish the districts and county council inÂ Buckinghamshire and replace them with a single authority.
â€˜Reorganisation of local government, through unitarisation and mergers can improve services, as well as drive efficiencies,â€™ said Mr Brokenshire.
â€˜But they shouldnâ€™t be viewed as a quick switch to deal with immediate pressures and itâ€™s never been the policy of this government to impose top down solutions. While I want to work with you and support this work, I have no intention of forcing reorganisation on local government where it isnâ€™t wanted or needed.
â€˜Our criteria for unitarisation and mergers mean that only innovative proposals that improve services, enhance accountability and deliver financial sustainability will go ahead,â€™ he added.
Local enterprise partnerships
CCN chairman and Kent County Council leader Cllr Paul Carter, also spoke at the conference and told delegates that relationships with local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) will be â€˜crucialâ€™ for economic growth.
â€˜The proposed downgrading of local government representation on LEP Boards are a backward step. We must not get embroiled in governance in arrangements when we need to support the Government in accelerated housing delivery and economic growth,â€™ said Cllr Carter.
â€˜If government is to devolve the skills agenda to LEP geographies, these governance arrangements become even more important.
â€˜I am convinced that empowered as strategic authorities, counties can rise above the parapet and be an even more visible presence in non-metropolitan England,â€™ added Cllr Carter.