Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said the levelling up agenda is “not dead” for millions of people in communities across the UK but criticised Conservatives’ commitment to tackling inequality. Image: Kevin Walsh / Wikimedia Commons
Labour will give communities the chance to crack down on holiday lets and to take control of derelict pubs and failed football clubs through a Community Right to Buy in an alternative vision for levelling up.
Speaking in Darlington on Monday, shadow levelling up and housing secretary Lisa Nandy said despite the government falling apart, the levelling up agenda is “not dead”. She vowed Labour would “meet the moment” to help coastal and rural communities.
The opposition party would bring in a licensing scheme to tackle holiday lets if it gets into power and will also introduce a Community Right to Buy to give communities the opportunity to buy up community assets.
“With a stronger licensing system, communities will be able to reap the rewards of thriving tourism while ending the scourge of communities becoming ghost towns when holidays end, and end people being priced out of their own neighbourhoods just for homes to stand empty for months on end,” said Nandy.
“By trusting the community, working with the community, we can find the right balance – bringing growth, jobs and income, but protecting the spirit and fabric of a community that matter so much.”
The Big Issue revealed this week some of the UK’s top staycation destinations have hundreds of holiday lets for every rental property.
A Labour councillor in Cornwall told The Big Issue that the situation was leading to families being placed in temporary accommodation while another councillor in Brighton added that she feared a “new generation of homelessness” due to the issue.
Nandy unveiled a similar licensing scheme to the one announced in Wales earlier this month to improve standards in holiday lets and to allow communities to crack down on homes left empty.
The shadow cabinet member said protecting coastal and rural communities would “tilt power back to those people with a stake in the outcome and skin in the game”.
The Labour MP also unveiled a Community Right to Buy scheme to allow communities to take control of pubs, historic buildings and football clubs that come up for sale or fall into disrepair. Under the plans, communities would have first refusal to buy buildings designated as “assets of community value” (ACVs), rather than simply the right to bid on them as is currently the case.
This will be backed up by a Community Ownership Fund, Nandy added, to give communities seed capital to invest in their town, village or city. The time period for communities to generate revenue to buy in community assets will also be increased from six months to 12 months.
Labour has appointed Mark Gregory, former chief economist of accounting firm Ernst & Young, to lead a commission to explore how community groups can leverage private investments to buy assets and what safeguards need to be put in place.
Nandy’s speech came as the government saw off a no confidence vote in the House of Commons.
MPs voted in favour of the government with 349 MPs supporting Boris Johnson’s administration compared to 238 against following a five-hour debate.
The prime minister, who has made a promise to level up parts of the country the cornerstone of his time in Downing Street, defended his government’s record.
Johnson said: “We Conservatives believe that there is genius and talent everywhere and energy and imagination distributed in every corner of this country, but we do not think that is the same for opportunity.
“Our immense programme of levelling up is driven by the simple mathematical observation that if per capita GDP and productivity were as evenly distributed in the UK as they are in our major competitors, this would be by some way the most prosperous economy in Europe.
“Of course, it would also be the morally right thing to do.”