It is quite unusual for a Government Minister to praise an opposition MP for forcing the Government to change its own law says M.P for Bassetlaw John Mann. That did happen last week however when Planning Minister Nick Boles congratulated me for my 18 month, one-man campaign to reverse excessive Government taxes on people building their own homes.
Since 2012 I have been campaigning to reverse aspects of the law in question, the Community Infrastructure Levy, a tax which has made it impossible for people to build their own homes. Cases brought to me include a soldier returning from Afghanistan; a retired miner wanting to build a bungalow on his land for a disabled son; a young recently married couple, and a widow who wishes to move into a smaller property. All will now be exempt from the new tax.The introduction of the levy meant that you could be forced to pay over £40,000 in extra taxes to build a small retirement bungalow, and £24,000 just to rebuild your own house. It is of course right that when developers build in an area they should contribute to that area’s infrastructure, and big developers can usually swallow up these costs with little trouble. However, at a time when we desperately need to build new houses, it was nonsensical to penalise self-builders and make it effectively impossible for people to build their own homes. Thankfully, at a committee meeting last week, the Government confirmed that they have accepted that there has to be an exception for people building their own homes.
This is not just good news for people who want to build their own homes, however. Local businesses and landowners who are no longer prevented from building are more likely to employ local builders, architects, plumbers and electricians, contributing even more to the local economy. I will always oppose levies which restrict growth and harm businesses and tradesmen. At the same time, we have to ensure that large corporations and wealthy individuals make a fair contribution to society.
As investment in building houses pays dividends, so too does investment in flood protection. According to the Environment Agency, for every pound spent on flood defences we save eight pounds in the future in terms of reduced damage. Decent investment in flood protection saves people’s homes and belongings, protects our infrastructure, and avoids our economy grinding to a halt when the rivers rise. Spending on flood protection was reduced by this Government by 27%, and I will continue to campaign in Parliament for this to be reversed. Long-term investment in flood defences should be a priority, particularly as extreme weather appears to be on the increase.
There was some farce in Westminster last week as the Minister for Immigration resigned for employing an illegal immigrant as a cleaner. Farce turned to tragedy, however, as it emerged that the Minister in question would receive £8,000 as a pay-off. Readers may also remember that multi-millionaire Chris Huhne MP was given £17,000 of public money when he resigned as a Minister to face charges of perverting the course of justice. In response, I have put forward a resolution in Parliament calling on the Government to scrap these pay-offs to Ministers. We will never rebuild trust in Parliament while these practices continue.