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Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee 

Corrected oral evidence: Intergenerational Fairness and Provision

Tuesday 23 October 2018

11.35 am


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Members present: Lord True (Chairman); Lord Bichard; Baroness Blackstone; Viscount Chandos; Baroness Crawley; Baroness Greengross; Lord Hollick; Lord Holmes of Richmond; Baroness Jenkin of Kennington; Lord Price; Baroness Thornhill; Baroness Tyler of Enfield.

Evidence Session No. 9              Heard in Public              Questions 93 - 103



I: Hardip Begol, Director, Integration and Communities, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; Simon Gallagher, Planning Director, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; Isobel Stephen, Housing Supply Director, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.



  1. This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and webcast on

Examination of witnesses

Hardip Begol, Simon Gallagher and Isobel Stephen.

Q93            The Chairman: Good morning. Welcome to those joining us this morning. As you know—and it is proved by the numbers filing in behind you—the session is open to the public. A webcast goes out live and is subsequently accessible on the parliamentary website. A verbatim transcript will be taken and that will also go on the parliamentary website. You will have opportunities to make minor corrections for clarification or accuracy. For the record, please introduce yourselves.

Isobel Stephen: I am the housing supply director at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Simon Gallagher: I am director for planning at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Hardip Begol: I am the director for integration and communities at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Chairman: Thank you very much for coming. As Chairman, I get to ask the question which allows you to make a considered response to the overall themes of the inquiry into concepts of intergenerational fairness. From your standpoint as government officials, how do the Government consider the interests of different age groups when making policy decisions? In your deliberations, is consideration given to how specific age cohorts are affected throughout the life course, looking into the future, rather than just a snapshot in time, and the impact of decisions taken now? Do you consider age cohorts?

Isobel Stephen: From a housing perspective, the answer is: certainly, yes. If we look at the impact of the supply of housing in this country and what that means in terms of affordability, we know that the length of time it would take somebody on a middle to low income to save for a deposit for a house has increased from about three years in the early 1980s to 24 years now. The length of time it takes somebody to save for the deposit has a knock-on impact on home ownership levels. Some 37% of 25 to 34 year-olds currently own their own home, compared with 59% a decade ago. We certainly think about those aspects of affordability when considering how to take forward home ownership and other housing products.

Simon Gallagher: As a department, we are keen to make sure that our analytical base gives us that capacity to look across generations. As a department, we tend to bring to the party a lot of data on geography. We get a lot more data through our statistical returns on geography. We are trying to bring that together with people-based data that you have heard a lot about from the Department for Work and Pensions and other departments, which tells us more about individuals and their cohorts. The really interesting thing we are trying to do is bring those two bits of data together to tell a story about different stories in different places. Of interest are some of the disparities and different experiences of different communities in different parts of the country. That is something we try to bring to this debate.

Hardip Begol: I am responsible for race and faith equality in the department. You will be aware of the public sector equality duty and the guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to policymakers to conduct equality impact assessments. Part of that is in relation to age. Where age is a material consideration, it should be taken into account when looking at the disparities between different age groups with respect to our major policies. I promote that in terms of race and faith across the department, to make those considerations. There are the other protective characteristics which policymakers are aware of and do take into account where it is material in policy-making.

The Chairman: Returning to the age cohort, can you point to a specific policy that has recently been adopted that would reflect that thinking of identifying the issues affecting a particular age cohort?

Isobel Stephen: Some of the home ownership policies the department has are skewed towards younger people. Help to Buy offers people up to 20% of the purchase price of their property as an interest-free loan for the first five years. That has helped 170,000 households so far. Of those, 60% are buyers in the 16 to 34 age category. A further 28% are in the 33 to 44 age category. Some 81% of the total are first-time buyers. Although the policy does not have an age limit on it, it is predominantly helping people at the younger age of the spectrum. If you look at our shared ownership policy, 75% of people who take that up are under 40 with a median income of £30,000 per annum. Again, that helps younger people getting on to the home-ownership ladder.

Baroness Blackstone: Before I ask my question, I want to pick up on your emphasis on home ownership. In my view, one of the great failings of consecutive governments, but especially the present Government, is an over-focus on home ownership. The first implication of that is that it is providing additional funding for young people, or somewhat older people who want to buy, at the expense of doing far more for those people who cannot begin to afford to buy. That is true of very many younger people. Secondly, it increases house prices by providing extra money which allows those people who are building and selling houses to charge higher prices. It does nothing for the supply of housing, which is our central problem here. I am amazed that you answer these questions solely in terms of home ownership.

Isobel Stephen: I can give you lots of other answers which are not to do with home ownership. I meant those as examples of things the Government have done because of what we know about the proportion of young people who are struggling to get on the property ladder and the imbalance between older people and younger people in terms of home ownership. The Government’s overall strategy is undoubtedly one of supply, with an ambition to build 300,000 homes per annum on average by the middle of the 2020s. Among the £44 billion worth of financial support, which has been made available by the Government to support that supply, there are many examples of money which is not just for home ownership. Some £9 billion has been provided as support for the Affordable Homes Programme to build up to 250,000 homes. At the Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister said she is lifting the cap on borrowing against housing revenue accounts. Social landlords have been given certainty on rent beyond 2020. Funding for supported housing is now being retained in housing benefit, which was a decision made in August. We have also said that money will be made available for housing associations beyond the current spending review period for 2022-2028.

There are many other examples I could give you where funding is being made available for all sorts of tenures. Build to rent, which the Government think is very important, is a growing area where there are many more people in the age group you are interested inthe younger age group who are now in the private rented sector—than there have been in the past. The guarantees programme has supported build to rent. There have been planning changes to support build to rent as well, on which Simon may want to comment.

I started with home ownership because some of your questions are to do with transferring wealth from home ownership from older people to younger people, but the Government’s overall strategy is increasing supply to help with choice for people, and improving the quality and security of various tenures. For example, in the private rented sector, the Tenant Fees Bill helps ensure that people have transparency over what they are paying for. There is work going on regarding redress to make sure that landlords and letting agents behave in the way that they should, including establishing a database for rogue landlords. There has also been work on leasehold to make sure that people get the right information at the point at which they are buying a home. I started with home ownership because that has been a very visible part of the picture. The government strategy is not just about home ownership; it is about overall supply.

Q94            Baroness Blackstone: I recognise the Government have changed their position. Better late than never. For eight years, their emphasis has not been on supply, it has been on the demand side. There has been a change and that is hugely welcome. To come back to the more general question I want to ask, are there particular policy areas where the impact on different generations appears disproportionately uneven? To what extent are the Government trying to address these imbalances in their policy-making?

Isobel Stephen: I have highlighted a couple of things already. If you look over time at the levels of home ownership, it is much more difficult for young people to get on the housing ladder than it was 20 years ago. Some 46% of the 25 to 34 year-old age group now live in the private rented sector, which has gone up from 27% 10 years ago. Given that the greater proportion are living in that tenure, some of the policies I have already outlined will disproportionately help younger people.

Baroness Blackstone: Would it not help younger people more if you did something about the privately rented sector? I know there is some legislation coming through to try to deal with landlords who disgracefully exploit people, particularly young people, but I say again that there are far more young people, especially in London and the south-east, who have no hope of becoming home owners than there are those who can become home owners. By putting the emphasis on home ownership, which you have done, and the Government have done, you are helping only a segment of young people. Coming back to the bigger question, beyond housing, where is the differential impact on different generations? What are you doing about it?

Simon Gallagher: I will give two answers. I will continue to emphasise the importance of the planning system in bringing forward enough land for new supply of housing. That is one of the best things the planning system can do to improve intergenerational fairness, because of those issues that Isobel has been describing. The other element is—and we have put a strong emphasis on this in the National Planning Policy Framework—making sure that planning is properly taking account of environmental issues, which we think of as a key intergenerational fairness issue.

One thing that I am particularly proud of in the new National Planning Policy Framework that was published in July is we have embedded in that the principle of net gains for the environment from development. The planning policy starts from a presumption that development should produce net gains for the environment, which will help ensure that the Government meet their manifesto commitment to ensure they leave the environment in a better state than they found it. It contributes quite substantially to the intergenerational fairness element and we work closely with our colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ensure that we have some practical tools for doing this.

Hardip Begol: On communities, there is differential in terms of the engagement of young people, in particular, in decision-making locally and volunteering, although the figures from the Community Life Survey go up and down each year. We work with the Office for Civil Society to make sure that we encourage greater participation by younger people in local service decisions and decisions by local government. There is ongoing work we do with DCMS. It has published a civil society strategy recently, which looks at how to encourage more people to be active in the voluntary and community sector.

Viscount Chandos: The Government clearly have a planning role. They are also a substantial owner of land. What percentage of public sector land sales satisfy the local plan rather than just go to the highest bidder?

Simon Gallagher: I have no idea what the number is off the top of my head.

Isobel Stephen: I am afraid I do not know either.

Viscount Chandos: It is quite key. Planning is, “Do as I say”, and land sale is, “Do as I do”.

Simon Gallagher: Planning is the responsibility of local government, and we have a very local planning system in England. The key test is conformity with the local plan. There is a test there, but it is not an absolute test. Planning policy and planning law are clear that policy decisions should be made that are consistent with the local plan unless material circumstances dictate otherwise. It is not an absolute requirement, but I do not have that precise fact to hand.

The Chairman: As a former local authority leader, it was a pertinent question for me. When you have had time to reflect, it will be interesting if there is any information on that point. Social value is not always equated with financial value, particularly when the public sector is sitting on the value.

Baroness Greengross: As we know, the population is ageing and longevity is increasing very quickly. The pattern that we used to know, when older people died and the property quickly went over to the next generation, is not happening, because people are staying in their very unsuitable homes, and the crisis in health and social care is another result of that. Would it not be more positive if there was a legal requirement on planners to take into account the ageing population and make available enough care provided in local retirement housing so that housing would be available for the young and we could encourage older people to move, which would help the health service, social care and everything else?

Simon Gallagher: There is an important set of issues around this. At the moment, we have not done it in law but through national planning policy, and have tried to do this in two ways. The first, which we have enshrined in the National Planning Policy Framework, is the duty on local authorities as they prepare local plans to consider the needs of the different parts of the population, including in particular older people. The second thing we have done is a slightly geeky point, but very important, and answers part of the question, which is changing the definition of older people in the National Planning Policy Framework—I can point you to the glossary of that if it is helpful—to broaden it to cover not just those who are over a certain age, but those approaching retirement, the very oldest and those who require particular needs.

The key thing is to encourage local authorities and we have given them the tools to start to plan for that locally. In different places, the needs will be very different. One thing we are trying to do through these changes to the National Planning Policy Framework is to equip them with the toolkit they need to have those conversations locally and answer some of those questions to ensure they are joining up the thinking going on locally between the needs of immediate housing supply and development, the social care system and the needs of the whole population. It will be interesting to see how that is done. A key thing for us across the board on the National Planning Policy Framework is to take planning away from being a niche subject to working more collaboratively across the needs of the local authority, including, in particular, planning for the needs of different parts of the population in the area but also planning for the environment and joining up the functions there. It is a very interesting area.

Baroness Greengross: Should it be underpinned by law?

Simon Gallagher: I do not think it needs to be. The National Planning Policy Framework is a material consideration for local authorities as they produce their plans. Plans must be produced in conformity with that, which are then tested by the Planning Inspectorate. It is also easier to change the national planning policy if it does not quite work as we need. We use national planning policy to nudge local authority planners in the right directions, which is an established mechanism in planning. It is critical that it becomes a tool for local authorities to produce their own plans. They have their general duties under the public sector equality duty, which does not cut across this; indeed, it reinforces it. I do not think you need to underpin planning policy in law.

The Chairman: This is an important area, but we are getting ahead into some of the more detailed questioning on housing that we are coming on to later. I know that I owe Baroness Crawley a supplementary at some point, but perhaps we could continue with the general preamble and then pursue a number of detailed questions later.

Q95            Baroness Blackstone: How far do the Government model the effects of decisions on future generations? Is there any consistency of approach across government on this matter?

Isobel Stephen: We use standard information about what we think will happen in terms of age profiles and use that to model what will happen for different age groups in our housing policies.

Hardip Begol: In terms of forecasting, I have not come across it. A lot of policy-making looks at what the historic data shows on whether there are disparities and a lot of policy-making is to address issues that exist at the moment. I do not think we do work in that particular area if the datasets are not available.

Baroness Blackstone: You do not model the effects of future generations?

Hardip Begol: I do not think it is done consistently across government on every policy area.

Baroness Blackstone: How is it done in the housing area?

Isobel Stephen: It is difficult to talk about in the abstract. If we are designing a housing policy, we would look at the problem that we are trying to solve, which is the larger supply of housing in order to catch up with the extent to which affordability has been impacted by a consistent undersupply over the last few decades. Then we would look at what that meant for different cohorts of people, which would include people of different ages, in different parts of the country, with different protected characteristics, to work out what we thought the impact of the policy was, what the value for money of the policy was and whether we should be advising Ministers to do it or not.

Baroness Blackstone: That does not tell us much about how policies might disadvantage future generations but I will leave it at that.

Baroness Crawley: How would you look at age profiles in your modelling in the Build to Rent policy? Although we are obviously thinking about young people and their need for an affordable and reasonable rent supply, over the next several generations there will be a significant number of people in this country who will always rent and never buy, and there will be a significant number of older people in the rented sector in 40 years’ time that is not there at the moment.

Isobel Stephen: What you are talking about is older people who end up in the build to rent sector because they do not have a choice. In some of the build to rent developments that we have supported in major urban conurbations, older people have chosen to move into those, because they are modern, low-maintenance buildings, and potentially cheaper from the point of view of upkeep than their own homes might be. We do not make any assumptions about what kinds of people might live in those build to rent developments, because it will depend on the local demographics and what is motivating those people. We do look further upstream in the policy at the sectors of the population that are suffering, particularly because of housing affordability pressures and, therefore, developing policies that will help.

Build to rent is quite a complicated area. A lot of the private rented sector accommodation and a lot of the policies I was referring to earlier about the quality and security in the private rented sector are not about the build to rent that I am talking about now. That is about people who accidentally or otherwise end up with a spare property that they rent out privately. Some of the Treasury policies on stamp duty have been designed to make that less attractive financially for people. Build to rent is different, because they are developments built either by the landlord or somebody else specifically with renting in mind, and sold on to a landlord who will rent them out and not look to sell the properties. This has many advantages, partly because if you are a landlord or developer trying to build a build to rent development, you have a very strong interest in making sure it is of good quality and running costs are going to be low, because you will have an ongoing responsibility for that property and the people who live in it.

In housing supply terms, it is attractive. As opposed to some of the issues that Oliver Letwin has been looking at in his review, where it takes time for developers to build houses for sale because they do not want to build them so quickly that they depress the price in the local area, you do not have that problem with build to rent, because you need to build it as quickly as possible in order to rent it out and start to get your revenue stream. That is why it is a very attractive policy because we think it will support not only young people but also older people. In housing supply terms, there are many other reasons why it is something that the Government want to support.

Lord Price: We are sitting here talking about this issue as though it is a national issue affecting all people in the same way. From your modelling, I am intrigued to know: is buying houses affordable in different parts of the country? If you are an apprentice and leave your apprenticeship at 21, are you more able to afford to buy a house at 21 than somebody who has gone into higher education? Is this a one size fits all or are there geographical differences or differences in the paths that young people are taking?

Isobel Stephen: There clearly are geographical differences. The usual measure that the department uses as a proxy for affordability of all tenures is average house price to average income. At a national average, that stands at eight times income to house price, but that varies hugely. In London, that is 12 times, whereas in the north-east, it is five times. If you look at individual authorities, the differences are even greater: Kensington and Chelsea, 41 times, and Copeland in Cumbria, 2.7 times. Clearly, it is not geographically uniform and the ways in which it impacts on different people in different parts of the country are also not uniform.

Simon Gallagher: One of the very important, rich datasets that we bring to the party is the survey of English housing, which gives us a lot of local-level data on tenure, quality issues and various other things, and we are increasingly mining that for the information that it tells us. There are various bits of publications that have been done to explore and unpack some of the issues, which are available on the websites.

The Chairman: Obviously, we understand that civil servants act under direction, and so we cannot go further on this, but we will be seeing Ministers later. The Committee wants to feel that there is a vision for the future in terms of what kind of country this is in addressing the problems that we are looking at, so you might signal to your Ministers that we will be interested in that. I think some of us on this Committee feel that when a Budget comes along it is a jolly wheeze for the day and everybody in the House of Commons cheers and the big picture is not always kept in mind. That may be a personal reflection. Let us go on to more detailed questioning on housing and we will move on to communities in the final phase of the discussion.

Q96            Baroness Tyler of Enfield: For the record, Hardip and I worked together a number of years ago in what is now the Department for Education. What is the Government’s view about some of these emerging new financial products that allow children to use value from their parents’ or other family members’ houses to act as a deposit? There was a new one launched by the Post Office earlier this year. We all know that the bank of mum and dad is increasingly important. Just under 30% of buyers are likely to receive help from family and friends these days. In answering that question, I would like you to think about the impact that has on intragenerational fairness, because concern has been expressed that these cross-generational wealth transfers are increasing inequalities within generations and particularly entrenching wealth inequalities.

Isobel Stephen: I am glad you made that point because I think that is right. Clearly, the Government support the development of some of the financial products you have talked about, although there is still a question about the way in which people who do not have older relatives with equity in houses can access high-quality housing, whether through home ownership or a different tenure. That is why some of the other home ownership products such as Help to Buy and shared ownership exist, as well as some of the financial incentives that the Treasury has offered through stamp duty for first-time buyers buying property under the value of £300,000 who are exempt from stamp duty. There are different ways of supporting that group of people who do not have that equity.

To come back to your original question about transfer of equity from older relatives—often, but not always, parents—to younger relatives, the Government are very supportive of the development of new products. There are at least three types and probably more. There is the equity release-style product, which is where a parent or relative is able to release some equity which somebody else can use as a deposit for their house or for another purpose. No repayment is required until the original property is sold, either when the person moves into care or passes away. Those are mostly offered by insurance companies such as Legal & General. The average amount of equity released is £60,000. There are about 37,000 of those mortgages taken out every year. The average age of the borrower is 70. Because of the way they work, you do not pay anything until the end. They can work out quite expensive for people because of the compound interest.

A variant on that theme is the retirement interest-only mortgages, which were facilitated by a rule change by the FCA earlier this year. That allows the borrower to release equity on an interest-only basis, to be repaid when the house is sold. That requires borrowers to make monthly payments. There is a challenge for the lenders in pricing the risk in case somebody stops working or becomes ill and requires care. There has been some interest in that from Nationwide, Santander, HSBC, RBS and others.

The third kind, which is called a springboard or intergenerational mortgage, is where part of the mortgage is used in place of the deposit with a charge against the parents’ home or savings. An example of that would be a Barclays product where a first-time buyer can get 100% loan to value on the property that they are buying if a relative deposits 10% of the value of the property in a Barclays bank account as collateral against the mortgage. Nationwide have something called a family deposit mortgage where parents can borrow against the equity in their home as a deposit.

There are lots of things going on. It is a growing market because lenders recognise that there is a market to make the most of. It is really good that people are starting to think about their business models in a slightly different way, given some of the issues that we have already touched on in respect of the ageing population. However, there are undoubtedly also issues. Things can get quite complicated quite quickly when you have two properties and two sets of borrowers involved.

Having clear advice about which products are suitable for people is really important. The lenders being able to price the risk properly is also really important. There is also an issue about consumer trust with some of the products that have been available in the past. People also have some fixed ideas about what they want to leave their descendants as an inheritance. There is an issue about availability and awareness of these products. The sector can see the scope for growth. The lenders can see the opportunity. The Government would support further innovation in this area.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield: I have one quick follow-up. The way you set that out is extremely helpful. Going back to where you started, which was the concern about the impact on intragenerational fairness and entrenching wealth inequalities, and some of the earlier conversations we were having about the modelling that the Government are doing when they look at the whole area of housing, can you tell me whether that modelling does or is likely in the future to also focus on these sorts of issues about the impact of wealth transfers within families?

Isobel Stephen: When we are designing housing policies, we look more at the macro level of the proportion of people that we see in different tenures, the affordability of those different tenures and the pressures that puts on groups of people, rather than what is going on within families and how that transfer is working. You are right, there is an underlying assumption that we need to focus on the people for whom the equity from relatives’ homes is not available. That is why we developed some of the policies that I described earlier such as Help to Buy and shared ownership.

The Chairman: Lord Bichard and Baroness Thornhill want to come in on this.

Lord Bichard: I want to follow up on that wealth transfer point because if you model it into the future this could become quite an issue; in other words, you are perpetuating advantage and disadvantage. You are constraining social mobility as you move forward. Will the policies and products that we have at the moment address this effectively? Are you thinking about how we can address this issue that could face us in 20 years’ time? If your parents have money, you have money and you have home ownership. If your parents have no money, you have no chance in hell of owning a house. Are you thinking about what you could do about that?

Isobel Stephen: The lenders will go to the bits of the market where they think they can lend and which will return a profit for them. That part of the story is not likely to address the problem that you have highlighted. The home ownership products that exist are focused on those people who do not have access to a deposit through other means, but I would not say that that was a strategy to address the point that you are making. Those are some of the people who we think are particularly affected by the issues of affordability.

Lord Bichard: They are quite marginal, are they not, in terms of their impact on that group who will have trouble raising a deposit? Going back to the point the Chairman was making earlier, we can always produce initiatives. I have been in your situation before. The issue is whether those initiatives will substantially address the problem that you and I are discussing. They seem to me to be quite marginal if you roll them forward.

Isobel Stephen: The issue about getting people into home ownership is that because affordability of home ownership is so difficult and getting a deposit together is so difficult, government initiatives to address that tend to be quite expensive. Help to Buy has worked. As you say, 170,000 households will not shift the dial in terms of overall levels of home ownership, but it assists people who otherwise would not be able to get into homes. The Government’s overall strategy, which is back to where we started, is about overall supply, on the basis that if you improve overall supply of homes, affordability becomes easier over time.

Baroness Thornhill: That was what I was going to ask. I read conflicting evidence about at what point in the future supply will start to bring prices down. Anecdotally, I feel it is the other way around. I think a lot of these subsidies are pushing prices up. Certainly in my area, the properties that have Help to Buy are slightly more expensive than the properties without. Is the fundamental problem not about the cost of land? Certainly what we have noticed in land costs is that standards have deteriorated. On builds, for example, Parker standards do not exist anymore. On environmental standards I was pleased to hear you say differently, Simon.

For me, the killer is unaffordability. When you talk to developers and try to look at it, it is the cost of land. Is anybody looking at any alternatives to that? At the moment, the winners seem to be landowners and developers. To make a small political point, their profits and their chief executives’ bonuses seem to be going up exponentially. I think a lot of these incentives are fuelling that market; they are not taking the steam or heat out of it. Is that a genuine political aim?

Simon Gallagher: There is a lot in there. Let me try to give at least part of an answer. One of the big reasons why landowners tend to be the winners out of the current system is that there is not enough land coming forward for development. When you only have very limited land supply and landowners know they are in a very strong position locally, they are in a very strong position to get good value out of that.

Through national planning policy and some of the programmes that Isobel has described, we have been trying to create the incentives locally to bring more land forward for development, which would put the community in control of the development agenda and give the chance for a bit more of a competitive land market to develop. We are always saying that local authorities should produce a bit more land than strictly needed in their local plans because the more you can do that, you have a bit more control over your development in your local area. One of the problems we find is with local authorities that produce just enough land: they find that they are really in hock to those landowners and the landowners are in very strong positions.

The other thing we are trying to do through the National Planning Policy Framework and the associated guidance, which is a big part of trying to get a bit more clarity into this, is one of the debates we have, which is a sort of variation on the story you have described, is the developer brings forward a scheme and argues that it cannot offer any affordable housing or offer it at the same levels that others have because of the cost of land or something else. We think there is real scope for improvement if local authorities are clear on what their expectations are as part of their local plans, which means that developers know what the likely expectations are when they are negotiating with landowners.

The problem we have is that if the developer buys the land from the landowner and subsequently tries to make the numbers add up and assumes it can squeeze the affordable housing, you do not have quite the right incentives in the system. We should be able to get that market to work better if you have much clearer incentives upfront and clarity about what expectations are for affordable housing. It will be tricky. Getting the land market working efficiently is tough.

Baroness Thornhill: To be fair, that was always the case. Authorities had a very clear expectation. In my own authority, it was 30% social affordable housing. It was absolutely clear.

Simon Gallagher: Yes.

Baroness Thornhill: Until recent years, developers knew that. That is what they came to the table with. Of course, the viability test absolutely crippled social housing in particular. Do you have anything to say about that? I think there are some changes coming on viability, is that correct?

Simon Gallagher: There are about three or four substantial changes we have introduced. I am pleased to hear your area has been consistent in setting out a clear policy on affordable housing; not all authorities have.

Baroness Thornhill: We have not always been getting it because of viability.

Simon Gallagher: That is the second thing. Alongside the National Planning Policy Framework, we have introduced some substantive changes to the viability guidance, which do three or four things. The first is encouraging more clarity upfront, because this has not always been happening. The second is setting out a standardised method for assessing viability, because we have seen too much of a game between consenting valuers in darkened rooms and it not being transparent to local communities. It needs to be transparent.

The third is better publication of those viability assessments in a simplified format so they become clear and transparent to the community so the community knows what it is getting from development. The fourth and final one is a bit of presumption against renegotiating those just because costs have changed, because there are two or three problems in what you are describing, one of which is not getting what you want upfront. The other one we have had a lot of concern about has been about people signing up to N% affordable housing and in due course it is N minus because costs or something have moved. That should be the exception. It is really tough.

There is a market. It is a complicated market. It is different on different sites. It is really difficult to get it to work effectively on complicated urban brownfield regeneration sites where there might be substantive land remediation costs. How you think of that in intergenerational terms is a really interesting question for this Committee. Is that investment to create something for the future of those sites? It is interesting regeneration, positive for a future generation, but tough to reach the levels of affordable housing because of the degree of investment that needs to go into remediation, site access and so on. Those issues are very different from the issues facing a new garden settlement—a new, large urban extension on a greenfield or smallish site there. There are some really complicated issues in there. I am confident that we have made a good step towards changing this but we will have to keep this under careful review.

The Chairman: I am conscious of time. There is a lot of ground to cover. Lady Blackstone, you signalled that you wanted to come in.

Baroness Blackstone: I have a quick question.

The Chairman: A brief response, please.

Baroness Blackstone: This is following up on Viscount Chandos’ earlier question about publicly owned land by other departments that is not being used and could be made available for development. Since your department has overall responsibility for planning and land for development, what steps are you taking to try to put pressure on other government departments to have this land released for local authorities or housing associations to develop for housing?

Simon Gallagher: You do not have the director who is the expert on our public land programme before you. Isobel, are you able to answer from recollection, since you have dealt with this is the past?

Isobel Stephen: That definitely is the intention. A series of departments have land that has been made available—the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Defence—and there is a programme of work going on within the department to co-ordinate how quickly that land is released and, importantly, not only that the land is released for housing but that housing actually comes forward on those sites and homes are built as quickly as possible.

Baroness Blackstone: What do you predict? You say work is being done on this. Is there a timetable for it to be completed? If not, my knowledge of departments is that they will just sit on this and not do very much.

Isobel Stephen: There is a timetable—which I do not have in my head but we can provide you with—for the release of the land and, importantly, for the land to be built out across those five departments. It is co-ordinated, as you rightly say, by our department. We can write to you on that.

The Chairman: Allow me a comment again from a local authority standpoint. Some of us wish that the Government would recognise that the majority of local authorities in this country want to behave well, do behave well and do have aspirations. I think some of us feel that policy is often made for the worse. On the area cited by Lady Blackstone, please consider the public sector bodies that are hugely inept at releasing land for housing. I must not be anecdotal, but Network Rail was given a contentious planning application in my area in 2011. It was five years before it started building 110 houses. Regarding a health authority trust, I arrived as leader and disappeared as leader over seven years, and this trust failed to produce any plan, despite being pressed to do so for housing. There is a big area in public sector bodies to pursue. I want to bring in Lord Hollick. He has an eagle eye for the future. He will pursue some of the questions we have heard before.

Q97            Lord Hollick: The target of 300,000 homes a year and the Government’s adoption of that is clearly welcome. It was recommended by the Building More Homes report by the Select Committee on Economic Affairs. In order to achieve that, you need a number of things in place. The vast majority of the additional homes need to be social housing. That is where there is a huge unmet need. In the past, that has been done by local authorities, many of which have now been hollowed out as far as their housing departments are concerned. There are some very large local authorities which are taking on responsibilities in neighbouring local authorities and becoming centres of excellence.

In order to move forward either under their own steam, or often in partnership with housing associations and private developers, they need funding. The Government have recently made a very welcome announcement about allowing funding to increase. It still falls far short of the amount of money needed to build 300,000 homes. It is all very well to talk about these great targets, but unless you will the means to do them, will the money to do them and allow local authorities to borrow to build, they will not happen. They are, after all, borrowing for an income-producing asset. In most countries that does not count as public sector borrowing. It counts as borrowing municipal bonds or whatever you like. There needs to be a sea change in the thinking around this.

Picking up on a point that has been made around planning and local authority planning, one of the things that came out in the Centre for Cities evidence in its 2014 report is that local authorities and public bodies have a requirement to seek the market value for the land. An NHS trust, a hospital, would have some spare land and would want to build some housing for nurses, perhaps, but, no, what it has to do is to offer that land and make it available for maybe a McDonald’s. There are a lot of cases where much-needed social housing in city centres simply cannot be built because local authorities cannot match the prices.

A recommendation that has been made by a number of committees is that that requirement should be lifted in the public interest to create more social housing. The other thing that came out of the Centre for Cities report, which was headed up by Richard Rogers, was that the housing needs of London could be met by using brownfield land and also public land. That required local authorities to have the power to determine that that is what it was going to be used for and also have access to funding to do remediation and other transport projects.

It is a great target. It is a great headline. Some small steps have been made. I am not going to go into the fact that to build 300,000 homes a year we will need 500,000 additional construction workers. Quite where they are going to come from after Brexit, I do not know, and nor does the construction industry. Let us leave that for another day. How are you going to address these fundamental impediments to growth?

Isobel Stephen: That is a very large question.

Lord Hollick: Sorry. It is a very big number.

Isobel Stephen: To come back to your point that 300,000 is a laudable ambition but it requires lots of people to participate and lots of barriers to be overcome, we would all certainly agree with that. On your specific point about the contribution that local authorities can make, of the 160,000 starts on site that took place in the year to June 2018, only 1,500 were as a result of local authorities building. At the moment, they are quite a tiny percentage of overall construction. Obviously, if you look at the graph—which I expect you are as familiar with as we are—when in the past we have built to that number of units, the local authorities have had a significantly larger role.

That is why the borrowing cap has been lifted on housing revenue accounts. The approach that the Government have taken is to look at all the various stages in the process. We have already talked about the affordability and cost of land. We have talked about some of the planning policies for which Simon is responsible. There is money going into infrastructure through the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which is £5 billion for large projects through the forward funding element of that, and marginal viability projects.

Looking at the market, you will be aware that the development of homes is concentrated in three large developers, really, but 10 quite large ones. Some of the funding streams which the Government have made available are designed to diversify that supply chain. For example, the £4.5 billion Home Building Fund is, in part, designed to support small and medium-sized enterprises which struggle to get lending through traditional means. There are some place-specific initiatives such as garden communities, the Oxford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes work, and housing deals with particular areas of the country, which look at particular areas. There is a whole host of things, which I talked about earlier, which are designed to help with social housing.

Lord Hollick: How much funding is required for local authorities to be able to build social housing as this is needed if we are going to hit the 300,000 target?

Isobel Stephen: I find that question very difficult to answer. We will have a better answer once we know what the impact of the borrowing cap being lifted is and whether that helps with the capacity of local authorities. The take-up of some of these programmes over the next three or four years will help.

Lord Hollick: When you did your modelling, what number of new houses did you assume could be built by lifting the cap?

Isobel Stephen: I think it is in the region of 10,000 a year.

Lord Hollick: Which still leaves us pretty far away from the target.

Isobel Stephen: Yes, but as a contribution towards that target.

Lord Hollick: That would imply that a multiple of that additional borrowing would be needed if the target number is to be achieved and the social housing component of that target is to be achieved.

Isobel Stephen: That is not the only way in which social housing is being supported. I talked earlier about the £9 billion that is going into the Affordable Homes Programme, which is grant funding for social rent, affordable rent, shared ownership and rent to buy. There is also the planning system.

Lord Hollick: Is there any intention or planning to lift the requirement on public bodies and local authorities not to have to go to market to find the best clearing price for the land on which affordable housing and social housing could be built?

Isobel Stephen: You may have to ask my Treasury colleagues that question.

Simon Gallagher: You do not have the person responsible for public land here. We can investigate what the current position is and come back to you in writing.

Lord Hollick: That would be useful if you could. Thank you.

The Chairman: Have you ever considered giving local authorities the presumption to develop; for example, in cases of wanting to produce housing for first-time buyers, or, indeed, for people at the older end? It is frustrating if a local authority sits looking at public sector land which is brown land. I often advocated allowing the local authority to apply for planning permission, secure planning permission, and give a time limit to the public body to develop or else get on with it itself. Is that something you are considering?

Simon Gallagher: I am always interested in interesting ideas such as that one. As you say, that is one which can be led by local authorities. One thing we are always seized by is local authorities who want to do a lot of things, but cannot actually get on and do a lot of those things. Your point earlier, which I thought was a very wise one, about presuming competence of local authorities is a key part of this and a key part of what we are trying to do.

The Chairman: We are going to have to move on. Lord Holmes was going to ask a question about the needs of the older population but we slightly covered that earlier. Is there anything else in that are you wanted to ask?

Lord Holmes of Richmond: No, I am happy with the answers given. You have managed to dodge a question. Well done.

The Chairman: You are allowed to reply if you want to.

Simon Gallagher: Anything I could say would step back from what I have previously said.

Lord Holmes of Richmond: I am happy with the answer you gave to the points when they came up. Thank you.

Q98            Baroness Crawley: To what extent are initiatives to encourage downsizing part of a viable solution to the housing shortage for younger generations? Can initiatives such as intergenerational home-sharing play a part? I see from the evidence that has been put before us that there are only 400 home shares in the UK. That means almost nothing. Is that viable? What do the Government think about home-sharing? Obviously not very much, from the figures there.

Isobel Stephen: Downsizing and intergenerational sharing undoubtedly have a part of play in the efficient use of housing stock. In the context of what I said earlier, the overall strategy is to increase supply. Within that strategy, it clearly has a part to play. From what we know about the under-occupation of homes by older people—under-occupation technically means having two or more spare bedrooms in your house—52% of people over 65 with a mortgage have two or more spare rooms. Some 63% of over-65s who own their house outright have two or more spare rooms. Clearly, there is scope for both the policies that you have suggested.

On downsizing specifically, the way the Government have approached this is to try to improve the offer for older people, which we have touched on already. The number of homes that are built specifically for older people each year at the moment is quite small—3,000 to 4,000—and 90% of them by the same three large companies. The market is still quite small. There is quite a lot scope to grow those.

The motivation for downsizing for those people who are over-occupying is quite a complicated picture. If you have a policy intervention to recommend, I would gratefully receive your ideas, but I am not sure there is a simple policy intervention that could solve that. From some of the survey data that I have looked at—for example, an NHBC survey at the end of last year and a Prudential survey in September last yearthe motivation for people downsizing was about easier maintenance or lower running costs. Some 74% of the people who participated in the NHBC survey said it was about maintenance.

A policy which is about improving the supply of those kinds of homes and the build to rent homes that we were discussing earlier seems to be the best way of incentivising those people. There are other benefits to downsizing, which might be health benefits, people being safe and secure in their homes, being able to live independently and social benefits. There are also many factors which might push you in the opposite direction; for example, the emotional attachment people have to their homes. Some 45% of over-65s have lived in their home for over 30 years. It can be quite a big wrench for people to downsize. There are also the transaction costs, the nuisance of moving, the esteem that people feel for living in a particular kind of house or in a particular community, an aversion to moving into a property that is labelled as a retirement property and living in a particular kind of community, wanting to offer hospitality to family and friends, and the availability of suitable accommodation.

It is a very complicated picture which means it is quite difficult for us to have a policy which would address and help with that. Where people do choose to stay put, there are other policies to help; for example, the disabled facilities grant, which is paid via the local authority to enable people to adapt their homes to make sure they can continue to live independently and safely. It is means-tested and 40,000 adaptations are funded annually with a budget in 2018-19 of £468,000. The department is currently considering the recommendations of an independent review which was commissioned by Alok Sharma when he was Housing Minister. There are other ways of making homes safe where people choose not to downsize, but it is a very complicated picture.

On intergenerational sharing, as you say, this is very much a start-up as things currently stand. There are lots of benefits that you can identify about the affordability of housing, improving people’s well-being, reducing loneliness of older people and issues that need to be addressed about the trust that is required for people to live in the same building, being able to resolve conflicts where they arise and, if the older person’s care needs might escalate, how you deal with that when the younger person has moved in to a premises.

I know of at least three different models of intergenerational sharing. As you say, the examples tend to be international rather than home-grown. There is the model where the younger person lives in an older person’s home rent-free. Homeshare UK would be an example of an organisation that supports that. The accommodation is essentially exchanged for the younger person performing tasks to assist the older person: cooking, cleaning, gardening, shopping, whatever it might be. There are also some models where the younger person enjoys a reduced rent for the purposes of company for the older person or doing some volunteering. Roomfortea would be an example of that, or the LinkAges Intergenerational Housing Project in Cambridge, which was launched in September last year, where postgraduate students live alongside sheltered housing residents for a reduced rent in exchange for 30 hours a month of volunteering.

Finally, there is purpose-built intergenerational housing where you might have both private spaces and communal spaces where older and younger people can live alongside each other, which I think might be the units that you are talking about. There is a housing project in Alicante in Spain that would be an example of that. I understand that there are some community-led projects—one in Leeds called LILAC, another one in Cambridge called Marmalade Lane and one in Dorset called Sturts Farm—that have that kind of model.

It is an embryonic sector. Through the Community Housing Fund, we are supporting some community-led projects more generally, which will include this kind of intergenerational housing. The Community Housing Fund is £163 million over the next couple of years. The prospectus for that is out. We have asked people for bids for seedcorn funding for some of those projects. We do not know what proportion of those might be based on intergenerational housing but it will be interesting to see some of the things that people come up with. It is a very interesting area and, as you say, one that is ripe for growth.

Viscount Chandos: Perhaps I could take up your challenge to come up with a policy. As we have had suggested to us by other witnesses, notably Paul Johnson of the IFS, a move away from a transaction tax towards higher annual taxes, as you see in many other countries, would create a framework within which there would be less specific nudging that would have to be done on an intergenerational basis.

Isobel Stephen: As you would know, tax policy is a matter for the Treasury. Stamp duty, in particular, is a very complicated policy with lots of different kinds of drivers for why people might make different choices. I will be interested to see your recommendations.

The Chairman: Part of your policy is to make recommendations to the Treasury. Have you not done any analysis of the potential impact of stamp duty on transactions?

Isobel Stephen: The Treasury owns the policy. Whether we make recommendations or not, they are the people who make the decisions on that.

The Chairman: We will have to deal with them. Lady Jenkin, do you want to come in?

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: As somebody who would like to downsize but is disproportionately disincentivised by stamp duty, I think we should speak to the Treasury. I have two points. This very much bears out what we were told in earlier evidence. I will give you an example. My mother lived in a very big old house into her 80s in great discomfort. We gripped it and there are now four generations and eight of us living in the same house. If you can find some way to incentivise others to do as we have done, that would be helpful.

On Homeshare, I think there is a lot more informality that is not reflected in these figures. If anybody wants to look into it, at the Second Reading of the Tenant Fees Bill I went into this in some detail because Homeshare is affected by the Bill because it becomes an agency. We are currently busying around—and you are nodding, so perhaps, Simon, you know about this. I know the Bill team is looking into it because the model is that the older person and the young person pay a small fee to the agencyto Homeshare—to carry out the checks and do the admin. They are not paying rent; they are paying just the admin costs. The service they are providing is to deal with the loneliness and they are not paying rent. The Bill team are on the case on this. I think anything that disincentivises must be dealt with.

Simon Gallagher: I will make sure we pass that point back.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: I know they had a meeting yesterday. Lord Bourne is very much on the case.

Isobel Stephen: It is an interesting cultural point about intergenerational sharing. In Italy, 81% of 15 to 29 year-olds live with their parents, in comparison with 52% in the United Kingdom. That is a cultural thing, which is notoriously difficult for government to do anything about. The parents of children in their 20s who I have spoken to are not necessarily that keen on them staying in the parental home. There are lots of different factors at play here.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: I had a discussion over breakfast on this very point.

The Chairman: It is a cultural difference. I spend a lot of time in Italy and I know scores of families in those circumstances where both generations feel advantaged by it. We have to deal with the world as it is. Incentives are one thing, government always looks for incentives, but the Committee wants to consider disincentives. I believe that the transactional cost has been one of the things that has led to the phenomenon of starter homes, certainly in parts of our cities, being turned into non-starter homes by putting boxes on top.

If your choice is to give money to the Government in stamp duty or to improve the value of your home and planning makes it easy to do that, you put a box on top. Two- and three-bedroom houses become four-bedroom houses, or even five. In my view, we have lost an immense amount of housing capital through this misguided policy, which I would contend you may risk aggravating by some of the new planning policies that are making it easier to build up. Do you not think that if you make it easier to build up, there should be some requirement that you provide a new home rather than a bigger home?

Simon Gallagher: There is a lot in there. The question is whether we are measuring new floor space or new units of housing. That is quite interesting and one of the weaknesses, if I may say, about targeting a number of homes as output rather than increases in floor space. One thing we know is that people want to have more space to consume as they get better offto what extent should the planning system facilitate and restrict that? There are tricky choices and trade-offs at the margins there. I am not sure I can give you a straight answer but I think our planning policies are designed to get extra supply and to enable people to have the flexibility to extend their homes. I do not see there is an automatic trade-off.

The Chairman: It is not extra supply if it is just a larger home. You are not providing a new unit by your liberalisation in the market, are you?

Simon Gallagher: That is not the only thing we are doing on planning. We are trying to get more land in place for private developers, housing associations or local authorities to deliver. If the only thing we were doing in planning reform was to liberalise so that more people could build up, that might be a reasonable challenge, but it has to be set alongside policies which are designed to make more land available for development more generally.

The Chairman: We want to finish this session on housing and go on to communities.

Q99            Baroness Thornhill: My question is a segue to do with segregation of communities. I look across the pond with despair and see completely segregated communities and I am fearful of that happening in our country. We heard from the Intergenerational Foundation that there were quite stark geographical differences in where the young and old are living at the moment. Rural areas are ageing twice as quickly as urban areas. What policies do the Government have to address those growing geographical differences? What are the differences within BAME communities, particularly as the Ted Cantle report specifically talked about the segregation of communities being a major issue after the Oldham riots? All of housing and planning is about sustainable, viable communities where the hairdresser married to the bus driver can live alongside the billionaire, but the evidence seems to show that that is not happening.

Hardip Begol: We published the Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper in March this year and there is a section on residential segregation where we set out what was happening in particular parts of the country. Overall, Britain is becoming more integrated on race and faith grounds, with a growing ethnic minority population. In some of our towns and cities that is not the case. There is a greater concentration of ethnic minorities and their families in particular parts of towns and cities, and through social mobility or for reasons of not wanting to remain in those areas there are people moving generally into more rural areas. It is a concern for us as a Government.

We have picked five integration areas in the country to work closely with, because you often publish a national strategy, tell everyone to get on and do things, but national government needs to get its hands dirty on some of these intractable issues that go back decades. We are working very closely with the five areas, including places such as Blackburn and Bradford, to get them to set local integration strategies that respond to their history in terms of how their communities ended up being segregated, issues around schooling, employment and how people are mixing in those areas. We want them to come up with a socio- economic strategy and long-term approach of their vision for their area and for people from different communities and backgrounds coming together.

People talked about the forward modelling of demographics. It is really important that people are thinking, “What is going to happen to our city? What sort of people do we want to attract into our city? Who is going to leave? Where are they going to live? Where will their children go to school? Where are the opportunities for people to integrate over the next 20 years?” They are being prepared and we hope to publish those later this year. It is very difficult to ask people who have formed communities in a free society to say, “You should move”, or “You shouldn’t extend your house”. Some of our issues are to do with the fast turnover of people coming into communities, not forming bonds and moving on. There are pros and cons of people extending their houses. You do end up having stability.

The issue we want to focus on, and Simon and I have been working together on this, is when you build new developments or housing, you have more freedom to think about, “What sort of people do I want to attract to this new garden city or 10,000 developments that we are creating?” In the past, I do not think there has been sufficient attention paid to how you create a mix and attract different sorts of people, so those developments are more representative of the community. I think people have just sold and marketed them to whoever has turned up and not given enough thought to creating that age mix and a more integrated development.

Simon Gallagher: You challenged us on what we are practically doing and I will give you a couple of examples. One thing we have been concerned about is rural communities not having the growing and thriving population that enables them to support local services. We have been backing in the national planning policy rural exception sites for affordable housing for local people and encouraging through national policy the thriving villages initiative, which is to help local villages grow and get things so you have a population that sustains the services.

This also links to something that Hardip and I have been discussing quite a lot, which is the importance of really good design in developments. It has been a big thing that our Ministers have been pushing, and rightly so, because very good design can create the opportunities for communities to mix and things that will survive over a long term, because they will get people engaged. There is an interesting question for those working in public policy in the built environment, which is: what can we do to encourage great master-planning that creates high-quality developments that last for a long time and are not designed by architects for architects but designed for communities? My Secretary of State had a design conference earlier this year to try to kick off that debate and I think you will hear quite a bit more from the ministerial team and the department on this agenda, because it really is important.

The Chairman: That is very welcome.

Q100       Lord Bichard: As a former chairman of the Design Council, I am encouraged—only 10 years too late, but there we are. You are the Department for Communities and Local Government, so let us think about communities for a while. What role do communities in the voluntary sector have in addressing intergenerational imbalances? The second question is broader. What thinking are you currently involved in about the role of the community in the voluntary sector post Brexit? The reason I say that is we are in the middle of a redistribution of a power coming from Brussels to Westminster and Whitehall.

All I am hearing about at the moment is that is where it will stay, yet Westminster and Whitehall are pretty discredited. Is this not an opportunity—a moment—when we should be thinking about devolution, which seems to have lost its way, not just of local authorities and local services, but a much stronger role for communities and the voluntary sector? I am not seeing any debate around that at the moment. It seems to be a real missed opportunity. If that debate is going to start anywhere, presumably it would start with you. Is it happening?

Hardip Begol: I will answer that question first and come back to the voluntary and community sector. I think it is happening. Our Secretary of State is addressing the Locality Convention on 7 November. He will set out his views precisely on those issues around communities, the power in relation to those communities and the practical steps we have taken as a department, particularly related to Brexit. The Government will have a UK shared prosperity fund, which is the successor to some of the EU-funded programmes that we have. We are aiming to put out a prospectus on that later this year.

Some of the principles are going to be around making sure that decision-making is as local as possible. We have had a review of local enterprise partnerships conducted, which are partnerships of both the private and the public sector. The recommendations from that review have really pushed LEPs to look at their membership, including from the voluntary and community sector, to make sure that communities, businesses and voluntary and community sector service providers are in the decision-making positions on those LEPs.

All the LEPs are sponsored by senior civil servants. I sponsor the Marches LEP, a great LEP which is functioning effectively. It covers the region by the Welsh border. Its membership already is private sector-led. One of the members is a voluntary and community sector business, providing support for employability to get people into employment. There are moves around creating a greater voice for the voluntary and community sector and involving the community in decision-making.

Local government plays a great role here. For decades, it has been looking at how to commission services in a way that is responsive to the needs of local people. There is obviously more that can be done. We know many local services are already provided by the voluntary and community sector. An area of relevance is the adult and social care sector, where the LGA says there are already 36,000 VCS organisations in that space.

Lord Bichard: There is a real sense, however, that the thinking is quite constrained. You spoke earlier about a civil society strategy, which I have read. It is a traditional, almost turgid document, if you do not mind me saying so. It does not capture a sense that we will seriously look at this redistribution of power that I was talking about.

Hardip Begol: There is more the Government can do in terms of onward devolution. That thinking is going on at the moment. Our primary system does run on local government and local democratic decision-making. Many authorities up and down the country are doing work to ensure that they consult with their local population and engage voluntary organisations in their decision-making. The integrated communities strategies I talked about in local areas have all established local partnerships, which have brought VCS organisations on board. Part of developing those strategies must be about engaging with the local population, who often feel disengaged and alienated when you talk about issues to do with race and faith and integration in local communities.

Lord Bichard: What can the community and voluntary sector do about intergenerational imbalances? What are you encouraging it to do to address those issues?

Hardip Begol: There are three key ways. The voluntary and community sector organisations can bring employees and volunteers together. There are over 880,000 people employed in the voluntary sector; 18% are under 30 and 38% are over 50. As organisations in their own right, they can do work in relation to this. In relation to volunteering, millions of adults are volunteering to support young people outside their families, including weekly sporting activities and our uniformed youth services. We know that young people volunteer. Their activities benefit people across the generations.

The VCS is a supplier of services in many sectors already. When local authorities commission and design services, we would expect them to be talking to voluntary and community sector organisations about both of those. In the Civil Society Strategy, we announced the creation of a new funding organisation to manage and distribute £90 million from dormant bank accounts to support young people furthest away from the labour market in areas of significant racial disparity and youth unemployment.

We have a community partnership board at the department which we engage with regularly. Many voluntary sector organisations are doing everything from the provision of volunteers and mentors in schools to supporting people in the workplace so they can progress their careers. Organisations are bringing businesses on board in the voluntary and community sector, which has a key role to play in this as well. There are many opportunities for the VCS on issues such as employability and the adult social care market.

I am sorry you did not find the Civil Society Strategy inspiring. The Minister for Civil Society will be here to account for the DCMS strategy. I think it was a great statement from the Government and quite welcomed by the civil society sector. Often you have strategies where government tells people, “We are going to do the following things for you”. The welcome that strategy received was because we recognised the value of civil society in its own right. It is great that the sector is making decisions about where it wants to put its energies and empowering it to lead the way itself rather than the Government coming in and telling it everything that it is going to do. There were a couple of things in that strategy that were important. The Government re-emphasised the importance of the Social Value Act in terms of its procurement of services. That is something that further work needs to be done on. As a sector, it was pleased it was not a top-down set of instructions to do things differently, but supporting it and the unique role that it plays in society.

Q101       Viscount Chandos: If the Civil Society Strategy is a statement, what worries me is the contrast between the statement and action. What can communities do to address the problems of age discrimination, loneliness and all the other issues of age? More generally—and having disclosed my interest as a trustee of a major grant-making foundation—year by year, over the last eight years, social enterprises and charities have been brought to their knees by cuts in local authority funding. You can have a strategy that is a statement but the action in terms of funding is going diametrically in the opposite direction.

Hardip Begol: The latest figures published in the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ almanac of how voluntary organisations are doing show that income for the voluntary sector organisations covered in its survey is at the highest level ever at just under £48 billion, having gone up 4%. There was a period when income for voluntary organisations was on a downward trend, but that has been reversed and is now back to the highest level it has been, but that is not to doubt that there have been pressures on local government services and funding, which the Government are looking at.

Some of the specifics in the Civil Society Strategy were around issues such as social prescribing, which is an important initiative. We want to make sure that all local health and care systems implement social prescribing, supporting government to have a universal, national offer available to GP practices, which is a good way of making sure there are effective interactions between people of different ages. In the health service, solutions do not rely on having to go to hospital. There are many services and connections that can be made between people through a real growth in social prescribing, such as walking groups that we have seen happen, which have a great impact on the long-term health and well-being of older people.

We are making sure that our efforts on volunteering do not focus just on young people. There has been a lot of focus on the #iwill campaign. We are looking at how to encourage older people and those coming towards retirement to remain active and volunteer in their local communities, and community hubs and places are still available in local areas for people to meet and communities can take on responsibility for those assets locally. Sport England will be doing some work on active ageing funds to tackle loneliness, in particular, through sports and physical activity for people over 55. There are programmes out there to keep people engaged, with a focus on their health and well-being.

Q102       Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: There are estimates that there are more than 5,000 designated assets of community value. Does that marry with your understanding? What evaluation has government made of the assets of community value? What tangible effects has that had on communities and how does it impact different generations?

Hardip Begol: We will send you details of the evaluations we have done of community assets. It has been a good initiative that started under the Localism Act in 2011 and is a vehicle for making sure that communities can retain vital services and opportunities to create innovative ideas led by local people. In particular, the buildings are important to provide communities with a place where people from different backgrounds can mix. Often, if that place is not there, you do not get that sense of community spirit and join-up between people.

One aspect is community pubs, which is an issue that affects many communities. The pub is often seen as the place where people come together. At the moment, there are more than 100 community-owned pubs. As a department, we have supported the More than a Pub programme to support that local asset that people feel is so important. We have been supporting Pub is a Hub as an organisation to really get the sense of pubs not being seen just as places for people to drink but for a whole range of services that can be offered out of that place, which retains it as an important asset in that community.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: Do you share best practice widely? We all read different examples.

Hardip Begol: We do. There is a website,, where we have brought together for all community organisations a single portal where they can go and find information about the rights community organisations have in relation to their assets, good practice and case studies. Voluntary and community sector organisations were saying that the information was spread all over the place and were asking for one single portal that they could go to.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: Do you recognise that 5,000 figure?

Hardip Begol: I would have to get back to you on the precise figure.

The Chairman: Can I ask about assets that the people own; namely, the branches of RBS and National Westminster Bank? A third of bank branches have closed. A scandal on my high street is that another bank has been closed by NatWest. There is an empty building built as one of the finest places, like all bank buildings in the little towns and streets of Britain, ready to be flogged off to the highest offer. These are buildings that could be social hubs in every small town and high street. Why are the Government, who own these buildings, allowing the management to flog off these public assets?

Hardip Begol: I do not think that is something I can answer.

The Chairman: To put it another way, have you given any consideration to the disappearance of banks as hubs in communities? I will come back to the other one with the Minister.

Hardip Begol: We have been thinking about high streets more generally. You will have seen the figures on occupancy in relation to high streets. We have a review going on about what further activity we can do to make sure that high streets continue to thrive. I will make sure that the specific point about the banks is fed into that.

The Chairman: We do not need to build new buildings and social hubs for the public, who are the major shareholder. Why can we not use these that we actually own?

Hardip Begol: I will certainly take that back. That review is ongoing.

Q103       Lord Price: In their written evidence, the Government said that they saw potential in active communities rebalancing the imbalances between generations. That begs the question: what are the Government doing to help generate active communities in those areas with low social capital?

Hardip Begol: We are doing a number of things. I have mentioned the work that we have done about making sure that the information and advice are available to all communities in an easily accessible way. We work with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on community organisers. That is a programme where local people are trained in relation to being activists in their local area. That training programme is ongoing with thousands of people.

I mentioned local government, which has come out a number of times. There are examples where local authorities have developed their own voluntary and community sector policy about how they want to encourage volunteering and community organisations in their own area. We have our processes through things such as local neighbourhood plans where people can take part in decision-making in relation to planning in their local area.

There are lots of avenues in relation to this. We see high levels of volunteering throughout the country. People are always willing to get engaged. My former department was the Department for Education. Lots of people take part in school governance in their local area. The free schools programme is an initiative where people can come forward to support new schools in their area. There are lots of different types of activity, given that people’s interests will vary in the sorts of activities they want to take part in in their local area.

Lord Price: Can I just build on that a little? I used to chair Business in the Community, which is a wonderful organisation. The Prince of Wales has been an amazing patron and president of it. I chaired the Prince’s Countryside Fund. Often what you see are disjointed efforts. There is the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front. I have seen brilliant work in places such as Wisbech and other really disadvantaged areas. I do not see a concentration of effort from a number of agencies to say, “How do we work collectively here to bring real advantage to deprived areas?” How do the Government see their role in providing that focus to try to bring all those agencies together?

Hardip Begol: I am not passing the buck here, but if it is to do with local areas and lots of small organisations in particular areas overlapping or fighting against each other, I think local government should be at the forefront of looking at that. Lots of local authorities have very good voluntary and community sector policies in relation to that very local approach. Some of our local planning and devolution on that is an opportunity for everyone to get engaged and that should flush out whether people are duplicating activity that is going on locally.

I would not want to stop people who are very keen on particular issues giving time and energy in relation to starting initiatives that support the local community in a particular area and say, “Actually, you either have to join this organisation or we don’t want your support”. The local authority can play a really good convening, place-making role in relation to those issues.

The Chairman: I fear that time is up. We are incredibly grateful to you for your patience with us and your interesting answers and your time. Thank you for coming.