The latest setback on the housebuilding front (UK construction at weakest level for four years as housebuilding stalls, theguardian.com, 11 November) is seen by some commentators as a sign of the doom and gloom about to engulf the post-Brexit economy. It is also argued that the prospect of controlling our borders will serve only to deepen this gloom. I totally disagree.
The truth is that no government in recent decades has built enough homes. But with post-Brexit interest rates being at the level they are, the prime minister has a mega opportunity to reverse this trend, thereby paving the way for progress on three fronts: boosting the supply of housing to buy or rent, initiating a serious programme of welfare reform, and meeting voters’ wishes for lower immigration.
Here’s how. A first necessary move is to deliver to housing associations the land and resources they need to get building. As a second move, this needs to link into a skills acquisition strategy. A handful of skills providers are now offering boutique apprenticeship courses in bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry and so on, which take just 10 weeks to complete. Were Mrs May to extend this provision – promoting it as a serious option for young people leaving school as well as prisoners on short sentences – she would find in no time that she has all but plugged the skills shortages in the building trades. Crucially she will have done so without needing to recruit from overseas. Thousands of young workers would be equipped with the skills they need to earn decent wage packets, rather than draw benefit.
What better way of putting working-class families in the driving seat of post-Brexit Britain, than by so acting to give a generation of youngsters a foot in the door?
Frank Field MP