Keir Starmer says Boris Johnson's billions to rebuild Britain is 'not enough'

Boris Johnson has announced billions in funding to rebuild Britain after the coronavirus crisis, but Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the cash is "not enough".

The prime minister's plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes across the UK, and dozens of infrastructure projects with a support package worth billions.

He is changing planning regulations to make it easier for people to build new homes, extend their dwelling or repurpose a building in order to make it a place for living.

Hoping to emulate Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1930's “New Deal” , which lifted the US out of the Great Depression, Mr Johnson has announced the bringing forward of a £5bn plan to boost capital investment projects, support jobs and fast-track economic recovery.

On the cash, Sir Keir said "there is not much that’s new, and, it’s not much of a deal", adding: "What’s been announced amounts to less than £100 per person, and it’s the re-announcement of many manifesto pledges and commitments.

“So, it’s not enough.”

The £5bn comes alongside a £12bn affordable homes programme aimed at supporting the building of up to 180,000 new affordable homes over the next 8 years.

New rules will mean a wider range of commercial buildings will be allowed to change to residential use without the need for a planning application.

Builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are repurposed as homes.

Boris Johnson says the government will not be responding to the coronavirus crisis with austerity. Credit: PA

And property owners will be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, so long as neighbours approve of the extension.

Prime Minister Johnson said he has set up “Project Speed” with Chancellor Rishi Sunak in order to “scythe through red tape and get things done” in order to build better, greener and faster.

“It sounds positively Rooseveltian.  It sounds like a New Deal," Mr Johnson said, adding: "This is a government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades."

The government says developers will still need to adhere to high standards and regulations, "just without the unnecessary red tape".

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Changes will come into force in September as the prime minister tries to "level up" the UK after the coronavirus crisis, which many hope will have subsided after summer.

There is also £5bn going towards capital investment projects to support jobs and economic recovery.

The package includes £1.5bn for hospital maintenance, £100m for 29 road network projects, and over £1bn to fund the first 50 projects of a new, ten-year school rebuilding programme, starting from 2020-21.

Some £560m and £200m will go towards repairs and upgrades at schools and FE colleges, £142m will fund digital upgrades and maintenance to around 100 courts and £83m will support the maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities.

There's also £60m for temporary prison places, £900m for a range of "shovel ready" local growth projects in England as well as £96m to accelerate investment in town centres and high streets through the Towns Fund this year.

“Too many parts of this country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved, as though someone had taken a strategic decision that their fate did not matter as much as the metropolis," the prime minister said.

“And so I want you to know that this government not only has a vision to change this country for the better, we have a mission to unite and level up- the mission on which we were elected last year.”

To avoid the use of greenfield sites cash has been allocated from the £400m Brownfield Land Fund to the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, North of Tyne and Tees Valley to support the building of around 24,000 homes.

An additional £450m will be awarded to the Home Builders Fund to help smaller developers access finance for new housing developments - the cash will assist the delivery of 7,200 new homes. 

Under the affordable homes programme will be a 1,500 unit pilot of ‘First Homes’ which will be sold to first time buyers at a 30% discount.

The discount will be fixed by law in order to keep the homes affordable for generations of families to own. 

Also announced in the prime minister's speech in Dudley was a a planning Policy Paper due in July which will set out a plan to reform England’s seven-decade old planning system.

The government hopes the plan will introduce a new approach that works better for the UK's economy and society.

The prime minister said: “To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK.  To unite and level up. 

“To that end we will build build build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires.”

Mr Johnson hopes his plan will create jobs and aid financial recovery after the UK's economy was severely damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Wrapping up his speech, Mr Johnson said: "If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health. 

"We will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before."