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This month’s Autumn Statement was, you might agree, fairly light on measures and policy which is likely to shift the dial, certainly in terms of housing transactions and activity.
There was no change to stamp duty, or the introduction of new thresholds, or a new holiday for first-timers or downsizers, there was no replacement for Help to Buy, and only a few housing-related measures which tended to focus on planning reforms, the potential for owners to shift one home into two flats under permitted development, and the extension of the Government Guarantee Scheme for another 18 months to support the high LTV sector.
However, the King’s Speech did have real significance, not least in terms of the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill. As I write this, today is the day for that particular Bill to begin its path to legislation, and it feels like a real step forward and indeed the culmination of a significant amount of work carried out by the CA and many other stakeholders in order to bring a level of fairness and transparency to leasehold that has been sorely missing for many years.
One of the big questions however surrounding this particular Bill is whether we have enough time to see it move onto the Statute Book before the end of Parliament – whenever that might be.
Michael Gove has suggested there is plenty of time in the Parliamentary calendar to do just that, but of course this is all down to when the next General Election might be, and the time between now and then.
Certainly, speculation has been building over the last week or so that the Conservative Party might be opting for an earlier GE than many had previously considered. Apparently, the party is to be placed on an Election footing from the 1st January, and a Spring election is now more likely than it has been for some time.
My feeling is that we are still more likely to be going to the polls in Autumn next year rather than Spring, and in a way if we are to get this Leasehold and Freehold Bill through Parliament, the more time we have to do this, the better it would be for that outcome.
Let’s hope that by the time the next GE is called, we do have the legislation in place and we can put those particular issues to bed, even if there are clearly other areas of the leasehold sector which still require action, not least the Regulation of Property Agents which we believe should have been a complementary part of this legislation, but given it is not, should certainly be on the next Parliamentary agenda.
On that note, as you can see, there is still much to focus on with leasehold, as there is in terms of our focus on improving the home buying and selling process.
Talking of which, we were looking forward to seeing both our legal and affiliate members, plus other stakeholders, for our final meeting of the year, on the Thursday 7th December.
However, it would seem train company employees were not aware of our meeting plans, and have decided to hold a week-long series of strikes which was undoubtedly affecting the number of people who could get to us.
It is therefore with great regret that we’ve had to cancel the face-to-face series of meetings on the day and the drinks reception after, which were to be held at our affiliate member, Dual Asset’s London offices.
We’re all incredibly disappointed to have to do this but we know there are many people who simply can’t get into London on the day.
Instead we will look forward to our next event, which just so happens to be our Annual Conference, ‘Moving in the Digital Age’, which is taking place on the 6th February in Manchester at the Hilton Manchester Deangate.
Further details are available here and we’ll be outlining our agenda and speakers very soon. I do hope you’re able to join us.
Nicky Heathcote is Non-Executive Chair at the Conveyancing Association (CA)