Housing crisis must be treated like WAR, warns ex-Cabinet minister

Britain will train 15,000 more bricklayers as ex-Cabinet minister warns housing crisis must be treated like WAR or it will never be solved

  • Government has set ambitious target of building 300,000 new homes a year
  • Prime Minister criticised for refusing to commit to radical action on shortage
  • Former Cabinet minister Oliver Letwin suggests wartime-style effort on crisis 

Britain is to train 15,000 more bricklayers amid warnings that the housing crisis must be treated like war or it will never be solved.

The workforce is set to be expanded by nearly a quarter over the next five years as part of a major government drive. 

The goal emerged as Sir Oliver Letwin, who is carrying out a major review for Theresa May, urged government to emulate the massive effort to produce Spitfire planes.

The state must step in and ‘mobilise a lot of people’ in order to force through a huge expansion of housebuilding, he said.

The Prime Minister has set an ambitious target of constructing 300,000 homes a year, up from the current level of around 220,000.

But critics say she has been unwilling to commit to the drastic measures needed to achieve the increase.

The government has set an ambitious target of constructing 300,000 new homes a year

Sir Oliver suggested housebuilding needed to be treated like the war effort, which included producing planes like the Spitfire (front) in order to address the mounting crisis

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Oliver – a key figure in David Cameron’s administration – warned that slow progress in developing infrastructure such as transport links was holding up housing projects by ‘years and years’. 

County councils, Highways England, National Grid and power firms were delaying action, and a cross-government task force must be created to ensure people ‘get their act together’, he said.

‘When we were fighting the Second World War and we needed a lot of Spitfires, Lord Beaverbrook [then minister of aircraft production] got to work and just mobilised a lot of people so that all the things you needed for Spitfires were got into the right bit of the factory. Britain depended on it,’ Sir Oliver said.

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‘This is not that urgent, but it is quite urgent. It is a major plank of policy and it has a big effect economically. Somebody has got to go round and actually get all the bits together so you can get the Spitfires. At the moment that doesn’t happen.’

Separately, a former senior aide to Mrs May has warned that the Conservatives’ chances of winning a majority at the 2022 election rest on boosting levels of home ownership.

Analysis produced by the think-tank Onward – run by ex-Downing Street staffer Will Tanner – found crucial marginal seats are seeing private renters increase at a faster rate.

Mr Tanner said the prospect of owning a home was becoming a ‘pipe dream for a generation’.  

Sir Oliver Letwin (left), who is carrying out a major review for Theresa May (right at a Windrush ceremony last week), urged government to emulate the effort to produce Spitfire planes


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