Week commencing 4 May 2020

In today's bulletin

• No business rates change until 2022
• London adapts to active travel

• Ensure Covid-19 recovery is led by climate policy
• Virtual voting for MPs ready to go

Property, Planning and Regeneration

No business rates change until 2022

The proposed revaluation of business rates has been postponed from 2021 until 2022. Announced on 6 May, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the delay is intended to provide more certainty for companies affected by coronavirus and that it remains committed to fulfilling its manifesto pledge to lower the tax burden.
It remains to be seen if this move will result in elevated bills next year when businesses are attempting to recover from the public health emergency within the current system, which is based on rental values taken in 2015.

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Combustible cladding still widespread

Combustible cladding still needs to be removed from 70 per cent of multi-occupancy buildings, according to 1,000 residents surveyed by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.
Respondents to the committee’s survey on the progress of cladding remediation also expressed their anxiety over the financial costs they have faced, including waking watches and fixing fire safety defects not currently covered by Government funds. The survey is part of the wider HCLG inquiry into cladding removal, which is still accepting evidence until Monday 18 May.

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Historic decline in construction activity

Construction activity experienced a survey-record fall during April as 86 per cent of purchasing managers reported a reduction in business activity since March. The survey, compiled by market researcher IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), showed that the lowest level of construction output in 23 years was almost exclusively attributed to business and site closures caused by coronavirus.
It also highlighted a severe impact on construction supply chains as closures of builder’s merchants and the shutdown of many manufacturing plants led to widespread shortages.

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Year-on-year house price growth slows

The annual growth rate of house prices slowed to an average of 2.7 per cent in April, according to Halifax’s latest UK House Price Index published on 7 May. The average price of a home in the UK now stands at £238,511 – a fall of 0.6 per cent compared with March as the measures implemented in response to the coronavirus crisis made their mark.
While the report predicts further headwinds to house prices, Halifax remains optimistic about the long-term health of the housing market.

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Transport

London adapts to active travel

London roads are to be repurposed for active travel as public transport use is set to remain at around 20 per cent of pre-coronavirus levels. The Mayor of London and Transport for London revealed the new London Streetspace programme on 6 May, explaining their ambition to encourage a green economic recovery that minimises the risk of a second peak in the virus.
The strategy looks to build on the rise of cycling and walking during the lockdown and maximise the extent to which this remains part of everyday life.

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Unions warn of risks if train services increased

Britain’s rail unions have warned of “severe concerns” with lifting the lockdown and increasing rail service levels. The three rail unions, ASLEF, RMT and TSSA, penned their argument in a letter on 4 May to the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London, and the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales.
They argued that increasing services could risk sending a message that it is acceptable or even encouraged to travel by train – putting rail staff and passengers in greater danger. Despite the letter, the Government’s plans for an increase in train services are still set to go ahead.

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Widespread fear of return to public transport

62 per cent of the UK does not feel comfortable using public transport without the implementation of social distancing measures, according to a survey by Transport Focus. The survey also revealed that 83 per cent believe hand sanitiser should be provided on public transport vehicles and stations, and over half think all transport passengers should be required to wear face masks.
Publishing the findings on 6 May, the independent watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch have called on the Government and transport industry to provide clear guidance and reassurance to passengers on public transport as strict lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted.

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Energy and Environment

Ensure Covid-19 recovery is led by climate policy

Climate policy must be at the heart of the UK’s recovery from Covid-19, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said in an open letter to the Prime Minister on 6 May. The CCC called for low-carbon, climate-resilient and green infrastructure investment to help Britain embed new social norms as it rebuilds the economy post-coronavirus.
The letter warned of ‘locking in’ greenhouse gas emissions as part of the recovery and also highlighted the importance of a ‘fair’ outcome that doesn’t penalise those who are least able to pay.

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When rebuilding, rebuild green

A coalition of leaders from global organisations across the energy, industry and finance sectors has published a roadmap to guide governments on how they can weave clean energy and low-carbon solutions into their economic recovery packages.
On 5 May, the Energy Transitions Commission published its 7 priorities to help the global economy recover, including recommendations on green infrastructure, renewable energy and carbon pricing. The report also calls for targeted funding to bring innovative new technologies to the market that help deliver climate improvement objectives.

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Other News

Virtual voting for MPs ready to go

A virtual voting system for MPs is now ready to be implemented in the House of Commons, as confirmed by the Parliamentary Committee responsible for procedure on 5 May. The committee was instructed to undertake a review of the system to ensure it provided a robust platform from which parliament could continue to take important decisions on policy and legislation during Covid-19.
The letter to House of Commons speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, confirms that any unauthorised voting on behalf of MPs will be punishable as a breach of parliamentary conduct.

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