Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles: The Conservatives are building houses – and bringing power to the people

Eric Pickles: The Conservatives are building houses – and bringing power to the people
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A great country is built on strong communities. And strong communities are built on the shoulders of individuals – ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

As Communities Secretary I am privileged to witness this at first hand: proud residents confronting anti-social behaviour at their own personal risk; community leaders speaking out against sectarian divide; families refusing to be cowed by racist hatred.

My priority in Government has been to fight for these people – to bring power to them and help them make their part of the world a better place. Devolution is not about new names for old quangos, as Labour did, but real power for local communities.

And we've achieved that through freezing council tax, reducing the size of Government and enabling councils to share services to cut costs. We've also brought in neighbourhood plans so local communities can shape the places where they live and our PM has committed to English Votes for English Laws.

It's what we promised, and it's what we're delivering: real devolution that gives power and decisions to people.

But the area I'm most proud of is what we've achieved in housing. As Conservatives we know the most important thing after family is your home, which is why we're the Party that put home ownership within the grasp of ordinary people.

After thirteen years of Labour, home ownership for many was a distant dream – house-building fell to its lowest peacetime level since the 1920s. Instead, Labour gave us Regional Spatial Strategies, top-down planning, ticky-tacky boxes with no garages, no parking or garages, or room for our kids to play.

Disgraceful! But it could be even worse under Ed Miliband who has set out a 10-year plan for more housing quangos, rent control, land tax, land grabs and homes tax.

Meanwhile, we're getting on with the job. Under this Government, we've delivered 200,000 affordable homes; our Help to Buy scheme has already supported 53,000 families buy their own home; we've reinvigorated Right to Buy and helped over 20,000 families achieve their ambition to have a home of their own.

And today, I'm delighted to announce that in the last year, a total of 230,000 homes received planning permission in England. That's on top of the thousands of redundant buildings that have been converted into new homes.

And we're going to do more. Last weekend, David Cameron announced that Conservatives would support an extra 100,000 first-time buyers get on the housing ladder through a new Help to Buy scheme. We're also introducing a new Rent to Buy scheme to help young people save for a deposit before they buy their home.

For all of the young people desperate to get on the housing ladder, and for parents eager to see their children finally fly the nest, this is our commitment to you. Real help when you need it most. Helping people buy their home, improve their communities and care for their loved ones.

Our aim both locally and nationally is to build a Conservative Britain we can be proud of – a Britain where people have the security of owning their own home and securing a better future for their families and future generations.