Property boss: 'The PM's spending is long overdue'

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The Independent Online

Liz Peace isn't shy of having a go at politicians, but her digs, like the one at "poor chap" Alistair Darling, are more pity than pit bull. Ms Peace's criticisms transcend the party divide, with Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown both taking hits.

The chief executive of the British Property Federation (BPF), the lobbying body of the commercial real estate industry, can afford to be critical, her successes already earned her a CBE earlier this year.

Perhaps the biggest triumph was getting the Government to introduce real estate investment trusts in 2007, which allowed property companies to reduce their tax burdens.

Ms Peace is calm despite the worst downturn in commercial property in decades: the value of offices, warehouses and shops has fallen 7.2 per cent in the past eight weeks, according to real estate adviser Cushman & Wakefield.

But the former Ministry of Defence official takes it in her stride. "Property is cyclical – it always has been," she says.

"The sage old hands in the property industry will tell you that they've been through it all before. A lot of them have gone bust a lot of times as well," she adds with a smile.

Ms Peace wants to dispel the image of the property industry as "a wide boy's game" with investors and developers looking to make a quick fortune. "The bulk of the commercial property industry is about long-term investment and generating stable income," she says.

It's that long-term stability which Ms Peace, who has headed the BPF for six years, sees as property's cornerstone. "It's what makes it attractive to things like pension funds and institutions, the life funds."

Pension funds have about £85bn invested in commercial property, representing up to 15 per cent of portfolios. "And despite what you might think at the moment, this income stream is a relatively steady one."

Ms Peace only shows real irritation on one subject: infrastructure investment. "We have a massive infrastructure deficit in this country. A lot of it I think is due to [Margaret] Thatcher."

Ms Peace is visibly annoyed by decades of under spending in the public sector, further constrained by Gordon Brown's prudence rules over the last 10 years.

However, Mr Brown has recently announced plans to spend the country out of recession: "Now all the brakes are off and suddenly Brown is going to start doing, for economic reasons, what he should have been doing for development reasons years ago. It's interesting it is Brown pushing it, not Darling. Do we have a Chancellor recently?"

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