Barratt takes Blair to task over housing

BARRATT, the UK's second-largest housebuilder, yesterday attacked the Government's housing policy, accusing it of damaging the poor and hitting smaller companies.

Frank Eaton, the chairman of the building firm, used the publication of the company's interim results to launch a scathing attack on Tony Blair's administration. He said that the scrapping of tax relief on mortgages, known as Miras, announced by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, in the Budget earlier this month, would be a major blow for the working classes.

"The abolition will hit the hardest those who are least able to afford it, particularly in the less affluent parts of the country," Mr Eaton said.

The Barratt chairman added that the demise of Miras would damage the very people a Labour government was expected to protect. "The cost of the abolition is around pounds 300 and that is a large sum for those on low incomes. The Prime Minister and the Chancellorought to know better."

Mr Eaton also warned that in the long-term the measure would damage the British economy, as more and more potential homebuyers are forced into rented accommodation.

The chairman was also critical of delays in the planning system. He said that the Government's failure to address the "appalling" delays in permission to develop land was hitting smaller housebuilders and forcing them to withdraw from the stockmarket. "It is getting progressively worse. Some of the smaller companies can't cope with it."

He warned that unless the Government solved this "deplorable situation", it had "no chance" of meeting its target of building 4.4 million new homes by 2016.

His comments came as Barratt reported a 21 per cent rise in the 1998 interim pre-tax profits to a record pounds 41.2m on housing completions up 10 per cent to 4,206. Mr Eaton said that the company was on course to meet its 1999 target of an 8 per cent increase in houses sold, with forward sales in the first part of the year already up 10 per cent on 1998.

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