Philip Hammond’s council was one of 15 local authorities singled out by the government for failing to produce enough new housing — just days before the chancellor is expected to present a housing-focused Budget.
Mr Hammond, who is MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, is under pressure to produce an array of measures next Wednesday designed to boost the supply of housing across the country.
But Runnymede council was among 15 identified on Thursday by Sajid Javid, communities secretary, as having failed to produce adequate “Local Plans” setting out how and where they would provide new homes. During a speech in Bristol, Mr Javid said that the Local Plan process, which sets out a vision for the future development of an area, had been introduced more than 13 years ago, but — “incredibly” — more than 70 councils had still not submitted one.
“Of these, 15 are showing particular cause for concern,” he said. “Deadlines have been missed, promises have been broken, progress has been unacceptably slow.” That meant no certainty for local people, resulting in piecemeal speculative development with no strategic direction, he said. “Today is the day that my patience has run out,” he said, announcing the start of the formal process of intervention. “By failing to plan, they have failed the people they are meant to serve. The people of this country are crying out for good quality, well-planned housing in the right places . . . by stepping in now I’m doing all I can to ensure that they receive it.”
In addition to Runnymede, councils singled out for intervention are: the City of York, Liverpool, Calderdale and Wirral, Northumberland, Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Eastleigh, Bolsover, Mansfield, North-east Derybshire, St Albans and Thanet. They have until January 31 to put forward an explanation before the minister decides on whether to make an intervention.
The announcement came as government figures published this week showed that the number of new homes created in 2016-17 had reached 217,350 — the highest level for nine years, and a substantial increase on the 189,650 figure for the previous year.