Labour conference: Ed Balls calls for stamp duty break


Ed Balls: "We must go further and we must act now"

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has called for 100,000 new affordable homes and a two-year stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers to kick-start the economy.

He said the £3bn to £4bn funding should come from the 4G mobile spectrum sale.

Mr Balls used his speech to Labour's conference in Manchester to stress the need for "urgent" action on growth.

He also announced that the chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Sir John Armitt, would review long-term infrastructure planning and finance.

Mr Balls' speech came amid a row between the party's leadership and the unions over backing for a public sector pay freeze.

Len McCluskey - leader of one of Labour's biggest financial backers Unite - said the party should be on the side of ordinary workers, arguing leader Ed Miliband had "got it wrong" and should not offer a "watered-down version" of the coalition's policies.


He received an enthusiastic round of applause after speaking at the conference on Monday.

But Mr Miliband said Labour could not be dominated by special interests such as the trade unions and the row is expected to flare on the conference floor later on Monday.

Mr Balls told delegates: "We need a comprehensive long-term plan to rebuild Britain's infrastructure for the 21st century, and a cross-party consensus to deliver it.

Start Quote

Not more talk, but action right now”

End Quote Ed Balls

"And at a time when government budgets are tight, we must think innovatively about how we can finance these vital projects over the coming decades, drawing on the private sector and long-term pension savings."

The shadow chancellor attacked the coalition's austerity programme, saying: "This is the fundamental truth: if more people are on the dole, not paying taxes, you can't get the deficit down.

"If businesses are going bust, not hiring new workers, you can't get the deficit down. If the economy's not growing, you can't get the deficit down."

He called for "urgent action" to kick-start growth, suggesting a "clear and costed plan" to use the proceeds from the forthcoming sale of 4G radio frequencies to scrap stamp duty for two years on properties worth £250,000 or less.

'Real help'

"With this one-off windfall from the sale of the 4G spectrum, let's cut through the dither and rhetoric and actually do something," he said. "Not more talk, but action right now.

"Let's commit that money from the 4G sale and build over the next two years: 100,000 new homes - affordable homes to rent and to buy - creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and getting the construction industry moving again.

"Add to that a stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers, and we can deliver real help for people aspiring to get on the property ladder."

The 4G auction will sell chunks of radio spectrum to support future mobile services, which will allow users to download data such as music and videos at much faster speeds.

In 2000, the previous Labour government raised £22.5bn to help pay off the national debt with the proceeds of the 3G spectrum auction.

The 4G auction could raise between £3bn and £4bn, according to social enterprise charity the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), although telecoms watchdog Ofcom has not confirmed that figure.


Mr Balls defended his plan to review all public spending if Labour wins the next election, saying the country faces "tough choices" in the years ahead.

"The longer this government staggers on with a failing economic plan, the worse it will get and the harder the job will be," he told Labour activists.

"Hard times will last longer than all of us hoped. And we cannot promise to put everything right straight away.

"Of course we'll make different choices - we'll do things in a fairer and more balanced way and put jobs and growth first."

But GMB union leader Paul Kenny turned his fire on the shadow chancellor on Sunday, saying: "He would give an aspirin a headache, wouldn't he?"

In a speech to delegates on Monday, Mr Kenny will say Labour must go into the next election with a leadership the public can connect with, not those "damaged or dented by past mistakes which have not been owned up to".

At a fringe meeting on Monday, he plans to read out a dossier of errors he will claim the shadow chancellor made when he was in government.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    I travel in Germany a lot. Two bedroom flat in nice area 40,000Euros. Rented 2 Bedroom flat 180 Euro's a month.

    Thats how we should be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    In 1990, I got my flat for about 3 x my income. As it cost over £30,000, I got no relief for stamp duty. When banks let people buy homes for 10 x income, home prices went up far more than wages, so many people couldn't buy homes, which are still over-priced. If the average wage is £25,000, any stamp duty holiday should be for the first £75,000 of the price of a home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    " farkyss
    What if you want to live in a modern society supported by local enterprise (social or otherwise) not run by a monolithic authoritarian nanny state that you didn't vote for?"

    I'm sure the Sumerians who lived closest to the Tigris and the Chinese living on high grounds asked much the same question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    Wow a 2year freeze on stamp duty and that fixes it hey, wish I was as bright and witty as ed balls, what a guy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    The stamp duty break has been done before....Did it really have that much of an impact? We need to look at a new stamp duty policy. Increase the threshold for 1% to 3% from £250k to c£400k. Then level this out by an increased percentage for the more expensive £1m+ houses. Lets face it, if you can afford a house of £1m+, i'm sure you can afford the extra stamp duty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    More "affordable homes" for sale will just land us in the same mess in a few years. We need a decent sized renting market (that people can actually afford), and social housing, not an obsession with home ownership.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Building houses for 1st time buyers does not kick start the economy. It merely ties up capital for decades and reduces spending power of the house owners. We need investment and growth in the manufacturing sector . Mr Balls, the current economic situation was caused by over stimulation of the housing market overseen by your party when in power - or had you forgotten ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    More houses.. really... try looking around here, they haven't stopped building (and on green fields!)... how about being honest and saying growth is BAD for the world (finite resources) and getting some sensible expectations.. population reduction.. etc.. before it's too late.

    or you can just keep talking Balls

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    I agree that more social and 'affordable' housing needs to be built - however, all over the country there are thousands of empty properties boarded up...
    Surely attention to sort ehse out to a living standard would be far cheaper than spending on brand new houses

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    Stupid man, ridiculous Party

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    I'd like the Stamp Duty I paid in July back thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    Hindsight is a wonderful weapon that all Politicians seem to possess, it's just a pity that foresight isn't applied with the same vigour Mr Balls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    Create growth by further inflating an already worrying real estate bubble. This is an insane suggestion, rental yields across all price ranges are heading to the level that suggest property prices should fall. I remember a similar policy of tax breaks for builders/developers/buyers in order to sustain an unsustainably property sector, it happened in Ireland and looke what happened there

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    Problem with housing market is demand from immigrants & banks not passing on record low interest rates to borrowers + too much money allowed for remortgaging as priority should be homes for British first time buyers.
    Many affordable homes resold quick & now greedy BTL landlords have them as are reaping benefit of immigrant & other housing crush & getting fantastic rental yields on cheap housing

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Unfortunately, our politicians are drawn from a narrow band of society, the career politicians.

    Few if any have any experience of business or commerce including Mr Balls.

    Is it surprising that none of them can string together a co-herent economic policy to rejuvinate this country's industry & people.

    They are all short term opportunists & Balls is at the top of the heap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    This is not the same Labour government.

    Ed Balls is not Allistair Darling

    Milliband is not Gordon Brown.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    'Affordable' homes ?

    How ironic this announcement is timed with the introduction of the 11p per hour rise in the NMW.

    I think his idea of 'affordable' is different to the vast majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Ed Balls has no real grip on reality, does he? He cannot be trusted with any financial matter.

    Instead of taking away stamp duty (a tax on buying) why not just introduce capital gains tax on the selling - that will stop the madness of inflation of house prices.

    And as for the 100,000 "affordable" homes, if it sells for £1m, then it's affordable. Lets build LOW COST homes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    This simply doesn't deal with the problem. Adequate housing is a basic right- just as the right to work is. A government which cares for working people should pass laws which makes it difficult for them to be exploited, whether by landlords, low-quality starter home builders, etc. An absolutely laughable policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    You want to give people the confidence to risk their money in the housing market? STOP MEDDLING and stop keeping rates artificially low. I don't mind risking my money in a fair market. I'm not going to gamble on government or BoE policy.


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