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Labour pledges to build on council record of housebuilding

Shadow housing minister John Healey has said a Labour government will deliver more new housing than a Conservative one, citing the higher number of homes being constructed in Labour-run local authorities.

Labour Party research based on figures produced by the House of Commons Library have shown the number of new homes built on Labour-led councils between 2010 and 2016 was 2,577, whereas in Conservative councils, the figure was 1,679. Liberal Democrat councils fared worse still, with 1,660.

Reflecting on these figures, Mr Healey said: "Tory ministers talk about getting Britain building but their own local councils are lagging behind."

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Healey said the building of council homes was a key element of Labour's plans. He remarked: "You have to have councils building and commissioning new homes as part of a much bigger effort from housing associations, private housebuilders and councils."

The party's plans for one million new homes during the next five years are numerically the same as the figure pledged by the Conservatives, but this commitment to council housing is a significant difference.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the forthcoming parliament is still likely to see major efforts at government level to boost the construction of new homes. This is sure to provide extensive work for those involved in fitting insulation and also those carrying out waterproofing work on showers and cellars.

Indeed, new council house building will help provide more social housing of a high quality when it comes to energy efficiency. It will mean a higher proportion of such homes will have cavity walls and can thus be insulated that way, whereas many council homes currently lack this and often require expensive retrofitting with external wall insulation.

The political complexion of councils alone may not be the whole story, however.

A number of factors may help make it easier for Labour-run councils to build more homes, mainly because the party tends to win in urban areas with large populations and the Conservatives dominate in the shires.

In larger towns and cities, it is often much easier to find brownfield, such as former industrial sites, while less proposed building will be on greenfield sites where local opposition may hold up the process.

In addition, large city centres allow more more high-density apartment building, which enables more homes to be built on an area of land than would be the case for a similarly-sized plot in the shires.

Moreover, demand for new housing is likely to be higher in urban areas due to faster population growth, unless trends have altered markedly since the 2011 census.

In the decade to 2011, it was in urban boroughs that the highest rates of population growth were seen, with the highest increases in England coming in the London boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets, with Manchester next.

In most regions, the largest city saw its population growth exceed the regional average. This included Birmingham, the largest local authority in Britain. There were exceptions like Leeds and Glasgow, but even in these regions, other large cities like Sheffield, Bradford and Edinburgh saw population increases above the regional average.

Glasgow's case was notable as its population only increased by 2.7 per cent, whereas Scotland as a whole saw a population rise of 4.6 per cent. While the construction of many apartments in and around the centre of the city and docklands saw the population rise in this area, other parts, notably the north of the city, experienced a decline.