POLITICS

Coalition Policies 'Incoherent' And 'Absurd', Says Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams

10/03/2014 14:06 GMT | Updated 10/03/2014 14:59 GMT
Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive
(left to right) Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West, Charlotte Leslie, MP for Bristol North West, Stephen Lansdown, Chairman of Bristol City Football Club, Dawn Primarolo, MP for Bristol South, Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, and Alan Keen, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Football Group, outside the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, central London.

A minister has branded a flagship coalition housebuilding policy "incoherent" and "unfair".

Local government minister Stephen Williams said his department's New Homes Bonus - which offers grants to councils based on the level of construction in their area - was having no real impact.

He also reportedly criticised an "absurd" cap on how far town halls can raise council tax without holding a local referendum.

The comments came as Williams spoke to activists on the fringe of the Liberal Democrat conference in York over the weekend.

According to the Yorkshire Post, he said: "The New Homes Bonus - speaking freely as a Lib Dem MP - I'm not a fan of.

"I don't think it's an incentive, necessarily, for local authorities to give planning permission. I don't think it's actually driving decision-making on the ground."

Many districts were unable to host much extra housing for geographical reasons, he said. "It's not a fair opportunity," he added.

Turning to the coalition's 2% threshold for council tax increases, Williams went on: "A referendum on tax rises is absurd.

"If we had it for income tax, VAT, then the country would probably grind to a halt." The MP said the Government's planning policy was "constantly changing".

"(Tory planning minister) Nick Boles is hyperactive in that area - which is good in a way," Mr Williams said. "He's hated by a lot of Tory MPs - but he's quite a good colleague to work with in that he's thoughtful, he's creative, he knows his stuff."