Social Housing: Government Needs a Greater Sense of Urgency

12/12/2011 10:43 GMT | Updated 09/02/2012 10:12 GMT

I listened with sincere approval when Lord Heseltine who heads the £1.4bn regional growth fund acknowledged on The Politics Show the need for greater urgency in the government's approach to meeting social housing needs. While Cameron, Osbourne, Shapps and other MPs are swift in announcing new initiatives, delivery is somewhat slower if not entirely stagnant. So while Britain's social housing need reaches critical levels, government initiatives remain in the planning stages; in stark contrast to its ability to implement widespread cuts almost instantly.

Unfortunately government operates by committee and decisions are fed through an impressive array of hoops before action is taken. So when, at Prime Minister's question time, Ed Balls stands up and criticises the government's response to a crisis he should perhaps rather lash out at the lack of success in implementing new initiatives.

When Lord Heseltine urges government to work in conjunction with the private sector in using existing public expenditure to promote growth I am of course hopeful that those in power are listening. Of course using the private sector's ability to gear up finance along won't do the job. It is the ability of enterprise and commerce to respond almost immediately to demand that would be a valuable resource.

I have both created businesses and worked at a senior level in the public sector. It is therefore from a place of firsthand experience that I highlight the monumental difference in the speed of response between the private and the public sector. In the time it takes to set up shop with private finance, a publically funded programme will only have managed to get through the first hoop of seeking approval.

The ponderous speed of the public sector is not necessarily always a bad thing. After all MPs and public servants are tasked with managing our money and making decisions which can affect the very fundamentals of life. But these are unusual times and to break the cycle of restricted growth and huge debts requires urgent action. The need to act has in itself become a fundamental requirement.

So I am urging Her Majesty's Government to take Lord Heseltine's advice and embrace a stronger partnership with the private sector. And the good thing is that it doesn't have to a single penny. By throwing its support behind progressive schemes aimed at tackling immediate and growing social needs; by issuing contracts with strict performance criteria the government could unlock the private sector's ability to raise money and respond to an social immediate need..

My door is open. So is that of my fellow entrepreneurs. We understand the challenge ahead and have viable solutions ready and waiting. Let's hope the government doesn't fall at the fence; spending months deciding by committee whether it is a good or a bad idea to engage with the private sector. Demand for social services is genuine and immediate. The need to act is now.