THE Government has failed to deliver any of its promised tens of thousands of new "starter homes" despite setting aside more than £2 billion for the project, it has been revealed.

A report from Whitehall spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, said the Conservative Party's 2015 election manifesto committed to building 200,000 homes in England to be sold exclusively to first-time buyers under the age of 40, in a bid to help young people take their first step on the property ladder.

Although the Spending Review of that year set aside £2.3 billion to support the delivery of the first 60,000 properties under the scheme, the National Audit Office (NAO) said that, to date, no starter homes have actually been built.

While the Housing and Planning Act 2016 created the statutory framework for the project to go ahead, the NAO said the relevant sections of the legislation has yet to come into force.

However, it said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) no longer has a budget dedicated to the starter homes project.

Funding which had been earmarked for the scheme has instead been spent on acquiring and preparing brownfield sites for housing more generally - some of which was "affordable" housing.

The NAO said between 2015 and 2018, £174m had been spent on acquiring and preparing sites originally intended for starter homes.

Among the sites to receive investment was land in Bridgwater.

The NAO said that, while it was "possible" developers had built and sold some properties which met the starter home criteria, legally they could not be marketed as such until the MHCLG had put place the necessary secondary legislation.

In January 2017, the Conservative Government announced Somerset councils were among an initial 30 which partnered with the Home Land Fund.

The fund was established in 2016, to 'support the acquisition, remediation and de-risking of further suitable land for starter home developments'.

South Somerset District Council and a bid from West Somerset Council in association with Taunton Deane and Sedgemoor, were also included.

Then-Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, who went on to be Theresa May's chief of staff when she was Prime Minister, said at the time: "This first wave of partnerships shows the strong local interest to build thousands of Starter Homes on hundreds of brownfield sites in the coming years.

"One in three councils has expressed an interest to work with us so far."

However, it is unclear how many affordable homes - if any - were built in the county as a result of the scheme.

Chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, said: "Despite setting aside over £2 billion to build 60,000 new starter homes, none were built.

"Since 2010 many housing programmes announced with much fanfare have fallen away, with money then recycled into the next announcement.

"The department needs to focus on delivery and not raise, and then dash, people's expectations."

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: "The Conservatives' flagship housing announcement for first-time buyers has been a total failure.

"It's clear you can't trust the Tories to do what they promise."

But a housing ministry spokesperson told the BBC house building was at its highest level for all but one of the last 30 years.

"We have a great track record... with 222,000 homes delivered last year, and 1.3 million in total since 2010, including over 430,000 affordable homes," they said.