Election fallout: where now for communities and local government?

Sajid Javid has returned as communities secretary with Reading West MP Alok Sharma joining him at the Department for Communities and Local Government as the new housing minister.

Prime minister Theresa May confirmed on Sunday that Mr Javid will continue in his role, which he has held since July 2016, as part of her cabinet reshuffle.

Greg Clark also returned to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as secretary of state, while in a shock move, Michael Gove returned to the front bench as environment secretary.

The reshuffle came after a tumultuous week in British politics, which saw the Conservatives lose their overall majority in the general election.

Housing minister loses seat
The election also saw housing minister Gavin Barwell lose his Croydon Central seat. However, in a surprising move, Mr Barwell was appointed two days later as the prime minister’s chief of staff, following the resignation of her two closest aides, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.

Today it was confirmed that the Reading West MP Alok Sharma has joined DCLG as the new minister of state, which will include the housing brief.

Mr Sharma was first elected to parliament in May 2010 and previously worked at the Foreign Office as parliamentary under secretary of state.

Speaking on Twitter, he said he was ‘honoured to be appointed minister of state for housing and planning’.

Responding to his appointment, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), Terrie Alafat said: ‘We’d like to congratulate Alok Sharma on his appointment.

‘The Conservative manifesto rightly recognised that we need an ambitious long-term plan to tackle our national housing crisis. We at CIH, along with housing professionals across the country, are ready to work with Mr Sharma on developing that plan and putting it into practice.’

Need to rebuild trust between central and local government
The chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter, welcomed Mr Javid’s reappointment on Twitter and said it was ‘great news’.

‘Lots of heavy lifting to do, but at least we can get straight on with it,’ added Lord Porter.

The chairman of the County Councils Network, Cllr Paul Carter, said Mr Javid’s reappointment will allow ‘us to continue our close working relationships and drive forward key policies to improve the lives of county residents’

‘Counties already represent 41% of our economy, but in the face of Brexit, we must do more to tackle the underlying challenges of an uneven economy which is holding county areas back.

‘Devolution through a place-based industrial strategy can equip counties with the necessary tools to improve our internationally weak productivity levels, upskill our workforce and support business growth, while reforms to housing, and a greater role for counties, could help unlock the current logjams in building new homes and providing vital local infrastructure,’ added Cllr Carter.

While the director of the New Local Government Network (NLGN), Adam Lent, commented: ‘We congratulate Sajid Javid on his re-appointment, and we look forward to working with him and his team on the future of local government.

‘It is no secret that the relationship between central and local government has been strained over the last year, and the secretary of state now has a good opportunity to rebuild trust.’

The executive director of public impact at the National Housing Federation, Ruth Davison, said Mr Javid’s ‘understanding of the housing sector, combined with the continuity of his reappointment, will be of reassurance to the sector’.

‘We look forward to working with the minister and his colleagues to deliver the houses the country so desperately needs and to find a sustainable way to build specialist homes for the elderly and more vulnerable,’ added Ms Davison.

The Chartered Institute of Housing’s chief executive Terrie Alafat thanked Mr Barwell for the work he had done as housing minister.

‘We appreciated his willingness to listen and work with the sector,’ she said. ‘That kind of approach is the only way we will be able to address the country’s housing challenges and build the genuinely affordable homes that we so desperately need.’

‘In their manifestos all three major parties rightly recognised that we need an ambitious long-term plan to tackle our national housing crisis. We simply cannot go on as we are or the implications for future generations will be every bit as significant as the impact of Brexit,’ she added.

DUP housing plans
Negotiations are due to take place today between the prime minister and the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster, on a deal to help the Conservative’s minority administration govern.

The director of the CIH for Northern Ireland, Nicola McCrudden, said the DUP has ‘maintained a strong commitment to building new social housing’ in the province.

‘Northern Ireland continues to enjoy the highest proportion of its public spending on housing in the UK, which has helped to keep social housing affordable for the people who need it,’ said Ms McCrudden.

‘The DUP continues to promote home ownership, with funding prioritised for co-ownership housing. They also supported the house sales scheme (right to buy) for housing associations, which has been in place for over ten years in Northern Ireland.

‘However they recently proposed to scrap this in order to reduce government control over housing associations and ensure they are classified as private bodies for national accounting purposes, so public investment in social housing is not reduced,’ she added.


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