The new men at DCLG
With Theresa May in Downing Street, there has been a comprehensive reorganisation of Whitehall. The Department for Communities and Local Government survives (unlike some other ministries), but with an almost all-new ministerial team. We’ve taken a look at who’ll be setting planning and housing policy, and supervising devolution and local authorities, from now on.
Sajid Javid – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
The MP for Bromsgrove and former Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has been appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Mr Javid has committed to building more homes, increasing home ownership and devolving powers to local areas. Rochdale-born, he is a keen supporter of the Northern Powerhouse agenda. Speaking at the International Festival of Business last month, he said: “We’re working with business and local government to create the Northern Powerhouse… we’re devolving real power, giving the North a powerful new voice… so the Northern Powerhouse isn’t just being built on warm words.” The Fixing the Foundations report that he supervised included proposals for automatic planning permission for brownfield and upward extensions in London, part of a pattern of removing what he considers burdensome regulation. Combined with his support for devolution and the Northern Powerhouse, Mr Javid’s appointment should sit well with local authorities and developers in the North.
Gavin Barwell – Minister of State for Housing and Planning
Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, has become the new minister for housing and planning, replacing Brandon Lewis, with additional responsibility for London. Upon appointment as Planning Minister, Mr Barwell confirmed his commitment to the Government’s housebuilding target of a million new homes by 2020, and stated that a mixture of tenures is needed – though he did acknowledge the potential influence of post-referendum uncertainty. His responsibilities will include planning policy, neighbourhood planning, Ebbsfleet Garden City and more. While he has no specific planning background, RTPI president Phil Williams has welcomed his appointment. Developers will look to Mr Barwell to help deliver new homes, and ensure government targets are reached.
Marcus Jones – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (with responsibility for local government)
Marcus Jones has been reappointed as the local government minister following Theresa May’s reshuffle. With responsibility for local government policy and finance, homelessness, and community rights, Mr Jones will also be supporting Mr Barwell on housing policy. In terms of local government, Mr Jones has previously told councils that new devolved powers should be used to achieve growth and deliver more houses. This reappointment signals an element of continuity in the department, despite ministerial upheaval elsewhere across the government.
Andrew Percy – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (with responsibility for the Northern Powerhouse)
As one of the youngest MPs in Parliament at the time of his election, Mr Percy was elected to represent Brigg and Goole in 2010. Previously a teacher and councillor in Hull, Mr Percy’s appointment will further assuage the initial fears that a new government may cool its interest in the Northern Powerhouse agenda. A government spokesperson said, “the Northern Powerhouse will continue to be a priority,” with Mr Percy adding that, “I’ve always championed our area as a backbencher and now I get to champion the North within government.”
Mr Percy has also revealed that the Northern Powerhouse post was “one of the few roles in Government I would actually relish,” claiming that he wasn’t chasing a ministerial job. He has certainly got to work quickly, approving a plan for an elected mayor for the Sheffield City Region.
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
A former leader of the Welsh Conservatives, and more recently a junior minister at DECC, Lord Bourne has now become DCLG’s minister in the Lords. He is a vastly experienced politician, likely to be fully involved in arguing the Government case in the Lords. As a safe pair of hands, Lord Bourne will be able to guide legislation through and into law.
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