Michael Gove will take on the role of Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government following a cabinet reshuffle, providing renewed hope that the government might deliver on its levelling up agenda.
- Scroll down for industry reaction
Gove, who has served in previous cabinets, is taking on responsibility for levelling up, and drawing up a strategy to meet the government’s target of building 300,000 homes a year.
He takes over from Robert Jenrick, whose two-year tenure was plagued with controversy.
In 2020, he granted planning consent for a £1bn development on the former Westferry Road printworks in London.
The approval, against the recommendations of the local council and planning inspectorate, reportedly saved developer Richard Desmond millions of pounds in tax.
It later transpired that the developer donated £12,000 to the Conservative party following the approval.
It’s been a huge privilege to serve as Secretary of State @mhclg. Thank you to everyone at the department for their hard work, dedication and friendship. I’m deeply proud of all we achieved.
I will continue to support the Prime Minister and the Government in every way I can.
— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) September 15, 2021
Jenrick’s proposed planning reforms were also given a frosty reception, while he has been widely criticised for not acting decisively enough to remedy the ongoing cladding scandal.
In a tweet yesterday following his sacking, Jenrick said it had been a “huge privilege” to serve as Secretary of State for Housing.
Under former prime minister David Cameron, Gove was Secretary of State for Education between 2010 and 2014. He was later cabinet member for the environment between 2017 and 2019 under Theresa May.
He was also Chief Whip and Justice Secretary for a year apiece between 2014 and 2016.
The last five cabinet secretaries responsible for housing
Eric Pickles – 2010-2015
Greg Clark – 2015-2016
Sajid Javid – 2016-2018
James Brokenshire – 2018-2019
Robert Jenrick – 2019-2021
Gove’s appointment as Secretary of State for Housing sees Stephen Barclay take over as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, a position Gove held since Boris Johnson became leader of the Conservatives in 2019.
Homes for the North, an alliance of 17 housing associations across the North.
Rob Loughenbury, spokesperson for Homes for the North, said: “We welcome the appointment of the new Secretary of State and encourage him to deliver Levelling Up through targeted investment in new homes.
“The outdated 80:20 rule that funnelled money away from the North is being scrapped. Now it must be replaced with a strategic approach to supporting delivery in the right places, starting with a new Levelling Up Housing Infrastructure Fund.”
Paul Boyfield, group property director at strategic consultancy Lexington.
“Robert Jenrick moving on is no great surprise but Michael Gove‘s appointment to the role is interesting.
“It suggests the government means business on housing, planning and levelling up. Gove is not a ‘mind the shop’ minister and the Prime Minster has used him to clear blockages in other areas of Government before. This is an appointment that suggests big changes and quickly….which could spell big opportunities for the North West, and other regions.”
Royal Town Planning Institute
Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, said: “The planning profession eagerly awaits details of reforms that will be introduced and stands ready to support Mr Gove so that he can hit the ground running on such a significant policy issue.
“Planners are vital in designing healthy and sustainable communities fit to face the challenges of the future and could play an instrumental role in helping to level up the entire country and deliver on net zero commitments.
“The institute looks forward to working with Mr Gove on these hugely important issues.”
Moda Living planning director James Blakey
“During Robert Jenrick’s time as Secretary of State for Housing, the government has taken important steps toward embracing the opportunities that build-to-rent presents both the UK housing sector and the economy.
“However, there is still much work to be done and for build-to-rent to realise its vast potential in the UK. The sector will need the active support of the government and the new housing secretary.”
Sean Fielding, account director with BECG
“The sacking of Robert Jenrick had a degree of inevitability about it after the announcement earlier in the week that the proposed planning reforms in ‘Planning for the Future’ were to be watered down.
“Moving Jenrick on will allow the Government to project themselves as having drawn a line under both the policy and personnel that they believe lost them the Chesham and Amersham by-election earlier this year.
“In terms of what the future holds with Michael Gove at the Ministry of Housing, I think the property sector will be looking for stability and clarity. Clarity is needed on affordable housing policy and developers will also want to know what the new planning regime will be if the Planning White Paper is toast.
“Love him or loathe him Michael Gove is a doer, which is the reason I suspect he’s been appointed. Any reforms he makes at the department may not be universally popular, but once he’s settled on a policy he will see it through, and the sector has a much better chance of knowing where it stands than it did under the previous incumbent.”