Tag Archives: Alok Sharma

Jobs boom but young are left bust

By Kasia Banas, Consultant

Britain is seeing unprecedented jobs and employment growth despite an ageing population and increased health problems, a new report has shown.

Resolution Foundation started the year with launch of ‘Setting the record straight’ – its latest report exploring how record employment levels have changed the country since the financial crisis.

At the event in their Westminster headquarters, Senior Economic Analyst Stephen Clarke presented the findings on the post-crisis job growth and the current record employment rate of 75.7%, taking place against a demographic headwind of an ageing society with increased health issues.

The good news is that the rising employment has resulted in falling ‘employment inequality’ with two-thirds of jobs going to households in the bottom half of earnings. Single parents, people with ill-health or a disability, and people with low qualifications have also done particularly well. This does not mean that all jobs growth has just been in low-paid jobs however and, in fact, higher-paid occupations have expanded faster.

Young hit hard by insecurity

However, one group that has not fully benefited from the growth of higher-paying occupations are young people. The share of 18-29 year olds in lower-paying job roles has expanded over the last decade, while it has fallen for the rest of the workforce. Young people have also been amongst those most affected by another post-crisis trend – an increase in atypical and insecure roles such as self-employment, zero-hours contracts and agency work.

The stats will come as further unwelcome news for young people struggling to make a living and get on the housing ladder, especially with the average first-time buyer deposit in London at an eye-watering £114,952 – 27% of the purchase price and a three-fold increase from £38,335 in 2008.

Another positive is the strong performance of typically low employment areas such as South Yorkshire and Merseyside, which have had the highest growth rates. However, while overall geographic ‘employment inequality’ is falling, the Foundation warns that some areas outside of big cities have seen less benefit from Britain’s jobs boom.

Minister for Employment Alok Sharma welcomed the foundation’s work and assured the audience the that government’s three employment priorities are focus on quality new jobs; growth of employment for disadvantaged groups; and support for career progression to escape from low pay. He also expressed his confidence in technological change and the growth of AI having a positive impact on the labour market in the future.

Other speakers addressed the issues of mandatory gender pay gap reporting, need for employment rights to reflect the modern workplaces, and Britain’s continuing shift towards service sectors, which disproportionately benefits urban areas.

While the report points to a lot of positive developments in Britain’s labour market since the crisis, they have been overshadowed by ‘the deepest pay squeeze in over 200 years’, with Britain’s real average earnings £470 lower than they were a decade ago.

Policy makers now have the difficult task of tackling the new challenges that have developed alongside the jobs boom, in particular the poor pay and productivity performance of younger workers, the relatively poor performance of rural areas and smaller urban areas, and the endurance of atypical work. Good luck to them.



Dominic Raab ousts Sharma as new Housing Minister

Minister for Housing

Dominic Raab MP has today been confirmed as the new Minister for Housing. An up-and-coming MP who was part of the 2010 intake, Raab is thought of as veering towards the right wing of the party, and will be a controversial choice for some in the housing and planning sector due to his tough views on immigration.

Raab becomes the 16th housing minister in just 20 years, and will work with the newly re-appointed Secretary of State Sajid Javid to keep Housing at the top of the Government’s agenda.

Leaving his post as Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, Raab will immediately take over the mantle of delivering a housing agenda to deliver 1 million homes by the end of 2020, and a further half a million more by the end of 2022.

Safe as houses?

Raab, 43, is highly regarded within the Conservative Party and has been an MP for seven years, having had an earlier career as a solicitor. Elected as the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton in May 2010, he has previously worked as a lawyer and at the Foreign and Commonwealth office.

With a whopping 50% majority of just less than 30,000 votes Raab is in absolutely no danger of being displaced via an election loss any time soon, as former Minister for Housing Gavin Barwell was.

Raab will arrive at his office at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) this afternoon to find a pile of urgent papers awaiting his decision, including: the Social Housing Green Paper, the completion of the overdue NPPF reforms, the Letwin Review of land banking, and the findings of the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

The NPPF and Letwin reviews are both significant pieces of work that will require Raab to quickly get up to speed with England’s complex planning laws. The findings of the Letwin review are due by the Spring statement on 13th March, and the NPPF has been touted for a March launch by civil servants.

Raab’s appointment as the new Minister for Housing may come as something of a blow to the development sector, as Raab has been staunch in his opposition of building anything on the Green Belt. In February last year, Raab wrote to Elmbridge Borough Council stressing that “every effort must be made to avoid building on green belt” in the Council’s plans to meet housing need in the area.

Raab has also previously nailed his colours to the mast on immigration, stating in 2010 that “tides of inward population movement” in the South East have increased the “local pressures on housing” and that “there are more people, and finite resources”. In a 2009 blog post, he also seemed to set out his view that the ‘first’ cause of the housing crisis was ‘open door immigration’.

Sajid’s stance has consistently been to deny that the housing crisis is down in any part to mass immigration. If Raab can make his presence felt at MHCLG, we can expect to see the Government’s rhetoric around immigration and housing shift in coming weeks.

Sharma shuffled out of the deck

After a torrid six-month stretch that was mostly been spent reacting to the Grenfell crisis, Sharma will now take up a role as Minister of State for Employment at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The move will come as an unwanted demotion for Sharma, who has relished playing a more senior role and will not jump at the junior position on the same footing as his housing role.

Ministry for HCLG

The Prime Minister’s ‘personal commitment’ to ensure housing is the Government’s key priority has led her to rebrand the Department of Communities and Local Government as the ‘Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’. Sajid Javid says that the change reflects how much importance is being put on housing within Government, saying: “Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government and so I’m delighted the Prime Minister has asked me to serve in this role. The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.”

Bids Open for Ambitious Land Release Fund


After several false starts, the DCLG’s ‘Land Release’ fund announced in the Housing White Paper has opened for bids.

Operated as a partnership of the DCLG, the Cabinet Office and the Local Government Association’s One Public Estate programme, the fund will be used to help councils overcome barriers to development on brownfield land. However, at just £54 million, the government target of unlocking enough council owned land for the provision of 160,000 by 2020 seems more than a little ambitious.

Local authorities will be able to bid for funding to cover the costs of land remediation and the provision of small-scale infrastructure. At a time when councils are facing unprecedented pressure on their finances, the government hopes that the funding will help bring forward land and development that would otherwise lie dormant.

Interesting, in a change from previous announcements of the same money, this time around no mention is made of priority being given to “innovative delivery models” or areas of “high housing demand”.

Councils making successful bids are expected to generate £615m in new homes bonuses and other tax revenue; save £158million from no longer having to maintain surplus land; create 44,000 new jobs and release land for 25,000 homes by 2020 – signalling just how ambitious the government is being with its targets to increase the delivery of new housing.

Alok Sharma, the Housing and Planning Minister said in a statement: ‘To build the homes this country needs, we need to increase the supply of land available to build more homes, more quickly. As a major landowner, local authorities have a crucial role to play in this task’.

While what Mr Sharma says is true, £54m won’t spread too far and successful bids will probably need further funding to unlock them for the market – the simple sites have already developed. All in all, this re-announcement may simply be one to show that the “Government is getting on with governing”.