Tag Archives: devleopment

RIP UKIP: More politicians flee the sinking ship

Already it’s not shaping up to be a good year for UKIP.

In yet another blow to the beleaguered party, all 17 of the UKIP councillors in Thurrock, Essex, have now resigned from their membership.

Saying they have “had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics”, the fleeing UKIP councillors have formed their own group, the Thurrock Independents, which will contest every ward seat in the upcoming local elections in May 2018.

The mass defection, which includes MEP Tim Aker, means the Thurrock Independents have become the official opposition party to the Conservative administration in the Borough and are free of UKIP’s central governance.

It’s a shrewd move for the Thurrock councillors who are reported to have impressed locals with their hard work but are unlikely to be voted in under the increasingly toxic UKIP banner.

The collapse of the central pillar

Thurrock has been one of the few UKIP outposts to consistently perform well over the years, with the party launching its manifesto there in 2015 and receiving a 20% share of the vote for Tim Aker in the 2017 elections.

The loss will come as a huge blow to the UKIP faithful as party leader Henry Bolton continues to cling on despite receiving a vote of no confidence, on top of public embarrassment over his relationship with a young woman who has been branded a racist.

A number of senior UKIP figures have now quit their roles, including Mr Bolton’s deputy and assistant deputy, and it looks like there will be more losses to follow.

Tim Aker MEP, who intends to stay on as UKIP, said: “UKIP has a job to do in the European Parliament in seeing we get the Brexit we voted for. I will stay as a UKIP MEP. But to better represent my constituents in Aveley, I had no choice but to follow my colleagues and represent the Thurrock Independents. We are one seat away from taking control of the council and bringing real change to our borough.”

Thurrock Independents

Somewhat bizarrely, the new Thurrock Independents group has adopted a worker bee as its new logo, with group leader Cllr Graham Snell saying it represents “hard graft, working together towards common goals, sacrifice and the importance of the protection of our environment.”

He went on to say: “Thurrock Independents have the only councillors in Thurrock whose prime concern will be Thurrock residents. They are not compromised by a slavish attachment to a national party.

“Our entire group joined Thurrock Independents as we have had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics.”

With just over 14 weeks until the local elections, the loss of one of the most influential local government UKIP groups is a substantial blow to the ailing party. Given the party’s extensive problems, there are likely to be further casualties.

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.”