Tag Archives: Westminster

Kit Malthouse becomes eighth Housing Minister in eight years

In a day of turmoil for the Government, Kit Malthouse, the little known former Department of Work and Pensions Minister, has been appointed as the new Housing Minister.

Elected as MP for North West Hampshire in 2015 Malthouse has maintained a low but fairly well-respected profile, serving as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the DWP, Deputy London Mayor for Business and Enterprise, and Deputy Leader of Westminster Council.

With a range of experience under his belt, Malthouse’s arrival will be met with muted enthusiasm from across the board as a sensible appointment given the circumstances and the need for stability.

But as a supporter of localism and a strong plan-led system to increase housing supply it is just possible Malthouse could emerge as the Housing Minister to provide the planning reforms we need.

Malthouse on Housing
Malthouse has previously spoken out in the House of Commons in support of a plan-led system and strongly supported the introduction of Neighbourhood Plans to maintain local input during the strong growth in housing.

He also welcomed the standardisation of the calculation of housing supply for local authorities, which will be vital to drive through the new NPPF in the coming months.

Interestingly he has criticised the role of the Planning Inspectorate for its involvement in planning in the past, saying that it is often used as an excuse to slow things down as a “complicated game of chicken is played between developer, local authority and local community”.

Elsewhere he has written for the Times, arguing that local authorities should let flats to rough sleepers for free as a basis for providing support to the homeless.

Shaky Foundations
Theresa May’s promise that housing is “at the top of the Government’s agenda” rings somewhat hollow now, given she in on her fourth Housing Minister since her appointment as Prime Minister two years ago.

Malthouse replaces Dominic Raab, the ardent Vote Leave campaigner and former lawyer who has been confirmed as the man to lead Theresa May’s Cabinet as the new Brexit Secretary.

Raab managed a grand total of six months as Housing Minister following his appointment to Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle in January, replacing Alok Sharma who spent just seven months in the role. His credibility took something of a hit this year over accusations of ‘dog whistle’ politics as he used discredited statistics to link the housing crisis to immigration.

In a year that has also seen MHCLG lose Sajid Javid as Communities Secretary and Marcus Jones as Local Government Minister, Malthouse will be tasked with bringing stability to a Housing agenda undermined by constant change.

A Tall Order
Malthouse will immediately take over the mantle of delivering a housing agenda to build on million new homes by 2020. And he will have his work cut out for him.

July will be an incredibly busy month with both the Social Housing Green Paper and revised NPPF due for publication. Alongside this, work will continue on reforms to the rental sector while allocation of funds such as the £3billion Home Building Fund will need to be addressed.

MHCLG have committed to delivering the revised NPPF, which has already been delayed and tinkered with over the last year, this month. Given Raab’s departure today and the need to bring Malthouse up to speed with complex regulations, it is looking increasingly unlikely they will be able to deliver to this timescale before Parliament breaks for Summer Recess next Friday 20th July.

If he gets up to speed quickly and heals the hurt left by yet another departing Housing Minister, Malthouse has every opportunity to stamp his mark on the portfolio at a time when bold and stable leadership is desperately needed.

Chelgate Local
Chelgate Local has been providing strategic communications advice to residential and commercial developers for 30 years. We are working on 30 projects across London, Home Counties, East Anglia and the East Midlands which could provide 92,000 new homes.

To discuss how we could help your business navigate the planning system get in touch with Mike Hardware on 020 7939 7949 or mhardware@chelgate.com.

Theresa tasks Brokenshire to fix Broken Housing Market


Former Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire MP has today been confirmed as the new Communities Secretary.

The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP replaces Sajid David, who has moved to replace Amber Rudd as Home Secretary.

Brokenshire resigned from his role as Northern Ireland Secretary earlier this year, ahead of an operation to remove a tumour on his lung.

He returns to Government tasked with delivering on Theresa May’s pledge in March 2018 to “tackle one of the biggest barriers to social mobility we face today: the national housing crisis.”

In a year that has already seen MHCLG lose Alok Sharma MP as Housing Minister and Marcus Jones as Local Government Minister, he will be tasked with bringing stability to a department which has seen all too much change.

He will face a significant inbox including the revised National Planning Policy Framework which is being consulted on until 10th May, the Social Housing Green Paper, the Grenfell inquiry and the Letwin Review.

Brokenshire was born in 1968 in Southend-On-Sea and went to school Loughton, Essex before attending graduating in Law from Exeter University.

When the Conservatives won the 2010 general election, Brokenshire was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime Reduction, although in May 2011 was transferred to Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime and Security, before being appointed Minister for Security and Immigration in February 2014.

Brokenshire actively campaigned for the U.K. to remain inside the European Union, and on housing issues consistently voted for phasing out secure tenancies for life and for charging a market rent to high earners renting council homes.

In a tweet this morning, Brokenshire said: “Honoured to have been asked by the Prime Minister to serve as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government. Looking forward to taking the Government’s agenda forward especially on building the homes our country needs.”

Chelgate Local has been providing strategic communications advice to residential and commercial developers for 30 years. It’s working on 30 projects across London, Home Counties, East Anglia and the East Midlands which could provide 92,000 new homes.

To discuss how we could help your business navigate the planning system then get in touch with David Mills at dmills@chelgate.com or 020 7939 7949.

Secretary of State threatens to intervene with Local Plans

Sajid Javid has today announced he will be formally intervening in “unacceptably slow” local authorities who are yet to adopt their local plans.

Blasting local authorities who are lagging behind in adopting a local plan for development, the Communities Secretary said that his “patience has run out” and that the formal intervention process for non-compliant local authorities will begin.

Speaking in Bristol this morning, Javid set out the need for sustainable housing development across the country and praised the majority of councils who were performing well, adding: “Where councils are showing drive and ambition the government will back them every step of the way, including with a kind of housing deal we are negotiating here in the West of England.”

While many authorities are performing well, too many local authorities “still leave much to be desired” he added, highlighting how not having a local plan in place can bring “piecemeal speculative development with no strategic direction”.

In a clear message to local authorities to engage with communities and get local plans agreed, the Communities Secretary announced he has been ‘left with no choice’ but to begin formal intervention.

The Housing White Paper released in February made mention of Government’s willingness to intervene in the affairs of any local authorities who had not adopted a plan, but as of yet no local authorities have been subject to the measure.

While over 70 local authorities are yet to adopt a local plan, Javid has singled out 15 as being a “particular cause for concern” that will require Government intervention to help them adopt a local plan and deliver certainty for local residents.

The 15 local authorities are:

  • City of York Council,
  • Basildon,
  • Brentwood,
  • Bolsover,
  • Calderdale,
  • Castle Point,
  • Eastleigh,
  • Liverpool,
  • Mansfield,
  • North East
  • Derbyshire,
  • Northumberland,
  • Runnymede,
  • St Albans,
  • Thanet,
  • Wirrell

Javid jostles for budget funding?

Live on the Andrew Marr show yesterday Sajid Javid made plain his desire to see the Government borrow money to support house building.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said: “We are looking at new investments and I’m sure that the Budget will be covering housing”. Perhaps not the words of someone who is sure of the way the Chancellor is thinking. So, what does he have in mind?

It was notable that Mr Javid’s focus was on the provision of infrastructure to facilitate more house building rather than house building itself. This is certainly a worthy aim and could conceivably help to persuade concerned communities that new homes won’t mean local schools and hospitals suffering from overcrowding, and their roads becoming more jammed up.

However, while worthy, it misses the political point and is unlikely to address the Tories generation gap. Younger people have been brought up on a diet of instant fixes. They may understand the need for infrastructure in theory, they feel the compelling need for their own roof over their head right now, regardless of the local road system. Labour get this and are calling for a new wave of house building right now – hitting the zeitgeist on the head.

Javid also moved to scotch the swirling rumours about relaxations on development on the Green Belt, which would probably be political suicide for the Conservatives who rely on the shire counties to deliver thumping majorities. Despite flagging the opportunity presented by low interest rates, he also avoided the issue of letting local authorities borrow to build their own housing, an anomaly as they can borrow to buy other assets.

But readers should also note that Javid is flying a kite, he doesn’t know which way Hammond is going to jump on any of these issues. There are a huge number of areas where extra government investment can buy votes – increased wages for nurses, more bobbies on the beat, investment in the NHS….. Javid is making his case on Andrew Marr in public in an effort to put pressure on Mr Hammond.

We only have a month to wait to find out which way the Chancellor will jump.

Empowering Communities


Fitzwilliam MaltonNew Housing Design was the subject of a piece of high political theatre today in Westminster Hall as a Tory MP sought to hold new Housing Minister Alok Sharma MP to account.

Neil Parish MP had organised the debate after concerns about the quality of new homes in the UK from the design phase onwards. His solution? To include communities from the outset in the design of new homes and neighbourhoods.

This complaint is certainly nothing new but it was perhaps interesting to understand his angle of attack. Neil Parish wants to see developers and house builders held to account through the creation of a new post of New Homes Ombudsman who could at least help new home owners ensure that any issues with the quality of the build of their dream house are addressed quickly.

Perhaps unsurprisingly this call was echoed by members from both sides of the chamber, including former bag carrier to previous Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, Rebecca Pow, and the only chartered planner in the chamber, Helen Hayes MP. All speakers suggested that high quality developments and homes would be much more likely to get local support, although this is probably difficult to prove.

In response, Alok Sharma hid behind existing and planned policy. He proclaimed that there is a robust framework in place which emphasises the importance of high quality design and encourages engaging with the local community. He went on to say that the Housing White Paper would reinforce this further – but declined to say when or how the White Paper (or the changes to the NPPF) will be taken forward. The debate ended with the Minister concluded by saying that he would consider the role of an ombudsman.

As a debate it certainly won’t be one for the annuals, but Neil Parish has raised an interesting point at a time when Tory back benchers know they need to be listened to.  The Minister won’t be able to bat these calls away and there may be some action on an ombudsman – beating the housing industry always goes down well with voters.

However, it is harder to see what can be done about getting communities involved earlier in the design process. This is something the government would rather leave to local councils. We might also conclude that the government needs to see new homes built now and worry about fixing the issues later. . .



A Weak and Wobbly Great Repeal Bill


Theresa MayAfter much speculation, the Government has now published details of its so-called ‘Great Repeal Bill’. It is safe to say that majority of people will have found it a great disappointment.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, bringing an end to Britain’s membership of the European Union. European laws will no longer take precedence over UK laws and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will be removed. So just how much control are we taking back?

Untangling European law will be a messy affair. In reality, if and when the Bill becomes the European Union (Withdrawl) Act, it simply means that all existing EU legislation will become UK law. This is to ensure the process of leaving the European Union runs as smoothly as possible. Parliament will then decide which European laws it wants to keep, get rid of or amend.

However, this will be easier said than done as the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee warned that EU law is found in many different places in many different forms. The ‘Great Repeal Bill’ must become an Act of Parliament before Britain’s official exit from the European Union on 29 March 2019. Due to the complexity of detangling EU law, the Committee is concerned that the Government will use some of the delegated powers outlined within the Bill.

This means that the Government will potentially be able to amend legislation on everything from workers’ rights to food standards and banking regulations without the agreement of Parliament. Brexit Secretary David Davis has stated any major changes to UK law will be voted on through primary legislation. However, if the Government finds itself running out of time it will not put at risk the entire Brexit process for the sake of Parliamentary scrutiny.

The re-election of Remain supporter Hilary Benn MP as Chair of the Select Committee on Exiting the EU could throw another spanner in the works. Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit secretary, has warned the Government that Labour will vote against the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ if it does not get a number of concessions including protecting workers’ rights, copying the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK law and limiting the use of delegated powers. Starmer has denied that Labour are trying to block Brexit however just a few votes against the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ could be catastrophic.

As well as a potential collision course with Westminster, Theresa May could face a battle with the devolved administrations who must also agree to the Bill under the Sewel Convention. A joint statement (released mere hours after the Bill was published) from Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon states that they cannot support the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ in its present form.

The Government will therefore most likely be forced in to making several concessions Labour is seeking such as retaining the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Opposition parties are likely to threaten to derail the Bill if they believe they are not getting enough control over what laws stay and what laws go. Far from being strong and stable, Theresa May’s government is looking increasingly weak and wobbly.