Britain’s New Housing Minister

by Mike Hardwick
3rd April 2020

I suspect I won’t be the only person you’ll hear bemoaning the appointment of yet another housing minister – the 10th in as many years. For those of us involved with the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA), it’s dizzying watching the revolving door into the Ministry of Community, Housing and Local Government (MHCLG) spinning away with each new incumbent.

Some element of continuity is essential if policy is going to be developed and implemented and that seems to be the last thing our industry is getting. I’d add my voice to those who are calling for some stability so that progress can happen.

The housing portfolio is an odd fish. It’s important, because the well-publicised housing crisis is high on the list of voter concerns, so it attracts rising stars looking for the potential to make a name for themselves. A glance at the last decade’s incumbents reveals some familiar names – Grant Shapps, Brandon Lewis, Alok Sharma, Dominic Raab, Kit Malthouse and Esther McVey.

But it is not a cabinet position, so whoever’s in the chair tends to get hoisted up the ladder and installed at the oval table in No. 10 pretty quickly – before they can even begin to start any serious work on the housing brief. Enter Chris Pincher MP. Unless you live in Tamworth, where he is their elected representative, you could be forgiven for having never heard of him. One would hope that he might last longer than his predecessors, but looking at how long the new Chancellor had been an MP before getting to the second most powerful position in the country, that doesn’t seem to mean much these days.

I can see why Sajid Javid left so abruptly, but I also worry that with his departure, we have lost another figure who understands the custom and self build cause and could do something about it.

It spoke volumes that Mr Javid made the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon one of his stops on the election train last December and it is no coincidence that self build got a mention in the Conservative manifesto. The political will to push for the cause is there, we just need someone who understands the issue to implement it.

If there is any consolation, Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor, has previously met with our self build champion Richard Bacon MP, so he will at least have an awareness of the industry. The signs were positive, so maybe we’ll see progress – like a Help to Build scheme in the same vein as Help to Buy.

If, however, this housing minister moves on as quickly as his illustrious predecessors, can I make a plea to the Prime Minister through these pages? Mr Johnson, if you need a housing minister who understands the brief and can hit the ground running, you have the perfect candidate with the aforementioned Mr Bacon and I recommend him to The House.

My campaign to get Richard into office starts now!

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