Following the sacking of Michael Gove and the resignation of Stuart- Andrew last week, the Government has appointed Greg Clarke, secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Marcus Jones, minister for housing.
Jones is the 12th housing minister since 2010 (the 20th since 1997), while Clarke becomes the fifth housing secretary since 2018. Both ministers join the department months after the government unveiled its flagship Levelling Up Bill, which included plans for major reforms of the English planning system.
At this stage, it is not confirmed whether the next prime minister – due to replace Boris Johnson in the Autumn – will keep the legislation as it stands. A new leader is also likely to reshuffle the cabinet, meaning yet more new housing ministers could be announced in due course.
So, where will this leave housing reform? Unfortunately, there’s several policies and issues which the housing department is supposed to be dealing with right now. Crucial pieces of legislation for developers and housebuilders, major landlords and tenants are currently in play including the Building Safety Act, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and the Renters Reform Bill. This doesn’t bode well for social housing reform, promised leasehold reform and the ongoing affordability issues which will likely end up taking a backseat as the government attempts to navigate its own internal crisis.
Nicola Gooch, planning partner at Irwin Mitchell, said further delays from the department were a “certainty”.
“They have to get the department restaffed and get those people up to speed, and there’s going to be a reluctance to do anything new because what we have right now is a caretaker government.”
Gooch explained that the slowdown in debates and committees would be particularly problematic for the levelling-up bill, which was written as a framework with the intention that it would be reworked via committees such as the one which was postponed last week.
Without those committees, Liam Spender, senior associate at Velitor Law, said there was the possibility that the bill was “lost altogether as [the government] runs out of Parliamentary time”.
Robert Bruce, planning partner at law firm Freeths, was more optimistic. “I doubt the Conservatives will want an embarrassment with a significant u-turn on legislation progressing through parliament,” he said.