The rumoured reshuffle came to fruition this month, with Boris Johnson looking to “unite and level up the whole country” starting with a shake-up of his top team. This has also included a rebranding of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to showcase the Government’s commitment to the levelling up mission in the department’s title.
Enter the new Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities…
Michael Gove MP has replaced Robert Jenrick MP as Secretary of State, inheriting a range of housing policy issues to address including building safety, renters’ reform, net zero homes, planning reform, and local government capacity. Gove and the new Department will also take on the new responsibility to deliver the levelling up agenda, potentially signifying a ramping-up of activity around the concept. On appointment, Gove said his team will focus on “delivering for those overlooked families and undervalued communities across the United Kingdom”.
Gove has never held the housing brief since entering the Cabinet in 2010, but he was Shadow Minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government between 2005 and 2007 and during his bid for the Conservative leadership in 2016 Gove said:
“We need a national ambition to build hundreds of thousands of new homes a year, both private and socially-rented – led by someone who will not take no for an answer and who will push for diggers in the ground and homes for all come what may.”
The NHC will be looking out for what these ambitions will mean for the North as Gove develops his approach.
Neil O’Brien MP will also be focussing on the levelling up agenda as he becomes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. O’Brien was previously Boris Johnson’s levelling up adviser and worked on the development of the Northern Powerhouse strategy as an adviser to George Osborne. He authored a report about levelling up last year, published by think tank Onward, in which he argues for an end to the 80:20 rule and a rebalancing of Affordable Homes Programme investment.
Yorkshire-born Andy Haldane, former Bank of England chief economist, has been appointed as head of the Government’s new levelling up taskforce. He takes up the role as a six-month secondment from his position as Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Arts. Haldane has said he looks forward to helping the Government “design and deliver an economy that works for every part of the UK”. He will report jointly to Gove and Johnson.
The levelling up white paper is expected to be published this Autumn to articulate the Government’s plans.
Kemi Badenoch MP has also joined the Department as Minister of State from her previous role as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. Badenoch also remains Minister for Equalities at the Foreign Office.
Danny Kruger MP has announced on Twitter that he has been appointed as Gove’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, this is yet to be confirmed by the Department at the time of writing. Kruger led a government-commissioned review of civil society last year as a response to the “volunteering and community spirit” seen during the first lockdown of the pandemic.
Christopher Pincher MP (Minister of State for Housing), Eddie Hughes MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Housing and Rough Sleeping) and Lord Greenhalgh (Minister of State) all remain in their posts in the newly named department. Luke Hall MP, previously Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government at MHCLG, has returned to the backbenches.
Over at BEIS where the responsibilities for energy efficiency, clean heat and fuel poverty lie, Kwasi Kwarteng MP remains Secretary of State, and Lord Callanan (Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility), who attended a roundtable with some NHC members recently, also remains in post. Berwick-upon-Tweed MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has been moved from her role at BEIS to become Secretary of State for International Trade. Greg Hands MP, previously Minister of State for Trade Policy, has taken up Trevelyan’s role at BEIS.
Another Northern MP involved in the reshuffle is Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, who has been appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Clarke was previously a Minister at MHCLG before his resignation in September 2020. Clarke is also a former Vice Chair of the APPG for Housing in the North (2017-2019) of which the NHC acts as Secretariat.
The NHC will be watching the new Department closely to see how they bring together housing in the North with the levelling up agenda – we have already reached out to the new team to arrange to discuss our members’ priorities with them. We will keep you updated with our engagement.
Members can hear directly from both Kwasi Kwarteng MP and Eddie Hughes MP at the Northern Housing Summit 2021 in November.
You can see the full ministerial list across government departments here.