15 Jun 2017
Concern has been expressed at the rapid turnover of housing ministers, whether all of them are up to the job, and whether they wield any real power.
Britain is now on its 15th housing minister in 20 years. The job changes hands on average every 14 months, meaning that the next housing minister could be along in just 427 days’ time – August next year, even if the current government remains in power. The latest housing minister, Alok Sharma, was appointed just two days ago.
The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association said that the turnover of housing ministers far outstrips the rate at which the average Briton moves home – once every 19 years – and called for a cross-party approach to housing.
IMLA executive director Peter Williams said the “chronic” shortage of new homes and the need for a joined-up policy across all tenures are the major challenges.
He said: “With talk turning to the need for cross-party agreement and a common approach to negotiating Brexit, it would surely make sense to adopt a similar consensual, non-partisan approach to determining housing policy to put the UK property market on a more stable footing for the long term.”
Separately, Ian McKenzie, CEO of the Guild of Property Professionals, said: “I welcome the news of the appointment of a new housing minister after waiting for five days after the General Election result.
“However, I am concerned by Alok Sharma’s lack of industry experience. There’s no doubt that his background in accountancy will help with the role, but the housing market is in crisis.
“We need a government representative who will stand up for the industry. I hope that Sharma can step up to the plate.
“Perhaps more concerning is the lack of a Cabinet position for the housing minister. Housing was a key concern during election campaigning, but now it looks set to take a back seat in policy making while Brexit dominates the agenda while the sector deals with yet another new housing minister.
“As CEO of the Guild, I am going to endeavour to raise the profile of the issues facing our industry during this government, no matter how long it lasts.”
North-east agent Ajay Jagota said: “I’ve joked in the past that housing minsters last about as long as Sunderland managers, but they don’t even last that long.
“With the average Sunderland manager sticking around 877 days on average, there’s more longevity taking charge at the Stadium of Light than being a housing minister.”
There have now been 37 post-war housing ministers. The longest serving, Reg Freeson, was in post for five years.
In recent times, Labour’s Yvette Cooper (30 months) and Tory Grant Shapps (27 months) have served the longest.
Caroline Flint and Margaret Beckett, Labour, both managed just eight months; Kris Hopkins, Tory, did nine months; Gavin Barwell did nine months, while a raft of housing ministers including Earl Caithness, Lord Falconer, Jeff Rooker and John Healey lasted a year, and Conservative Mark Prisk managed to hold on for 13 months.
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