by GK Strategy 29th June, 2017
3 min read

Another new Housing Minister….

As the sixth Housing Minister in seven years takes up his brief, we explore the impact Alok Sharma will have on planning and housebuilding.

Spare a thought for the new Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, coming from a comfortable, globetrotting role in the Foreign Office.

He now inherits from Gavin Barwell one of the most politically sensitive roles in government, partly due to the Grenfell tragedy and its repercussions, but more widely because of the simmering housing crisis in the UK. Add to this the Tenant Fees ban and the introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties next year – the new Minister will have to quickly learn the ropes, and placate plenty of stakeholders. But who is he?

Well, Mr Sharma is a chartered accountant and previously worked in corporate finance before his life in Parliament. Since becoming an MP for the Reading West seat in 2010, he has sat on the Treasury Select Committee and the Science and Technology Select Committee. He was previously the Prime Minister’s infrastructure envoy to India and therefore has no housing experience in his political career to date.

What will keep him busy?

After the horrors of the tragedy in West London, it is clear that the Government will have to act quickly to ensure the safety of thousands of residents in tower blocks across the UK. The responsibility for their safety will fall to Mr Sharma and his boss Sajid Javid who struggled in a Today Programme interview earlier this week to provide answers on what the Government will actually do. Of course, none of us can predict the outcome of the public inquiry into Grenfell, but GK Strategy understands that DCLG were planning to launch a consultation this summer about reforming Building Regulations and Standards – too little too late, some would say.

Mr Sharma will be handed what has been seen as a “doomed task” to mend Britain’s “broken” housing market. While the Government knows only too well that fixing the market will take time and housebuilding targets will constantly be out of reach, Downing Street will be looking for progress to demonstrate that the minority Government can continue to govern. So expect the Government to get on with scrutinising the work of local authorities more through mandatory Local Plans, handing the Land Registry more powers to increase transparency of land ownership and encouraging the Build to Rent sector to thrive. The Minister will also have to oversee the reforms to the NPPF which include the introduction a housing delivery test which will highlight whether the number of homes being built is on target.

A difficult job for your first gig in Government; it remains to be seen how he stands up to the task but the odds would suggest he won’t be here long.

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