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New housing ministry is no phoney, insists former minister

Sajid javid dclg flickr
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Former housing minister Grant Shapps insists the insertion of the word ‘housing’ into the name of Sajid Javid’s ministry is more than window dressing

As part of yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle, prime minister Theresa May changed Javid’s job title to secretary of state for housing, communities and local government.

The move has been met with some scepticism among commentators, with many pointing out that Javid already had responsibility for housing under his previous title of secretary of state for communities and local government.

Former civil service supremo Bob Kerslake and chair of both housing association Peabody and Be First, Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company, said: ’I fear it will take a lot more than a name change to tackle the housing crisis in the country.’

But speaking to BBC2’s Newsnight last night, Shapps said that the name change could have a concrete impact when Javid makes his case for housing within cabinet meetings.

‘Housing was within the Department for Communities and Local Government,’ he told the programme, ‘but I can say this as a fact: when you sit round that cabinet table, people respond to the thing that people think is most on your agenda.

‘By calling it the Ministry of Housing it will give a lot more focus to what the government says is its number one priority: building more homes.’

Shapps served as minister of state for housing between 2010 and 2012 under prime minister David Cameron.

However, shadow housing secretary John Healey mocked the name change in a tweet, saying: ‘New departmental stationary (sic) but same failing policies and same failing faces.’

Javid himself, in a statement, said: ‘Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government and so I’m delighted the prime minister has asked me to serve in this role. The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.’

Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat said: ‘We welcome the decision to change the name of the secretary of state for communities and local government to incorporate housing.

‘It is right that housing is given this profile and we hope this decision represents a long-term commitment to address the very serious housing issues facing the nation.’

The decision to insert the word ‘housing’ into Javid’s department harks back to the former Ministry of Housing and Local Government which was created in 1951.

That department became the Department of the Environment in 1970 after it took on responsibility for public building and works, and transport.

When Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, he allowed the DCLG’s housing minister to attend cabinet, but this practice was abandoned by the coalition government in 2010.

The future of current housing minister Alok Sharma will become clearer later today, as May concentrates on reshuffling junior government positions.

Some rumours on Twitter suggest the MP for Reading West could be promoted to a new role.

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