Another housing minister bites the dust

Another housing minister bites the dust

BLOG · BY Liam Macandrew  · 17 Feb 2020

When the long-expected reshuffle came to Cabinet following Boris Johnson’s election victory in December, it came with some unexpected departures – including of Chancellor Sajid Javid, who chose to depart rather than sack his advisors at the request of no. 10.

What was disappointing (yet not entirely surprising given the track record) was the demotion of Housing Minister Esther McVey. Having been in the post since July, she was the ninth housing minister to take up the job since 2010.

This means Christopher Pincher is now the tenth housing minister in the last 10 years. For an industry crying out for stability, and with the Government in the most settled position it has been in since the EU referendum, there will be high hopes that he will be here to stay.

Interestingly this reshuffle came just after the Institute for Government specifically cited the position of Housing Minister in their recent analysis of the impact of these reshuffles, and the case for keeping ministers in posts for longer.

It is difficult to see how a minister can make a tangible difference when they are whipped away having sat at their desks only a matter of months. Due to the Civil Service’s high turnover in the last few years, it has not been unknown to find entirely new faces in meetings with government.

However, while this undercurrent brings disruption it also brings opportunity.

In the coming months it will be more important than ever for business to strongly lay out the case, the recommendations, and the evidence for the policy direction Government should take. For an industry as fractured as construction, it means taking the time to sing from the same song sheet.

Everyone in construction faces the same challenges when it comes to housing, including the lack of a long-term pipeline of investment from Government, as well as a looming skills shortage hastened by a prospective loss of skilled and unskilled migrant labour. We can work together.

Individually for the timber industry, it will be important to tell our own story to Government about how we can help them achieve their targets, on housing through the use of modern methods of construction, and in the run up to COP26, on climate change and in sustainability.

This Government needs good stories to tell, and timber should be one of them. By working together over the next 12 months, it will be.