The Cameron reshuffle has left Eric Pickles as the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government but has comprehensively shuffled the rest of the pack giving Eric and local government a completely new team.
At the Minister of State level, Sayeeda Warsi has been shoe-horned in with a brief covering Faith & Communities” – whatever that means in this politically correct world. Mark Prisk has moved from BIS to take on the housing brief from Grant Shapps who is now a joint Party Chairman.
At Parliamentary-under-Secretary-of-State level, Nick Boles has taken on the interesting planning brief from Greg Clarke but at the lowest ministerial level while the Liberal, Don Foster, has taken on Stunnell’s mantle and Conservative Brandon Lewis takes on Bob Neill’s mantle
These changes are hugely significant for local government which delivers 20% of government services and ought to be hugely important to a government committed to localism.
What do we know about each of these new ministers?
I was impressed by Mark Prisk with whom I had dealings when I was a SEEDA board member and he was at BIS. He is the Conservative MP for Hertford and Stortford, is aged 50 and has had a proper job, working in the property development industry. He now has the brief for housing, having taken it on from Grants Shapps. This places him at the heart of the argument about housing need and provision. Given so many Conservatives live in the South East and share a deep opposition to further housing anywhere near them, this will prove an interesting role! Grant Shapps lived a charmed life in avoiding controversy and remaining in the limelight. It will be interesting to see if Mark Prisk has the same teflon style!
Planning moves from Greg Clark to Nick Boles – a very interesting transition. Greg is a thoroughly decent and very bright politician. I feared he was too nice to survive the Westminster jungle but he has now moved on to the Treasury and I wish him every success. As for Nick Boles, he is one of the 2010 intake who is close to DC and the Notting Hill set. He was a Westminster City Councillor – always a good training ground – and the founder of the Policy Exchange think tank. He is MP for Grantham & Stamford. A radical in every sense, he is on record as saying that Cameron and Clegg want their “people power” revolution to unleash “chaotic” effects across local communities. He said “I mean, bluntly, there comes a question in life. Do you believe planning works? That clever people sitting in a room can plan how people’s communities should develop or do you believe it can’t work? I believe it can’t work, David Cameron believes it can’t, Nick Clegg believes it can’t. Chaotic therefore in our vocabulary is a good thing.”
Don Foster is the Liberal MP for Bath. There is not a lot I can admire in him. He has been a local councillor, serving as SDP-Liberal group leader on Avon County Council between 1981 and 1986 and remaining on the council until 1989. He secured his parliamentary seat by defeating Chris Patten in 1992. One black mark. He supported the legislation that attempted to ban hunting with hounds. Another black mark. He was exposed as having claimed £4,000 too much in parliamentary expenses which he was required to repay. A third black mark. His CLG ministerial responsibilities include integration & race equality; localism, decentralisation & community rights; building regulations; housing (supporting Mark Prisk) and climate change & sustainable development.
Brandon Lewis is the Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, another of the 2010 intake. A barrister by profession, he has a BSc in Economics and a LLB Hons from the University of Buckingham and a LLM in Commercial Law from King’s College, London. He was elected to Brentwood Borough Council in 1998 and became Conservative Group leader in 2002. He ousted the Liberals from control after 12 years in 2004, becoming Leader of the Council where he remained until standing down in 2009. He co-hosted the Eric and Brandon Show on a local radio station. He has responsibility for local councils, as well as public houses and fire services. He replaces Bob Neill who was a good friend of local government. I will be interested to see if Brandon Lewis is as good a friend.
She was the Leader of Kensington & Chelsea London Borough from 1989 to 2000.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has moved from being Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party with a seat in Cabinet to sharing a role in CLG for faith & communities with one in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office where she is Senior Minister of State. Her responsibilities in the FCO are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh; Central Asia; Human Rights; UN, International Organisations and ICC; all FCO business in the Lords.