Richard Blakeway has been backed by the HCLG committee as housing ombudsman – but he’ll have to resign from roles with Homes England and a London borough council and face future committee evaluation.
The committee has confirmed its support for Blakeway, despite pulling him up earlier this week over past “highly derogatory” views of social tenants, as reported by 24housing.
And the committee has told government of its “disappointment” that MHCLG neglected to consult members on the proposed selection process for housing ombudsman prior to the start of the recruitment campaign, and failed to send information set out in the Cabinet Office guidance within seven working days of the scheduled pre-appointment hearing.
In its endorsement of Blakeway, the committee says: “We expect (MHCLG) to take appropriate measures to ensure it has the required capacity to meet the requirements set out in Liaison Committee and Cabinet Office guidance for pre-appointment hearings.”
The government is hoping for third-time-lucky with Blakeway, after a recruitment process that has been running since 2017.
Blakeway’s endorsement is subject to him resigning from his current roles at Home England and BexleyCo Ltd – the development company created last year by London’s Bexley council, which wants to build more than 2,500 homes in 12 years.
The committee also wants assurance that Tudor Blakeway Consultants Ltd – of which Blakeway is listed as a director – is not active for the duration of his appointment.
And the committee intends to evaluate Blakeway’s performance with a follow-up evidence session scheduled six months on from his appointment.
In June 2017, Denise Fowler, the last permanent holder of the office of Housing Ombudsman, resigned from her post, and the subsequent MHCLG recruitment campaign attracted a limited number of applicants.
David Connolly was appointed interim Housing Ombudsman for six months, which was eventually extended to the end of August 2018.
A second campaign was launched in January 2018, with a new, revised job specification emphasising the increased importance of social housing issues.
MHCLG to the committee this second campaign attracted a stronger field of applicants and the assessment panel recommended an appointable candidate to the previous Secretary of State in April 2018.
Following a Cabinet reshuffle, James Brokenshire, as the new Secretary of State, wrote to committee chair Clive Betts MP to explain that he would not appoint the candidate and did not consider any of the shortlisted candidates to have the right skills or experience for the role.
For the second time, the job specification was revised to include more emphasis on social housing.
As a result of no permanent appointment being made, Andrea Kennoy, the then Director of Finance and Corporate Performance at the Housing Ombudsman Service, took over from David Connolly as interim Housing Ombudsman for a year.
A third campaign to find a new Housing Ombudsman was launched in January this year, and it was over this that the committee claimed it was not consulted on the proposed selection process before the recruitment campaign began – as advised under Cabinet Office guidance.
In March, housing minister Kit Malthouse wrote to wrote to Betts MP to apologise for this oversight and a lack of engagement.
Blakeway was nominated by Brokenshire in June, with the committee saying this information, along with the other required documents, was sent three working days before the hearing when Cabinet Office guidance recommends at least seven.
Pictured: Richard Blakeway by Francesco Guidicini.