Housing moves into 10 Downing Street

Housing experience set to feature strongly across new government appointments.


The new occupants of 10 Downing St move in with housing in mind, several having held a related brief or direct responsibility – if not set for delivery.

Already there is Homes England chair Sir Edward Lister, expected to take a leave of absence from the agency to serve as Boris Johnson’s chief of staff.

Just last month, Lister was reappointed as chair of Homes England for a further three years, following his previous three-year term.

That opens up a ‘short-term let’ at Homes England with senior director Simon Dudley stepping up as interim chair.

For Lister, it may well be the job he’s spent a near 30 years preparing for – to the extent that he is pitched as Johnson’s ‘secret weapon’ given his extensive and successful experience in negotiating.

Lister served as leader of London’s Wandsworth Council from 1992 to 2011, a 17-year period that made him the  longest serving council leader in the country, with Wandsworth rated the most successful value-for-money council in the country – balancing the lowest council tax charge with top satisfaction ratings from residents.

In May 2011, Lister was appointed Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning by then Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

In this role he successfully co-ordinated the implementation of the Mayor’s priorities, strategy and policy work, and activities by the Mayoral Team.

As Johnson’s Chief of Staff, Lister led on GLA budgets and administration.

In conjunction with the Head of Paid Service, he had direct responsibility for leading and overseeing operations in City Hall – advising Johnson on strategic planning applications and having oversight of the London Plan and Community Infrastructure Levy.

As reported by 24housing, speculation has one of government’s biggest names going to MHCLG to beef up housing as the departmental priority.

Westminster insiders say Michael Gove’s reforming zeal is just what the sector needs, the ‘realpolitik’ has a housing push as a swivel-eyed distraction from Brexit.

James Brokenshire, a May loyalist, is seen as ‘safe’ enough to switch to the environment brief currently held by Gove.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse has a cabinet door open – he’s expected to be International Trade Secretary and has Johnson’s ear from his time as a Deputy of Mayor of London.

Malthouse succeeded Dominic Raab as housing minister.

Undistinguished as a housing minister, and caught up in dog whistle allegations over suspect statistics linking housing to immigration, Raab is in the frame for Justice Secretary or possibly Chancellor.

Raab succeeded the equally undistinguished Alok Sharma when he moved to DWP.

Sharma – ministerial lead on the post Grenfell tenant roadshows – is on the fringes of speculation in relation to a cabinet role – but something senior is widely expected as in the offing.

Former housing ministers Brandon Lewis and Gavin Barwell aren’t tipped for roles within the Johnson government.

Lewis is likely to be ousted as party chairmen, with Barwell, who lost his Croydon seat at the last election, served May as chief of staff.

And the housing minister who made his made name backing the expansion of Right-to-Buy and ‘one-for-one’ replacement may succeed Lewis as Party Chairman.

Grant Shapps has been heavily involved in the Johnson campaign and advised Johnson on ministerial appointments having run his spreadsheet of MP supporters.

As Housing Minister, Shapps also promoted plans for flexible rent, ended automatic lifetime social tenancies, and introduced the New Homes Bonus.

He made headlines challenging claims that changes in Housing Benefit rules were unfair, saying “ordinary people” could no longer afford some of the homes paid for by the then £24bn Housing Benefit bill.

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