Short-term ministers weaken coherent housing policy, report warns

Institute for Government finds average tenure for a housing minister is 14 months.

Westminster in London next to the Thames

18 different housing ministers since 1997 left the UK “often lacking” a department strong enough to articulate a coherent housing policy, a new report says.

The report from the Institute for Government (IfG) says housing is more often a stepping-stone portfolio to promotion.

While recent governments have said addressing the housing crisis is a priority, the average minister of state for housing since 1997 has stayed in post just 14 months, the report finds.

Housing is an example cited in the IfG report into the frequency government reshuffles.

There have been eight housing ministers since 2010: the longest in post, Grant Shapps, stayed just over two years. Three ministers lasted nine months or fewer.

By contrast, average tenure between the 1950s and the 1980s was over two years, and several ministers stayed in post for four or five years.

The report acknowledges that the political parties and the civil service all agree that constant turnover of ministers is a core problem in preventing ministers from mastering their roles and departments from delivering long-term reforms in areas which matter deeply to the public – such as housing.

As such, the report recommends establishing clear expectations about longer tenures, making reshuffles less frequent and planning successions more carefully.

This, the report says, would help prime ministers – with whom the decision on ministerial appointments ultimately rests – to manage their ‘top table’ team more effectively.

Further reform, the report says, would build on ensuring departments have stable leadership.

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