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By Colin Shairp

Director, Fine & Country Southern Hampshire


Insight: ministerial changes have slipped under the radar

There has been an understandable focus on things other than Government since the death of Queen Elizabeth was announced, but Prime Minister Liz Truss did appoint Simon Clarke as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as she revealed her new cabinet.

But secretaries of state rely on a team of junior ministers to do the detailed leg work so it may have gone unnoticed that two ministers with responsibility for housing were appointed last week.

Clarke, the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland since 2017, worked at what used to be the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for seven months in 2020 before joining Rishi Sunak’s team at The Treasury as chief secretary, a senior role just down from the top political job.

Dehenna Davison has become Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities since September 2022, Clarke’s deputy. She has been MP for Bishop Auckland since the 2019 general election, the first Conservative to represent the constituency since its creation in 1885.

Lee Rowley, the MP for North East Derbyshire and Lia Nici, the MP for Great Grimsby, have been appointed to the housing briefs. Rowley, before becoming an MP 2017, worked as an estate agent and then in financial services and management consultancy at Barclays, KPMG, Santander, and Co-op Insurance. He has also contributed research on welfare and housing to the centre-right think tank, the Centre for Social Justice and was a Westminster councillor for several years, although not with housing involvement. However, his industry experience should stand him, and the nation’s housing interests, in good stead.

Elected to Parliament in 2019 to represent the town where she was born, Nici has a background in media and further education as a lecturer for 20 years and has also briefly served in local government.

The housing brief tends to be a revolving door position – there have been in excess of 20 since 1997. It’s to be hoped the focus will not concentrate on the north of the country and that levelling up does not actually mean levelling down the south to match what’s perceived to be the shortcomings in the north.

That Nici serves a coastal community as MP might bring some relief for people living on the south coast where my estate agencies are based as she will have an understanding of how life has changed among communities that previously relied on the sea for their income but have since had to develop a wider economy.

In a Whitehall where sharp elbows are often needed to win a department’s budget and other needs, it’s to be hoped that with none of the team having more than five years’ experience in Parliament they have developed the political nous to win what they need.

It’s also to be hoped that with much effort going into keeping the so-called Red Wall seats, one of which is Davison’s, under conservative control in the next General Election that’s two years away at most, housing needs in the south do not get neglected in order to win voters’ affections in the north and Midlands.

*Colin Shairp is Director, Fine and Country Southern Hampshire and Town and Country Southern estate agencies, Drayton


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