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Graham Awards


Take 2: government now decides to keep former housing minister after all

If the first few hours of the new government’s approach to housing are anything to go by, it could be a confusing five years ahead. That’s because contrary to an announcement on Monday, the new housing minister is...the old housing minister.

Late on Monday afternoon Number 10 issued a statement saying that Mark Francois had been appointed as the new housing minister, working to Greg Clark, the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The announcement raised some eyebrows for Francois, the Conservative MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, was relatively unknown despite having served as minister of state for the armed forces in the old coalition government. His pre-parliament background in banking and lobbying did not lend any obvious suggestion that he had a strong interest in housing.


Even so, organisations like the Residential Landlords Association sent congratulatory messages to Francois and his appointment had been reported in a range of industry outlets, including EAT, and mainstream publications.

However, rumours began to circulate this morning on social media that the former housing minister at the end of the coalition government, Brandon Lewis, had in fact retained the position. 

Meanwhile his boss will be former universities minister Greg Clark (pictured) who has replaced Eric Pickles as Communities and Local Government Secretary. Clark is considered a serious and talented politician with an interest in cities, decentralisation and science.

With a working majority there is every reason to expect the Conservative government to introduce all of its manifesto housing pledges over the next few years.

The policies include:

- the extension of Right to Buy to 1.3m housing association homes in England;

- 200,000 homes to be built over the course of the next parliament for first-time buyers aged under 40, who will secure a 20 per cent discount;

- the launch of a new Help to Buy ISA for first-time buyers to help them get a subsidised deposit for a house;

- the creation of a £1 billion brownfield regeneration fund to unlock sites for 400,000 homes, which may involve identification of public sector sites for building.

At the Despatch Box, Clark will face Labour’s Emma Reynolds - the shadow housing minister until last Thursday’s election - who has been appointed as shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary.

  • Daniel Roder

    Eric Pickles is no big loss (well, some might argue he's a very, very big loss!), but I'm disappointed about Lewis. I think, given time, he would have done a very good job.

    Mark Francois is a very poor appointment. Career politician who has never had any involvement in housing - how he's going to be able to deal with the major issues facing the property industry? Answer, he isn't.

    Plus, he'll forever be tarnished by the expenses scandal. People are really gonna trust him, aren't they? Second chances and all, but the things he was claiming for just show how pathetic and out-of-touch some of these people are.

    He claimed for Mars bars, Snickers, Kit Kats, wine gums, Twiglets, Jaffa Cakes, chocolate biscuits, Pringles, etc. You know, things that are really vital to helping an MP do his job. Pathetic.

  • Rob  Davies

    Awful choices. A relative unknown who's got a black mark against his name because of the expenses scandal and a former universities minister with no background in housing. Recipe for success? Methinks not.

    As the article states, the housing minister not being part of the Cabinet says it all about how much importance the Tories place on one of the key issues facing the country. Also, the fact that they've now had five different ministers in this role speaks volumes and suggests they lack a clear vision. Lewis was doing pretty well, why get rid of him?

    The fact Cameron put Grant Shapps in charge of housing is all you need to know. I can barely even remember the other two before Lewis. They obviously made a major impact on me.

  • Kelly Evans

    Why not give them a chance before outrightly dismissing them?. You never know, they might surprise you by being absolutely brilliant.

    Fair enough, Francois made a big mistake over the expenses scandal. But everyone's allowed a second chance.

    Let's just wait and see how they get on before rushing to write them off.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    What did Mr Lewis do wrong? For all their bluster, I'm not really sure they have a clue when it comes to housing.

    Tarred by the expenses scandal? No background in property? No idea of how the industry works? Congratulations, you've got the job!

    On the other hand, Greg Clark did a good job as universities minister and is an accomplished MP. He's a much smarter choice.

  • Anna  Dickson

    Definitely not a great start for the Conservatives. Issuing a statement before altering it within a day, madness!

    This being said, highly pleased that Brandon Lewis has retained his place over Mark Francois, I feel he can really make a difference.

    Let's face it, i doubt the industry would have had much respect for Francois, knowing what we know about his publicised expenses scandal!

  • Algarve  Investor

    Bit of an embarrassing cockup from the government. Doesn't exactly fill you with confidence, does it?


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