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  • Nicky Frost

New Housing Minister Appointed

Simon Clarke has been appointed as the new housing secretary, by new Prime Minister Liz Truss. Middlesbrough-born Clarke becomes the fourth MP to hold the post in less than a year.

New UK Housing Minister Appointed
New UK Housing Minister Appointed

Simon Clarke is 37 years old and most recently served as chief secretary to the treasury. Prior to that he worked as minister of state at the ministry of housing, communities and local government, where he took on regional growth duties.

At a speech given at the Policy that Works conference back in March 2022, Clarke stated that when forming policy, the civil service should be “daring”, perhaps giving an insight into his ethos.

He said:

“That doesn’t mean trying out a brand new idea every time on 60 million people, but it does mean making room for active exploration and testing and promising ideas.
“So please do be daring and be robust. Let’s dare to try out the best ideas that we have and dare to fail as well. Crucially, dare to fail but to fail fast by understanding what it is that’s going wrong, seeing if something can be improved with a programme.”

In July he tweeted “If we do not build the homes we need, where we need them, it will be a disaster for the Conservatives, but much more importantly it will be a disaster for generations of people who will not be able to own a good home.”

Last month he said “Building more good homes is a top priority, creating rational incentives and reassurances for communities to embrace them is vital. The cult of top-down targets, however, has become a toxic distraction and Liz Truss is right to say she would scrap them.”

This suggests Clarke is in favour of the Truss government dropping the Conservative manifesto pledge of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. This would go against a central call of Housing Today’s A Fair Deal for Housing campaign, which is backed by organsiations across the housing development sector.

The UK’s planning laws have long been a source for frustration, particularly for house builders. Previous Conservative prime ministers have attempted to tackle the problem, but largely failed. David Cameron’s efforts fell by the wayside, while ambitious plans under Boris Johnson prompted a fierce backlash from his own MPs, partly due to a “mutant algorithm” on housing need.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss appears wary of reigniting such a war. In a hustings event, she said there was an issue with “one size fits all” approaches.

“I don’t want another planning war like we’ve had before,” she said. “It’s very important that we have policies that have local consent.”

Nevertheless, Ms Truss is clearly aware of the continued disgruntlement and will be aiming for some form of shake-up.

“Our current system of planning is too bureaucratic, too slow and too complex,” a campaign source told The Telegraph. “We would reform the planning system and cut red tape that prevents local communities from building the houses they want.”


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