Since the Conservatives came to power, albeit initially with some help, in 2010 we have had the pleasure of working with a number of housing ministers.
First there was Grant Shapps, he sounded very good on homelessness and generated impeccable soundbites. Less good on talking with the sector once elected, but he did make good on his pre-election pledge to amend permitted development rights for small HMOs.
Mr Shapps gave way to Mark Prisk in 2012. Mr Prisk’s tenure was fairly uneventful, but at least with a surveyor’s background he seems genuinely interested in housing.
Spin the wheel again…
Kris Hopkins came next. Mr Hopkins seems to divide opinion with Conservative Party colleague Nadine Dorries calling his promotion “a really awful decision”, describing him on Twitter as “one of parliament’s slimiest, nastiest MP’s”. Whilst Therese Coffey defended Hopkins, describing him as “authentic and brave”.
The only policy making of significance to letting agents I can recall from this period is the start of the conversation about fee transparency, and look where that got us.
Moving swiftly on….
Brandon Lewis took up the post in 2014.
Mr Lewis oversaw the restriction of borough-wide selective licensing; his appointment also saw the planning and housing portfolios brought together for the first time since Margaret Beckett held the position in 2009.
Mr Lewis managed to keep hold of the job through the 2015 election, before finally winning promotion to the Home Office in July 2016.
Next up was Gavin Barwell, who before losing his seat in the June 2017 election was generally seen as a positive addition to the department. Unusually there was also general agreement that Mr Barwell had a decent grasp of housing and the importance of the PRS – having opposed borough-wide licensing in his constituency of Croydon.
However, his time was cut short by virtue of losing his marginal seat on 8 June – creating a vacancy.
Enter Alok Sharma MP….
The new Minister of State for Housing and Planning is Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West and previously Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Mr Sharma is a qualified chartered accountant, who trained with Deloitte Haskins & Sells in Manchester before moving into a corporate finance advisory role with Nikko Securities.
Subsequently he went on to work as Director of Corporate Finance at Swedish bank Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken.
So he should understand business….
As a chartered accountant you would hope so, and perhaps this will mean that we finally have a decent advocate in respect of s24, but the notable absence in Mr Sharma’s CV seems to be any reference to housing.
His education is in Applied Physics and Electronics (BSc Salford University). He supports medical charities. He is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Advancement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce – but seems to have little interest in bricks and mortar.
Going out on a limb, I’m going to suggest that the Sharma family probably live in a house….but there is no record of any other link between the new Housing Minister and our sector.
I suppose only time will tell.