Reshuffle sparks concern
Conference delegates have voiced concern at Tony Blair's decision to change his housing minister for the third time in just over two years.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that former deputy chief whip Keith Hill has taken over from Lord Rooker as housing and planning minister. One of Mr Hill's first tasks will be to address the conference on Thursday.
One delegate, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘Let's hope Keith Hill is a Falconer and not a Rooker.'
Lord Rooker has moved sideways to take over much of the departing Barbara Roche's former brief, becoming regeneration and regions minister with responsibility for social exclusion. Yvette Cooper has taken over as junior housing minister from Tony McNulty, who has moved to transport.
‘How effective is it when the minister is
swapped and changed all the time?'
Barrie Williams, managing director (south) at Orbis, said: ‘Housing is such an important issue in the UK. It needs an expert who is going to stay longer than the previous ones.
‘The trouble with housing is that it is given to people who are in between posts. The Prime Minister says: “You tread water in housing for a bit and we'll see how you go.”
‘But it is the biggest issue for 20 million people who live in social housing. It is not treated with the reverence it deserves.'
Keith Holloway, chief executive of Thames Valley Homes, said: ‘Here we are at Harrogate again and we have yet another new housing minister announced just before.
‘We hope that Keith Hill will use the opportunity to talk to some people on the front line while he is here so we can share some ideas.'
Vincent McCabe, housing strategy co-ordinator at B&N Group, said: ‘How effective is it when the minister is swapped and changed all the time? I came from another sector so I know the time it takes to get up to speed.'
Tim Winter, national organiser at the Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group, said: ‘Let's hope for a little more consistency now.'
Lord Rooker took over as housing minister last May, while his predecessor Lord Falconer was in post for 11 months.
In other changes, housing benefit minister Malcolm Wicks is promoted at the Department for Work and Pensions. Phil Hope has succeeded Christopher Leslie as junior local government minister at the ODPM.
Click here to go to the Chartered Institute of Housing's conference web site.