Sector raises concerns after housing brief is handed to junior minister
Prime minister defends housing 'demotion'
David Cameron has rejected claims that he has downgraded the importance of housing in government after handing the housing portfolio to a junior minister.
In the prime minister’s reshuffle on Monday, Mark Prisk was replaced by Kris Hopkins, Conservative MP for Keighley, who has been appointed as an under-secretary of state for communities and local government rather than housing minister.
The move was widely interpreted as a demotion of housing – especially as, in contrast, Labour promoted the housing brief to a shadow cabinet position in its reshuffle on Monday.
Speaking to Inside Housing, Emma Reynolds, who replaced Jack Dromey as shadow housing minister, said Mr Hopkins’ appointment was a sign the coalition ‘doesn’t see housing as a priority’.
‘It’s a great shame that [the coalition] seems to be downgrading the importance of [housing] in terms of the status of [its] housing minister,’ she said.
Tony Stacey, chair of Placeshapers – which represents more than 100 housing associations – said the move showed the extent to which housing policy was being run by the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions, instead of the Communities and Local Government department.
‘The role of housing minister is really regarded as secondary to the big political decisions that are being taken on welfare reform and help to buy,’ he said.
The Chartered Institute of Housing said it was ‘very concerned’ about the fact that the housing portfolio had been ‘demoted’.
‘The government appears to be sending mixed messages on the importance of housing to our economic recovery,’ it said.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, also expressed surprise and disappointment over the move.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: ‘Housing is clearly an important issue… There have been measures around affordable housing, helping people to buy their own home and improving the planning system, which shows the importance attached to the issue across government.
‘Mr Hopkins said: ‘I believe what’s important is the work we’re doing to deliver more homes and help hard-working people [to climb] the housing ladder, not the ministerial title on my red box.’
Mr Hopkins, a former Conservative leader of Bradford Council, joins the CLG alongside Stephen Williams, a Liberal Democrat MP, who will take over as communities minister from Don Foster and Baroness Tina Stowell, a Conservative member of the House of Lords.