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Why May loyalist James Brokenshire is a safe choice for housing secretary

As Al Pacino said in The Godfather: Part III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

On Monday morning James Brokenshire would have been forgiven for having this quote on his mind, as he took a call from Theresa May asking him to become the new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, just four months after stepping down from the cabinet following a major health scare.

His predecessor, Sajid Javid, who has been elevated to the Home Office, leaves the role at a crucial time just four months after the rebranding of the Department as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), intended to demonstrate the governments seriousness about delivering new homes.

There is little doubt that Brokenshire has been given the role for his experience in running a government department, rather than his expertise in planning

During his 18 months in the role, Javid brought an enthusiasm and energy to the department and built a solid reputation as someone who understood the challenges being faced by the development industry. His promotion to Home Secretary is unfortunate timing for MHCLG, and the Prime Minister would not have reshuffled his role had events not intervened.

But Brokenshire comes to the department with solid cabinet experience and, crucially for the Prime Minister, a reputation for being a May-loyalist. Their careers to date have been intrinsically linked, having spent six years together at the Home Office, leading to some commentators tipping him to fill the vacant Home Secretary role after Amber Rudds resignation on Sunday. His rapid return to government is also an attempt by the Prime Minister to bolster her supporters in the cabinet, particularly after having lost her right-hand man Damian Green at the start of the year.

So, what can the industry expect from the new Secretary of State? There is little doubt that Brokenshire has been given the role for his experience in running a government department, rather than his expertise in planning, suggesting that his appointment wont be accompanied with a raft of sweeping policy changes.

He comes to the role with an inbox full of major issues, including delivering 300,000 homes per year, overseeing the implementation of the revised National Planning Policy Framework, responding to the Hackitt review following the Grenfell tragedy and being responsible for funding for all local government in England and Wales.

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There is currently little appetite within the industry for further upheaval after three Secretary of States in three years, and no incentive within government for further wholesale change.

His appointment should be viewed positively by the industry given how highly the Prime Minister rates him, and there should be confidence that he will continue the work undertaken by Sajid Javid during his tenure in the role.

The Prime Minister will be more than aware of the need for stability at MHCLG moving forward, and as such James Brokenshire will likely run the department for as long as Theresa May remains Prime Minister.

Original Article

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