Housing

Esther McVey back in government in latest housing minister switch-up

The much-maligned former DWP secretary will work under new MHCLG secretary Robert Jenrick

Esther McVey

Esther McVey has returned to government as housing minister 10 months after leaving her role as work and pensions secretary.

The much-maligned Tatton MP’s spell in charge of the Universal Credit roll-out ended in November when resigned from her role at the DWP in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with Amber Rudd stepping into replace her.

Now, with Boris Johnson wielding the axe for an all-new cabinet, she is back as a housing minister and will attend cabinet.

McVey will be working as Minister of State under new Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick, who steps into the gap left by James Brokenshire’s departure.

Kit Malthouse has been housing minister for a year, marking him out as something of a veteran. McVey is the ninth new housing minister since the Conservatives took power in 2010 and 18th since 1997.

Previous incumbents failed to hit that milestone and scarcely had time to get to grips with the brief and bring through a coherent set of policies. Gavin Barwell fell just short at 11 months, now-international development secretary Alok Sharma lasted just seven months and Dominic Raab, named Foreign Secretary by Johnson, was out after six months.

That disruption has hardly been helpful for building the 300,000 homes per year to tackle the housing crisis, as the government has pledged to do by the mid-2020s.

As for whether the new regime will hit that mark, McVey’s appointment, in particular, has received a mixed reception.

McVey has repeatedly voted in favour of the much-hated bedroom tax on multiple occasions in parliament and has also been against restrictions on letting agent fees.

She also backed a reduction in spending on welfare benefits and voted against ending the benefit freeze while she has backed making local councils responsible for helping people afford council tax and reducing the amount spent on support.

https://twitter.com/DavidPipeCIH/status/1154303728117256192

McVey’s DWP tenure was marred by a row with the National Audit Office, who accused her of lying about how Universal Credit was “rolling out too slowly” and needed to “continue at a faster rate” in parliament. She was later forced to apologise for “inadvertently misleading MPs”.

National Housing Federation chief executive Kate Henderson has welcomed McVey. She said: “Housing Associations across the country look forward to working with you on building safety, resident empowerment, and delivering affordable homes and thriving communities.”

But campaigner Tom Murtha, co-founder of Social Housing Under Threat (SHOUT) said: “I have experienced over 30 housing ministers in my career. Some were awful but none have filled me with such apprehension as this one. I fear for the future of social housing.”

As for former treasury minister Jenrick, he has also backed the bedroom tax and voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits in parliament, like McVey. He has also supported phasing out secure tenancies for life.

His predecessor Brokenshire, who lasted 15 months as communities secretary, said that he is “looking forward to being released from collective responsibility and campaigning on issues that matter to me and my constituents”. The Bexley MP has overseen the start of Housing First pilots in West Midlands, Merseyside and Greater Manchester during his tenure.

His opposite number, Labour’s John Healey, paid tribute to his time in the seat.

“I’m sorry to see you go – you’ve been unfailingly decent and dedicated as Housing Secretary, even though it has been tough at times,” he said. “In leaving the brief, I hope you won’t leave housing behind.”

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