Housing

Rough sleeping minister Eddie Hughes quits just days after publication of rough sleeping strategy

Hughes said he was stepping back from the rough sleeping minister role to "spend yet more time working for my constituents"

former rough sleeping minister Eddie Hughes

Eddie Hughes earned praise for his work on tackling rough sleeping during his time in government. Image: UK Parliament

Rough sleeping minister Eddie Hughes has quit the government just days after unveiling the long-awaited plans to end street homelessness by 2024.

The junior minister, who had been in the role since January 2021, said he was stepping down to spend more time supporting his Walsall North constituents.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on Saturday set out the plan to tackle rough sleeping, before new prime minister Liz Truss appointed Simon Clarke as the new housing secretary.

“I have decided to hand back my red box in return for the opportunity to spend yet more time working for my constituents in Walsall North, championing their causes in parliament,” Hughes tweeted on Thursday.

“Thank you to all in the rough sleeping and housing sectors for support during my time as minister.”

Hughes previously worked for the YMCA in Birmingham and sat on the board at housing association WHG before moving into politics.

He told the Big Issue in June that his past experience of the housing and homelessness sectors had been “incredibly helpful” in his rough sleeping brief.

Hughes added it would be “fantastic” to be the minister in charge should the government reach the 2019 Conservative manifesto promise of ending rough sleeping by 2024.

When asked where the government was on the road to achieving that goal, Hughes said: “I would say we’re in a good place but I can see some storm clouds on the horizon and some turbulence ahead.”

Ministers and charities have paid tribute to Hughes following his departure, notably for his work on tackling homelessness and rough sleeping and unregulated exempt accommodation, which is supported housing that is not covered by housing benefit.

New housing secretary Clarke said: “I am so sorry to lose Eddie Hughes from DLUHC. He is a superb minister (as well as one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet), but our loss is Walsall’s gain. Thank you for all you have done to tackle the evil of homelessness and rough sleeping.”

Former Tory leadership candidate Kemi Badenoch described Hughes as “witty and compassionate”. She added: “Eddie is not just a superb minister but a supportive colleague -he took on my workload as my dad was dying and I went on bereavement leave.”

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Local Government Association chair James Jamieson praised Hughes as a “genuine gentleman in politics” and praised “real progress made on fixing the many housing issues, and thousands of rough sleepers brought in from the cold”.

Polly Neate, Shelter chief executive, said “At long last we saw thinking on housing policy and homelessness policy start to join up at government level and your experience in the sector really showed.”

Hughes was not the only minister to depart the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on Thursday as Truss’ reshuffle continued.

Marcus Jones also exited government after taking over as housing minister in July. He tweeted: “Sad to leave the government after serving under three PMs during two spells covering five and 1/2 years. I will fully support our new PM and government from the back benches, but will be vocal in taking up the issues that matter to my constituents in Nuneaton, Arley and Hartshill.”

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