Politics

Michael Gove sacking is 'another blow for the housing crisis'

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove was brutally sacked by Boris Johnson and campaigners fear the move could see vital interventions for renters, social housing tenants and cladding campaigners fall through.

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove pictured during a minute's silence in memory of murdered MP David Amess in October 2021. Image: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Housing campaigners and leaseholders caught up in the cladding crisis have warned Michael Gove’s sacking could rip up progress the levelling up secretary made on some of housing’s biggest issues.

Boris Johnson fired Gove on Wednesday night for “disloyalty” after his long-time rival reportedly told the prime minister to resign. Following the resignation of the housing minister Stuart Andrew, that left the government’s flagship levelling up department with almost no ministers – only homelessness minister Eddie Hughes remains.

The news is a blow for campaigners who have seen Michael Gove take charge of housing matters after he was brought to lead the newly renamed department last September.

In his 10 months in the role, Gove made progress in tackling the building safety crisis which had rumbled on since the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, squeezing money from housing developers to prevent leaseholders picking up six-figure bills.

He also introduced radical legislation to ban “no fault” evictions after a three-year wait and shift the power balance between renters and landlords as well as a new bill to improve social housing with both bills set to go through parliament this year.

Another bill in Gove’s name has already been disrupted by the Westminster crisis – the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which included legislation to tackle empty homes, second homes and planning among other fixes, was due to be scrutinised at a committee on Thursday.

Matthew Pennycook, Labour’s shadow minister for housing and planning, tweeted that the committee had been cancelled because the government ministers handling it had resigned. “We have no functioning government,” Pennycook concluded.

Social housing activist Kwajo Tweneboa raised concerns about what Gove’s departure meant for social housing tenants.

In a Twitter thread, Tweneboa said that Gove approached him after seeing his social media posts highlighting the living conditions of social housing tenants.

The campaigner also revealed many of his suggestions to fix the situation made it into the Social Housing Regulation Bill announced in May’s Queen Speech.

Tweneboa said Johnson’s decision to sack Gove meant “the housing crisis in the UK has been dealt another blow”.

Tweneboa added: “This is so worrying for the thousands/millions of tenants across the country that began to see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.

“Now we’re back to square 1 so very selfish from the ‘Prime Minister’.”

The building safety crisis was one of the biggest challenges facing Gove when he was named levelling up secretary – cladding campaigners even held a protest in parliament that coincided with his first day on the job.

Since then, he has taken a tough stance against homebuilders, introducing a levy to pay for the removal of dangerous cladding, a building safety pledge to ensure firms carry out works and limited the amount leaseholders have to pay to £10,000 or £15,000 in London.

His departure left several leaseholders caught up in the crisis questioning whether Gove’s replacement can continue in the same vein.

Steph Pike, a leaseholder from Bristol, said: “Gove is the only housing secretary who has progressed things for leaseholders stuck in the building safety crisis.

“It wasn’t perfect but he was getting stuff done and keeping the pressure on the industry. This could be a huge step backwards for us.”

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Liam Spender, a litigation lawyer from London also affected by cladding issues, said he was “sorry to see Michael Gove sacked”, noting that the minister had “worked harder” than any of his predecessors to tackle the crisis.

“The solution isn’t perfect but was a step change on what was offered before,” added Spender. “Now he’s gone the risk is that there’ll be no heavyweight to see things through.

Another leaseholder Lucie Gutfreund, from Brent in north-west London, added: “I cannot deny the engagement and proactiveness by Gove; God knows what awaits.”

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