In June we got our 15th housing minister since 1997 when the MP for Reading West, Alok Sharma, was appointed to replace Gavin Barwell who had lost his seat at the general election.
Today Alok Sharma moved to a new position as minister for something other than housing. Appointed to succeed him is Dominic Raab, the member of parliament for Esher and Walton. According to Wikipedia, “the constituency is in the north of Surrey, bordering Greater London, in the affluent London commuter belt. It is partly rural, with heathland and reservoirs, as well as towns such as Esher and Walton-on-Thames, and lower density Cobham, Claygate and Molesey and the villages of Oxshott, Thames Ditton and Hinchley Wood.”
The good news is that Mr Raab comes with a reputation for being very competent. The bad news from a housing perspective is that he is tipped to go places in government and is likely to be moved long before he will be able to bring his enormous ability to bear on the housing crisis.
It doesn’t have to be so. He could tell the Prime Minister that he will not accept any promotion or move this side of the 2022 general election so that he can make a difference. He could also lead by example by saying he will support housing development, ideally for social housing, in the “lower density Cobham, Claygate and Molesey”.
I won’t hold my breath. I am not sure whether I will bother reading the inevitable profile and interview with the new minister that will appear in Inside Housing magazine because he will be gone before I have reached the end of the third paragraph.
So what do we know about Mr Raab. According to the website ‘They Work for You’, Mr Raab:
- voted for reducing housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms (which Labour describe as the “bedroom tax”)
- consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
- consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
- consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
- almost always voted against increasing the tax rate applied to income over £150,000
- almost always voted against a banker’s bonus tax
- consistently voted against an annual tax on the value of expensive homes (popularly known as a mansion tax)
- almost always voted for reducing capital gains tax
Why should any of that suggest that he won’t move heaven and earth to help the poorest of the poor, to ensure that council homes with social rents are built, and to ensure that “the operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving” universal credit (as described by former PM, John Major) does not continue to wreck the private rented sector and lead tenants into unprecedented levels of rent arears and debt?
Answers on a postcard and sent to anyone but me.
(This Post was originally entitled ‘How can those interested in social housing and the wellbeing of tenants have any confidence in the new housing ministers, Dominic Raab?’ but I preferred the title used above)