After little over six months in post as Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Alok Sharma has shuffled off the stage, to be replaced by the 16th** such minister in the last 20 years.
The new Minister of State, Dominic Raab [pictured right*], is MP for Esther and Walton, and entered Parliament in 2010. His Ministerial duties are still being clarified according to the government's website, but it is noticeable that, unlike most of his recent predecessors, his title does not specify 'Housing and Planning', but 'Housing' alone. 'Planning' seems to be orphaned, although it is possible it is still within his brief and only the title has changed.
Raab shares with Sharma a lack of previous involvement in housing: his professional background is in law and his previous ministerial role was at the Ministry of Justice. However, he seems to be regarded as a high-flyer with the potential to figure amongst the Conservative Party leadership.
The decision to rename the Department for Communities and Local Government to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has been presented as a welcome boost to housing, though it was misinterpreted in some quarters of the press as an expansion of Sajid Javid's remit.
However, the merry-go-round of Housing Ministers received plenty of raised eyebrows from those within the housing industry (Sharma was actually the shortest-lived of the 16 though he is understood to have been one of no fewer than six who served for less than a year). Osborne's Evening Standard reported the boss of builders Taylor Wimpey as 'blasting' the government for its 'minister turmoil'. The AJ lead article referred to the spin of the 'revolving door' and many other stories featured headlines with similar themes. A typical Editorial comment from Construction News called the replacement of Sharma a 'preposterous decision'.
Practitioners will be aware that empty homes is right off the goverment's agenda and so far there is nothing to suggest that the change of ministers will make any difference either way. However, it may be relevant that Raab is a Green Belt MP to whom the nimbyist arguments in favour of tackling empties may make a particular appeal.
* Picture by Jay Allen, published under Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
** For an article listing the first 14, up to Gavin Barwell, with pictures and numbers built, see thisismoney article