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DCLG or MHCLG: What’s in a name?

Posted 10/01/2018


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Monday’s Cabinet reshuffle was portrayed as the golden opportunity for Theresa May to put aside the turbulent ending to 2017 and achieve two things: stamp her authority on the Conservative Party after a disastrous election and regalvanise her party in order to meet the growing threat from Jeremy Corbyn.

She failed to achieve either goal.

Perhaps it was too much to expect radical change in the Cabinet. After all the most senior jobs were probably never in question, but the plan, which needed to be executed was to ensure that the Government injected some gusto back into its reform agenda.

However, rather than refreshing the line-up Theresa May fell back on presentation and branding. Adopting the strange assumption that altering the name of a department changes the reality.

Today responsibility for resolving the housing crisis (or at least part of it) falls under the remit of a department with a longer name than it had at the start of the week: the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Those of you who called for a Cabinet position for Housing have got your wish. However, the department has had responsibility for housing for several years and Sajid Javid has been the senior ministerial spokesperson on the subject matter throughout his time in the post. And with Alok Sharma reshuffled after less than seven months in the job we have a new Housing Minister in Dominic Raab who will now embark on a listening exercise of his own.

The re-branding exercise is a nice symbol and one that Theresa May will hope shows the younger generation that her Government is on their side. However, rewind to 1951 and you can see the role that Government can play in urban renewal.

Back then a generation was introduced to the delights of indoor toilets, front and rear gardens, and landscaped housing estates where, as the town planners bragged, a tree could be seen from every window.

If we are to return to the post-war dream of urban renewal then we need every department in Whitehall to consider what they can do to resolve the housing crisis.

Government departments are asked to do this for Brexit, why not housing?

If you would like to find out more about Dominic Raab you can read our latest briefing here.