Things are moving so fast at Government level with the shambles that Brexit is becoming, that there’s little guarantee we will have the same set of leaders by the time you read this. And, as the time for negotiating the so- called deal before the EU’s October treaty deadline shrinks, we might not even be heading for Brexit as some thought they knew it.
However what we do know is that David Davis, having been apparently sidelined in Theresa May’s compromise deal which enraged hardline Brexiteers, was forced to resign. While his exit has created a major headache for her given the tight deadlines ahead, the fact that the housing sector has taken the hit by losing yet another Minister prematurely, is not good news.
Dominic Raab has been shoved into the Brexit frontline, only a few short months after being appointed to deliver the mythical 300,000 homes a year the Government wants. While May isn’t exactly spoilt for choice with remaining (as it were) talent for handling the poisoned chalice of leading on Brexit, his quick shuffle over to fill Davis’ shoes also suggests in part that the housing brief is not seen by the PM as needing the meticulous focus which it surely must have, if we are to have any chance of hitting the numbers.
It is however probably more about the fact that there is only one game in town currently. Brexit is sucking up nearly all of the administration’s energy, and yet Departments must somehow carry on with their agendas while it is sorted out.
After only being elected as an MP in 2015, Kit Malthouse now finds himself the 18th Housing Minister appointed in 20 years, and the property sector is understandably dubious as to whether he will be sticking around to deliver the consistency and clarity on long-term policy they desperately want. The Government has as ever focused on acting quickly to announce a replacement, but is he the right man to offer reassuring utterances to the industry – such as on any fallout from Oliver Letwin’s planning review, and the drive to release smaller sites for development in the new NPPF. The suspicion is that everything is a sideshow until Brexit is resolved either way.
The biggest surprise among the recent turmoil was the resignation of the ever-wayward Boris Johnson, possibly to plot a leadership challenge. While we should be releasing sites for development, everyone is wondering will he, and when, and what will the results be?
We were beginning to get used to seeing a genuine central steer on housing – from figures such as Sajid Javid, in the wake of a strong White Paper, but it looks like the sector may not be able to wait for Government to sort out its problems. The likely success of that is anyone’s guess, in an even more uncertain future if the Brexit deal starts to unravel. However given the recent maelstrom, you wonder if industry may actually be better left to resolve things on its own in the long term!