Croydon MP Gavin Barwell has been appointed new housing and planning minister as part of prime minister Theresa May’s government reshuffle.
Mr Barwell – the fifth housing minister in four years – has been MP for Croydon Central since 2010, narrowly defending his seat by a margin of just 165 votes in the 2015 elections.
Along with the housing and planning brief, he also becomes Minister for London.
Mr Barwell was parliamentary private secretary to Greg Clark in 2011, then minister for cities and decentralisation, and then to Michael Gove, who was secretary of state for education. In October 2013, he became a government whip, being promoted to Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, a senior government whip position, a year later.
Posting a statement on his website after his appointment was announced yesterday (Sunday 17 July 2016), Mr Barwell said: ‘Every MP will tell you that housing is one of the most common issues they deal with in their surgeries.
‘Too many people are having to live in overcrowded or even unsafe conditions.
‘Too many people don’t have a permanent place to call home. Too many people are having to pay too much of their monthly earnings on their housing costs.
‘And - as the prime minister said in her moving speech outside Downing Street on Wednesday night - too many people who want the independence of owning their own home currently can’t afford to do so.
‘I look forward to working with councils, housing associations, developers, investors and local communities to make sure we build we need with the mix of tenures that people want and that those homes should be great places to live.’
Mr Barwell said he is also looking forward to working with Sadiq Khan and the leaders of London councils ‘to ensure the continued success of our wonderful, diverse capital - and to make sure that all Londoners share in that success’.
Brandon Lewis, who had served as housing minister since July 2014 – when the housing and planning briefs were brought under a single minister of state for the first time in five years – has moved to the Home Office as minister for the police and fire service.
Sajid Javid replaces Greg Clark as communities secretary and Damian Green has been appointed work and pensions secretary. Mr Clark becomes secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.
In 2014, Mr Barwell set out his views on affordable housing in his vision for Croydon, along with Conservative councillor Vidhi Mohan, who was parliamentary candidate for Croydon North, and Chris Philp, now MP for Croydon South.
In their vision, the trio say that ‘The Left’ is ‘happy for more people to be dependent on the state for their housing’ and not concerned enough about fewer people owning their homes and more people needing housing benefit in both the private and social sector.
They add: ‘We want to reduce the Housing Benefit bill and spread ownership of property as widely as possible, not go back to a time when it was the preserve of a privileged few.’
They also wrote about controlled immigration, citing the positive impact of migration to Croydon but also the need for investment in local infrastructure to support population growth.
Mr Barwell is opposing the Labour-run Croydon Council’s 20-year local plan on several specific local issues including protecting back garden land and de-designation of sections of the Green Belt in certain locations.
He has also supported high rise development in the town centre in the past - subject to design and impact on nearby residential homes - and backed more ‘affordable housing’ in a generic sense, with a focus on attracting young professionals into the town centre and building council and housing association homes elsewhere.
‘The Left talk about ‘affordable housing’, but what they mean is council and housing association homes.
‘They’re not unduly worried about fewer people owning their own homes, more people in the private rented sector relying on Housing Benefit and more people needing council or housing association homes – they are happy for more people to be dependent on the state for their housing.
‘We, in contrast, believe in helping people to be independent of the state.
‘We want to reduce the Housing Benefit bill and spread ownership of property as widely as possible, not go back to a time when it was the preserve of a privileged few.
‘We have to face up to what that means.
‘We can reduce the growth in demand for housing by reducing immigration, but we also need to build more homes for people to buy and rent privately and more council and housing association homes for those who need them.
‘And we need to do so urgently.
‘The keys to building more homes are a healthy economy and a sufficient land supply.
‘Now that the economy is recovering, it is the latter that is the problem.
‘We may be passionate about building more homes, but as Conservatives we don’t want to see our previous green spaces built over or the character of our suburbs changed by backland development.’
Vision for Croydon: www.gavinbarwell.com/blog.asp?BlogID=966
*story updated to include Minister for London role