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Ex-housing minister appointed as PM's chief of staff

Prime minister Theresa May has appointed former housing minister Gavin Barwell, who lost his seat in the general election last week, as her new chief of staff

The PM has appointed Mr Barwell to replace outgoing advisors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who resigned on Saturday in the aftermath of the result.

Both Ms Hill and Mr Timothy, who had worked closely with Theresa May since her time as Home Office minister, resigned from their positions after being blamed for the disastrous Conservative election campaign saw the party lose it’s 12-seat majority in parliament.

Speaking about the apppointment of Mr Barwell, Theresa May said: “He has been a first-class minister and is widely respected. He will bring considerable experience of the party to the post.

“As I said yesterday, I want to reflect on the election and why it did not deliver the result I hoped for. Gavin will have an important role to play in that. I look forward to working with him.”

Mr Barwell lost his Croydon Central seat last Friday after being defeated by Labour candidate Sarah Jones, who overturned a wafer-thin majority of 165.

Ms Jones won 29,873 votes to Mr Barwell’s 24,221, a margin of 9.9 per cent on a 3.6 per cent swing from the Tories to Labour.

It is the first time Croydon Central has been controlled by Labour since 2005.

The prime minister is expected to appoint a new housing minister in the coming days once an agreement has been made with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on forming a new government. 

The uncertain election result throws into doubt the government’s plans to implement its February housing white paper, which pledged more support for SME housebuilders and promised to give local authorities more powers to make quicker use of planning consents.

It also included plans to speed up housebuilding through planning changes and increasing the number of build-to-rent houses being built.

Greg Hill, deputy chief executive at housebuilder Hill Residential, said: “No business likes uncertainty and housebuilders like it least of all.

“This hung parliament and the horse-trading that will take place over housing policy to get a coalition in place means that many housebuilders will hit the pause button on their investment decisions.

“The country needs new homes desperately. We hope that the negotiations [over a hung parliament] are concluded rapidly so that the new government is in place and ready to work with the sector to go out and get building.”

Housing ministers

There have been five housing ministers since 2011, all from the Conservative Party, with a sixth set to take office now that Gavin Barwell is no longer an MP:

July 2016 – June 2017: Gavin Barwell

July 2014 – July 16: Brandon Lewis

October 2013 – July 2014: Kris Hopkins

September 2012 – October 2013: Mark Prisk

May 2010 – September 2012: Grant Shapps

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