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Government told to stop sacking housing ministers

Senior construction figures have urged the government to slow the turnover of housing ministers in the wake of Mark Prisk’s exit from the job.

Industry experts said future housing ministers needed time to get to grips with the portfolio, following the sacking of Mr Prisk after just over a year in the role.

Several said Mr Prisk had been good at his job and liked his background as a surveyor. They also said there was sense in the idea of merging the housing and planning portfolios, which is rumoured to be a possibility.

Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley said: “He was a surveyor by training so he understood housing. I would like to see continuity [of ministers] so people can settle down and understand it.”

Roger Humber, who was formerly policy adviser to the House Builders Association and ex-chief executive of the Home Builders Federation, said: “I always believed housing and planning function better together with the caveat that we have to have a minister with ability to make use of the linkage.

“They would also need to grasp the nettle of deregulation. If you are looking for the private sector to provide housing, you have to integrate housing and planning policy and have a [minister with a] strong remit to meddle in other departments when they are putting up obstacles.”

He said the job of housing minister as a standalone role “is pretty unsatisfying” as many big decisions, such as Help to Buy or housing energy policy, are taken by other departments such as the Treasury or the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

He added: “What I would really want is a heavyweight who can thump the table in Cabinet.”

EC Harris partner Mark Farmer said: “Bringing planning and housing together would make sense.

“But one complication with merging those two briefs is planning is more than just housing, so it would slightly skew the brief.

“[Nick] Boles’s star is shining quite brightly as planning minister and lots of people think he could absorb those two roles.  

“Prisk was seen as being very capable. He was a chartered surveyor so he understood planning and housing. His grasp of his brief was quite competent. 

“He was only in the role for a year and did not really have time to make it his own. He was really carrying on policies initiated by Grant Shapps such as Build to Rent and the housing standards review, but he saw them through. 

“The danger in having a succession of housing minsters, as Labour had where there was one going every six to 12 months, is it becomes a constant learning curve.”

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