Westminster set for tenth housing minister in a decade as Esther makes way

Esther McVey MP

Esther McVey has been sacked as the UK Government’s housing minister after just seven months in the role.

Ms McVey is to be replaced by Christopher Pincher, the MP for Tamworth, who becomes the tenth Conservative MP to hold the position in as many years and the 18th since the start of the century.

However, unlike his predecessor, Mr Pincher will not attend Cabinet meetings.

Confirming the announcement on Twitter, Ms McVey said: “I’m very sorry to be relieved of my duties as Housing Minister. I wish my successor the very best & every success.

“I’m very grateful to the Prime Minister for having given me the opportunity to serve in his government & he will continue to have my support from the back benches.”

Last month, the Institute for Government (IfG) said the number of different housing ministers since 1997 left the UK “often lacking” a department strong enough to articulate a coherent housing policy. IfG specifically cited housing as an example cited in its report on the frequency government reshuffles.

The average minister of state for housing since 1997 has stayed in the post just 14 months. In the last decade, three ministers lasted nine months or fewer with the longest in post staying just over two years.

Responding on Twitter, Scotland’s housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “The Tories are now on their 7th Housing Minister since I was appointed as Scotland’s Housing Minister in May 2016. This constant churn quite clearly shows that they have no interest in housing.”

Félicie Krikler, director at Assael Architecture, warned that the constant change in housing minister over the last ten years has made a mockery of the role and is creating issues for the housing industry. 

Ms Krikler said: “There is a total incompatibility between the political cycles and the long-term aspects of housing, and appointing the tenth housing minister in the last ten years makes a complete mockery of the role. The industry needs stability to make progress on the housing front and bring forward policies that clarify questions over design, quality and delivery methods concerning the homes we build.

“Understanding and addressing the issues troubling the market takes time and effort, and while another minister gets to grips with the role, we have high streets in need of reform and high-quality homes in need of building. I hope whoever steps in to fill McVey’s place will be able to quickly adapt and contribute to the UK’s housing needs.”

Marc von Grundherr, director of lettings and sale agent Benham and Reeves, said: “Renewing the position of housing minister has become such a common occurrence we can now expect it on an annual basis much like Christmas or Valentine’s Day.

“However, rather than spreading festive cheer and love, this revolving door of appointments has become more like Ground Hog Day, recycling the same stale rhetoric which paints a lovely picture of fixing the housing market, yet fails to make it beyond the canvass.” 

Founder and CEO of Stone Real Estate, Michael Stone, added: “The position of housing minister is fast becoming the government’s poisoned chalice, with those taking on the role doomed to fail from the very get-go.

“Until we elevate the role to the position of power that it requires, we will continue to see each candidate fall on their own sword having failed to address the deep-rooted issues embedded within the UK housing crisis in the short time they are allowed to do so.

“Only time will tell if yet another housing minister holds the key but one area of focus must be the continued delivery of new housing for all levels of homebuyer. Failing to maintain the positive momentum we’ve seen of late will see demand continue to exceed supply and push house prices higher and homeownership out of reach for many.”

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