“Reshuffles are an intrinsic part of British politics. While Keir Starmer’s reshuffle back in September was done from a position of strength, Rishi Sunak’s changes to his top team this week come from a position of weakness – perhaps even out of desperation. Sacking your Home Secretary by 9am on a Monday morning is a pretty brutal start to the week. Given her explosive reaction and today’s Supreme Court ruling, it’s safe to say this particular episode has further yet to run.
Elevating David Cameron to the Lords and appointing him Foreign Secretary certainly has more than a whiff of Gordon Brown bringing back Peter Mandelson in 2008. Both governments in trouble – drafting in a heavyweight to shore up your team. It didn’t ultimately help Brown – only time will tell whether it helps Sunak.
Since Cameron left No 10 in 2016, there have been four occupants of the highest office in the land. Sunday’s moving Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph visible proof that we now have more living former Prime Ministers than at any time in history. Others pointed out that if Liz Truss lived to 95, she’d spend more days at the Cenotaph than she managed as Prime Minister.
And herein lies part of the problem – political instability fuelling, and in turn fuelled by, the churn of ministers in recent years. As well as five Prime Ministers since 2016, there’s been five Chancellors of the Exchequer and five Home Secretaries since 2019 alone. Then there is the small matter of housing ministers – 15 holders of the office since 2010 – Lee Rowley becoming the 16th. But, to confuse matters, Rowley was also the 13th – lasting just 7 weeks first time around. Are you keeping up? More people have sat in the Housing Minister’s chair since 2010 then have walked on the surface of the moon.
Mastering a brief is crucial. Lee Rowley was straight into the Committee Stage of the Renters (Reform) Bill – no doubt it’s been a caffeine-fuelled 48 hours of university exam style cramming to get his head around the legislation but that’s not an ideal way for the Government to approach a piece of flagship legislation.
The constant chopping and changing of ministers might make for good party management but it makes for bad government. It might yet save Rishi Sunak’s ailing government, or it could accelerate it towards defeat. At a time when confidence in our governing class is eroding and economic and political uncertainty is a product of the times we live in, regular reshuffling of ministers surely hinders rather than helps getting to grips with the huge challenges the country faces.
And it matters more widely. I know from my time working at City Hall that Prime Ministers and key Cabinet members rarely stuck around for long enough to build a working relationship. Campaign groups, charities, businesses, local government must all share the same frustration. Uncertainty breeds falling confidence. Yet there is still perhaps a year until voters go to the polls, and with little sign of Labour’s lead narrowing, the conditions don’t feel ripe for matters settling down any time soon."
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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STOPPED IN OUR TRACKS: Pictures of former Prime Minister David Cameron strolling into 10 Downing Street on Monday morning was just one of several dramatic moments as the Prime Minister made changes to his Cabinet.
Churn Town: (Soon-to-be-Lord) Cameron becomes Foreign Secretary, replacing James Cleverly, who in turn takes over as Home Secretary from the sacked Suella Braverman, amid growing disquiet with her criticism of the Metropolitan Police and her comments on homelessness.
Old School Ties: Cameron is the first former Prime Minister to serve in a successor’s cabinet since Edward Heath appointed Alec Douglas-Home Foreign Secretary in 1970. He’s also the first Foreign Secretary to sit in the Lords since Lord Carrington (1979-82).
Suella Unleashed: In a strongly-worded letter to the PM published on Tuesday afternoon, the former Home Secretary called Sunak ‘weak’, saying that he had ‘manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver’ on key policies. She accused Sunak of ‘betrayal’ while hinting at an ‘agreement’ between them which resulted in him winning the leadership election.
Nobody’s home: Lee Rowley becomes the 16th Housing Minister (his second stint) after reports suggested the Prime Minister was struggling to find a replacement for Rachel Maclean, who shared her disappointment at being dismissed. Simon Hoare joins the department as Rowley’s replacement covering the local government brief.
Bus stop blues: Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Scully was given the ‘Spanish Archer’ (introducing many more people to a slang phrase for fired) but was ‘proud to serve & get things done’ as Minister for London and Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy.
All smiles? Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg Hands returns to the Department for Trade for no less than the fourth time, after being demoted from Party Chair and takes over Scully’s London portfolio too. This is Hands’ second time as Minister for London - given his reputation, it seems unlikely he’ll continue Scully’s approach to the role, opting to be more aggressively partisan on the run in to next year’s Mayoral election. We will watch closely to see what support he provides to Susan Hall.
Surprises in brief: Esther McVey returns to the Cabinet as what is being dubbed the ‘minister for common sense’, with Andrea Leadsom making a return to Government as a Health Minister. Environment Secretary Therese Coffey makes way for Steve Barclay, reshuffled from Health, with his former role filled by Victoria Atkins.
AUTUMN STATEMENT LOOKAHEAD
A WEEK TO GO: Secure in his position for now (and rejoined at the Cabinet table by his former boss) Jeremy Hunt will be hard at work preparing what his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, as the Government attempts (yet) another ‘reset’. We’ll bring you our initial response to the statement in next week’s edition, but for now, here’s what to look out for.
Taxation speculation: Weekend coverage suggested Hunt may bring forward more tax cuts than first expected, including changes to stamp duty. The Telegraph reports that the Government is looking at plans to give homeowners, who improve the energy efficiency of their homes within the first two years of purchase, a stamp duty rebate.
A leg up: Some are suggesting that the Government could announce measures to help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder, including by reforming stamp duty and extending the existing mortgage guarantee scheme.
Mulling it over: Hunt is also reportedly considering a cut to inheritance tax, ISA reforms, income tax cuts, reforms to pensions and increases in fuel and alcohol duty.
What won’t be in it: Business rates, however, look likely to increase after calls to freeze them were rejected, while the Chancellor doesn’t look likely to reinstate VAT-free shopping for tourists, or allow local leaders to introduce a hotel tax in their cities.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
LCA client The Earls Court Development Company has updated the masterplan for its 40-acre development, reducing the amount of development by 10%, increasing open space by 20% and reducing the height of two of its planned four skyscrapers to below 31 storeys. It has also reduced the number of homes by 500 to a total of 4,000 (35% affordable). See Our Week below for more.
Wandsworth Council planning officers have recommended refusal for the All England Club’s plans to expand to a total 73-acre site, adding an additional 39 tennis courts and 8,000-seat ‘show court.’ Only 10% of the plans fall within Wandsworth’s boundaries, and neighbouring Merton Council approved the plans last month, but officers stated that the development would cause ‘substantial harm to the openness’ of the borough’s metropolitan open land.
Camden officers have recommended that plans by BC Partners and Simten for the redevelopment of Selkirk House be granted approval at tomorrow’s planning committee. The plans include the demolition of the former Travelodge on the site and the delivery of a 19-storey office building as well as 44 homes in other buildings on the site, 19 of which will be affordable.
Landsec’s plans to redevelop 55 Old Broad Street have been recommended for approval by City of London Corporation planning officers. The plans include demolishing the current 10-storey, 100,000 sq ft office building to expand floorspace to 356,000 sq ft in a new 23-storey building. The developer had made ‘several amendments’ to the plans in response to consultations and feedback from Historic England.
Lewisham Council has submitted its new Local Plan to the Secretary of State for examination, committing to delivering 28,000 homes before 2038. The draft Plan also includes policies for securing the delivery of the long called-for extension of the Bakerloo line into the borough.
Wandsworth Council has announced a new protocol for developers operating in the borough, including setting the expectation that the delivery of affordable housing be ‘maximised’ in new developments, with a preference for social housing.
Caroline Woodley was elected as the new Mayor of Hackney in last week’s by-election, securing 18,474 votes. Green candidate Zoe Garbett came second with 9,075 votes.
Chief Executive of London City Airport Robert Sinclair has been appointed as the new CEO of HS1. He will take up the role from March 2024.
Josh Goodman has been announced as the Chief Executive of the Office for Local Government (Oflog).
Managing Director of Wates Construction, Mark Tant, has left the business after five years in the role. He has been replaced on an interim basis by Wates’s former Group Head of Pre-Construction, Steffan Battle.
Watkin Jones has appointed Alex Pease as Chief Executive, promoted from his previous position as the company’s Chief Investment Officer.
Dawn Atkinson held a seat in Lewisham’s Deptford ward for Labour at last week’s by-election, securing 71.2% of the vote.
HOUSING MARKET ROUNDUP
OUTNUMBERED: The Government has received a boost ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement, with news that the Prime Minister’s target to halve inflation by the end of the year has been met, falling to 4.6% (note, not the official target set to the Bank of England – which remains 2%).
Ever Decreasing Circles: Yet, storm clouds still loom on the horizon, as the effect of interest rate rises work their way through the economy – the Bank of England warning high interest rates are here to stay and there’s a 50:50 chance of a recession in 2024. All of this, added to political and economic uncertainty both domestically and internationally, is leading to an erratic development sector, and differing views about what lies ahead.
Three Up, Two Down: Depending on who you believe, house prices are up or down. The worst is over, 2023 wasn’t as bad as some feared, or the worst is yet to come. Amidst all this, London is seeing the biggest housing slowdown since 2009.
Bless this House: Mortgage approvals have slumped and those in arrears, caught by higher interest rates, have surged. While sales are down, the rental market continues to go haywire, in part fuelled by landlords selling up in increasing numbers, leaving many Londoners in increasingly desperate situations.
Rising Damp: Housebuilding is predicted to fall to the lowest levels since the 2008 financial crash, with some saying that the sector is at its weakest since the start of the pandemic.
No Place Like Home: Some housebuilders are performing better than expected, some doing as predicted (albeit with profits still down on last year), while others are finding the going particularly tough.
The Office: The picture is no clearer away from the residential market – while West End rents rocket, demand for smaller office space is strong, there is a flight to quality while others report sharp falls in non-core London office values.
Yes, Minister: The new Housing Minister’s in-tray, already pretty full, will be overflowing given concerns about a slowing home building market.
The Evening Standard on London’s downsizing problem, with research showing that 32% of those Londoners over 65 saying that they live in homes that are bigger than they require.
The Times on what’s in store for the property market, as well as their editorial accusing the Government of having ‘no plan’ to fix the housing crisis.
Reading about the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission’s recommendations for the future of the site.
Deputy Editor of Conservative Home Henry Hill’s in City AM on the impact of the Government’s appointment of yet another Housing Minister.
The progress being made at Old Oak Common for the delivery of HS2.
The city’s university umbrella body, London Higher’s manifesto for the Mayoral election candidates.
LCA Account Manager, Fiorella Lanni's take on London's evolving approach to the festive season, emphasising the transformative impact of immersive events on urban landscapes, community engagement and economic vitality.
EARLS COURT RENEWED
LCA client The Earls Court Development Company (ECDC) has today released their updated masterplan for London’s largest cleared development site, following feedback received since launching their masterplan proposals in February. The updated plans include a 20% increase in open space, a 10% reduction in the amount of overall development, and 2.5m sq ft of workspace.
LCA’s teams supported the launch across planning, consultation, media, design and social media, mobilising all four of our key divisions.
Our Planning & Engagement team managed the development of consultation content across print and web materials, including a new interactive map on ECDC’s Commonplace survey platform, and managing a wide range of preview events and local marketing material. Members of the team will also be popping up across the local area during the consultation period to chat through the new masterplan with the community.
Generating strong media interest, our Corporate & Consumer team secured key coverage of the announcement in leading national, London and property titles including The Times, Evening Standard, Property Week and CoStar. An engaging, targeted social media campaign was developed by LCA’s Social team with assets curated by the agency’s Design team.
Congratulations to ECDC for launching their bold and ambitious vision for this key central London site, the exhibition is open 4 days a week until Christmas, click here to find out more if you fancy a visit.
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