Communities minister’s stocktake also includes proposal to cut the number of Thames Gateway bodies

Communities minister David Miliband is considering scrapping one of the ODPM’s four housing growth areas and cutting the number of Thames Gateway bodies.

Building understands that the proposals have been made as a result of the stocktake of the ODPM’s activities that Miliband began after he was appointed to the post in May.

Miliband is understood to have expressed concern at the impact the construction skills shortage was having on delivering the objectives of the sustainable communities plan and the ODPM’s two five-year housing and local government plans.

The possible move to reduce the number of bodies and working groups that have sprung up since February 2003, when the Thames Gateway was earmarked as one of four housing growth areas in the communities plan, was welcomed by regeneration professionals.

One said: “If he does this it would be a bloody good idea – especially with the Olympic Delivery Authority soon to come on the scene.

If I make a contribution … in my time as a minister, not through multiple initiatives but through rigorous and sustained reform, then it will be time well spent

Miliband: In his own words, 20 May 2005

“The question is, which ones should go? He will need to be clever – I would focus on the internal groups within the ODPM such as the Thames Gateway delivery team, as their functions are duplicated elsewhere, such as in the Development Corporation.

“A cull of these sort of bodies would definitely send the message that Miliband means business.”

Bodies that have been formed to work on the strategy to build the 200,000 homes that Prescott wants to see by 2016 include: Thames Gateway London Partnership, Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership, Thames Gateway Development Corporation, London Thames Gateway Forum, Thames Gateway Kent Partnership.

The move to cut one of the four growth areas would be more controversial. The government has repeatedly pinned its hopes on these areas for building many of the 1.1 million homes that is has promised in the South-east by 2016.

The great towns and cities are developing … and extending their role. I welcome their ambition. I want them to be motors of national progress

Miliband: In his own words, 7 July 2005

It is unlikely Miliband will go as far as to scrap one of the areas entirely. Given the stiff local opposition to increased housebuilding targets, it may be more attractive politically to reduce their scope.

The four are the Thames Gateway, Ashford, Milton Keynes (South Midlands) and the M11 corridor.

An ODPM spokesperson said: “This is an internal stocktake that will not result in a big report or review being published. There will be no change in direction. Our priorities remain the same in delivering housing growth across four growth areas.”