Argument over planning gain will be high on the agenda for David Miliband, Prescott’s lieutenant at the ODPM
The minister for communities and local government has walked into a simmering row between housebuilders and social housing providers over updating PPG3.
David Miliband, who was appointed in the wake of last week’s election, becomes the second cabinet minister at the ODPM after deputy prime minister John Prescott. He will oversee the running of the ODPM, whose brief now includes housing, planning, local government, regeneration, social exclusion, anti-social behaviour and the regions.
Alongside Miliband, Yvette Cooper, the MP for Pontefract and Castelford, is promoted to the post of minister for housing and planning.
As Miliband was settling into his role, which had initially been pencilled in for former home secretary David Blunkett, the two sides were sharpening their arguments.
Sarah Webb, director of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing, which has 19,000 members in councils and housing associations, said: “If Miliband is focusing on communities then hopefully he’ll deal with the mixed communities agenda.
“In new communities he needs to ensure that there is a proper mix of rented and subsidised housing. Essentially PPG3 needs to be strengthened in favour of local authorities as opposed to watered down for housebuilders.”
Miliband said in a statement that he had already met Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, and would attend the Central Local Partnership meeting next week to meet other local leaders.
He said: “Central and local government need to work with each other – and not talk at each other. We will not always agree on everything but it’s important we understand and listen to each other.”
Terry Fuller, chairman of the affordable housing committee at the House Builders Federation, said: “He’ll need time to make sense of what he has inherited, but we will definitely be pushing him on the whole planning agenda – particularly around PPG3.”
We will definitely be pushing him on the planning agenda – particularly PPG3
Terry Fuller, House Builders Federation
Miliband, a rising star who has been tipped as a future prime minister, is reputed to have “a brain the size of a planet” and is likely to need it in this role as he will be given the task of sorting out nitty-gritty details, leaving Prescott with more broad brush issues.
Karen Buck, Labour MP for Regent’s Park and Kensington North, said: “He is someone who deserves to be where he is, which isn’t always the case with ministers. He is also very good on the economic aspects of regeneration.”
Another Labour MP, who declined to be named, said: “He is a rising star, but I do have a slight concern over how politically aware he will be. The problem of the second term was that we took too many decisions that seemed good on an intellectual level and then paid the price for not considering the political impact.”
The government says that Miliband has been appointed to help Prescott deal with the “heavy agenda” facing his department over the coming months and to allow the deputy prime minister to take a more hands-off approach.
The MP for South Shields will discover a number of other issues in his in-tray as he is briefed by his advisers (see “What’s in his in-tray?”). These include the implementation of the Barker review on housing supply published in March 2004, policy to help first-time buyers get a foot on the property ladder and the revaluation of councils tax which is under way .
The reshuffle resulted in several well-known faces in the regeneration and housing scenes leaving the stage.
The most significant departure is Nick Raynsford, the local government minister who has held various regeneration posts since the 1997 election.
What’s in Miliband’s in-tray?
- PPG3 This crucial piece of planning guidance is due to be updated in the summer. The key battleground is over the amount of control councils have over the quantity and location of affordable housing.
- Planning gain supplement Both housebuilders and social housing providers will be keen to ensure that if this land tax goes ahead – as is likely – the funds raised are used to buy more land for housing.
- First-time buyers This was the first thing on the prime minister’s list of priorities in his first speech after winning a third term. The government is currently consulting on “Homebuy” – a set of proposals to allow better access to homeownership for people on low incomes. Miliband will need to deliver Gordon Brown’s pledge to help an extra 1 million people buy a home.
- Social housing grant The government is keen to allow developers access to the Housing Corporation’s annual £1.67bn investment programme. There is a £200m pilot of this approach in process and this will be extended to all the funds this summer. Housing associations are very keen to fight this.
- Low demand housing There has been a growing resident-led campaign in the nine housing market renewal areas against planned demolitions. These flagship regeneration projects must proceed, so some careful negotiations will be required.
- Anti-social behaviour Campaigners have urged the government to be less punitive in its approach to dealing with nuisance behaviour. Expect Miliband to have to make a decision on whether or not to dock housing benefit from people who breach anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs).
- Council tax This is being reviewed because of recent publicity over council tax rises. It will be a battleground with local authorities if they sense Miliband is trying to cap their tax-raising powers.
Miliband Curriculum Vitae
Educated: Corpus Christi, Oxford – Politics, Philosophy and Economics
Constituency: South Shields; MP since 2001
2005–present: Minister of communities and local government
2004–2005: Cabinet Office minister
2002–2004: Schools minister, Department for Education and Skills
1997–2001: Head of Downing Street Policy Unit
1994–1997: Leader of the Opposition’s Office
1992–1994: Secretary, Commission on Social Justice
1988–1992: Policy analyst, Institute for Public Policy Research