Minister for Levelling Up Housing and Communities

Minister for Levelling Up Housing and Communities

The Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP is now the Minister for Levelling Up Housing and Communities.

Prime minister Liz Truss has appointed Simon Clarke as the new Minister for Levelling Up Housing and Communities in her first Cabinet.

He replaces Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells, who has held the position since former Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove was sacked by Boris Johnson on 7 July.

Having been MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland since the 2017 general election, Simon Clarke is unlikely to be a familiar face to many. As Chief Secretary to the Treasury since 2021, he has maintained something of a lower profile than Jacob-Rees Mogg, who was also tipped for the housing role.

Like Ms Truss, Mr Clarke is considered a Johnson loyalist, having backed the outgoing prime minister in a vote of confidence in June. He tweeted yesterday that he will “miss Boris Johnson enormously”.

The Levelling Up Secretary post was one of the most highly anticipated announcements of Ms Truss’s new Cabinet, with plenty on the agenda for the incoming minister.

He takes on the role amidst a backdrop of skyrocketing rents, a cost of living crisis and successive interest rate hikes.

Mr Clarke outlined his support for Ms Truss at the very outset of the Conservative leadership contest, tweeting his backing on July 9, two days after Boris Johnson resigned. He cited his faith that “she will galvanise growth, cut taxes and launch a new Spending Review.” He added: “she’s tough on our enemies abroad, will seize the opportunities of Brexit and has a strong record of delivery.”

Serving as the youngest cabinet minister within the department, he was previously appointed Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, before being moved to the post of Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government in the February 2020 reshuffle. He resigned from the position for personal reasons later that year.

Born in the village of Marton, near Middlesborough, Clarke attended Red House School in Norton before reading history at University College, Oxford, where he was the chairman of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

He trained as a solicitor in London, before going on to work for former Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and then Conservative MP Graham Stuart.

An initial loss at the 2015 general election did little to dissuade Clarke, who went on to win his seat from Labour two years later when the sitting MP Tom Blenkinsop stood down.

A strong proponent of Brexit and Eurosceptic pressure group Leave Means Leave, he has previously clashed with the government over its opposition to onshore wind farms and expressed support for the net zero emissions target.

He splits his time between London and the North Yorkshire market town of Guisborough, which sits on the fringe of the North York Moors.

The new housing secretary inherits a brief full of urgent issues from housebuilding to homelessness and a private rented sector in crisis.

Top of Clarke’s intray will be the Rental Reform Bill, which the government recently published its white paper for. It is set to remove Section 21 evictions, encourage pet ownership in rental properties, and introduce a rental sector ombudsman.

The bill, which the government is currently legislating for, is unlikely to be scrapped but could still be watered down.

As for the ongoing building safety crisis, it remains to be seen whether Clarke will follow the hardline approach taken by Michael Gove until he was unceremoniously sacked by Boris Johnson.

It remains to be seen what the new administration’s approach will be to building new homes, but Truss’s aversion to “Soviet top-down housing targets” suggests the government’s target of building 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s could be scrapped.

Blog Post from Evening Standard

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