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Analysis: Greg Clark's DCLG appointment heralds cities focus

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The appointment of Greg Clark as communities secretary potentially offers further indication that devolution and a focus on cities will be at the heart of the government’s agenda.

Mr Clark has held a series of ministerial posts since 2010, all of which have been built around his knowledge of decentralisation and economic growth in cities.

Prior to the election he was minister of state for universities, science and cities, having previously held a post  at the same rank, focusing on cities and the constitution. Prior to that, he was financial secretary to the Treasury and, before that, minister of state for decentralisation.

Read LGC’s 2010 profile of Greg Clark here

Mr Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, also has a long track record as a supporter of devolution, having authored a book on the over-centralised British state. This suggested local government should enjoy “a far greater degree of financial autonomy and self-responsibility”.

The minister who has focused so heavily on cities policy in the past also potentially gives further ammunition to those who believe the devolution agenda will concentrate most heavily on cities. The Conservative manifesto promised “far-reaching powers” to “large cities which choose to have elected mayors”, prompting some dismay from council leaders in non-urban areas who also crave powers and financial freedom.

The appointment of Greg Clark as communities secretary sends a clear signal that David Cameron seeks a less confrontational, more constructive partnership with councils. He is easily the best qualified man for the job and his name is spoken fondly by leading figures on all sides of the political fault lines.

After five years of the pugnacious and abrasive Eric Pickles as secretary of state, local government deserves a friend at the Cabinet table. And with Mr Clark having to maintain relationships with councils at a time of huge spending cuts, it needs a friend.

Twitter reaction

I could not wish for a better successor than @gregclarkmp He will do a fantastic jog. More announcements later in the week of my new role

Sir Merrick Cockell ‏@Sir_MRC
Truly great news for local government that Greg Clark is SoS. He will be both fair and demanding. Time to push the accelerator on reform.

@faisalislam @gregclarkmp I hope and expect he means more #devolution to english cities but also to english counties and towns

So Greg Clark is the new SoS @CommunitiesUK. Seems we’re likely to see further devolution focus on cities…

Newly appointed DCLG secretary Greg Clark keeps the flame of coalition kind of flickering - he’s a former SDP member..

Looking forward to continuing to work with @gregclarkmp in his new role at DCLG - hopefully bringing greater devolution to our cities.
Interesting to see appointments of Greg Clark and Amber Rudd almost more popular with those outside Conservative circles


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