A series of Conservative council leaders have criticised Sajid Javid’s party conference speech, which focused largely on housing and not on local government’s funding crisis.
In his 16-minute-long speech to a far-from-full conference hall in Manchester on Sunday, Mr Javid announced measures to improve the rights of tenants (see box below), without addressing issues including the future of social care, whether the full localisation of business rates would proceed and devolution.
David Renard, the Conservative leader of Swindon BC, told LGC that Mr Javid’s speech was “repetitive” and contained “nothing new”.
Mark Durham (Con), leader of Maldon DC, tweeted: “Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government saying absolutely nothing for Local Government.”
Another Conservative council leader, who did not want to be named, said the speech was “uninspiring”.
Mr Javid spent most of Sunday morning appearing on TV and radio after an interview with Observer caught the national media’s attention, in part due to the fact he refused to answer a direct question about whether he was still backing prime minister Theresa May. He later claimed he had to cut the interview short to make a dinner date with his wife.
Ms May had earlier in the day announced plans to extend the Help to Buy scheme. She said an extra £10bn would be made available with the aim of helping to get another 135,000 people on the property ladder.
While much of Mr Javid’s speech focused on housing, he did not refer to this policy once.
Sajid Javid’s bid to improve tenants rights
Government to legislate so that all landlords must be regulated and sign up to an ombudsman scheme
Incentives will be created for landlords who offer tenancies of at least 12 months
Government to consult on creating a new “housing court” to deal with disputes at a quicker rate
Conservative councillors at the conference were indifferent to that particular announcement with one telling LGC: “It won’t solve the housing crisis.”
In a session on homelessness on Monday morning, West Midlands CA mayor Andy Street (Con) defended the policy. When asked if he thought the £10bn could have been better spent Mr Street said: “No because other finances are being made available to address he supply side as well. I don’t think it’s an either-or issue.”
In his speech Mr Javid did admit his own party’s “failure on housing” had led to Labour “being taken seriously again”.
While Mr Javid said 220,000 new homes had been delivered last year, including properties brought back into use, he added: “We still need to do much more”.
Mr Javid said the Conservatives “have a long history” of tackling housing problems and referenced major council housebuilding instigated by Harold Macmillan, and Margaret Thatcher’s introduction of the right-to-buy.
There was no mention, however, of extending the right-to-buy to housing association tenants, nor did he expand on what would be included in the social housing green paper.