Sajid Javid has retained his position as communities secretary in a reshuffle that reflects the prime minister’s diminished room for manoeuvre after losing her parliamentary majority.
Mr Javid keeps the leading Department for Communities & Local Government role, alongside Jeremy Hunt who remains health secretary, Greg Clark who will stay as business secretary and Justine Greening who continues as education secretary.
Local Government Association chair Lord Porter (Con) tweeted: “Great news for @LGANews, @sajidjavid remains our Secretary of State. Lots of heavy lifting to do, but at least we can get straight on with it.”
Although a number of sector leaders have lined up to welcome Mr Javid’s reappointment, many have privately noted his lukewarm relationship with the sector in the past year since he was appointed to the role.
Mr Javid started his term as communities secretary by leading a trade mission to North America - and taking no council representatives with him. He then committed a faux pas by barely mentioning devolution in his Conservative conference speech. Lord Porter initially admitted that he did not have the same relationship with Mr Javid as he had had with his predecessor Greg Clark.
However, the communities secretary has made efforts to reach out to a local government audience since then, notably attending County Councils Network and District Councils’ Network conferences. He played a significant role in winning the sector an extra £2bn for social care in the March Budget. Sources close to Lord Porter now emphasise that the two men co-operate well.
In fairness to Mr Javid, it has been hard for many cabinet ministers to shine in the past year. The very centralised nature of Ms May’s leadership has held up many reforms; Ms May has often failed to tackle her in-tray, resulting in a sense of inertia across government.
Ms May has been forced to ditch her two closest aides Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, in a move which could enable her to reappraise her approach to power. Former housing minister Gavin Barwell’s loss of his Croydon Central seat freed the way to his appointment as Ms May’s chief of staff; in him at least local government has an ally in a high place.
However, the impending and all-consuming nature of Brexit negotiations and Ms May’s reliance on Democratic Unionist Party support to prop up her government hardly gives her administration scope to be bold. Even should Ms May now seek to give more freedom to cabinet colleagues such as Mr Javid, the parliamentary arithmetic now works against their success in areas such as business rates localisation and social care reform.
It could well be that a weakened Ms May will face a leadership challenge over the coming weeks and an autumn election remains a distinct possibility. Little has changed as a result of this reshuffle and it may well be that it is by far the less important of two reshuffles that take place this year.
Perhaps the most significant consequence of this reshuffle is that Ms May has had to keep a grammar school sceptic as education secretary. That policy is set to wither and die.