David Cameron reputedly told communities secretary Greg Clark: “I think I’m about to offer you your dream job,” when he appointed him.
Since taking the role in May, Mr Clark has presided over an unprecedented devolution programme, with almost the whole of England having responded to his invitation to put forward proposals to take powers from Whitehall.
That said, many local government figures believe the Treasury holds even greater sway than Mr Clark’s department – and it is clear that he has his work cut out persuading the sceptical departments, such as the Department for Work & Pensions, to devolve.
The government’s insistence on elected mayors will grate with some but, that apart, Mr Clark is doing the devolution his predecessors sometimes talked about but were either blocked from doing or got cold feet when it came to implementation.
Mr Clark’s piloting of the Housing & Planning Bill, which is set to force councils to sell their most valuable housing stock, could however seriously dent his popularity both in local government and among people seeking affordable housing in future.
The Tunbridge Wells MP was a junior Department for Communities & Local Government minister in the coalition’s early phase. In 2011 he became minister for cities, overseeing the city deals process, and in 2012 crossed the fence to become financial secretary to the Treasury, a move that leads some to suspect that he is the ‘Treasury’s man’ at the DCLG.
Unlike his predecessor Eric Pickles, Mr Clark takes little obvious interest in council bin collection rotas, reserve levels or parking charges.