A Parliamentary Question from Caroline Flint last week elicited the curious information that not one of the Ministerial team at Communities and Local Government department – responsible for housing and local government across the land – had visited the north east of England since their appointments last May. It’s hard to know whether the north east should moan about being ignored or celebrate this as an achievement.
The Secretary of State, Mr Pickles, as a man of the north, did manage a visit to Bradford, where he formerly led the Council. He also made it to Liverpool, presumably before the cuts when it still wanted to be a ‘vanguard community’ for the Big Society. But is it indolence or unpopularity that leads the man responsible for all things delivered locally to make only 6 visits in his official capacity in the 8 months he has been in charge?
His Minister for Housing and Local Government, Grant Shapps, perhaps has more excuse as a professional southerner. He seems to get a nosebleed by travelling north of the Wash, but did brave it by venturing into Manchester and Leeds, and no further. It’s no surprise that his first trip was to Wandsworth, the borough with the highest council rents in the land. The Minister for Decentralisation, Greg Clark, stunningly has made only 4 visits anywhere at all, and none since July, to the places he is inflicting his policies on.
One other curiosity is that none of the Ministerial team has been to Hammersmith and Fulham, allegedly Mr Cameron’s favourite borough, despite the fact that it is the incubator for many of the Tories’ most unpleasant policies. This might be due to embarrassment because they denied vehemently that they would support H&F’s line on ending security of tenure and increasing social rents towards market levels, only to adopt the policies after the Election. Or it may be that the local people fighting the sell-off of their estates wouldn’t like it and might mount large demonstrations of welcome.