Sajid Javid – 2018 Speech to the Holocaust Educational Trust

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to the Holocaust Educational Trust on 16 January 2018.

Last October at the Holocaust Educational Trust Appeal Dinner, I sat next to a man named Harry Spiro.

Unfortunately, Harry couldn’t be here today but he was just 8 years old in 1939 when war broke out in Poland.

By 1945, aged just 14, he was the only member of his family to still be alive.

That evening, Harry told me his story.

In 1942, Harry was working in a factory in his home town of Piotrkow, when the call came from the Nazis for the workers to gather outside the nearby synagogue.

Harry didn’t want to go, but his mother – anticipating that things were about to get much worse – insisted.

As she pushed him out, she said: “Hopefully one of us will survive.”

Tragically, she – and the rest of Harry’s family – were murdered at Treblinka.

But her words – and their message of hope and endurance through the darkest times – live on.

They live on through Harry, who survived a death march that killed 2,300 of the 3,000 who set off.

Her words live on through Harry’s children and grandchildren.

And through Harry’s exceptional work on Holocaust education, work for which he has just been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

An honour he shares with Freda, another extraordinary survivor, who has just spoken so movingly.

My warmest congratulations to them both.

And now stories like Freda’s and Harry’s are inspiring a whole new generation through the work of fantastic young HET ambassadors, like Georgia (Adkins).

Thank you for everything you’re doing to keep these stories, these words, alive.

They matter immensely.

We know, particularly from the world of instant of communication on social media how words can entertain us, educate us, unite us, and uplift us.

But, also, how they can wound and divide.

How they can inflame prejudice in echo chambers where ignorance goes unchallenged.

How they can drive people towards hatred and even violence.

So it’s fitting that this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day asks us to consider the power of words.

The Holocaust Educational Trust has never shied away from teaching young people where hatred, intolerance and misinformation can lead.

The way we use words and language is key to this.

Which is why the government has been proud to support HET’s vital work through initiatives such as the Lessons from Auschwitz programme.

This programme has enabled thousands of children and their teachers to understand a little of what it meant to live through.

What Harry Spiro described to me, as “hell on earth”.

In 2011, I was privileged to accompany a group from my constituency to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

The hateful inscription on the gate might be familiar, but there are no words to convey the feeling when you walk inside.

Of imagining all the men, women and children who perished there and whose cries were silenced forever.

Cries – against hatred, intolerance and misinformation – that we must ensure are heard.

We all have a duty to speak out in their memory.

Of course, Holocaust education is not the only answer.

But it remains one of the most powerful tools we have to fight bigotry today.

That’s why I am delighted to announce today that my Ministry – together with the Department for Education – will fund a new strand of the Lessons from Auschwitz programme.

A new initiative, proposed by HET and the Union of Jewish Students, to tackle antisemitism, prejudice and intolerance on university campuses.

I know this is something that the Trust has been keen to get off the ground.

And Karen – as anyone who knows her well will agree – is someone you do not turn down or disagree with!

So I hope this will be welcome news.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Karen and everyone at the Trust for their tireless dedication to Holocaust education.

The programme will invite 2 Sabbatical Officers from each university to visit the death camps.

Vice-Chancellors will also be encouraged to take part.

I look forward to seeing how this work proceeds and the difference it makes.

HET’s work is invaluable and I’m honoured to be associated with it.

Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I have seen it works.

I remember Harry telling me about a visit to a school in London’s East End.

When a pupil refused to attend his Holocaust presentation because he didn’t want to, in the words of that pupil, “hear from Jews.”

Harry refused to deliver his talk unless the young man was present.

And so he was persuaded, reluctantly, to attend Harry’s talk.

That same young man later wrote to him and said it was one of the most moving experiences of his life.

So much so, he was inspired to become a passionate champion of greater tolerance and understanding among his peers.

So our efforts to tell stories like Harry’s, to challenge antisemitism wherever it exists, are absolutely crucial.

Not just now, but for future generations.

This is the thinking behind our commitment to build a new national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.

Its presence, right next to the Houses of Parliament, will ensure that the testimony of survivors will never be forgotten in Britain.

That the message of hope and a better future…

…whispered from a mother to son all those years ago…

…serves as a beacon for centuries to come.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2018 Speech to the LGA Local Government Finance Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the LGA Local Government Finance Conference on 9 January 2018.

Thank you, Gary, and good afternoon everybody. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s been a busy start back since the New Year!

It’s great to see the Local Government Association back home at Smith Square. As I said when I helped with the reopening, I got a little paranoid when you moved to the other side of London right after I arrived just around the corner!

But it’s also good to have you back here in the heart of Westminster because that is where local government deserves to be. You’re not the junior partner, a democratic afterthought. You’re a vital part of British life, as important as any ministry, playing a huge and growing role in the daily lives of millions of people.

Speaking of ministries, as you know, my department has a new name – the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. A name that reflects the fact that this government is absolutely committed to building the homes our country so desperately needs.

I’m delighted to have been reappointed to lead on this. I’ve been clear that fixing our broken housing market is my number one priority. Great places for people to live and put down roots.

I recognise that local government has a vital role in helping us deliver on this.

The people of this country rely on you, put their faith in you. And you, in turn have to be able to put your faith in central government. You have to know that we’re here for you, that we’re standing up for you, that we’re doing all we can to get you the resources that you need.

That’s why, in the 5 years to 2020, we’re giving English councils access to more than £200 billion in funding. And that’s why, through our reforms to business rates, we’re giving you greater freedom to raise and retain revenue in your areas.

After all, you know your communities better than anyone else. You understand the challenges, the pressures, the opportunities and more. And if you’re going to really make the most of that knowledge, you need the freedom and flexibility to be truly local government, not merely local administration.

That’s the thinking behind this year’s finance settlement. Now, I know that last month’s draft wasn’t greeted with wild enthusiasm in the sector. Mind you, I don’t think ANY local government finance settlement has ever been greeted with wild enthusiasm!

This year’s was particularly special. I had one of those days when the press office phone up and say “Well, Secretary of State, the good news is you’ve made the front pages…”

Unfortunately I wasn’t here before lunch to hear my Labour counterpart’s verdict, so I’m going to assume he warmly welcomed the whole package… Is that right? I know he’s a big fan of mine!

But look, it’s important to remember that this is part of a broader and continuing process to establish what local government needs to continue to deliver excellent public services. There are plenty of discussions still to be had, I know the incoming Local Government Minister will be doing little else over the next month or so. Building on the excellent work that Marcus Jones has already done over the last 3 years. I want to take this opportunity to thank him for all of his work, and to reassure you, that he will still be working with local government in his new role.

So I’m going to run through some of the highlights of the settlement, talk a little about what we’re doing and why. And then I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say, hearing your thoughts.

Local government finance settlement

I’ll start with the future of the whole system of local government finance. Over the years, the current formula of budget allocations has served councils and residents well.

But we live in a changing world. Shifts in demographics, lifestyles and technology lead to changes in the different pressures facing different councils, and new risks emerge all the time What’s right today may not be right tomorrow, and the system of financing local government needs to reflect that, and help manage risks as well as providing opportunities.

We need an updated and more responsive way of distributing funding. One that gives councils the confidence to face the challenges and opportunities of the future. That’s why I was pleased to launch a formal consultation on a review of relative needs and resources. It’s not just a paper exercise, it’s going to be used to create a whole new system, one that more fairly reflects modern needs. And I hope to have that system in place in 2020 to 2021.

We’re building a country fit for the future, and this review will ensure we have a local government finance system that’s also suited to the challenges and opportunities of the years ahead.

Alongside the new methodology, in 2020 to 2021 we will also be implementing the latest phase of our business rates retention programme, a scheme that gives local councils the incentives they need to grow their local economies.

As you know, our aim is for local authorities to retain 75% of business rates from 2020 to 2021. That will be through incorporating existing grants into business rates retention including Revenue Support Grant and the Public Health Grant. And you’ll be able to keep 75% of the growth in your business rates from the new baselines in 2020 to 2021, when the system is reset. And we will continue to work with you to identify other opportunities to increase business rates retention further when it is right to do so.

Business rates retention encourages growth in your local economies. So it’s no surprise that our 100% retention pilots have proved so popular with councils. We were originally planning on running an extra 5 pilots in 2018 to 2019, but when we asked councils to apply to take part we were almost overwhelmed by the reaction. More than 200 authorities put themselves forward.

Picking just 5 areas was never going to be easy, which is why we’re now going to do 10 pilots instead, covering 89 authorities. The 10 that we’ve selected, taken alongside the existing pilots, give a broad geographic spread. North and south, urban and rural, small and large. This is no accident, we want to see exactly how the system works in all circumstances, and the pilots will make sure that happens.

The expansion of the pilots – and our plan to do more piloting in 2019 to 2020 – is a great example of this government listening to local councils and responding to what we hear.

And that has also been the driving force behind a number of other elements in the settlement.

For example, rural councils have expressed concern about the fairness of the current system, with the Rural Services Delivery Grant due to be reduced next year. In response to that, we’re increasing Rural Services Delivery Grant by £15 million in 2018/19 so that the total figure remains at £65 million for the remainder of the 4-year settlement.

We’ve also responded to concerns about proposed changes to the New Homes Bonus. To date we have made almost £7 billion in NHB payments to reward the building of 1.4 million homes. Over £946 million in NHB payments will be allocated in 2018 to 2019, rewarding local authorities for their work in fixing our broken housing market.

It has been a huge success, but I’m a hard man to please, I always want to know if we can do even better. That’s why, last year, I asked the sector for its views on proposals to link NHB payments to the number of successful planning appeals, further rewarding councils who don’t let the bureaucracy slow down housing growth.

But the appetite for change wasn’t there. The sector wanted continuity and certainty and that’s what it’s getting, no changes to the NHB this year and a baseline maintained at 0.4%.

Then there’s “negative RSG”. I know this has been a concern for several of you over the past few months, it’s something that crops up again and again in my regular meetings with councillors from right across the country.

Although we won’t see the effects until 2019 to 2020 I want all of you to know that it is on the radar and it is being looked at. My department is developing fair and affordable options for dealing with the issue. We’ll be formally consulting on these in the spring, so that we have plenty of time to reflect on what you tell us ahead of next year’s settlement.

Of course, I couldn’t talk about local government finance and not mention social care. It’s one of the biggest single issue facing councils today, one of the biggest challenges facing the whole country in fact. That’s why, over the past 12 months, we’ve put billions of pounds of extra funding into the sector.

At Spring Budget, an additional £2 billion was announced for adult social care over the next 3 years. And with the freedom to raise more money more quickly through the use of the social care precept that I announced this time last year, we have given councils have access to £9.25 billion more dedicated funding for adult social care over 3 years.

Since 2014 the government has also invested more than £200 million in innovation and improvement in Children’s Social Care, and before Christmas I announced an additional £19 million to support councils develop their capacity to care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. The detailed allocations, together with the successful proposals for supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children that will receive Controlling Migration Fund money, will be announced shortly.

I know you’d like me to stand here today and say I’m turning on the spending taps, writing the big cheques, throwing taxpayers’ money at the problem. But this is a long-term challenge. The challenge of social care is not going to go away. We need long-term systemic change. And I very much hope that this summer’s green paper on future challenges within adult social care will set us on the path to securing that.

Finally, of course, there is Council Tax. And this is an issue that requires a serious balancing act. While we all want to ease growing pressure on local government services, none of us want to see hardworking taxpayers saddled with ever-higher bills. That’s particularly important at a time when inflation is growing faster than wages, when people are already feeling the effects on their pockets.

This settlement aims to keep taxes low whilst also raising the revenue you need. In addition, we are continuing to ensure that council taxpayers can veto excessive increases via a local referendum if they choose to do so. The referendum threshold has been set in line with inflation, and so we are setting the core council tax referendum principles at 3%.

Conclusion

Our homes talk to us about who we are. So what does the refurbished, refitted Local Government House tell us about local government?

Well, its location, in the heart of our democracy speaks volumes about its importance. The building itself, a historic site, talks about local government’s deep roots in our society. And the building’s modern new interior speaks of a sector that is fit for and looking to the future.

There are challenges in that future, yes. But there are opportunities too. Opportunities that we will only be able to make the most of by working together. By listening to each other. And I’m confident that, by working together, we can deliver reforms to the financial system that work for national government, for local government and – most important of all – for the millions of people we all seek to serve.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to Federation of Master Builders

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government in the Houses of Parliament in London, on 11 December 2017.

Good evening everyone, it’s great to see so many familiar faces and it’s a real pleasure to have you all here in Parliament.

As you know, the Palace of Westminster is beginning to show it’s age, we really do need to get the builders in.

I’m pretty sure I saw some of you pricing the job up on the way here!

And if you want to send your quotes to the Speaker, tell him Sajid sent you!

You are all, literally, master builders.

The FMB does great work in recognising that, certifying it.

Raising and maintaining standards.

And of course providing clients with the reassurance they need.

It’s a vital task.

After all, none of us are immune from the kind of shoddy workmanship the FMB protects against.

Even Winston Churchill.

When he was Prime Minister he complained that 10 Downing Street was, and I quote, “shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name the street bears”.

Today, of course, the centre of government is strong and stable!

Although I’m sure John will take issue with that!

I want to start this evening by saying thank you to everyone in this room who helped us do something amazing last year.

217,000 net additions to the housing supply. The highest level in a decade, and an increase of 70% on what was achieved in 2009/10.

There’s still a long, long way to go but thanks to your hard work we’re certainly heading in the right direction.

Almost 40,000 of those net additions came about from change of use, including taking spaces above shops and turning them into homes.

This government has, quite rightly, put a lot of time and effort into regenerating high streets and strengthening local economies.

That has generally focussed on the retail side of things, but as the report you’re publishing today shows there is no reason why commercial and residential cannot coexist happily together.

I grew up in the flat above the family shop, so I’ve seen for myself how it can work not just in theory but in practice too.

That’s why last month’s Budget set out plans to make it easier to create quality homes in empty spaces above high street shops. And tonight is the first time I’ve heard John back the Budget, so well done to FMB for their lobbying!

So, Homes on our High Streets isn’t just a fascinating report, it’s also very timely contribution to the debate.

It puts forward some very interesting ideas and proposals; I was going through a draft this weekend.

And we’ll be looking at it very closely to see how it can help us to fix this country’s broken housing market.

Let me also take the time to thank Mark Prisk for all the work he has done, and for being the genesis of this report.

To do that, to fix the market, we’re going to have to create at least 300,000 homes each year.

And small and medium-sized builders are going to have big role to play in making that happen.

Our housing white paper was very clear on this.

Ever since the recession, the market has been dominated by a handful of very large developers.

It used to be the case that more than 60% of new homes were delivered by small firms.

Today the figure is half that, and that’s a tragedy.

I want to turn that around, to see more of you building more homes.

And we’re backing that with more funding – an additional £1.5 billion of short-term loan finance for SMEs, custom builders and innovators announced in the Budget.

We’re doing this because smaller firms are skilled at developing small sites, great at building out quickly, and have a strong track record of innovation.

And you also put a great premium on standards.

On quality.

When my dad was running his shop he had to make sure the clothes he was selling were of the highest quality…

…because he was selling them to the local community, to people he’d see every day.

And it’s the same for SME builders.

When you operate locally, your reputation is just as important as the work that you do.

That’s why membership of the FMB is such a badge of honour, it shows that you’re only happy with the best.

And it’s not just the quality of work that matters.

Quality of design is crucial too.

That’s not just my opinion – it’s something the great British public agrees with.

You know as well as I do that getting local communities onside is crucial to getting planning permission.

Well, almost three-quarters of people say they would support the building of more homes in their area if they were well-designed and in keeping with the local style.

People don’t like looking at identikt red-roofed boxes that could be basically anywhere in the country.

And nor should they.

Just because we need to build more homes it doesn’t mean we need to build ugly homes. Last month I was looking at RIBA’s House of the Year.

Make no mistake, the winner was undoubtedly a stunning piece of architecture.

But I’m not sure your average new-build 3-bed home has space for an art gallery, performance area and 27,000 fruit trees!

Good design doesn’t have to mean Grand Designs.

To be beautiful, to win that local support, new homes don’t have to make bold statements.

They just need to be an appropriate addition, something that local people want to live in and live next door to.

Last week we invited bids for our new fund that will help local authorities plan for growth and improve design.

But I want to go further.

So, in the spring, we will be working with the sector and with local government to host a national housing design conference.

It will be a showcase for ideas, insights and best practice from across the country and across the world, kicking off a real debate about how we can raise the design bar for everyone.

But I want you to be building houses that are worthy of your skills as master builders.

And this conference will go a long way to help making that happen.

As I said, there is still much to be done.

Still a long way to go to fix our broken housing market.

But with the FMB’s support, with your commitment to quality and innovation, I know that we can get there.

And I’m looking forward to making that journey with you.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to County Councils Network Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the County Councils Network Conference on 20 November 2017.

Good afternoon everyone, many thanks to Paul [Carter] for that kind introduction.

And thank you also for everything you’ve done as Chairman of the CCN.

You’ve shown tireless leadership and endless enthusiasm for the task, and it has been a real pleasure working with you.

The last time I spoke at a major local government conference, it was the LGA’s one back in the summer.

And I think it’s fair to say the reception was a little mixed.

Views were diverse.

Some said it went down like a bucket of cold sick.

Others disagreed – they liked it even less!

I know you’ve had a great day today.

I’ve been looking at the agenda and it looks like a brilliant programme.

I’m sorry I’m not able to join you for this evening’s festivities.

Sadly I’ve got to rush back for votes, which is a shame as I see Gyles Brandreth is tonight’s after-dinner speaker.

He’s certainly worth sticking around for.

I’m sure you all know that Gyles used to be a Conservative MP, from 1992 to 1997.

A very different time, when a minority government was beset with sleaze allegations and facing divisions over Europe…

Less well-known is the fact that, in 1978, Gyles was European Champion at the board game Monopoly.

True story.

So he certainly knows how to get houses built.

And in central London too, not on the green belt!

It’s a pleasure to be here in lovely Marlow, on the edge of the Chiltern Hills.

It’s a very historic town.

Mary Shelly lived just down the road when she was writing Frankenstein.

The story of a well-meaning individual who wants to do the right thing but ends up unleashing a monster.

Kind of like me with that LGA speech, actually…

With so much focus on the outcome of June’s General Election, a lot of people seem to have forgotten about May’s county polls.

Well, a lot of people outside this room, anyway!

Congratulations to everyone here who got elected or re-elected.

Paul, for example, he won 66% of the votes in his ward and leads a group that holds more than 80% of the seats in Kent.

80%!

I think it’s fair to say us Conservative MPs are a little envious!

I know it’s not easy to ask your fellow residents to judge you, put their faith in you, vote for you.

I’ve done it 3 times myself now and it’s certainly a humbling experience.

But a great many men and women did just that back in May, with thousands winning the backing of their local communities and proudly taking their seats on county councils.

In the weeks before the vote I travelled the whole country, talking with and listening to county councillors, candidates, officials and residents and hearing about what really mattered to them.

I often talk about councillors as being on the frontline of democracy and my tour of the counties really reinforced that.

What you do matters.

The decisions you make matter.

The people you serve rely on you to get things right. Time and again – you deliver for them.

You don’t do it for fame or riches.

You certainly don’t do it for an easy life.

You do it because you want to make a difference.

Because you want to make life better for the people of your counties.

You represent the very best aspects of public service and of British life.

And it’s an honour, an absolute honour, to represent you as Secretary of State.

The topics being debated here today and tomorrow show just how important our county councils are.

Social care, children’s services, transport, jobs and more.

These are the building blocks of daily life, relied on by millions of people.

And of course the thread that runs through all of them is the thread that runs through all of politics and government.

The thread alluded to by my Labour Shadow just a few minutes ago.

Funding.

I know that I could stand here all night and make any number of announcements and pronouncements and promises…

…and you’d all nod along politely and then say “that’s great, Saj, now show me the money”.

With the Budget happening on Wednesday and the local government finance settlement to come, it wouldn’t be right for me to get into specifics right now.

But, whatever the Budget brings, whatever the finance settlement brings, I remain totally committed to speaking up for the needs of local government.

Twelve months ago I stood in front of you and promised to fight for county councils in the year ahead.

To speak for you, lobby for you and be an advocate for you at the Cabinet table and beyond.

Twelve months on, that’s a promise I’ve worked hard to keep.

Over the past year, Marcus Jones and I have never stopped fighting to secure finance agreements that work for everyone.

For Whitehall, for the counties, and above all for the people we all serve.

That’s why we announced an extension of the business rates retention pilots.

That’s why we secured sizeable amounts of fresh funding for adult social care and just last week announced plans for a new green paper.

And that’s why we’re continuing to push ahead with our work on Fair Funding.

I recognise this is still a difficult financial climate. I know the pressures that you face, particularly with respect to adult and children’s social care.

I’m also not naïve enough to think there’s a single magic bullet that will instantly solve all of the issues you face.

I’d advise you to raise a sceptical eyebrow at anyone who claims to have one.

I’m interested in the long-term, not the quick fix.

Sustainable change, not an easy win.

And that’s why I will keep working with you to better understand these challenges so I can continue to fight your corner.

With many of your councils dating back to Victorian times, it’s easy to characterise counties as the dusty old relatives of the local government world…

…especially when compared with the shiny new unitaries, combined authorities and so on.

But that stereotype couldn’t be more wrong.

Because this is an exciting time for anyone involved with county councils.

A time of new opportunities, new roles, new ways to better serve the people you represent.

I know that in some corners of local government there’s still this outdated attitude that says councils should stay in their lane.

“We’re responsible for this, the districts are responsible for that and never the twain shall meet”.

You don’t need me to tell you that such thinking is woefully out of date.

The future – not to mention the present – is all about joined-up thinking, working together strategically to get things done.

Look at housing, the single biggest challenge of our age.

Most counties are not planning authorities, directly responsible for delivering homes.

But you’re all responsible for transport.

For schools.

For roads.

For creating an environment in which homes can be built, in which communities can be created.

I know that tomorrow you’re going to hear from Ed Lister about the role of counties in getting homes built.

And it’s great that you’re discussing it, because the only way we will build the homes this country needs is if we all roll up our sleeves and do our bit.

There are also opportunities for closer working across county lines.

There was a time when most peoples’ lives extended no further than a day’s walk from their home, but such days are far behind us.

In 21st century Britain, people are mobile.

Their work is mobile, their lives are mobile.

They are not constrained by lines on a map, and nor should you be.

No man is an island and – with a handful of literal exceptions – no council is either.

All local authorities are intrinsically linked with their neighbours on issues such as transport, housing and the economy…

…even the Isle of Wight with its links to Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton.

Earlier this month I was in China, where interest in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine was pronounced because potential investors want to look at opportunities on a regional level, not just individual towns, cities and counties.

That’s why strategic co-operation between councils has never been so important.

Sometimes that will be an informal process, sometimes more official.

We already see a great many Local Enterprise Partnerships crossing local authority lines, recognising the flows of people and money in the modern economy and the need for strategic decision-making.

And of course combined authorities, with a directly elected mayor, are already delivering results right across the country.

Up to now relatively few county councils have been involved in devolution deals.

Devolution has been seen as something for the big cities, the metropolitan centres.

This government remains absolutely committed to the devolution agenda, but I see no reason why its benefits should be limited to the cities.

That’s particularly important given our Industrial Strategy, which is built around the goal of sharing the benefits of growth right across the country – north and south, urban and rural, cities and counties.

Devolution and localism, for me, is all about making decisions at the most appropriate level.

Some things, matters of national importance, will always be best decided at Westminster.

But for everything else, there are all kinds of opportunities to redistribute power in all kinds of ways.

Just look at Transport for the North, set to become a statutory body in the spring, and recognising the benefits of looking at transport on a regional level.

What does this mean for counties?

Well, if you have an idea for making local government work better, one that serves the interests of local people, then please come and tell me about it.

If local people want it, if local businesses want it, I’ll do what I can to help you make it happen.

And that could include non-mayoral combined authorities in, for example, rural areas where a single figurehead isn’t necessarily suitable.

To help with that process we’re looking at how to design a devolution framework.

As promised in our election manifesto it will be a common set of guidelines.

Rules that everyone plays by, so that everyone involved in the process…

…local authorities, businesses, residents…

…knows where they stand and what is expected of them.

Work is still in the early stages – and I’d welcome your support in shaping the final product.

But I want a framework that, above all else, provides clarity and consistency about what a successful devolution agreement looks like.

What standards will need to be met, what outcomes will need delivered, what red lines there are for the whole process.

Expectations about leadership, scope and levels of local support.

With a clear position on how devolution negotiations should proceed, authorities at all levels will much better placed to develop and put forward proposals that suit the unique needs of their residents and businesses.

It will help ensure that the right decisions are made at the right levels, so that local people get the services they deserve.

Of course, devolution and combined authorities aren’t the only changes that counties are talking about right now.

I’ve now received two proposals setting out competing visions for the future of Buckinghamshire – whether that should be as one unitary or two.

These show councils at their best – ambitious, innovative, and ready to come forward with exciting ideas for the future.

We’re now going through both sets of plans very closely and will be making an announcement on next steps as soon as we can.

And, earlier this month, I announced that I’m minded to support the plan for a pair of unitary authorities in Dorset.

I know that’s a decision that was welcomed by the CCN, it’s great to be on the same page as you.

But, more importantly for me, it’s a decision that was also supported by two-thirds of Dorset residents.

By the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership.

By the vast majority of local businesses.

By 6 of the 9 local councils.

By most of the county’s MPs.

I’ve always been clear that any change to council structures should not be dreamed up or imposed by Whitehall, but led by local councils and local people.

And that’s exactly what we’ve seen in Dorset.

Yes, some people disagree with the move.

That’s what happens in a democracy.

And that’s why, when I announced that I was minded to support the change, I made it very clear that further steps are needed to try to secure local consent before a final decision is made.

Last year I told you that I wasn’t going to force all of you to go unitary.

That’s still very much the case.

But if councils want to come to me with proposals that will improve local government, improve public services, and give better value to local taxpayers…

My door is always open.

And if, as in Dorset, those plans are built on a foundation of local support, it will make any decision I have to make a great deal easier!

Speaking of councils coming to me with ideas, let me take this opportunity to thank the CCN and Respublica for the fascinating report you’ve just published.

At a time when opportunities and challenges are plenty, it’s great to see you proactively looking at innovative ways of dealing with them.

In Budget week in particular, it’s very easy for politicians who aren’t in power to offer blank cheques they know will never be cashed and empty promises they know will never be kept.

Actually coming up with workable, practical ideas is much harder.

So this report is a welcome addition to the debate.

It certainly provides food for thought, and my team and I will be looking at it closely.

And I’ll also be asking Paul to sign a copy so I can give it to Marcus Jones in the Secret Santa next month!

All ministers have annual fixtures in their speaking diaries – the CCN conference is one such example.

But, because I’ve run 3 departments in less than 4 years, this conference today is actually the first time I’ve managed to speak an annual event 2 years in a row!

I think it’s fitting that the CCN is where I break that particular duck.

Because local government is very, very important to me.

I talk about housing a lot, everyone knows it’s my number one priority, but that doesn’t mean I’m not full of admiration for what you do.

So it’s great that I’m able to come back year after year to build relationships, reflect on progress, and work together on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

That’s why, rather than talking at you for an hour, I’m going to give over the rest of this slot to Q&A.

I want to hear your views, your concerns, your ideas.

I want a conversation with local government, not a lecture.

County councils have roots that go back through the centuries.

They are a significant part of this country’s history.

They play a vital role in its present.

And, when I look around this room, I see no shortage of ambition for the future.

I’m looking forward to working with all of you to turn that ambition into results.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech on the Housing Market

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, on 16 November 2017.

Thank you, and good morning everyone.

Half an hour ago, the official figures were published showing that the number of new homes in England increased by more than 217,000 last year.

That represents the highest level of net additions since the depths of the recession, and it’s the first time in almost a decade that the 200,000 milestone has been reached.

Yesterday, the Housing Minister Alok Sharma, he signed the papers that will allow housing associations to be reclassified as private sector organisations.

Freed from the shackles of public sector bureaucracy, associations will be able to concentrate on their core, crucial mission – building homes.

Later this morning, the Prime Minister will be in north London meeting with families living in new, high-quality social housing.

They’re just some of the families to benefit from last year’s 27% rise in the number of new affordable homes.

And they’ll soon be joined by many more thanks to the £9 billion that we’re investing in affordable housing.

Now, all that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Because this is a government that is getting things done.

A government of deeds, not words.

We’ve doubled the housing budget to deliver a million more homes, including hundreds of thousands of affordable ones.

We have reformed planning rules, leading to record levels of planning permissions being granted.

We have fought bureaucratic inertia and vested interests and we have freed up unprecedented levels of public sector land.

We’re providing hundreds of millions of pounds of finance for small and innovative builders to accelerate construction speeds.

And tens of thousands of derelict homes are being brought back into use…

The list goes on and on.

So yes, we’ve done a lot.

Yet it is painfully obvious that there remains much, much more to be done.

217,000 net additions means 217,000 more people or families with a roof over their heads.

217,000 places where people can put down roots and build their life.

But fixing the broken housing market will require a much larger effort.

The figures that have been released today show that we have started turning things around.

But they are only a small step in the right direction.

What we need now is a giant leap.

You wouldn’t know it if you listened to some people.

Even today, I still hear from those who say that there isn’t a problem with housing in this country.

That we don’t need to build more.

That affordability is only a problem for Millennials that spend too much on nights out and smashed avocados.

It’s nonsense.

The people who tell me this – usually baby boomers who have long-since paid off their own mortgage – they are living in a different world.

They’re not facing up to the reality of modern daily life and have no understanding of the modern market.

The statistics are well-worn but they do bear repeating.

Nationwide, the average house price is now 8 times the average income.

The average age of a first-time buyer is now 32.

People in their early 30s are half as likely as their parents were to own their home.

A third of all men in their 30s are still living with their parents – a stat that will send a shiver down the spine of all mums and dads everywhere!

Where once it would have taken an average couple 3 years to save for a deposit – 3 years – it will now take a quarter of a century. Assuming, of course, they can afford to save at all.

And last year, the average first-time buyer in London needed a deposit – a deposit – of more than £90,000.

£90,000!

That’s a lot of avocados.

Now, like some kind of noxious oil slick, the effects of our broken housing market are spreading slowly but steadily through all our communities and all demographics.

And if we fail to take decisive action, the impact will be not just be felt by those who are directly touched by it.

And that’s because your home is so much more than just the roof over your head.

It’s not the backdrop to your life, it’s a fundamental part of it – and of society too.

Our home is supposed to be our anchor, our little patch of certainty in an uncertain world.

And once you have that certainty, that stability, then you can start to put down roots.

Start making friends.

Become part of your community.

You can begin to play your role in those Burkean “little platoons” that have long been at the heart of much political thinking, for 2 centuries or more.

So our homes are engines of society, and they’re also engines of social progress.

In purely fiscal terms, yes, but in so many other ways.

A safe place where children can do their homework, spend time with their parents.

It’s much, much harder to get on life if you’re constantly forced to move from school to school, from place to place because your parents can not afford the rent.

And homes are the rocks on which families and communities are built.

If, like me, you believe in the importance of a strong, stable family unit, if you got into politics to help protect it, then you must also accept that homes should be made available.

You simply must.

At the heart of British life – is the idea that if you work hard you are free to enjoy the rewards.

It’s an idea that has been articulated by countless politicians over many generations.

But it’s an idea that is fundamentally undermined by our broken housing market.

Because working hard no longer guarantees rewards.

There is no guarantee that you will be able to afford a place of your own, to buy your own home, build your own life, pass something on to your children.

With wages swallowed up by spiralling rents, there’s not even a guarantee that you’ll be free to spend your money on what you choose.

Opportunity is increasingly limited not by your own talents but by your ability to make a withdrawal from the Bank of Mum and Dad.

The generation crying out for help with housing is not over-entitled.

They don’t want the world handed to them on a plate.

They want simple fairness, moral justice, the opportunity to play by the same rules enjoyed by those who came before them.

Without affordable, secure, safe housing we risk creating a rootless generation, drifting from one short-term tenancy to the next, never staying long enough to play a real role in their community.

We risk creating a generation who, in maybe 40 or 50 years, reaches retirement with no property to call their own, and pension pots that have not been filled because so much of their income has gone on rent.

A generation that, without any capital of its own, becomes resentful of capitalism and capitalists.

And we risk creating a generation that turns its back on the politicians who failed them.

A generation that believes we don’t care.

We must fix the broken housing market, and we must fix it now.

Tomorrow will be too late.

February’s white paper, that set out our broad vision for doing so.

It described the scale of the challenge and the need for action on many fronts.

Since then we’ve been putting it into action, laying the foundations for hundreds of thousands of new homes.

But I’m about as far from complacent as it’s possible to get.

So I’m not about to let myself – or anyone – think that the battle is already won.

I’m going to keep on pushing for much more change, keep on seeking answers to the questions that need to be asked.

Can and should central government take a bigger, more active role in building homes?

Our vision for Garden Villages and Garden Towns have been well received by planners and residents alike.

But should we now be more bold, taking the concept to the next level and creating larger Garden Cities?

How can we get more land into the system, freeing up more sites on which to build?

Despite what some claim, our green and pleasant land not about to turn concrete grey.

Twice a day, more of Britain gets covered by the incoming tide than is currently covered by buildings.

England is the most developed part of the UK, yet less than 10% of its land is urban.

Building the homes that we need does not mean ruining vast tracts of beautiful countryside. It doesn’t mean that at all.

It just means working with local communities to make sensible, informed decisions about what needs to be built and where – and finding the right sites on which to do so.

Many of those sites are already part of the urban landscape.

Bristol was quick to sign up to the pilot scheme that we set up for a Brownfield Register.

As a result, another 248 sites have been identified right across this city.

And none of them require the loss of a single piece of greenfield land.

But whether in cities or the countryside, the key to unlocking new sites is infrastructure.

The right infrastructure can make private development viable.

It can make new communities places where people actually want to live.

And it can make development acceptable and attractive to existing communities.

Tomorrow, the National Infrastructure Commission will publish its report on the opportunities on offer if we open up the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor.

I’m very much looking forward to what Lord Adonis has to say.

That’s because infrastructure has to be at the heart of any major development. And as Secretary of State I will make sure make sure that it is.

Too many commentators seem to think we have to choose one solution and stick with it, whether that’s planning reform, it’s infrastructure, it’s training or it’s investment.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are many, many faults in our housing market, dating back many, many years.

If you only fix one, yes you’ll make some progress, sure enough.

But this is a big problem and we have to think big.

We can’t allow ourselves to be pulled into one silo or another, and I don’t intend to let that happen.

So there is much that central government can do.

But, acting alone, we won’t be able to do anything.

Fixing the broken market requires action on many fronts, and from many actors.

That’s why we’re here today.

I never need an excuse to come back to Bristol, the city where I grew up, my home town.

Being here this morning means I can visit my mum’s in time for lunch!

She makes the best lamb samosas this side of Lahore!

But this city – and the site we’re on today, Temple Meads Quarter – is also a great example of how different agencies and different groups of people can work together to deliver the homes we need.

When I was a kid, the Temple Meads area was a picture of decline – neglected, run-down, under-used.

The sorting office building had stood empty and increasingly derelict since 1997.

Today, the whole area is being reborn as a new urban hub, a modern and sustainable place to work, to learn, to play and to live.

Appropriately enough, the list of business tenants includes HAB, the innovative housing start-up co-founded by Kevin McCloud.

They’re just down the road at Temple Studios.

We’re building homes for businesses, so that businesses can build homes for us!

The transformation of Temple Meads has many parents, but at its core is a local authority that’s pro-development and a government agency – the Homes and Communities Agency – that’s willing to use all of the powers at its disposal.

Now you couple that with a Local Enterprise Partnership that’s serious about building, a combined authority that’s committed to delivering the right infrastructure, can-do attitude from the superb West of England Mayor Tim Bowles, and a private sector that’s ready to meet the challenge… The results, they speak for themselves.

This kind of collaboration brings results, and I want to see these kind of results replicated right across the country.

And that means a huge range of different groups working together to tackle the many faces of the housing challenge.

For starters, I want the Homes and Communities Agency to be less cautious, to be more aggressive, and to be more muscular.

To take its foot off the brake and use all the tools we’ve created for it.

The agency is taking that approach here at Temple Meads, and the results are clear for us to see.

Now it’s time to repeat that success right across the country.

The private sector developers must also play their part, building more homes more quickly.

They’re great at securing planning permissions – but people can’t live in planning permissions.

The government is actively removing barriers to build-out.

As the white paper said, we’re tackling unnecessary delays caused by planning conditions.

We’re making the process of dealing with protected species less painful.

And we’re committed to tackling the skills shortage and boosting the construction workforce.

We’re giving the industry the support that it needs, and I expect the industry to respond by getting shovels in the ground.

That’s why the white paper also set out plans to increase transparency and accountability, so everyone can see if a developer is dragging its feet.

Now, I’ve been very clear about the need for an end to unjustifiable land banking.

But the sector should remember that it’s not just government that wants to see this happen.

It’s a time of national shortage, and in this kind of time British people will not look kindly on anyone who hoards land and speculates on its value, rather than freeing it up for the homes our children and grandchildren need.

Then there are the housing associations.

I’ve talked before about my admiration for the work they do.

They kept on building throughout the recession.

They’re on course to deliver 65,000 new homes a year by next year.

And many of those homes will go to be people who would otherwise be simply unable to afford them.

Housing associations are run like big businesses – after all, they have assets worth about £140 billion.

But they deliver an incredible social good, providing good quality homes for millions of people right across the country.

They have such an important role to play in getting homes built, which is why this government has not hesitated to give them the resources they need to succeed.

Just in the past month or so we’ve given them certainty over rental income and increased by £2 billion the fund from which they can bid for cash to build homes for social rent.

And today, as I said at the start of this speech, we’re reclassifying housing associations, taking them out of the public sector and off the government’s balance sheet.

I know it sounds like a piece of bureaucratic box-ticking.

But the results will be far-reaching.

Freed from the distractions of the public sector, housing associations will be able to concentrate on developing innovative ways of doing their business, which is what matters most: building more homes.

Finally there is the most important cog in the housing and planning machine, local government.

Some councils – most in fact – are doing very well.

Where that’s the case, where councils are showing real drive and ambition, the government will back them every step of the way, including with the kind of housing deal we’re negotiating here in the West of England.

And in the areas where supply and demand are most badly mismatched, where most homes are unaffordable to most people, I want to give local authorities the tools they need to build more – and that includes financial help.

I want to help local authorities because most of them deserve that help.

They’re recognising their responsibilities and they’re stepping up to meet them.

But too many still leave much to be desired.

It’s more than 13 years since our existing local plan process was first introduced, letting England’s 338 planning authorities set our how and where they expect to meet their residents’ needs for new homes.

Yet, incredibly, more than 70 still haven’t managed to get a plan adopted.

Of these, 15 are showing particular cause for concern.

Deadlines have been missed, promises have been broken, progress has been unacceptably slow.

No plan means no certainty for local people.

It means piecemeal speculative development with no strategic direction, building on sites simply because they are there rather than because homes are needed on them.

It means no coherent effort to invest in infrastructure.

It means developers building the homes they want to sell rather than the homes communities actually need.

And so on.

It’s very simple: unplanned development will not fix our broken housing market.

It will most likely make things worse.

I do believe in localism above all else, which is why I’ve been willing to tolerate those who took their time to get the process moving.

What mattered most was that they got there in the end.

But today is the day that my patience has run out.

Those 15 authorities have left me with no choice but to start the formal process of intervention that we set out in the white paper.

By failing to plan, they have failed the people they are meant to serve.

The people of this country who are crying out for good quality, well-planned housing in the right places, supported by the right infrastructure.

They deserve better, and by stepping in now I’m doing all I can to ensure that they receive it.

To the other authorities who are lagging behind, don’t think for one minute that you’ve got away with it.

That you can ignore agreed deadlines or refuse to co-operate with your neighbours.

Get your plan written.

Get your plan adopted.

I’ve shown today that I will take action if this doesn’t happen.

I will not hesitate to do so again.

I’ve talked a lot today about housing supply.

After all, building more is the single biggest challenge that we face.

But this government’s housing policy goes way beyond that.

Our homes and our lives are completely intertwined, which is why we’re determined to make the housing market work better at every stage of your life.

We’re building more houses so that you don’t have to spend your childhood crammed into the kind of overcrowded accommodation I grew up in.

We’re making the rental market fairer, more transparent and more affordable, so that when the time is right and you can leave home you can get a place of your own without being ripped off.

We’re introducing longer tenancies, so you can plan ahead, put down roots, and you can start saving for that deposit.

We’re creating a supply of affordable, appropriate homes for first-time buyers so that, when you’re ready, you can get a foot on the housing ladder in the same way your parents did.

And we’re helping you take the step up to buy your own home by putting billions of pounds into schemes like Help to Buy.

We’re tackling rogue managing agents who hit leaseholders and tenants with unfair charges.

And we’ve launched a crackdown on abuse of leasehold so that desperate young buyers don’t get stuck with a costly, unsellable asset.

We’re reforming the whole process of buying and selling homes, so that as your family grows and your needs change you can move up the property ladder with the minimum of stress and expense.

We’re making sure that developers offer a proper supply of suitable smaller homes so that you downsize once you get older.

And we’re encouraging the construction of more sheltered and supported housing, so that the right kind of homes are there for you in your old age.

Faced with the crisis of the Second World War, Churchill demanded “action this day” so the country could rise to the challenge.

And, faced with an unprecedented housing crisis, that’s what you’re going to get from this government.

Real action, day after day, week after week, to give this country a housing market that works for everyone.

In next week’s Budget you’ll see just how seriously we take this challenge, just how hard we’re willing to fight to get Britain building.

But, as I’ve said, central government can only do so much.

If we’re going to fix our broken housing market, if we’re going to repair the damage that’s being done to our society and communities, if we’re going to make good on our promise to the next generation then, just like in Churchill’s day, we all have a role to play.

We all have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Most important of all, we all have to ask ourselves what kind of country we want this to be.

Do we want this to be a nation where people who work hard can afford a place of their own?

Where strong families are raised in stable, close-knit communities?

Where ordinary working people can save for retirement and pass something on to their children?

I know I do.

That’s why I’m totally committed to building more of the right homes in the right places at the right prices.

So is the Prime Minister.

So is the Chancellor.

So is this government.

It’s a national crisis and it’s one we’re ready to meet.

The question is, are you ready to join us?

Sajid Javid – 2017 Statement on Dorset and Suffolk Local Government

Below is the text of the statement made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 7 November 2017.

I should like to make a statement on local government improvement.

Local government in Dorset

I am announcing today that, having carefully considered all the material and representations I have received, I am “minded to” implement the locally led proposal for improving local government in Dorset. This was submitted to me in February 2017. In the Dorset area, there are currently two small unitary councils—created in the 1990s—of Bournemouth and of Poole. They are surrounded by a two-tier structure of Dorset County Council and the district councils of Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland.

I am satisfied on the basis of the information currently available to me that this proposal if implemented is likely to improve local government across the area, establishing two new councils with a credible geography, and which would command local support. The existing nine councils will be replaced by a single council for the areas of Bournemouth, Poole, and that part of the county of Dorset currently comprising the borough of Christchurch, and by a single council for the remainder of the current county area.

I understand that all the councils in the area are already working together in joint implementation committees. However, further steps are needed to secure local consent, and I hope this announcement will facilitate the necessary discussions to conclude this.

Before I take my final decision, there is now a period until 8 January 2018 during which those interested may make further representations to me, including that if the proposal is implemented it is with suggested modifications. It is also open to any council in the area to come forward with an alternative proposal. The final decision would also be subject to parliamentary approval.

Once I have made my final decision on the Dorset proposal, I will also decide whether to implement, subject to parliamentary approval, Dorset councils’ ​proposal for a combined authority to facilitate collaboration on certain matters between whatever councils are to be in place in Dorset.

Local government in Suffolk

I am also announcing today that having carefully considered all the material and representations I have received, I am “minded to” implement the locally led proposal I received from Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils in February 2017 to merge their two respective councils to become a single, new district council.

I have reached this decision on the basis that I consider:

the proposal is likely to improve local government in the area (by improving service delivery, giving greater value for money, yielding cost savings, providing stronger strategic and local leadership, and/or delivering more sustainable structures);

the proposal commands local support, in particular that the merger is proposed by all councils which are to be merged and there is evidence of a good deal of local support; and

the proposed merged area is a credible geography, consisting of two or more existing local government areas that are adjacent, and which, if established, would not pose an obstacle to locally led proposals for authorities to combine to serve their communities better and would facilitate joint working between local authorities.

I intend to assess any further locally led merger proposals that I receive against these criteria.

Before I take my final decision on this proposed merger there is now a period until 8 January 2018 during which those interested may make further representations to me, including that if the proposal is implemented it is with suggested modifications. The final decision would also be subject to parliamentary approval.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech at Urban Tech Summit

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, at the Urban Tech Summit on 6 November 2017.

Thank you Dan, and thank you all for joining us today.

It’s always good to be here in the West Midlands.

Yesterday one of my kids saw that I was speaking at The Custard Factory and I think she thought it would be some kind of Willy Wonka wonderland.

She wanted to bunk off school, stow away in the car…

I think she’d be the only person here today who was disappointed with what she saw and heard!

This is a great event with some great people, and it’s a really timely event too.

Because we’re living through a period of enormous change.

The most obvious sphere in which that’s happening is technology.

Now, before I go any further, I know that a politician talking about the digital world can all too easily find themselves wading into dangerous waters!

I remember when I ran the DCMS, one person told me that every time an MP says “coding”, a programmer dies a little inside…

So I’m not going to stand here today and read a script that lets me pretend I’m some kind of digital guru.

I won’t be talking about the finer points of conversion rate optimisation or hybrid cloud brokerage!

But even to the layman it’s obvious that the technology we use day to day, hardware and software, has transformed beyond all recognition in the past 10 or 20 years.

And that has had a massive impact on the way we live our lives, in all kinds of different ways.

To take one, very small, example: when I was growing up in Bristol, if I was a naughty boy and my parents wanted to punish me, they’d take my cricket bat away.

Say I couldn’t go outside and play.

Today, I’ve got 4 children of my own.

And if one of them misbehaves, the most effective punishment I have is to change the password on the wifi!

Some say that’s excessively cruel.

I say it gets results.

It’s just one example of how the way we live our lives is being shaped and changed by the tools that are available to us.

So technology is changing.

The way we live is changing.

And our expectations about all kinds of things, from shopping to public services, they’re changing too.

Anyone who’s older than about 35 will feel a twinge of nostalgia about the phrase “allow 28 days for delivery”.

But today, in 2017, it comes as a bit of a shock when you reach the point where you have to print something off, put it in an envelope, stick it in the post and then sit back and wait for a response.

We expect services to be online, to be accessible, to be instant.

Technology has changed, lifestyles have changed, expectations have changed.

But that alone is not news, certainly not to people like you.

What gives this event its importance, its topicality, is that we’re also in the midst of exciting times for local democracy.

Just look at one of our hosts here today, the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The government is absolutely committed to localism, to putting power back in the hands of towns, cities and communities.

And one of the ways we’re doing that is through the creation of combined authorities with elected mayors like Andy Street

I know you’ll have the chance to hear from Andy in an hour or so.

That’s an opportunity not to be missed, because he really is doing incredible work here in the West Midlands, serving as a real champion for the region and showing just what combined authority is capable of.

Combined authorities are all about bringing communities together, breaking down bureaucratic barriers, joining up people and areas that have common interests – much as the internet does, in fact.

They’re a great step forward for localism, for devolution and for local government itself.

And their arrival is not the only change.

We’re also seeing increasing interest in the use of unitary status.

We’re seeing smaller councils at parish and town level taking on greater responsibility for local services.

We’ve got Local Enterprise Partnerships, police and crime commissioners, the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine…

It’s an unprecedented growth in local democracy.

And that nexus of change – in technology, in lifestyle, in government – is where we find ourselves meeting today.

It’s home to incredible range of opportunities for the public and private sector, for councils of all shapes and sizes, for SMEs and big-name companies.

The good, the bad and the ugly

As you’ll see today there are some examples of councils doing great work in this area.

Later on Andy will be setting out his ambitions for the West Midlands.

I know Camden has also being blazing a trail and that you’ll be hearing from Theo Blackwell about that a little later.

It’s certainly no surprise that he has been poached by the Mayor of London!

Manchester and Essex are both taking serious action to get data-led change.

Networks like LocalGovDigital are helping people come together to share ideas, insights and innovations.

And adoption of the local digital service standard is providing common expectations around transformation.

Up and down the country there are examples of small but effective digital innovations that really meet local needs.

In fact, on the surface, things are pretty impressive.

Most councils now take online payments.

I saw a stat the other day that said most contact between residents and councils now takes place online.

That’s great.

But peek behind the curtain and the situation starts to look a little less rosy.

Because once all that data has been received thanks to online contact, half of all councils are manually re-keying more than 50% of it.

Think about what that means.

Residents are dutifully providing councils with the data they ask for in the format they request it, and the councils are then employing an army of bureaucrats to type it in all over again.

Much of that data is then stored in siloed server stacks tucked away in the basement, with no sharing or joined-up analysis to improve the way councils work.

Want to study the way services interact, or understand how and why different people access multiple services?

Tough, you can’t!

Even simple transactional services like applications for school places or residents’ parking permits leave a lot to be desired.

Councils are too often trying to run modern services on outdated legacy systems, with results that are painful enough for public servants, never mind citizens

There are more than 350 full councils in England, and literally thousands more at the parish and town level.

And although they’re all delivering the same services within the same rules, when it comes to digital they’re all too often working to their own standards and doing their own thing.

All planning authorities have to handle planning applications, yet there’s almost no standardization of how these are handled and presented online.

Finding details of a specific development without knowing which local authority is responsible is all but impossible.

It’s not uncommon for one household to receive services from 3 different authorities – parish, district and county.

In such cases the public don’t care and often don’t know which tier of local government, is responsible, as far as they’re concerned it’s just “the council”.

Yet if they want to engage, enquire or even just read up on what’s happening, they’ll be faced with 3 different websites, often poorly linked and poorly signposted.

A couple of years ago we introduced new transparency rules for the smallest councils, ensuring that information about how and what they spent money on was available online.

And we quickly found that some bottom-tier authorities had sites that – if they existed at all – looked like they’d been produced in GeoCities.

I know there’s more to digital services than the cosmetic.

But if your technology still looks like it did a decade or more ago, the chances are your underlying systems aren’t up to speed and the way you use technology is stuck in the past.

There’s a similar transparency code for larger councils, asking them to make data available online in an easily accessible format.

To say compliance is patchy would be something of an understatement.

This is not all the result of willful neglect.

Rather, it’s symptomatic of a system that, instead of being planned, has grown up organically over time.

If you were starting with a blank sheet of paper you certainly wouldn’t design it this way.

But it’s what we have, and incentives to do anything about it are sorely lacking.

The lack of consumer power certainly doesn’t help here.

If you don’t like the service levels provided by one online retailer, you can always take your money elsewhere. But you can’t choose to pay council tax to a different local authority.

You have to take what they give you.

And of course your council doesn’t face competition from other providers of local democracy, so there’s little incentive for them to invest time and money in doing things better.

The opportunities on offer

But do better we must, because the opportunities are enormous.

Nesta says £15 billion could be saved by councils every year if they make better use of technology.

That’s a huge amount of money, more than 4 times the revenue support grant.

But the benefits go much further than that.

Just think about the potential if we really designed services around user needs, if we personalised services to reduce avoidable contact.

A consistent approach to gathering data means better analysis of services right across the country, good news for everyone who receives them.

A more open approach to sharing the data government already holds could do so much to speed up the planning, construction and sale of the homes this country so badly needs.

Working with local SMEs rather than vast multinationals can provide a welcome boost to the local economy.

And so on. I talk about these as opportunities.

But embracing digital is no longer optional.

It’s not a nice to have, something you can decide not to do.

Part of that is down to customer expectations.

As I’ve said, in 2017 people rightly demand digital services, they assume that they will be able to access them online.

But we also have to recognise that carrying on as we’ve always done is simply unsustainable.

Demand for council services is growing, the standards we expect are rising.

You can’t just keep patching up existing models and hoping for the best.

We need efficient, responsive, joined-up services, and that’s not something you can deliver in an analogue world.

And we need the right leadership, with the right attitude.

An understanding and embrace of digital is no longer something that can be safely left to a local authority’s IT department.

It doesn’t belong in the basement, it belongs in the boardroom.

What we’re doing about it

Now, as you can imagine, in this job I give a lot of speeches about the future of local government.

And what usually happens is that I stand here and set out the problems and talk about how to fix them.

And the audience nods along and agrees and smiles politely and then we get to the questions and they say:

“That’s great Saj, but what are you going to do about it?”

Well, for one thing I’ve appointed a chief digital officer who I’ve asked to focus on ensuring local government makes the most of the digital opportunities on offer.

My department is working with councils and the Government Digital Service to create a new vision and a call to arms on local government digital.

That should be ready to share in the spring.

In the meantime my department will be working with councils and companies alike to help everyone involved in the sector connect and share common components, skills, design patterns and – yes – code.

But that’s not all.

Because the people in this room also have a huge role to play in meeting my number one priority as Secretary of State – getting more homes built.

When Harold Macmillan was overseeing house building back in the 1950s, his biggest challenge was getting his hands on sufficient raw materials – wood, brick, steel and so on.

Today, it can be equally hard to get hold of the raw material of the digital age: data.

It’s something that comes up again and again when I speak to builders, councils, housing campaigners and others.

And it’s an issue I’m determined to get to grips with.

So, following our manifesto commitment on Digital Land, my department will be leading work to develop a new digital platform on which we can publish the kind of raw data and interactive maps that are useful to builders, innovators and entrepreneurs.

This government has long embraced the principle of open data, and I want to bring that to the housing sector.

Releasing data locked away in arms-length bodies like the Homes and Community Agency, and making it easier to access difficult foundational data like geospatial identifiers.

And, although I can’t make any promises right now, I’ll be working with the Land Registry and Ordnance Survey to see what further datasets they can release.

The role of the digital sector

So I’m very much on local government’s side in this.

I’m not just lecturing from on high, I’m getting down in the trenches and doing everything I can to help.

But it’s not just local government that can and must do better.

The tech industry also has to challenge the way it traditionally works.

Above all, you have to recognise that the public sector, and local government in particular, are not typical clients.

A business is accountable to its owners, its directors, its shareholders.

But a council has to answer to every single person it serves.

Appetite for risk is, quite rightly, lower.

The “Fail again, fail better” mantra works better with Venture Capital cash than it does with council taxes.

Councils provide universal services that have to be accessed by literally everyone.

Moving fast and breaking things is all well and good, but you can’t use social care, education and child protection as some kind of sandbox to try out new ideas.

I absolutely want to see you disrupt public services – but you can’t disrupt the provision of services to the public.

To put it bluntly, people notice if their bins don’t get collected!

Just ask anyone who lives in Birmingham!

It’s also worth noting that the average age of a local councilor in England is just over 60.

Many are absolutely passionate about the opportunities that the technological revolution can bring – after all, Tim Berners-Lee is a spritely 62!

But it’s important to remember that most councilors are not exactly digital natives.

And that inevitably shapes their views, attitudes and decision-making.

I want to see more of you supplying services to local authorities.

But if you’re going to wean them off the safety-first approach that sees them default to 15-year contracts with the same old vendors, it’s so important that you speak the language of local government.

That you think in terms of outcomes for residents rather than exciting digital inputs.

That you show them technology as a means, not an end in itself.

What can you do for the hard-pressed single mum juggling work and childcare while trying to get her kids into a good school?

What can you do for the elderly resident who lives alone and is about to be discharged from hospital?

What can you do to get the right homes built in the right place, supported by the right infrastructure?

What can you do to cut tax bills, to speed up responses, to support lower-tier authorities taking on new responsibilities?

That’s what councilors are trying to do and that’s what you can help them achieve.

And let me just thank Dan and everyone at Public for all the work they’re doing to bring councils and SMEs together to make that happen.

The in-depth report you’ve published today is excellent.

Conclusion: riding the wave

It’s almost 23 years since Clifford Stoll confidently – and infamously – used a Newsweek editorial to mock the idea of people reading newspapers online, or shopping at a website rather than on the high street.

Less noticed in his list of “things that will never happen” was the prediction that “no computer network will change the way government works”.

Well, the internet came for newspapers.

It came for retail.

And now it’s coming for local government.

We can’t ignore the wave.

We have to ride it.

That’s why events like this are so important.

That’s why I’m making sure my department offers the support and expertise that digital local government needs.

And that’s why I’ll continue to do all I can to bring together the best partners in both local government and the tech industry.

There’s a lot of work to do.

I know it won’t be easy.

But I also know there is no lack of ambition, passion and potential in the world of digital local government.

And I’m looking forward to working with you as we turn that potential into results.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to National Association of Local Councils Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the National Association of Local Councils Conference on 31 October 2017.

Good afternoon everyone, it’s great to see you all here today.

As it’s Halloween I’m sure that, like my kids, you’d rather be out, cap in hand, demanding treats and threatening unpleasant consequences if you don’t get them.

Or as I like to call it, “Negotiating the local government finance settlement”.

When I arrived at No 10 today for Cabinet, the Prime Minister complimented me on my scary Halloween mask.

I had to say “No, Prime Minister, this is just my face.”

Perhaps she thought I had come as ‘Uncle Fester’!

Before I go any further, let me congratulate NALC on reaching its 70th birthday.

I’d like to thank Sue Baxter, in particular, for all her work as chair.

She’s a leader you should all be very proud of.

And I’m not just saying that because she’s one of my constituents!

You did vote for me Sue, right?

In this special anniversary year it’s great to see that more people than ever before have turned out for your annual conference.

Someone was telling me you’ve literally outgrown your previous home.

I’d like to think you’re all here to see me, although I know the real draw is Angela Rippon…

The growth of your conference is no accident.

It mirrors the growing role, profile and importance of parish and town councils.

It shows that the sector is in robust health, that it is ambitious, keen to do more, looking to the future.

I often talk about councils and councillors being the front line of our democracy.

And that’s particularly true of the kind of councils represented here this afternoon.

Just look at the town we’ve gathered in, a town that is also celebrating a significant birthday this year.

The MP for Milton Keynes South, the wonderful Iain Stewart, he represents more than 130,000 people.

That’s not just registered voters, but everyone who lives in his constituency.

On the borough council, this hotel is in Bletchley Park ward.

That has three councillors and is home to about 15,000 people.

So between them they can engage with about 5,000 people each.

But on Bletchley and Fenny Stratford town council, the two councillors responsible for this ward, Queensway & Denbigh North, they represent only about 2,000 people between them.

Let’s say a thousand each.

That gives them an extremely strong connection to the individual men, women and children they serve.

The kind of local insight that even the most well-meaning MP or Minister could never hope to match.

And that’s why local councils are so important.

You truly are a part of the communities you serve.

Your parish’s priorities are your priorities.

Its problems are your problems.

Of course, it’s a hugely diverse sector too.

Big and small.

Rural and urban.

Parish and town.

Two-thirds of you spend less than £25,000 a year, but 30 have a precept worth over a million pounds.

In this year’s LGC survey, local priorities ranged from provision of car parking to – my personal favourite – the problem of “feral boar and free-roaming sheep”.

But some issues are universal.

Just look at housing.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that fixing our broken housing market is my number-one priority in this role, the measure on which I expect to be judged.

And you have a massive role to play in that.

Neighbourhood Planning has revolutionised community involvement in the planning process, giving people a whole new voice in the big decisions that affect their lives.

Far from being the “NIMBY’s charter” that some predicted, we’ve found that neighbour plans actually lead to MORE new homes getting built than would otherwise be the case.

And in nine out of 10 cases, the development of those plans has been parish-led.

It’s a great example of the value of that bond between local councils and local people.

With your ear to the ground and your finger on the pulse, you know what your community will need in order to make new housing work.

It’s a great example of the most local tier of government helping Westminster to get things done.

You don’t just help to implement neighbourhood planning – you helped to shape it too.

NALC worked extremely closely with my department to make sure the Neighbourhood Planning Act really worked for the people it was meant to serve.

So thank you – on behalf of the whole government, but also on behalf of the countless families who will finally be able get a home of their own as a result.

It’s local councils delivering for local people.

And that’s something I want to see more of in the months and years ahead.

Because let me get one thing absolutely clear.

Both myself and government remain absolutely, 100 per cent committed to localism and devolution.

Last June, the people of Britain told us that they wanted to take back control.

That they wanted more influence over their lives.

That they didn’t want to be governed by some remote legislature and executive over which they felt they had little influence.

Yes, the referendum was about Europe.

But the message, the lessons, go much deeper.

Ask most British people where they live and they won’t name their principal local authority area.

They’ll tell you about their town, their village, their neighbourhood.

Local identity isn’t about lines on a map, it’s about community.

People are more attached to their town or village than to their district or borough.

By their very nature, a top-tier authority has to act in the interests of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people.

And on such a crowded stage, a single community can struggle to make its voice heard.

That’s not a criticism of principal authorities.

It’s just the way it is.

So among the public the appetite for greater localism, the desire for communities to take back control, is clearly there.

National government is eager to see it happen too.

Principal authorities are looking for ways to delegate delivery of some services.

And, together, that makes this a truly exciting time for ambitious parish and town councils.

That ambition is already bearing fruit, right across the country.

We’ve seen parishes setting up business improvement districts, driving economic growth locally.

You’ve taken on responsibility for running libraries, maintaining green spaces, delivering youth services and more…

…all of it tailored to meet the needs of your community, not the needs of a distant bureaucrat.

I’m particularly pleased to see so many of you getting involved in health and wellbeing, one of the themes of this conference.

Whether it’s through social prescribing, tackling isolation, or helping communities become dementia-friendly, you’re your local connections mean you can deal with small challenges before they become big problems.

That takes the pressure off local health services, and helps us in in Whitehall to deliver on national priorities.

So you’re already doing so much more than just caring for allotments.

And I see no reason why, if you have the capacity and the will, you can’t continue to expand your responsibilities.

I want you to think big, I want you to innovate.

The general power of competence has given you a great tool with which to do.

But if there’s still a barrier that is stopping you from improving services I want you to tell me so I can help you tear it down.

A perennial obstacle is, of course, finance.

I know many of you have found new, innovative ways to raise money, that’s great to see.

Others have used your reserves to help maintain services and keep the cost to local taxpayers as low as possible.

But I also know that not enough cash from the principal support grant is finding its way down to your level.

And that’s just not right.

Principal authorities should be devolving responsibilities to local councils because you best placed to deliver more tailored services…

…not so that they can save a few pounds and get important work done on the cheap.

They certainly shouldn’t be using parish precepts as a means of avoiding their own cap on council tax increases.

Doing more with less is one thing.

Doing something for nothing is quite another.

The government has previously issued guidance to billing authorities on this, making clear that they should work with parish and town councils to pass down appropriate levels of funding.

But from my conversations with you, it’s clear that too many top-tier councils aren’t following that guidance closely enough.

So let me promise you all today that I’ll be exploring ways in which I can strengthen the requirement for principal authorities to pass a share of local council tax support to their towns and parishes.

It’s the least you deserve.

As you do more for your residents, so their interest in your work is likely to increase.

If you’re going to maintain the incredible trust and close relationship that you currently enjoy with the communities you serve, then you’re also going to have to deliver equally high standards of transparency and openness.

It’s two-and-a-half years since the transparency code for smaller authorities became mandatory for the very smallest councils, ending the need for complicated external audits.

I know that complying with it hasn’t been straightforward for many of you.

You’re running very small operations, some of you didn’t have the in-house expertise needed to get material online in an appropriate manner.

Some of you didn’t even have websites!

That’s why my department invested £4.7 million in the transparency fund to help you meet the new standards.

NALC know more about local councils than anyone, which is why we asked you to manage the fund through your county associations.

And you’ve done a great job.

Last time I checked, the grants team had approved well over 3,000 applications worth millions of pounds.

That translates into hundreds of thousands of people gaining a greater insight into and understanding of the work that their councillors do.

And that means they will trust you more, support you more, and encourage you to do more.

Of course, the code is only mandatory for the smallest of councils.

That means, for a significant number of you here today, it is merely best practice – a guide you should follow, but can choose not to.

I’m not going to stand here today and say I’ll force all you to follow its principles.

But I think it’s in your own interests to do so.

As larger councils, you’re far more likely to be taking on the delivery of more local services.

And if you do that, your taxpayers will, quite rightly, expect a greater degree of transparency about where their money is being spent.

Yes, there will be audited accounts and annual meetings and so on.

But in 2017, people expect that data and details about the services they pay for will be easily available to all.

Making sure that happens is vital to maintaining the trust that you have built up over so many years.

Basketball coach John Wooden once said that “the little things make big things happen”.

That’s a mantra that should be carved into the wall of every local council office in England.

Because what you do matters.

It always has done.

But in 2017, 70 years after the NALC first met, it matters more than ever.

With a national government committed to localism…

…top-tier councils eager to devolve service provision…

… and a population clamouring to take back control of their lives, your role on the front line of democracy has never been more important. Yes, the areas you’re responsible for may seem small in the grand scheme of things.

Maintaining a small park seems insignificant when compared to running the social care system, negotiating Brexit, or tackling nuclear proliferation.

But the little things make the big things happen.

You hold our communities together.

You make our towns and villages places that people want to live and work.

You provide the solid local foundations on which we can build an outward-facing global Britain.

And now is the time for the little guys to think big.

To innovate.

To show ambition.

Now is the time for local councils to build on their unique experience and insight, to step up and show what they are capable of.

There has never been a more exciting time to be in local government.

There have never been more opportunities ahead of you.

Making the most of them won’t be easy, there will be challenges ahead.

But know this.

If you show ambition, if you stand up, if you want to do more, I will support you every step of the way.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Statement on Grenfell Tower

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on 19 October 2017.

It is now just over four months since the tragedy of Grenfell Tower. Since then, the Government, the local council and the wider public sector have been working hard to ensure that everyone affected by the fire gets the support they need and that all tall residential buildings across the country are safe.

Since I last updated the House on 5 September, the number of households seeking rehousing has risen to 202. As before, this increase has been caused by members of larger households choosing to be rehoused separately. The local council has now secured more than 200 suitable local permanent properties. Negotiations are under way on others, and by Christmas it expects to have more than 300 available. As of this week, 112 households have accepted an offer of either temporary or permanent accommodation. Of these, 58 have moved in, 44 into temporary accommodation and 14 into permanent accommodation.

The Government are determined that everyone who needs support gets it regardless of their immigration status. We have previously established a process to grant foreign nationals who were resident in Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk 12 months’ leave to remain in the country with full access to the relevant support and assistance. Last week, the Immigration Minister announced a dedicated route to permanent residency for the survivors. This policy will allow them to apply for free for two further periods of two years’ limited leave. After this time, they will be able to apply for permanent residence.

Meanwhile, our work to ensure the safety of other tall buildings continues. A total of 169 high-rise social housing buildings in England feature some of the aluminium composite material cladding, and our programme of testing has identified 161 that are unlikely to meet current fire safety standards. The particular focus of current efforts is now on supporting remedial work on those 161 buildings. We are also improving our understanding of the situation for the privately owned high-rise residential buildings with ACM cladding, so that all such buildings can be as safe as possible.

We have made clear to councils and housing associations that we expect them to fund measures that they consider essential to making buildings safe. However, if councils have concerns, they should get in touch with us. We will consider the removal of financial restrictions if they stand in the way of essential work. To date, 32 local councils have expressed concern to us in principle. We have liaised more closely with seven of those, and one of them has now submitted supporting evidence for consideration by my Department.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech on the Regulation of the Managing Agent Market

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) conference on 18 October 2017.

Thank you, Nigel, and good morning everyone.

It’s a real pleasure to be here today.

And I’m delighted to have been asked to open this conference in a year when housing issues have rarely been far from the front pages.

There has been plenty of good news.

Back in February our white paper set out our ambitious plans to fix this country’s broken housing market.

The Prime Minister has announced billions of pounds of funding for new affordable homes, including homes for rent.

And, month after month, we see official, independent figures showing that house-building is bouncing back from the record-breaking recession.

While there’s a lot still to do, we’re clearly heading in the right direction.

But of course, that’s only half the story.

Because looming over the whole sector is the tragedy of Grenfell Tower.

80 people lost their lives.

Many more lost their homes.

It is a disaster without parallel in recent British history.

A disaster we are determined to get to the bottom of, through the public and police inquiries.

And it is a disaster that thrust the management of residential buildings firmly into the spotlight.

Since the fire, a lot has been written and said about the role of property managers like yourselves.

There’s been a lot of criticism – some of it fair, much of it not.

And whatever failings are identified by the investigations and inquiries – and, make no mistake, where things have gone wrong we must and will learn from them – I know that most residential managing agents are not solely focused on profit.

I know you’re not the Rachman-esque ogres that some on the internet claim.

I look around this room today and I see the good guys.

Responsible people who are working hard to keep tenants safe, to keep buildings safe.

Who wouldn’t dream of cutting corners or ripping people off.

You’re members of ARMA because you subscribe to their code of conduct.

You’re here today because you want to be better, because you want to learn from each other and understand the latest best practice.

And in an age when the private rented sector and the number of leasehold flats has grown enormously we need more people like you.

So before I go any further I want to say a big thank you to Nigel, and to everyone here today, for all the good work that you do.

Thank you.

In an ideal world I’d finish there and join you all in the bar!

Sadly, though, you can’t have good guys without bad guys.

And, there’s no avoiding the fact that too many people in your industry are simply not good enough.

The private rented sector is growing, as are the number of leasehold blocks.

As we build the houses this country needs, we’re also seeing many new housing estates with shared public spaces that need taking care of.

That has led to a growth in the demand for property management services.

And as the sector has grown so has the file of horror stories.

Some rogue agents over-charge for their services, adding a huge personal take for themselves or passing contracts to friends and subsidiaries.

I heard of one situation where an agent had charged a commission of more than 30% when arranging an insurance policy, 3 times the recommended limit.

In another case, leaseholders were charged 10 times the market rate to have a new fire escape fitted – with the £30,000 contract being handed to the freeholder’s brother.

One landlord was billed £500 by his agent for repairing a shower door.

Others boost their income by cutting costs, charging for a 5-star service while providing a budget version.

Repairs are skipped, jobs are botched, as little as possible is done.

There’s nothing wrong with efficiency savings, but cutting corners is simply unacceptable – especially when it puts lives at risk.

I’ve seen reports of broken windows being repaired with cardboard and sticky tape.

Of damp and mold simply being painted over.

Of safety-critical systems being neglected.

Then there are the agents who “can’t do enough” for their tenants.

In fact they deliberately do too much, over-managing the property in order to rack up as many charges as possible and take the largest possible commission.

With up to a fifth of managing agents getting paid based on a fixed percentage of the fees they charge tenants, it’s not surprising that some choose this option.

The impact on the public is enormous.

Some industry experts claim that, every year, British households are overcharged by as much as £1.4 billion.

That means that, since I started talking to you this morning, rogue agents have pocketed around £15,000 in unjustified service charges.

By the time I leave the stage, that figure will have reached nearly £40,000.

The figures are so large because property management is a massive industry.

Around £3.5 billion of service charges are collected each year.

Yet despite its size and importance, it is almost completely unregulated.

Literally anyone can put on a suit, order some business cards, and call themselves a managing agent.

You don’t have to any qualifications or experience, or a criminal records check.

You don’t even have to know what a managing agent does.

That will come as a huge shock to many outside this room.

People assume they’re paying their service charges to a skilled, experienced professional.

In fact, they could be handing their hard-earned cash to the sort of self-regarding spiv who doesn’t even make it past the first challenge on The Apprentice.

In a multi-billion pound industry that’s crucial to the safety and wellbeing of millions of people, that is simply not acceptable.

Nor is it the only problem.

If people decide they’re being over-charged or under-served, it can be almost impossible for them to do anything about it.

And that’s because the system is stacked against them and in favour of rogue agents.

It actively disempowers tenants, leaseholders and even some freeholders, stripping them of many rights and making it extremely difficult to enforce those they do have.

Right to Manage is a great idea.

It can and does work well.

But the process behind it is far too complicated and too easy for unscrupulous landlords to abuse.

In one recent case, claiming their right to manage took a group of pensioners 3 attempts, 6 years, and a trip to the Court of Appeal.

Leaseholders risk losing their homes if they fall behind on paying even a tiny amount of service charges.

Freeholders on new-build estates increasingly have to pay service charges for the upkeep of common areas.

But they have absolutely no say over who provides services and at what cost, and no way of taking over management themselves.

This is supposed to be the age of the empowered consumer, of unprecedented choice.

If you don’t like your gas supplier, your phone company, your bank, then you can quickly and easily switch to another provider.

Parents have a say in where their children go to school, patients have a choice about which hospital they get treated at.

But in the world of property management, we’re still living in the past.

In an age when ordinary working people are expected to put up and shut up.

The result is a market in which the people who pay for and receive services have absolutely no say over who provides them.

A market that simply does not work for the people it is supposed to serve.

That can’t be allowed to continue.

And I won’t allow it to continue.

When our housing white paper was published, most of the attention and the headlines covered the vital task of building more homes.

But it also talked about the need for urgent action to help people already on the property ladder or living in rented accommodation.

I’ve already announced plans to regulate letting agents, including banning fees for tenants.

I’ve also made clear that I want to see an end to unjustified use of leasehold in new-build houses.

And today, I’m setting out plans for fixing the problems in property management.

I’m publishing a call for evidence, a document that talks about the challenges facing the sector, suggests some possible solutions, and asks for the views of the people who know the market best, whether that’s people who work in it or the people who pay the service charges.

Should leasehold tenants have a greater say over appointment of managing agents?

How can we increase transparency in the system and give the people who pay service charges more access to accounts and decisions?

What’s the best way to ensure fairness and openness around relations between freeholders and agents, and between agents and their subcontractors?

How can we make it easier to challenge services charges or to change managing agent?

And what about the current model of voluntary self-regulation?

ARMA-Q has done a lot to raise standards, but has the system had its day?

Many say we need an entirely independent regulator to oversee property management – is that the best way forward?

This paper, which you’ll be able to read and respond to on our website, is the first step in creating a property management system that works for everybody.

And that includes the property managers themselves.

I say that because I’m a businessman at heart.

I don’t like unnecessary red tape.

I hate to see good companies and forward-thinking entrepreneurs struggling under the weight of burdensome regulation.

I’m proud to be part of a government that has removed and continues to remove all manner of pointless, petty restrictions.

But I also know that, sometimes, a completely unregulated market can turn into a kind of free-for-all wild west.

And, as everyone knows, one thing the wild west doesn’t lack is cowboys.

I’ve already talked about cowboy property managers are bad news for consumers.

But, as ARMA has long recognised, they’re also bad news for hardworking, honest members of the profession like you.

That’s because the current system effectively penalises the good guys.

The ARMA members.

The agents who sign up to standards, invest in their staff and provide the quality service that people deserve.

You’re the responsible ones, but you’re not competing on a level playing field.

You invest in training, the cowboys make it up as they go along.

You put time and money into maintaining standards, some of your competitors cut corners in order to line their pockets.

Your priority is delivering a quality service, theirs is making a quick buck.

You can’t blame amateur or accidental landlords for picking the cheapest option when appointing an agent.

Many don’t know any better.

But a race to the bottom will always be won by agents who don’t care about standards and safety.

That’s not fair on the people paying for services, and it’s not fair on you.

It can also do untold damage to the sector’s reputation, making it easier for populist politicians to tar you all with the same brush.

Appropriate regulation, properly designed, will force rogue agents to either raise their game or quit the business.

That’s good news for tenants and it’s good news for responsible, professional agents like yourselves.

It’s popular, in some corners of politics, to point the finger at everyone involved in the housing market.

To say that you’re all just in it for yourselves, “Sheriff Fatman” capitalists taking advantage of desperate people and so on.

I don’t believe that for a minute.

The private rented sector and justified use of leasehold deliver millions of homes for millions of hardworking people.

And the people in this room today do a vital job of servicing and maintaining those homes and protecting the people who live in them.

Thank you for that.

As we build more homes we’re going to need more people like you to help take care of them.

That’s why it has never been more important for all of us – government and industry – to work together to celebrate what works in your sector and to fix what doesn’t.

I want you to join me as this government cleans up the property management industry, evicts the cowboys who harm consumers and give you a bad name, and delivers better value and better services for tenants, for leaseholders and for hardworking people right across the country.

Thank you.