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.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech to National Housing Federation

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to the National Housing Federation on 19 September 2017.

Thank you, David [Orr, Chief Executive, National Housing Federation], and good morning everyone.

It’s great to be here in Birmingham and a real honour to be opening your conference this year.

And it’s good to see so many of you here at what is a particularly important and, as we’ve just heard, particularly challenging time for this country’s housing associations.

I know, of course, you’ve got a lot on your minds.

I’ve certainly got a lot on mine and I’m looking forward to sharing that with you.

But before all that, as an almost-local Member of Parliament I have to give you a quick West Midlands history lesson!

Here at the ICC we’re literally just over the road from the site of the first major Cadbury factory, which opened its doors in 1847.

It’s not there anymore, sadly.

But if you pop out at lunchtime you can still see the little canal spur that served the rapidly growing business.

It’s right there behind the giant hotel and the Australian theme pub!

I’m fairly sure neither of them were there at that time!

And that wasn’t the only difference.

Back in the 1800s, the area wasn’t the clean, fresh, welcoming place that you all saw this morning.

Quite the opposite.

And that’s why after nearly 30 years here on Bridge Street, the Cadbury brothers upped sticks and they moved operations 5 miles south to what was then a bucolic rural idyll that sat just outside the city.

They moved there because, yes, they needed a bigger, more appropriate site.

But they also wanted a better place for their workers and their families to make their homes.

As George Cadbury said at the time “No man ought to be condemned to live in a place where a rose cannot grow”.

The Cadburys recognised that our homes aren’t just places where we sleep and eat.

They aren’t just machines for living in.

Machines don’t have souls and hearts, but homes do.

They shape who we are.

They reflect our lives, our choices, our personalities.

And our homes can limit us too.

Living in the wrong kind of house or the wrong kind of place can close off avenues and opportunities, and of course can affect your life chances.

A child who can’t find a quiet place to study may struggle to make progress at school.

An adult who is unable to relocate may miss out on a life-changing promotion at work.

And, of course, you’re also judged on where you live.

On what kind of house you live in.

Which side of the tracks you came from.

I grew up on Stapleton Road in Bristol – also known as “Britain’s most dangerous street” or a “moral cesspit”, depending on your tabloid of choice.

And I remember my school careers adviser telling me that there was no point in aiming high because kids from my neck of the woods simply didn’t take A-levels or go to university.

Society had low expectations of us, and we were expected to live down to them.

It was the same years later, when I was applying for jobs with merchant banks in London.

I got the sense that the interview panels had never before met someone who lived in the overcrowded flat above the family shop.

That’s just my experience. It’s just one person’s story.

But if the Grenfell tragedy showed us anything, it was the extent to which these attitudes have spread and become deeply ingrained in the way this country thinks and it acts.

While I don’t want to pre-judge the findings of the public or police inquiries, it’s clear that in the months and the years before the fire the residents of Grenfell Tower were not listened to.

That their concerns were ignored or dismissed.

That too many people in positions of power saw tenants less as people with families and more as problems that needed to be managed.

A lot has been written and said about the social and political context of Grenfell.

Much of it accurate, some of it less so.

There’s certainly been some unfair criticism of social landlords generally.

Unfair because I know that everyone in this room is passionate about what they do.

Passionate about getting safe, secure, affordable roofs over the heads of families.

I know that and you know that.

And I want to thank you all, and everyone that you employ, for all the good that you do. Thank you very much.

But the question I keep coming back to is very simple.

In one of the richest, most privileged corners of the UK – the world, even – would a fire like this have happened in a privately owned block of luxury flats?

If you believe that the answer is no, even if you think it was simply less likely, then it’s clear that we need a fundamental rethink of social housing in this country.

Because whether they’re owned by a council or by a housing association, whether they’re managed by a TMO or a local authority, we’re not just talking about bricks and mortar.

We’re not just talking about assets on your balance sheet.

We’re talking about peoples’ homes.

About people’s lives.

Over the past few weeks the Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, has been meeting with social housing tenants right across the country.

And from those conversations it’s already clear that they want us to look again at the quality and safety of what’s on offer.

To look again at the way tenants are listened to and their concerns acted on.

To look again at the number of homes being built, at community cohesion and more besides.

And that’s exactly what this government is going to do.

Today I can announce that we will be bringing forward a green paper on social housing in England.

A wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review of the issues facing the sector, the green paper will be the most substantial report of its kind for a generation.

It will kick off a nationwide conversation on social housing.

What works and what doesn’t work.

What has gone right and what has gone wrong,

Why things have gone wrong and – most importantly – how to fix them.

And the results will help everyone involved in the whole world of social housing: local and central government, housing associations, TMOs, and of course the tenants themselves, to make this country’s social housing provision something the whole nation can be proud of.

Of course, in the wake of Grenfell, the green paper will look at safety issues.

But it will need to go much further.

It will look at the overall quality of social homes, many of which are now beginning to show their age.

It will cover service management, the way social homes and their tenants are taken care of.

It will look at the rights of tenants and show how their voices can be better heard.

And it will cover what can be done to ensure their complaints are taken seriously and dealt with properly, and make sure tenants have clear, timely avenues to seek redress when things do go wrong.

If a resident reports a crack in the wall that you can fit your hand in, big enough to use as a book shelf, it shouldn’t just be patched up and ignored.

The reason it’s there and the impact it could have need to be properly investigated.

Problems shouldn’t just be fixed, they should be learned from.

These are the kind of issues the green paper will explore.

But that’s not all. It will also look at wider issues of place, community, and the local economy.

How can social landlords help to create places that people really want to live in, places where roses can grow?

What role can social housing policy play in building safe and integrated communities, where people from different backgrounds get along no matter what type of housing they live in?

How do we maximise the benefits for social housing for the local, regional and national economy as part of our Industrial Strategy?

What more can we do to help tackle homelessness?

What support is needed for leaseholders who have a social landlord?

What can be done to tackle illegal sub-letting, not just chasing down offenders but dealing with the cause of the problem in the first place?

And, at the heart of it all, how can you, me, local government and others work together to get more of the right homes built in the right places?

As you can tell – I hope! – I’m talking about a substantial body of work.

It’s a green paper that will inform both government policy and the wider debate for many years to come.

And I want to make sure that we hear from everyone with something to say.

Not just the usual suspects – those working in the sector or the think-tanks and lobbyists.

But the people who matter most, the people living in or clamouring for social housing.

So it’s not something we’re going to rush.

Yes, I do want to see it published as soon as possible.

But what matters most is getting it right.

There’s simply too much at stake to do otherwise.

Whatever comes about as a result of the green paper, much of the delivery is going to be down to the people in this room, the housing associations.

You own homes, you manage homes and of course you build homes.

Tens of thousands of them every year.

The housing market in this country has been crippled by a long-term failure to match supply and demand.

But I’m under no illusion that, without your contribution, the situation would have been far, far worse.

By next year you’re set to reach 65,000 new homes a year, an incredible achievement and one that makes a real difference to the lives of countless people. So thank you again.

The associations you represent are charities, trusts, co-operatives, societies and so on.

But you don’t get build-out numbers like that, numbers that rival the likes of Barratt and Bellway, without running your organisations as serious businesses.

And for all your passion and your social mission, you’re exactly that – serious businesses.

The people in this room today represent a sector with £140 billion of assets and some £70 billion of debt.

Before I came into politics, a huge part of my job was all about helping companies secure the capital that they needed in order to grow.

Some of it through debt, some of it through investment.

So I know first-hand that a business can’t attract funding without certainty about its future prospects.

Businesses need to know that economic regulations aren’t going to dramatically change without warning.

They need a stable, predictable base on which to build – literally, in your case!

And of course lenders need to know that a company is a reliable investment prospect before they’ll put up any money.

Our housing white paper, which was published earlier this year, gave you all a detailed insight into our long-term plans for fixing the broken housing market, and the vital role that housing associations will have in that.

Thanks to the white paper, you already know that we’re doing all we can to free up sites, to reform the planning process, to invest in infrastructure and so on.

That we’re working with you to help you build faster and better, raising both the quality and quantity of our housing stock.

But of course you need much more than that.

Right now, you’re trying to make long-term investment decisions without knowing what your rental return is going to be after 2020.

It’s not ideal, of course I get that.

You need certainty and you need clarity and you need them sooner rather than later.

That’s why I’ve been pushing right across government, as hard as I can, to confirm the future formula for social housing rents.

I would have liked to stand here today and tell you exactly what it is going to be.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you, the t’s are still being crossed and the i’s dotted.

But I can promise you this: an announcement will be made very, very soon.

I’m doing everything I can, pushing as hard I can.

And you’re not going to have to wait much longer for the detail you need and deserve.

The same is true of Right To Buy.

It’s a policy that has always been popular with tenants.

I know the same is not necessarily true of all the delegates here today.

I think it’s a great scheme.

It helps people get on the housing ladder and, by releasing funds, it helps deliver the next generation of homes for affordable rent.

There are issues that need looking at, I accept that.

I thank the National Housing Federation and all of you for your open, honest and constructive feedback on Right to Buy.

We’ll be making a decision on the way forward just as soon as we possibly can.

As many of you will have seen, at DCLG’s main office there’s a wall with official portraits of everyone who has led the department or its predecessors.

They go all the way back to Hugh Dalton, in 1950.

Some of the pictures are more flattering than others.

Richard Crossman, he looks like he’s appearing in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Chris Patten seems to have been surprised by a photographer while relaxing in his local library.

And John Prescott’s eyes… they kind of follow you wherever you walk…

I know some civil servants find that a little bit creepy when they’re alone in the office late at night!

But the one that always catches my eye is Harold Macmillan.

When Winston Churchill appointed Macmillan as Housing Minister in 1951, he gave him one very simple instruction: “build houses for the people”.

And the presence of his photograph on the wall at DCLG is a daily reminder of the spectacular fashion in which he did just that.

I’m proud of my government’s record on council housing.

But Macmillan was on a whole other level.

While he was housing minister, Britain built 300,000 houses a year, the vast majority what today we would call social homes.

Cramped, dense, inner-city slums were replaced with spacious, high-quality homes in the suburbs.

Millions of people were given their first experience of indoor plumbing, of front and rear gardens.

Never mind living somewhere a rose could grow – the planners behind new towns boasted of homes where a tree could be seen from every window.

Supermac built houses for the people and the people loved them.

Living in social housing carried no stigma, no shame.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

For many, it was seen the gold standard for accommodation.

Not a final safety net for the desperate and destitute but something you could genuinely aspire to, housing you would actively choose to live in.

As a country we were all rightly proud of it.

But over time, that all changed.

Social housing stock became increasingly neglected, as did the people who lived in it.

The Establishment became detached, aloof, focussed its attentions elsewhere.

And the tragic events of 14 June showed exactly where that attitude can lead.

That’s why, when I say we must do everything possible to prevent a repeat of Grenfell, I’m not just talking about the cladding or the stairways or the sprinklers.

We need to shift the whole conversation about social housing, reframe the whole debate.

We need to challenge outdated, unfair attitudes.

We need to return to the time, not so very long ago, when social housing was valued.

It was treasured.

Something we could all be proud of whether we lived in it or not.

I know that’s exactly what many of you in the sector have been trying to achieve for many, many years.

Well, I’m proud to stand here today and say that you have a Secretary of State who’s totally committed to the cause.

I’m delighted to say you have a Prime Minister who is too.

Because we both recognise that if we’re going to make this a country that works for everyone, we need housing that works for everyone.

And that’s true regardless of whether you’re an owner-occupier, a private rental tenant, or living in social housing.

After any disaster we search for lessons, for a legacy, for some light to come out of the darkness.

The legacy of Grenfell, the lessons that we learn, the changes that we make – none of that should be confined to fire safety.

The legacy of Grenfell can and must be a whole new approach to the way this country thinks about social housing.

Achieving this will not be simple or straightforward.

We – all of us – must be committed to bringing about this change.

It demands nothing less.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2017 Speech at Holocaust Memorial Foundation Survivor Consultation

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, on 4 September 2017.

Thank you all for joining us here today at what is a truly remarkable gathering of truly remarkable people. I’ve had the privilege of meeting with a number of you in the past. And one thing I’ve learned from that is that no two survivors are alike, no two stories are the same.

But those unique experiences, those unique views, are precisely why you’ve been invited along today.

There are deeply moving monuments to the murdered Jews of Europe in cities around the world. The thousands of concrete columns that comprise the vast memorial in Berlin. The heart-wrenching bronze shoes that line the banks of the Danube in Budapest. The symbolic glass towers that stand opposite City Hall in Boston.

They are all ideally suited to the cities and countries they are in.

But we want a UK memorial that is truly national, one that speaks to the thoughts and feelings and experiences of British survivors.

And that’s why your opinions – your honest, open opinions – are so important.

If you think one of the designs is head and shoulders above the rest, don’t be embarrassed about saying so. But if you don’t rate a design, we want to hear that too. And if you can think of ways to improve a design, share those thoughts too. These are just initial ideas, there’s a lot of work still to be done.

I can’t promise that the jury will pick your personal favourite. I can’t promise that we won’t pick your personal least favourite, for that matter! But I can promise that your opinions will carry a great deal of weight.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a stunning, inspiring, sobering memorial in a jaw-dropping location. And it’s so important that we get the design right.

It’s not just important to me, or to the jury. But to the whole country.

Because there are voices out there saying we don’t need another reminder of the Holocaust. That it’s enough to let it be noted in the history books and the museums. That we should move on.

Such voices couldn’t be more wrong.

In recent weeks we’ve seen people proudly marching through an American city with swastika flags held high. We’ve seen Jewish children as young as eight being chased through London by a man shouting the foulest anti-Semitic abuse. We’ve read report after report about the steadily swelling ranks of neo-Nazis and their efforts to become almost respectable by denying or belittling the crimes of their predecessors.

That’s why, as the Shoah slides towards the edge of living memory, it becomes ever more important that we refuse to forget it.

That we stand up as a nation and say “No, we will not let the past be airbrushed. We will not allow this country forget what happens when hatred and ignorance and bigotry are allowed to flourish unchecked.”

The UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre will stand as a permanent reminder of what happened.

Constructed right in the heart of our democracy, it will be impossible to ignore or overlook. It will be a lasting tribute both to those who died and to those who survived. And it will be a focal point for reflection and education that will ensure the Holocaust is remembered long after all of us in this room are gone.

And I hope that, with your help, we can choose a design worthy of the six million men, women and children who must never be forgotten.

Sajid Javid – 2016 Speech on Cornwall

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in Penhale, Cornwall, on 8 December 2016.

It’s great to be here, many thanks to Joel for the invite.

Thanks to Barclays for hosting us today.

And thank you all for coming along.

I know you’re all busy people with businesses to run.

But this is a very good opportunity for me to tell you what government is up to, and for you to tell me what more we need to do.

Like most of you I’m a businessman at heart.

I’m a relative novice at politics.

I spent the first 20 years of my adult life working in international finance.

Some would say that’s not a good thing.

I remember when I became culture secretary in 2014, some leading lights of the arts world asked “what does this banker know about culture?”

At least I think they said “banker”.

I don’t know if you saw, earlier this week, the new list of Britain’s most and least-trusted professions.

Nurses, doctors and teachers are at the top, the people the public thinks are most likely to tell the truth.

And down at the very bottom, the least-trusted professions included government ministers, politicians generally, and of course bankers!

Three out of three for me!

For my next job, I’m going to become an estate agent.

Joking aside, I know that everyone in this room went into business or politics for the right reasons.

We all want to make things better.

It might mean passing laws or allocating funding that make a difference.

It might mean delivering a service or a product that nobody else can deliver.

We’re all here because we want to serve our communities in the best way we can.

From what I’ve seen today I think that’s particularly true of smaller businesses here in Cornwall.

It’s a place that has a very strong sense of identity and community, and a very real pride in that.

And that’s something I applaud.

The last time I was back in the south west of England was in October, speaking at a business event in Exeter.

And I talked about how all the counties in the south-west of England can achieve even more when they work together on issues that affect all the people who live here.

This seemed to upset a few people, certainly on Twitter, who thought I was talking up some kind of regional assembly idea.

I think the comment that hurt most was “what do you expect from someone who went to university in Devon!”

But the critics couldn’t be more wrong.

Cornwall is a unique place. A very special place.

By far the biggest county in southern England, it has its own history, its own culture, its own needs.

I’ve absolutely no interest in steamrollering Cornwall into some kind of forced regional identity.

The failed vision of a South West Assembly has rightly been consigned to the scrapheap of history, and there it will stay.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Cornwall exists in isolation.

Devon lies just across the Tamar.

The rest of the South West and the United Kingdom lie beyond.

And, while it’s vitally important that we protect and respect the Cornish identity, there are undoubtedly areas in which working across boundaries can bring benefits to the people of this very special county.

In 2016 people live, work and shop across county lines, across national borders even.

Supply chains and customer bases for even the smallest companies can stretch for hundreds or thousands of miles.

Joined-up, strategic thinking can bring huge benefits to employers, employees and the general public alike.

There are plenty of cases where that’s happening already.

Thanks to Devon and Cornwall Police you have some of the lowest crime rates in the country.

Exeter and Plymouth universities operate in both counties too, with numerous projects that help people right across the south west and beyond.

It just shows how locally-led co-operation is much more effective than top-down, Westminster-imposed regional government.

Which is precisely why I’m an enthusiastic supporter of the Cornwall Devolution Deal.

The devolution deal was conceived locally, refined locally and now it’s going to be delivered locally.

It will bring the county closer together and give it a stronger voice when dealing with the wider south west and the rest of the UK.

And, most importantly, it puts power over decisions that affect Cornwall right back where it should be.

In the hands of Cornish people.

That doesn’t mean central government is just leaving Cornwall to get on with it, to sink or swim alone.

We’re still very much on your side.

For starters, we’re guaranteeing funding for European Union projects signed before the UK’s departure from the EU.

You don’t need me to tell you that this move is particularly important for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The area has an allocation of almost £350 million in the current European Regional Development Fund round, nearly £160 million of which has already been allocated.

This guarantee gives Cornish businesses the certainty they need, allowing you to plan for funding that’s already in place and even apply for further EU funding right up until the moment we leave.

And let me be very, very clear that we WILL be leaving the European Union.

The majority of people in Cornwall voted for it, the majority of people right across the UK voted for it.

There will be no backdoor attempts to remain a member, and certainly no second referendum.

Now, you’re all business leaders.

You know as well as I do that you don’t go into a negotiation with all your cards on the table – at least not if you want a good outcome!

When I worked in finance, I knew that the key to landing the best deal was always having better information.

Knowing the stuff the guys on the other side of the table didn’t.

It gave us leverage, it gave us power and it repeatedly gave us success.

So I can’t give you the inside track on our negotiating position.

We won’t be giving you a running commentary on every twist and turn as the negotiations unfold.

But know this.

We’re going to secure a deal that works for all British businesses.

Large and small, international and local, online and high street, in the service sector, in tourism, in the creative industries, in manufacturing, in fisheries, in farming…

Nobody will be left behind.

Of course, there’s more to life than Brexit.

You might not believe it from reading the papers recently, but it’s true!

So our commitment to Cornwall’s economy goes beyond simply steering you through our departure from the EU.

Over the past few years we’ve invested tens of millions of pounds in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly through Local Growth Deals.

The latest round of funding will be announced shortly, but to see the kind of impact it can make you just have to look at the Newquay Growth Area, which I visited earlier today.

£2 million from the first Local Growth Deal paid for transport improvements that have opened up the enterprise zone and created countless jobs for Cornish people.

In the grand scheme of things it’s a relatively small amount of money.

But thanks to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) it was carefully targeted exactly where it would make the biggest difference.

And that’s what local growth funding is all about.

Local business leaders working with local political leaders to deliver local economic success

You’ve got a great LEP here in Cornwall.

I know that your brilliant local MPs are really closely involved with it.

And if you’re not already engaging with the LEP I’d urge you to do so.

After all, you understand Cornish business needs far better than any politician or Westminster bureaucrat. But I know there are some things that ALL businesses want and need.

Top of that list is a strong, stable, growing economy.

And that’s exactly what this government has helped give you for nearly 7 years now.

The economy is 14.3 per cent bigger than it was in 2010

The deficit has been cut by two-thirds.

In 2014, we were the fastest growing economy in the G7.

And in ‎2015 only the US did better than us.

But this isn’t just a paper recovery, something of interest only to economists.

It’s changing real lives.

Since 2010, the number of unemployed people in Cornwall has halved.

Nationwide, more people are in work than ever before.

We’ve gone from a record-breaking recession to record-breaking employment.

The number of households in which nobody works has fallen by more than 20%t.

And more than a million private sector businesses have been created, a 20% rise.

We want that success to continue.

So we’re cutting Corporation Tax to 17%, the lowest in the G7.

We’re doubling Small Business Rate Relief and cutting the Business Rates of 900,000 smaller properties.

We’re increasing the Employment Allowance by £1,000, helping half a million businesses.

And we’re helping small businesses secure the funding they need in order to grow, with the British Business Bank supporting more than £3 billion of finance.

Businesses leaders like the people in this room are capable of doing great things.

All you need is the right conditions, the right environment.

And I’m proud to say you’ve got a government that’s totally committed to giving you just that.

Maintaining that success for another six, seven, eight years or more is not going to be easy.

There are storm clouds over the global economy.

There are challenges ahead.

And leaving the European Union will be a momentous change for many businesses in this country.

But we’re here today to talk about moving forward in business.

Not looking back, not pondering what might have been.

So let’s look forwards.

Let’s move forwards.

And let’s work together.

So I don’t want to just stand here and talk at you all afternoon.

I’d much rather hear from you.

The truth is, in this job, it’s very easy to spend too much time stuck in London surrounded by politicians, lobbyists and Civil Servants.

If we’re going to make Brexit work, if we’re going to make LEPs work, if we’re going to maintain Cornwall’s incredible record of success, we can’t just be a government of Westminster navel-gazers.

That’s why this government got behind initiatives like the creation of the Tourism Industry Council.

It gives the people who actually work in the tourism sector a direct line to government.

And it helps us all work together to deliver the change you need.

Nobody knows Cornwall better than you.

Nobody else knows as much as you do about what investment is needed where, about what regulations are causing you problems, about what infrastructure needs updating in order to let the economy grow.

So there’s no point me coming here and just giving you the usual sales pitch for half an hour or more.

I’d rather have a conversation.

I’d rather hear what’s on your minds.

If we talk together we can work together.

And if we work together we can do what we’re all here today to do.

We can build a Cornwall that works for everyone.

Thank you.

Sajid Javid – 2016 Speech on Future of County Councils

CBI Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in Guildford on 7 November 2016.

Good evening everyone, it’s great to be here.

And it’s a pleasure to be speaking alongside some really great people.

Unfortunately I won’t be here to catch Ben Page’s talk tomorrow.

I know that in 2013 he did a presentation that featured, in huge bold text, the message “ERIC PICKLES WAS RIGHT”.

That’s about the best endorsement any DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) Secretary of State has ever had!

I’m hoping tomorrow he’ll have a slide that says “SAJID’S OK TOO”…

Ben’s team at Ipsos Mori have also found that local government is the most trusted part of government in England.

That’s certainly something you should be proud of.

Although of course it’s all relative.

Saying you’re the most popular kind of politician is a bit like saying you’re the most pleasant form of root canal surgery!

Given the choice, most people would rather not have any at all…

When I left the banking industry a few years ago I was the only new MP who came to politics from a less popular profession!

When I’m done with Westminster I might go for the hat-trick, become an estate agent.

Joking aside, I fully understand why the public put more faith in their local representatives.

It’s precisely because you’re local.

You’re right there.

You deliver the day-to-day services we all rely on.

And you tirelessly dedicate yourselves to the people you serve.

County councils also have a special place in English hearts and history.

Most of you, including our hosts here in Surrey, have been around since Victoria was on the throne.

I’m not talking about you, Dave!

In many cases the areas you serve reflect boundaries that have been there for centuries more.

And with that history comes a strong sense of local identity and pride.

Passions can run high, as I found in my home town of Rochdale recently.

I met a woman who said “You’re in charge of local government? Well I’m not happy about you making Rochdale part of Manchester!”

I assumed she was talking about the new devolved administration we’re creating there, so I tried to reassure her.

But no.

She was still angry about 1974!

I told her it really wasn’t my fault, I was 5 years old then.

Didn’t help.

“Typical politician, always making excuses …”

But for all that history, local government in England has always evolved to meet the needs of the day.

And that’s as true of the counties as it is of the cities.

After all, I’m not standing here tonight speaking at the Network of Wapentakes, Hundreds and Quarter Sessions!

Although I do like a nice Wapentake!

Times change, boundaries shift, responsibilities are taken on or given away.

I don’t believe in change for the sake of change.

But I’m sure you all agree that, where something can be done better, more effectively or more efficiently, you need a very good argument to stand in the way.

When change comes, even if you’re not entirely happy with it, the best course of action is to embrace it.

To make the most of it.

To make it work.

That’s what’s happening on the national stage with the Brexit negotiations.

MPs and ministers who voted remain are working to secure the best possible deal.

And I’m delighted to see so many examples of it at county council level too.

Just look at funding.

Over the past 6 years we in central government have asked a lot of you.

And you have certainly delivered.

The savings you have achieved have been nothing short of remarkable.

I know it’s not been easy.

But you’ve got on with it.

You’ve done the job we asked of you.

We asked you to put forward efficiency plans and sign up for 4-year funding settlements.

And nearly every council in England has done exactly that, including almost all of you here this evening.

It’s a great step forward that means more certainty for councils and better services for taxpayers.

You’ve also embraced change in the way you drive economic growth.

We asked you to work with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and, again, you’ve done exactly that.

Time and again, when I speak to leading figures from LEPs, I hear praise for the proactive, can-do attitude of their local councils.

Maybe some of you still long for the days of the Regional Development Agencies?

I don’t know.

What matters is that you’ve embraced the new way of doing things.

You’ve made it work for the people you serve.

More investment, more jobs, more growth.

I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.

With funding and with efficiency plans and with local growth councils have done so well because they’ve thought for themselves.

We in central government have set out a destination – better value for money, business-led development – and you have worked out your own way of getting there.

That for me is what localism is all about.

Local ideas.

Local implementation.

Delivering for local people.

Councils figuring out what’s right for their areas and getting on with it.

Not sitting around waiting to be told what to do by DCLG.

That’s why my door will always be open to councils with interesting, locally driven solutions to the challenges we face.

I’ve seen councils sharing services, pooling back-offices, rationalising their physical footprints.

Meanwhile, some councils are even prepared to think about changing the very structure of local government itself.

For example, Buckinghamshire has just delivered a detailed, innovative and original proposal to transform the county into a single unitary authority.

Obviously there’s a long way to go yet.

A lot of conversations to be had.

A lot of decisions to be made.

And I certainly don’t want to say anything today that could prejudice any of that.

But the plans put forward by Martin Tett and his team in Aylesbury are exactly the kind of proactive, locally driven thinking I want to see.

They were conceived locally.

They were developed locally.

And they have a firm focus on what’s best for local people.

Now, let me be absolutely, 100% clear.

I think unitary status can be a great model.

It certainly seems to be working well in Durham and Wiltshire.

And, as we’ve seen from the CCN reports being published last week, it has the potential to save a lot of money.

But I’m not for one moment saying it’s for everyone.

I’m not even saying it’s definitely right for Bucks.

And – don’t worry Gary Porter! – I’m certainly not saying that I want to make every council go unitary.

This is not compulsory.

It’s not going to be imposed.

If you choose to stick with a 2-tier model I’m not going send Lord Heseltine round to play with your kids’ pet dog!

However, if the people of your county want it, and if it’s going to make their services and their lives better, I’ll do my best to help you make it happen.

The same goes for any reform that can offer better local services, greater value for money and stronger local leadership.

And that final point, stronger local leadership, is particularly important.

Because the main lesson from the result of the EU referendum was that the people of Britain want to take back control.

We don’t want our country to be run by a remote, anonymous elite.

We don’t want our taxes to be spent by a faceless bureaucracy.

The opposite is true.

We want to know who’s in charge.

Who holds the purse strings.

Who’s making the decisions.

And we want to be able to chuck them out if they’re not doing a good job!

That’s why increasing accountability is at the heart of the devolution deals I’ve been working on.

Now, I get that directly elected mayors aren’t universally popular within local government.

And I know that’s especially true of the counties.

Even up here I can see the eyes starting to roll!

I’ve heard all the arguments.

Mayors are something that cities have.

The counties are too big, too rural, for one person to control.

Everything’s fine as it is, we don’t need change.

And, again, if you don’t want a directly elected leader, that’s fine.

I’m not going to demand that you have one.

But I’m not going to devolve significant new powers and more taxpayers’ money without a corresponding increase in local accountability.

It’s a real red line for me when it comes to negotiating devolution deals.

So a directly elected leader can get you the full Monty.

Everything I can offer under the terms of the 2016 Act.

Powers we’ve handed out so far include additional investment of tens of million of pounds for the next 30 years.

Multi-year transport budgets.

Strategic planning powers.

Adult education budget funding.

And greater local influence on employment support.

But people want to know who is in charge of spending that money.

Who is in charge of delivering those services.

So I’m not going to devolve power without clearer responsibility.

I often get told that directly elected leaders are only suitable for huge urban centres.

And yes, the office of mayor has transformed how London works.

Yes, next year will see mayoral elections in the urban areas centred on Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham.

But elected leaders are also being rolled out in places like Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and the West of England.

In both cases, local leaders have stepped up to the mark and negotiated agreements that work for their communities.

And, in return, they’re being given a much greater level of control over their affairs.

Once again, it’s about councils putting themselves at the heart of change.

About actively seeking new opportunities.

About shaping your own destiny in a changing world instead of just hoping things will go back the way they were.

This kind of thinking is especially relevant around education.

For decades, it’s something local authorities had a monopoly on.

Today that’s all changed.

Academies and free schools are here to stay.

And councils need to think about the role they want to play now that education is no longer their sole dominion.

Again, my door is open to ideas.

Rather than complaining about extremely popular policies, tell me how you can work with them.

Pining for the past will not serve our children well.

The innovations of a forward-thinking council will.

Seize the opportunity.

Shape your own future.

None of this means you’re on your own.

Central government is not leaving you to sink or swim.

For example, something that always keeps my inbox full is adult social care.

While I was Business Secretary I was very proud to create the National Living Wage.

It’s a much-needed and well-earned pay rise for millions of hardworking people, and one that will help grow the economy too.

But I know it’s causing some concern for councils, especially around the impact on provision of adult social care.

So let me reassure you.

This government has provided and will continue to provide support to local authorities to manage this important change.

And I know demand pressures keep many of you awake at night.

I understand this.

That’s why we’re giving councils access to £3.5 billion of new support for social care by the end of this Parliament.

As part of this, the social care precept will give you the flexibility to raise taxes if you need to, potentially bringing in £2 billion to help some of your most vulnerable people.

I know that some councils can’t raise as much as others this way.

That’s why we’re providing additional funding for the Better Care Fund through a separate grant to local government.

One that targets support where it’s needed most.

And that’s why, together, we are undertaking the Fair Funding Review.

I know many of you work hard to join up with the NHS and give local people a seamless service.

And I know that’s not always easy.

So we’re continuing to work with you and with the NHS to make health and social care integration a success.

Health is not just hospitals and the NHS.

We need a place-based approach, with strong local leaders working to shape provision around the needs of their communities.

And we need them to push forward the integration of health and social care.

The people of England voted for it in 2015, and by 2020 it’s exactly what they’ll get.

But it will only be a real success if it is locally led.

Through all this change, all this turbulence, I want you to remember one thing.

I’m on your side.

We might not always see eye-to-eye.

We might not agree on the best way forward.

We might not find much common ground.

But I am the Secretary of State for Local Government.

And that means I am your secretary of state.

Your voice in Cabinet.

Other ministers may occasionally drift into your orbit.

You’ve already heard from Chris Grayling on transport today.

Jeremy Hunt is in charge of health.

Justine Greening runs education.

They all have some interest in different areas of local government.

But I’m there for you and you alone.

That’s my job.

I know we’ve asked a lot of you over the past few years.

I wish I could say the tough times are behind us.

But unfortunately there are plenty of difficult decisions that still need to be made.

We need to decide where and how to build the hundreds of thousands of homes this country needs, and you have a vital role in that.

We need to decide how to make local government more effective, more efficient and more accountable.

We need to deliver the training that young people and adults need.

We need to make choices about infrastructure and economic development.

We need to meet the ever-changing needs of an ever-growing population in an ever-changing world. That’s a quite intimidating to-do list!

But this is also a hugely exciting time for local government.

Devolution deals are re-energising and re-shaping local democracy.

Local Enterprise Partnerships are breaking down old barriers and bringing communities together to create jobs.

Initiatives like the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse are putting England’s regions on the world stage.

And you’re about to take control of £26 billion of business rates.

By 2020, every council represented in this room is going to be self-financing.

Your taxpayers’ money being spent in your areas.

It’s something you’ve been calling for for decades and I’m hugely proud that it will be delivered on my watch.

You really deserve nothing less.

Our local councils are the bedrock of our democracy, our local councillors are its foot soldiers.

You do so much for so many, and yet you seldom get the credit you deserve.

And that’s particularly true of the counties.

You quietly get on with delivering word-class services to millions of hardworking people – just as you have done since the 19th century.

That’s why people trust you.

That’s why I trust you.

And that’s why we’re devolving so much.

The changes we’re introducing give unprecedented independence and control to county councils.

I know that change can sometimes be difficult.

But if you put yourself at the heart of it…

If you embrace change and strive to succeed…

Well, the opportunities for county councils are almost limitless.

And I will be working every day to help you make the most of them.

Thank you.