The appointment of Greg Clark as Communities Secretary in the new government has signaled that devolution and a focus on cities will be an important feature of the administration’s agenda.
Clark, MP for Royal Tunbridge Wells, worked in the Department for Communities and Local Government during the early days of the Coalition where he had responsibility for decentralisation and planning policy.
Subsequently he has been minister for Cities, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and more recently Minister for Universities and Science. He is known as a moderniser and a keen advocate of localism.
Clark succeeds Eric Pickles and is one of four changes in the Department which now has three new faces. James Wharton, the 31-year-old Stockton South MP, has been made the minister responsible for the “northern powerhouse” in Cameron’s new administration. His departmental post is his first ministerial role.
Creating a “Northern Powerhouse”
The appointment comes as part of a post-election reshuffle and announcements that English cities are set to get more powers over housing, transport, planning and policing.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, believes that the “old model” of running everything from London is “broken” and has unbalanced the economy. Greater Manchester, which will elect a mayor in two years and take on such powers as part of a “Northern Powerhouse” and should become a blueprint for other large cities.
A Cities Devolution Bill will be in the Queen’s Speech later this month. The “Powerhouse” aims to close the economic gap between north and south, which Mr Osborne said would be backed by extra funding of more than £18bn to the region by 2030.
Two other DCLG newcomers are Nuneaton MP Marcus Jones and Essex MP Mark Francois, the constituency member for Rayleigh. Both have experience as former local government members.
Jones was previously a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and PPS to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Francois has been a Government Whip and a former Minister of State for the Armed Forces.
In other ministerial announcements Patrick McLoughlin returns as Transport Secretary while Liz Truss continues in her role as Environment Secretary.