Reports that the autonomy of the Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s department has been reined in by the government following prime minister Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle yesterday have been met with outrage in Whitehall, sources tell i.

Mr Gove is widely regarded by housing experts as the only member of the government who has both understood the housing crisis and taken tangible action to fix it for almost a decade. During his time in the role, strides have been made on building safety and social housing reform.

One Whitehall source told i “is this how the machine responds to a department that has a plan to improve substandard homes in response to the death of a two-year-old boy [Awaab Ishak]? Deeply depressing.”

They called the move an “overreaction” and an attempt to “put Michael Gove in a box” because he is one of the few ministers “actually getting things done right now”.

Shortly after the reshuffle on Tuesday, the Financial Times reported the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) had been “banned from making spending decisions on new capital projects” without an explicit green light from Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) because of questions over whether the ministry’s policies deliver “value for money”.

In January, Mr Gove announced £30m to improve social housing in the wake of the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale. Awaab died due to complications following prolonged exposure to mould and damp in the housing association flat where he lived with his parents.

Insiders say the reported Treasury move was a response to Gove’s decision to announce the funding for social housing after Awaab’s inquest confirmed that poor conditions contributed to his death.

However i understands that the Treasury insist that this was not the case.

A government spokesperson said: “The Government’s central mission is to level up every part of the United Kingdom by spreading opportunity, empowering local leaders and improving public services. DLUHC will continue to deliver its existing programme of capital projects as planned.”

Mr Gove made it clear to i in an interview last year that he thinks social housing should be a government priority.

There is currently a national shortage of social homes with over a million people currently on waiting lists across England.

However, to build enough new social homes the National Housing Federation says the government would need to provide an average capital grant of £14.6bn per year for ten years. There is currently £11.5bn available over five years as part of the Affordable Homes Programme.

HMT has always allocated funding for government departments but, prior to the reported move this week, DLUHC was able to sign off its own spending on capital projects of up to £30m. The move suggests that new housing policy interventions – such as Gove’s response to Awaab’s death – will now be at the behest of the Treasury.

On Tuesday, Sunak moved the housing minister Lucy Frazer, MP for southeast Cambridgeshire, to a new post at the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport after only 90 days in the role.

Her predecessor Lee Rowley was only in the job briefly as part of Liz Truss’s doomed government. Before that, Marcus Jones held the role for 63 days.

Frazer’s replacement – Rachel Maclean, the member of parliament for Redditch – will be the 15th housing minister since 2010 and the fifth in the past 12 months.

2023-02-08T15:06:36Z dg43tfdfdgfd