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Dale’s Diary: Five jobs Bob beats two jobs Jess

Dale’s Diary: Five jobs Bob beats two jobs Jess

🕔18.Jun 2015

You can’t keep a good man down, and the work just continues to pile up for Bob Kerslake.

Having retired as Permanent Secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government, and formerly head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake might have been tempted to put his feet up on the red leather benches in the House of Lords.

Not a bit of it. The man whose critical review of the city council’s governance capabilities continues to send shock waves across Birmingham has taken on no fewer than FIVE jobs.

He has been appointed chair of the Centre for Public Scrutiny and also chairs Kings College Hospital Foundation Trust, the housing association Peabody and is about to become president of the Local Government Association.

Now he’s landed another high-profile chairmanship, overseeing the Institute for Public Policy Research’s commission on affordable housing in London.

Council leaders may be relieved to note that none of these positions are likely to bring Kerslake back into direct contact with Birmingham, although you never know what may be around the corner.

As Chamberlain Files reported earlier this month, Kerslake wasted no time attacking the Government’s housing policy in his maiden House of Lords speech, in particular criticising Tory plans to allow tenants to buy housing association properties at knock down prices.

The new policy was “wrong in principle and wrong in practice” and “won’t tackle the urgent need to build more housing and more affordable housing”, Kerslake claimed.

The IPPR commission will seek to answer the following questions:

  • How can we double the number of new homes, and how can we maintain higher levels of output?
  • How can we reconnect the cost of housing to the incomes of Londoners?
  • How can we improve the offer for existing renters in the capital, and help landlords meet the Decent Homes Standard?

The report will be published next March ahead of the London Mayoral Election.

Lord Kerslake said:

The failure to build enough homes to meet this country’s needs has been one of the biggest public policy failures of the last 50 years. This failure has been most acutely felt in London, which is building less than half of the homes in needs to sustain its growing population.

As a result, Londoners are missing out on opportunities that previous generations took for granted: delaying having families, relying on a very uneven private rented sector and often being locked out of home ownership completely.

The knock on consequence is that London is being held back and London’s competitiveness as the most successful global city is under threat. There are also major knock-on impacts on the rest of Britain’s economy and a distorting effect on other housing markets outside the capital.

Jess Phillips, the new Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, is clearly going to be a colourful addition to the city and the country’s political scene.

What with having made an impact at the Sky News summer party – ‘no writhing or moaning when I talked about sexy movie scene’ – and also having been chosen to ask a question at PMQs, Phillips has been marked down as one to watch.

I have been contacted by her predecessor John Hemming, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Yardley, who wants to know when Phillips is going to resign, which seems a bit harsh.

Actually, Hemming is talking about Phillips’ position on Birmingham city council where she continues to represent the Longbridge ward and shows no sign of standing down.

Hemming has some form here. He remained on the city council for a while after becoming an MP, but at least the ward he represented was in his constituency.

Phillips is in a rather difficult position. On Feb 23 she wrote on Twitter that she was “happy to pledge now that if elected I will be full time MP for Birmingham Yardley, my only other jobs will be mom (sic) and carer where wages are awful”.

Surely there can be no worries about winning a by-election in Longbridge? Labour’s Andy Cartwright had a 572-vote majority over the Tories at this year’s May elections.

Phillips became a city councillor in 2012 and her period in office expires in May 2016. Will Labour string it out until then with Phillips virtually an absentee councillor in London? Probably.


Solihull Tory MP Julian Knight appears to have calmed down over the prospect of a West Midlands combined authority. He’s got a new target in his sights – the BBC.

Before the General Election, Knight vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to prevent Solihull being “sucked into a Labour controlled Birmingham”. But Solihull council is now on board with the combined authority, and Knight appears to have been persuaded to divert his energies elsewhere.

He has turned his attention to the BBC licence fee which he describes as an “unjustifiable and unsustainable poll tax”. Writing on the conservativehome website, Knight urges the Beeb to “ween itself off the licence fee and agree to goals and timetables to meet this end”. More privatisation and subscription channels are required, apparently.

I suspect West Midlands council leaders will wish Mr Knight every success in his latest endeavours, not least on the grounds that battling against the BBC will involve the MP spending plenty of time in London rather than Solihull.

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