Lucy Powell, Labour’s front-bench housing spokesperson, has moved to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport brief as part of leader Kier Starmer’s efforts to make his cabinet more ‘focussed’ and also more centrist.
She is replaced by Lisa Nandy (pictured), who has been tasked with scrutinising Michael Gove and his Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Her role absorbs Powell’s duties.
Nandy has not been a prolific housing policy commentator until now, but a year she revealed in a magazine interview that she wanted, in particular, to see the private rental market reformed.
“We need far better regulations around private renting, and to clamp down on rip-off letting fees. The amount of deposit that you have to put down is really difficult for a lot of people, and the rules around getting a deposit back are far too weighted in favour of landlords and agencies.”
“The Labour party said it wanted to bring in longer-term tenancies for more stability, and I think that’s still really important. Homeownership is talked about a lot in UK politics, but we’ve neglected the fact that there are so many people in rented accommodation who need help right now.”
This latest reshuffle came yesterday morning while the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner was giving a keynote speech on parliamentary sleaze, catching her by surprise.
The key people to be eased out are Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary (replaced by Yvette Cooper), Kate Green, the shadow education secretary and Jo Stevens, the shadow culture secretary.
Powell, the MP for Manchester Central since 2012, was appointed to the shadow Housing role in May, taking over from Thangam Debbonaire who became shadow leader of the House of Commons.
“Delighted to have been appointed Shadow Secretary of State for DCMS,” Powell tweeted last night. “It’s a big brief with many big issues: the rise of digital tech, online harms and social media, sport governance, making the arts, culture & music accessible, valuing content, & supporting public broadcasting.”
Powell’s tenure heading up the housing brief has been both brief and also lacking in much engagement with the property industry except a strong campaign to hold the government to account over the leasehold scandal.
The high point of her time in housing was a speech during Labour’s conference in Brighton in September during which she weighed in heavily against landlords.
She also said a Labour government would link housing costs to wages and “tackle the thorny issues of quality, affordability and security in private rentals”.