A hastily arranged get together yesterday afternoon with the new Ministers. I thought John Denham seemed genuinely very pleased to be at CLG and he spoke first with humour then with some passion about the brief. The shakedown of different lead roles in the Ministerial team have been confirmed. John Healey picks up the housing and planning role as it was before. He will be supported mainly by Ian Austin. Rosie Winterton, as the Minister of State for Local Government has part of what John had been doing but as she also has a foot in the new Department for Business, it appears that Sarah Mcarthy Fry will pick up the important role leading on local government finance. I met Sarah only a few weeks ago in her previous role as junior Childrens Minister, so now I have to go and persuade her succesor that school nurture groups are the next best thing since sliced bread.
John Denham has announced a ‘plan to renew democracy’. There isn’t really a plan yet, just the start of a consultation. I will be pointing out to the new Ministers that there is a huge body of reports they can draw on, not least the Lyons Report and the recent Select Committee report on the Balance of Power, and we need action not consultation. I am putting together an open letter to the Ministers and an action plan for localism, both of which I will publish here next week.