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Boles'd Out

Boles'd OutIn these pages, we've made no secret of our dislike of the policies of the Rt Hon Nick Boles MP.

Single handedly and - we think - as the Treasury's 'plant' into St Eric's Communities and Local Government Department, he set about the destruction of Town and Country planning in the UK.

He did not even believe in the principles of Town Planning.

He might be a really nice person, we have no idea. But as a minister, he has been an unmitigated disaster with no redeeming features.

Time after time we have criticised his role.

But almost as often, we have also predicted that he was nothing more than a 'planning hatchet man' for credit junky George Osborne who - as we have said many times, is foolishly trying to con the country into believing that more debt for unsustainable consumer spending is the way out of the biggest debt mountain this country has ever had.

And as with all 'hatchet men', we don't doubt at all that he was brought in to do exactly what he did.

He wielded the axe through swathes of established and settled planning policy, leaving an unholy mess. And having done his master's bidding he has now been removed.

We've no doubt this is to do with the national election next May.

The plan - just as Fylde Conservatives did when they ditched the Commissar - is to make us think that all the badness is gone with the former incumbent and we have a nice new trustworthy sensible chap in charge.

Sadly, many people continue to fall for it (which is why political parties do it), but less and less people vote for them, and even more worryingly for our democracy, less and less people think it's worth voting at all.

Although we will be told that all the bad stuff was all his idea, and he's now gone it will get better, what needs to be remembered is that he was nothing more than an appointed agent of change, and nothing has changed at the top. Its the same people driving the same policies forward - although they will probably take their foot off the planning accelerator until after the election.

Had Boles stayed in post, the number of residents up and down the country who are so angry at what has been done to their countryside could quite easily have tipped the balance for Conservative MPs in marginal and, indeed, some in less marginal seats.

And as if his destruction of planning policy was not enough, our last article was able to show the utter lunacy of his underlying logic when he said "We [the Government] represent those who do not have a vote in these public meetings and have not voted for the local councillors, perhaps because they do not live in the area yet or are not even of voting age. I take that responsibility very seriously, and I make no apology for that."

Adding insult to injury he dismissed the tenets of the Localism Act on which his Government had stood for election saying "The responsibility for the Government is to create a [planning] system that applies to everyone and every area, in which every community and every council knows what its responsibilities are."

In response, we said "We wondered what that was, if it was not a top down, centralised, Stalinist, Regional Government, one-size-fits-all policy that is 100% and 180 degrees away from the policies of Localism"

But, in a move that even we didn't expect to happen so quickly, the last sentence in our last article 'Planning Debate: Westminster Hall' on 11th July has proved to be uncannily prophetic.

We said: "we would not be at all surprised to see a change of Minister before the election".

Just three days later, on 14th July he was gone.

And we are delighted.

So where has he been sent?

What reward has he been given for the destruction and havoc he has wreaked on planning?

Mr Boles is now Minister of State for Skills, Enterprise and Equalities.

It's a role that will be shared between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education.

Part of his job is to be responsible for the implementation of same-sex marriage legislation that has so alienated traditional Conservative voters, so we think that will be familiar territory for him. He is also responsible for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender equality.

We understand he could be based in the Business Department, but it's more likely he will be based in the Department for Education, because the Government Equalities Office (as if one of those was important enough to be needed), is moving from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport,  to the Department for Education.

If he does as good a job in his new role as he did in his last, he could make a lot of people happy.

Announcing the appointment, David Cameron said Mr Boles was a strong supporter of equal marriage, and he would become a Junior Equalities Minister working under Nicky Morgan MP.

We understand the 'implementation' aspect on same-sex marriage is to do with the future of civil partnerships, and particularly that couples in civil partnerships will be able to 'convert' them to marriages from 10 December in England and Wales.

Mr Boles - who we're told is in a civil partnership himself - is a supporter of same-sex marriage and voted for it last year, so he will probably see his new job as a reward.

So who's moving into planning?

It's Brandon Lewis MP.

He was previously in charge of Local Government under St. Eric at the Department of Communities and Local Government.

But in a 'change to the advertised programme', he has been appointed Minister for both Housing and Planning in the reshuffle.

This brings housing and planning together for the first time since Margaret Beckett held them together in 2009, and we think it is an ominous move.

(Well, it's ominous unless you are supporter of concreting over the countryside for more and more houses in the 'people ponzi-scheme' that these islands have become).

Mr Lewis is the Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth (though from what we've seen of him performing, he could easily be mistaken for an Essex Man). He operates a more traditional lifestyle than Mr Boles, is married, and has two children.

Having said he represents Great Yarmouth, we note that he was a member of Brentwood Borough Council for more than 10 years, (5 years as Leader), so there is a firm Essex connection.

We understand he is close to St Eric Pickles and that, at least, is encouraging to us.

We also note a report that under his leadership, Brentford Council refused to identify land for additional traveller sites when required to do so by the government. They cited greenbelt classification in their defence - so that might be an encouraging sign for the folks in Newton.

Perhaps it's also a clue to the future that the post is titled Minister of Housing and Planning (ie not Planning and Housing), and that suggests further movement along the Boles path to denigrate the importance of planning, but his close connection to St Eric, and Mr Lewis' plain speaking background might mitigate that to some extent.

So at present we have to remain undecided on the new Minister and only time will tell.

One thing we can be clear about is that the Anti-Planning Minister Nick Boles reigns no more over our countryside. And that can only be a good thing.

Dated:     17 July 2014


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