New secretary of state James Brokenshire has declared himself to be ‘a real fan of local government’ and vowed to take a ‘hands on’ approach to his relationship with the sector.
In an interview with The MJ after just 48 hours in post, he said: ‘Local government does so much good. I have a very positive view of the good local government can do. It has a very hands on approach.’
In a marked move away from the style of his predecessor, Sajid Javid, Mr Brokenshire said he would take a similar ‘hands on’ approach in his relationship with the sector and was keen to ‘listen’ – but he would not be afraid to challenge local government where it was needed.
The secretary of state claimed his father’s career as a former council chief executive, and as a director of the Audit Commission had given him an insight into the ‘focus on good management and good practice’ in the sector.
Mr Brokenshire refused to be drawn on whether he would like to see the return of the Audit Commission, but claimed there was ‘already oversight’ of councils and added ‘we know there are some fantastic councils’.
‘We are equally looking at some of the devolution deals,’ he added. ‘It’s all these issues I’m listening intently on.’
As local government awaits news of plans for intervention in Northamptonshire, Mr Brokenshire said he had been listening to views on the consultation over the intervention in respect of the approach to commissioners and he would review the plans before making further announcements.
He paid tribute to his predecessor, Mr Javid, who was promoted to the role of home secretary this week, suggesting he had done an ‘incredible job’ at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Mr Brokenshire, who was named as the new secretary of state on Monday, said: ‘It is a privilege to be asked to take on the role of secretary of state for housing, communities and local government.’
He said it had been a ‘tough few months with my health issues’, following his resignation as Northern Ireland secretary in order to undergo lung surgery at the start of the year. However, he said he it was a pleasure to be returning to government.