A new Housing and Planning Minister

There’s been no public announcement yet who will take on the planning portfolio, but we’ve been assured by senior people in the department that Rachel Maclean will be the new Minister for Housing and Planning, as a Minister of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Maclean is on the rise, having only become an MP in 2017 and joined the government three years ago. She is much-reshuffled (this is her fourth different government department) and not an area in which she has experience. History suggests housing ministers tend not to last, but also that they tend to get promoted: accordingly she will be aiming to impress her colleagues and superiors.

Maclean was born in Chennai, then known as Madras, in India in the mid-1960s, but her family soon returned to the midlands where she attended a state comprehensive school. She went up to St Hugh’s College, Oxford in 1984 to study experimental psychology, and then to Aston University for a master’s degree in work and occupational psychology.

After leaving education her first job was on a graduate management scheme with HSBC from 1989, which saw her posted to Australia, Japan and Hong Kong. She married David Maclean in Solihull in 1992, and they now have three sons and a daughter. Together with her husband, in 2005 she co-founded  set up Packt Publishing Ltd to publish training ebooks for IT professionals.

Maclean took the lead herself in 2011 and founded Impackt Publishing Services Ltd to specialise in HR software for small business. She was a director (Governor) of King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys from 2011 to 2014, and also served for 15 years as a scout leader in Dorridge where the family lived.

In 2013, not having stood for office before, Maclean was selected as Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Birmingham Northfield. This was a Labour-held seat that the Conservatives identified as their best opportunity in the city. She set up a charity, ‘Skilled and Ready’, to help young people develop marketable employment skills, and campaigned hard over the two years before the election.

In the end Maclean achieved a slight swing to the Conservatives, but it only reduced the Labour majority. She supported a ‘Remain’ vote in 2016. Her opportunity came in 2017 when Karen Lumley’s health problems led her to stand down in the marginal seat of Redditch on the eve of Theresa May’s snap election; Maclean won the selection and held the seat with the same majority.

Ministerial office

In Parliament Maclean was a select committee member for a year before being picked as a Parliamentary Private Secretary for Amber Rudd and then Sajid Javid. Re-elected with a landslide majority in 2019, Maclean became junior transport minister in the February 2020 reshuffle after Javid was sacked. After bringing in new rules to allow electric scooters she was promoted in September 2021 to be Minister for safeguarding at the Home Office, and drew up a plan to tackle domestic abuse.

She suffered some embarrassment in May 2022 when during an interview with Sky News she said people could protect themselves from the cost of living crisis by taking on more hours or moving to a better job; the clip was widely replayed on social media as a gaffe. During the crisis that brought down Boris Johnson, Maclean resigned her post and called on Johnson to resign “for the good of the country and our party”.

After first backing Sajid Javid, and then Kemi Badenoch, Maclean endorsed Liz Truss in the leadership election and was rewarded with the post of Minister for Victims at the Ministry of Justice in Truss’s government. Rishi Sunak at first demoted her to Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, before bringing her back as Housing and Planning Minister in February 2023.

Views on planning and development

Maclean does not seem to have been involved in any planning issues in Dorridge. When standing for Northfield, Maclean’s election address included an endorsement from a Kings Norton resident who said: “I contacted Rachel about unwanted developments in our area as I was very concerned. She got in touch straight away and arranged to come to my house … It’s great to see her standing alongside residents like me on the issues that matter to us.”

Her Northfield leaflets also included a pledge to fight for more affordable housing, but which then set out the need for the right infrastructure to be in place to deal with the increase in residents.

As Redditch MP in July 2019, Maclean protested that Persimmon Homes “has unfinished business here in Redditch” over section 106 payments for previous developments up to 20 years previously, and implied she would oppose outline plans for further housebuilding until they were resolved. After a meeting, Persimmon agreed to pay the £0.5m.

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