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Comms stories behind the headlines

By Stuart Macdonald, managing director, See Media

"I value social housing" -- Theresa May

Okay, so the prime minister’s actual words in her speech on 19 September to the National Housing Federation’s inaugural Housing Summit in London were: ‘This government values housing associations.’ She put her money where her mouth is by offering a further £2 billion in grant funding for new homes.
Exactly a fortnight later Theresa May was at it again – only this time focusing on local authorities.
May told bemused delegates attending the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham it is high time local authorities were freed from the yolk of the debt caps placed on their Housing Revenue Accounts (HRA) and unleashed to build more council homes. How many more homes? According to estimates by our client Savills Housing Consultancy, up to 100,000, requiring town halls to take on additional debt of between £10 billion to £15 billion.
And breathe. This is not a Labour prime minister – this the leader of the Conservative party. The party that as recently as 2015 was cutting social rents and ensuring no capital grant whatsoever for new social rented housing. So, what gives?
I blogged on the reasons behind this in more detail a fortnight ago. The key point that bears repeating is that the social housing sector now has friends in high places: former housing minister and ousted Croydon Central MP, Gavin Barwell; and the former head of policy at homelessness charity Shelter, Toby Lloyd.
Barwell was easily the best housing minister there has been in England since the 2010 election. It was he who began the painstaking process of unwinding the homeownership-focused mess that housing policy had become in the Cameron-Osborne years. When he lost his seat in 2017, he was swiftly snapped up as chief of staff by the new occupant of Number 10.
The prime minister's claim to have made it her ‘personal mission to fix our broken housing system’ gained credibility as one by one policy and funding barriers have been lowered or removed.

Long-term rent settlement at CPI+1% - check. Reverse ferret on planned cuts to housing benefit payments to supported housing tenants – check. Increase in grant funding for all tenures of sub-market cost housing (including social rent) – check.
The icing on the housing cake seems to have been the arrival in April this year of Toby Lloyd from Shelter as an adviser to the prime minister. In his own words on his Twitter feed Lloyd is a ‘policy wonk…fixated with fixing housing’. He may have spent the summer getting his feet under the desk, but he has certainly hit the ground running in autumn.
Lloyd clearly values social housing – and he has convinced Barwell and May of its merits as well. Next stop: reform of the Right to Buy? He wouldn’t, would he….?
The only minor cloud on the horizon is the mercurial form of former Foreign Secretary and London Mayor, Boris Johnson. While the prime minister has been embracing the housing sector, Johnson has been trashing it.
Were the tortuous Brexit negotiations to claim May’s scalp, a Conservative Party led by Johnson would likely mean the return of the social housing sector to the political wilderness. May says she values social housing – perhaps oddly, social housing should value her too.


Blog of the month: Who'll be the next Tory leader?

See Media's communications director, Jenny Riddell, argues that conference season gives us a glimpse of the internal atmosphere of each of party.

So, who does Jenny speculate is on their way in? And who's packing their bags?
Read Jenny's blog

Introducing Yerin Seo

Yerin is the newest member of the See Media team, having joined us as an account executive last month.

Yerin studied Political Science and International Relations at State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo).

Since graduating, she has gained experience working in a U.S. Senator’s office and for another London-based comms agency.


See Media news

Our new home

We’ve been busy settling into our new offices, right next to Liverpool Street Station in London.

We're hiring!!

See Media is looking for a talented individual, with a background in PR and communications, to be our new account director.

The deadline for applications is Monday 22 October.

Our new client: Stonewater

The 31,500-home housing association plans to build 1,000 new homes each year from 2019, and we’re very excited about helping to share its stories.

GUAC Comms Summit

On 18 September, communications professionals from major housing associations across the country participated in Give us a Chance (GUAC)’s Communications Summit, which focussed on the membership organisation's upcoming campaign, Communities that Work.

Soon to be launched with help from See Media, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the work housing associations do to help their tenants into employment.

PR tip of the month: Moving a story on

Want to get involved in more thought leadership?

Keep an eye on breaking news. Subscribe to news alerts from your target publications, and be on the look-out for stories you can respond to.
Next, consider how a spokesperson from your organisation can move the story on?

Perhaps there's someone who has a strong opinion about a particular subject based upon solid experience? Maybe you have data that supports a particular story? Or your organisation has a scheme or initiative that could be a good case study?

Think about what you could write in order to contribute to, or provoke a constructive and timely debate.
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