When the Number 10 policy board was formed, many dismissed it as a sop to angry backbenchers that would have no real power. It lost one of its biggest figures, Jesse Norman, after the Syria vote, and I reported a few weeks ago that there were concerns the members weren't gelling all that well. But today, buried in Eric Pickles' speech to conference, was a line that represented the first solid policy from the board. Pickles said:
'We are supporting new family-friendly tenancies in the private rented sector.'
Some listening might have missed this, but Coffee Housers will recognise the policy, because we first reported it last year. It was first proposed in a briefing paper to Number 10 by Jake Berry, who was then just a lowly PPS, and is now a member of the policy board.
Berry's idea was a 'New Deal for Generation Rent', and he also wrote about this for us in January. He wanted longer-term tenancies to help families stay in the same home, rather than having to up sticks and even move schools when the landlord raised the rent or decided to end the tenancy. He has been working on the ideas since joining the board, and is now celebrating seeing them move into official government policy. Under a new 'tenants' charter', families will be able to request longer tenancies from their landlords. It's a good example of one of the little things that the Tories need to be making a song and dance about to show that they care about hardworking families, but it's also an example of the policy board starting to do its job.