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Policy update

Policy developments

Comprehensive spending review 2010

We have heard a lot about government departments in England being asked to model cuts of between 25% and 40%. Nine questions are being asked by HM Treasury about all spending made by all departments:

1. Is the activity essential to meet government priorities?

2. Does the government need to fund it?

3. Does it provide substantial economic value?

4. Can it be targeted at those most in need?

5. How can it be provided more cheaply?

6. How can it be provided more effectively?

7. Can the activity come from a non-state provider or by citizens, wholly or in partnership?

8. Can non-state providers be paid to carry it out according to the results they achieve?

9. Can local bodies, as opposed to central government, provide it?

More information is online at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk

In its submission to the comprehensive spending review, the National Housing Federation noted that evidence illustrates that housing investment plays a critical role in a number of key elements of the Government’s programme including:

  • strengthening economic recovery and protecting and sustaining jobs
  • empowering community groups
  • helping families to manage their debts and finances
  • bringing empty homes into use
  • promoting shared ownership schemes, helping social tenants and others to own or part-own their own home
  • improving the energy efficiency of new and existing housing
  • tackling child poverty
  • assisting families with multiple problems
  • helping older people live at home for longer
  • supporting the creation and expansion of social enterprises
  • supporting the creation of neighbourhood groups
  • enabling young people to develop the skills necessary to be active and responsible citizens and get involved with their communities

The outcome of the comprehensive spending review will be announced on 20 October 2010. Although the Welsh Assembly Government will be taking its own approach to implementing cuts, the total amount of money coming to Wales will be directly influenced by decisions made by government in England.

Everyone cares about housing

96% of those polled by YouGov for the Council of Mortgage Lenders believe that the UK has housing problems. The biggest problem is seen as the fact that young people cannot afford to buy, or take on too much debt to do so, cited by 80% of respondents. Too many people on housing waiting lists (48%), housing market boom and bust (44%), the cost of moving house (37%), and the lack of supply of new homes (35%) were also seen as problems – but each of these was cited by fewer than 50% of respondents. Yet consumers appear sceptical about whether the government can make a difference. While 15% thought it likely or very likely that the government could improve first-time buyer affordability over the next five years, 80% thought it unlikely or very unlikely.

More information online at www.cml.org.uk


Impact of tax and benefit reforms

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published a report examining the distributional effect of tax and benefit reforms announced in the June 2010 Budget which will be introduced between June 2010 and April 2014.

The report concluded that low-income households of working age lose the most from the June 2010 Budget reforms because of the cuts to welfare spending. Those who lose the least are households of working age without children in the upper half of the income distribution. This is because they do not lose out from cuts in welfare spending and are the biggest beneficiaries from the increase in the income tax personal allowance.

The biggest change to welfare policy in the June 2010 Budget in fiscal terms was the decision to link benefits with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Prices Index (RPI) or Rossi index from April 2011. This is very likely to mean less generous benefits in the years ahead.

The report is online at www.ifs.org.uk

Devolution in practice

IPPR’s report Devolution in Practice looks at policy differences across the UK. Leading academic and policy experts were asked to address a number of questions in their specialist area:

  • what policy approach has each devolved administration adopted?
  • has policy diverged and, if so, why?
  • what can we learn from the different approaches taken by the devolved nations?
  • what impact have different approaches adopted across the nations had on policy outcomes?

The chapter on housing was written by regular WHQ contributor Steve Wilcox.

The executive summary of the report is online at www.ippr.org.uk

Consumer finances in Wales

Consumer Focus has published a paper on consumer finances in Wales. Key findings include:

  • almost half of the adult population (47%) reported having at least one credit agreement in place (such as an overdraft, outstanding credit card balance, personal loan,mail order loan, hire purchase loan or loan from a doorstep lender)
  • one in 10 people with credit agreements (10%) have four or more credit commitments – a commonly used indicator for risk of over-indebtedness
  • the average outstanding balance for those with debt was £3,390 (excluding student loans)
  • over one in five people (21%) were using credit to pay for everyday expenses; another 13% were using credit to pay household bills
  • younger people and some of the most vulnerable (eg those on lower incomes, the unemployed, those with a long-term illness or disability) are struggling the most financially
  • almost a fifth (18%) of the adult population has fallen behind with payments for bills and/or credit repayments in the last 12 months; 5% have fallen behind with both
  • the two most frequently cited reasons for defaulting on bills and/or credit commitments are a loss of income (due to redundancy; sickness; a relationship breakdown) or just generally living on a low income

The paper is available online at www.consumerfocus.org.uk

Building affordable housing in hard times

Two recently published reports look at how affordable housing might be delivered in the context of fewer resources. The Smith Institute’s Rhetoric to reality: a report on affordable housing prospects in an age of austerity argues that without determined joint action by government and housing associations to develop a new funding model, provision of affordable housing will reduce progressively over the medium term. However, it also notes that housing associations are in a strong position to work with government to identify new solutions. They have access to private finance at advantageous rates, significant unencumbered assets, and a good track record. Their borrowing is also off the public balance sheet.

Hard Times, New Choices published by PriceWaterHouseCoopers and L&Q, examines similar territory noting that ‘the challenge to housing associations in this paper is nothing less than to change the way they think and change the way they do business. The challenge for government is to recognise the social and economic value and potential of housing associations. It should allow associations the tools and flexibility to do a job that government is no longer in so strong a position to do itself’.

The reports are online at www.smith-institute.org.uk and www.lqgroup.org.uk

CIH publications

Since the last issue of WHQ, the Chartered Institute of Housing has published:

  • Allocating social housing: opportunities and challenges designed to stimulate debate about challenges to existing approaches to allocations and ideas about new approaches to allocations
  • Promoting mortgage access for affordable housing which shares the experience members of the Chartered Institute of Housing working in a variety of different organisations and of the Homes and Communities Agency in working with retail mortgage lenders, local authorities and providers in the delivery of affordable housing to customers. It offers advice on how to maximise the mortgageability of all types of affordable home ownership properties planned by local authorities to meet the needs of their local areas
  • The Housing PACT a statement from people involved in housing that sets out what is needed to tackle the UK’s worrying housing challenges

CIH publications are available online at www.cih.org

JRF publications

Recently published research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation includes:

  • Shared ownership and shared equity: reducing the risks of home-ownership?
  • Public attitudes to housing
  • Home-ownership and the distribution of personal wealth: A review of the evidence

JRF publications are online at www.jrf.org.uk

The JRF has developed an interesting section of its website Cuts, spending and society www.jrf.org.uk which aims to inform and stimulate debate about the impact of cuts on people in poverty.

Welsh Assembly

Referendum date proposed

The two coalition partners have agreed that the referendum on further powers for the National Assembly should be held on Thursday 3 March 2011. The Welsh Assembly Government now awaits the Secretary of State Cheryl Gillan’s formal response, but she is expected to rubber stamp the decision.

Budget timeline

The Welsh Assembly Government has produced a budget timeline which shows how it has been dealing with the proposed budget cuts over the past few months. A draft budget is expected in November 2010, with the final budget debated in early February 2011.

The timeline is online at http://wales.gov.uk

Economic renewal

The Welsh Assembly Government has set out its new approach to economic renewal which has a vision of ‘a Welsh economy built upon the strengths and skills of its people and natural environment; recognised at home and abroad as confident, creative and ambitious; a great place to live and work’. Five priorities are identified for delivering this vision:

  • investing in high quality and sustainable infrastructure
  • making Wales a more attractive place to do business
  • broadening and deepening the skills base
  • encouraging innovation
  • targeting the business support offered by the Assembly – he strategy signals a move away from grant support to loans

Economic Renewal: A New Direction is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

Planning policy

The Technical Advice Note 22 (TAN 22) Planning for Sustainable Buildings was published in June 2010. The document sets out the Assembly Government’s land use planning policies in respect of planning for sustainable buildings. This includes a national development management policy on planning for sustainable buildings that expects minimum sustainable building standards to be achieved for most new planning applications for residential and non-residential development. It complements building regulations which set mandatory standards for the design and construction of buildings, which include aspects of health, safety and environmental protection.

The document is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

The National Assembly Sustainability Committee is undertaking an inquiry into Planning into Wales which is looking at how successful national and local land use planning policies are in delivering key Welsh Government policy objectives such as climate change, affordable housing and regeneration/economic development.

Information about the inquiry is available online at http://www.assemblywales.org

Assembly Measures

Assembly Measures are essentially Welsh laws. An Assembly Measure can broadly do anything an Act of Parliament can in relation to Wales, subject to the limitations as defined by the Government of Wales Act 2006.

Of interest to WHQ readers will be Assembly Measures proposed concerning the Rights of Children and Young Persons and Mental Health, (noted in the article from Gofal on page 41), as well as those already in place on Learning and Skills, Children and Families and Local Government. And of course, we will be watching out for Measures made under the Housing LCO.

Information about Assembly Measures is available online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

Housing need

Research on housing need undertaken for the Assembly by Alan Holmans has been published. The headline findings are:

  • an estimated 284,000 additional homes are required in Wales between 2006 and 2026
  • 183,000 of these are in the market sector and 101,000 in the non-market sector
  • these estimates average 14,200 dwellings a year – 9,200 in the market sector and 5,100 in the non-market sector
  • in addition, there is a current backlog of unmet housing need which is estimated at 9,500 households
  • estimates for local authority areas over the period 2006 to 2026 range from 2,500 homes in Merthyr Tydfil to 37,300 in Cardiff. As estimates, they do not override the more informed assessments of housing need undertaken by individual local authorities

The research report is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

Regulatory framework

The Assembly has published Delivery Outcomes which replace the former Regulatory Code as the Welsh Assembly Government’s set of expectations on what RSLs should deliver. The Delivery Outcomes (which were previously known as Performance Standards) set out expectations in relation to governance and finance and landlord services. The intention is that they provide an overall framework within which RSLs can carry out a self assessment which will encourage wide ranging challenge while remaining sufficiently strategic in its focus to support innovation and local circumstance.

Delivery Outcomes are available online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

Hugh Thomas has been appointed as the independent Chair of the Regulatory Board which first met in July 2010.

Integrated Families Support Service pilots

The launch of Integrated Families Support Service (IFSS) pilots is a One Wales commitment delivered within the Children and Family (Wales) Measure 2010 and is part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to support families and tackle child poverty. IFSS recognises that these families often face multiple disadvantages which require highly specialist and intensive support. IFSS will be delivered by multi disciplinary, multi agency teams incorporating a Consultant Social Worker working directly with families to create positive change. They will also work with other services and agencies to support parents to change for the benefit of the family.

The pioneering areas cover four local authorities – Merthyr Tydfil with Rhondda Cynon Taff (as a consortium), Newport and Wrexham all working in partnership with respective Health Boards. Initially referrals will be for families where the parent’s primary presenting problem is alcohol or drug misuse However, families affected by parental mental illness, parental learning disability and domestic violence will be phased into IFSS.


The national statistics on homelessness covering the period April to June 2010 have been released by the Welsh Assembly Government. It shows that, whilst the number of households accepted as homeless was relatively unchanged from the previous quarter at 1,467 households, it was up by 10 per cent on the same quarter a year earlier.

The full statistical bulletin is online at http://wales.gov.uk.


New finance for Family Housing Association

Family Housing Association (Wales) Ltd based in Swansea has announced a £30 million investment supported by Barclays Corporate to develop social housing and extra care schemes across West Wales. This brings the total awarded to Family Housing by Barclays up to £70 million and will be used to develop an additional 353 homes across West Wales.

GENuS reports

The GENuS consortium has published a report which tells the GENuS story so far and shows the impact the consortium has made in the communities in which the member associations work.

The report Making an Impact, Shaping the Future is available online at www.seren-group.co.uk

Taff Housing Association

Pictured is Taff\’s longest serving Board Member, Mary Hayes, who has also been a tenant from the start of the Association, at her This is Your Life celebration party in September 2010.

The association has recently appointed Nia Bennett as their new Director of Corporate Services and has also reached the finals of the National Business Awards in the Employer of the Year category.

Taff\'s longest serving Board Member, Mary Hayes

Tenants took their first steps in reducing their carbon footprint at Cadwyn\’s AGM.

Cadwyn\'s AGM

A meeting room with glass walls is going to be built on top of Pontypool’s tallest block of flats. Bron Afon Community Housing is planning to transform the inside and outside of Fairview Court in Pontnewynydd (pictured). Plans have been drawn up to slash the residents heating bills and give them a meeting room on the roof.

Fairview Court in Pontnewynydd

Committing to good governanceCommitting to good governance

The Boards of The Cadarn Housing Group and Newydd Housing Association became the first to formally commit to the new CHC Charter for Good Governance at their meeting on 16 June 2010.


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