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Policy update – October 2011

Policy developments

Independent Commission on Banking

The final report of the Independent Commission on Banking was published in September 2011. Its recommendations aim to create a more stable and competitive basis for UK banking for the long term. This is defined as a banking system that:

  • is much less likely to cause, or succumb to, financial crises and the huge costs they bring
  • is self-reliant, so that the taxpayer is never again on the hook for losses that banks make, and
  • is effective and efficient at providing the basic banking services of safeguarding retail deposits, operating secure payments systems, and efficiently channelling savings to productive investments in the economy.

The headline recommendations made in the report are:

  • the requirement that UK banks should have more equity capital and loss-absorbing debt – beyond what has so far been internationally agreed
  • that their retail banking activities should be structurally separated, by a ring-fence, from wholesale and investment banking activities. As well as helping insulate UK retail banking from global shocks, ring-fencing is considered to provide a sound long-term framework for the supply of credit in the economy
  • measures to increase competition within the retail banking sector, including giving the new Financial Conduct Authority a clear duty to promote effective competition

In terms of timescales, the report notes that the deadline for implementation of the internationally-agreed Basel III capital standards is the start of 2019 and that deadline is seen as appropriate for implementing the Commission’s recommendations on capital, loss-absorbing debt and depositor preference.

The report is available online at http://bankingcommission.independent.gov.uk

Housing Benefit and Supported Housing consultation

Over the summer, the Department of Work and Pensions consulted on changes to the way that Housing Benefit is paid for supported housing. In summary, it proposed:

  • for people with low support and care needs, to pay the Local Housing Allowance but with fixed additions which will continue to recognise the higher costs of providing this type of housing
  • for people with high support and care needs, that additional help be provided, where necessary, over and above the standard Local Housing Allowance. However, that extra help will no longer be decided by those processing benefit claims but by local authority officials who have experience in such things, or who have access to those with such expertise. Such decisions could possibly be made within the commissioning process for supported and specialist housing in which the individual is involved or represented

The consultation deadline has now passed; but the consultation paper is available online at www.dwp.gov.uk


10 to look out for

1 – More Homes and Better Places – Solutions to address the scale of housing need – Building and Social Housing Foundation 2011 – www.bshf.org

2 – Supporting Better Health Outcomes in Wales – report from a study commissioned by Community Housing Cymru to identify opportunities for the community housing sector to support health outcomes, particularly in meeting the needs of an ageing society www.chcymru.org.uk

3 – Forever blowing bubbles? Housing’s role in the UK economy – IPPR (May 2011) www.ippr.org

4 – Leading the market? A research report into whether Local Housing Allowance (LHA) lettings are feeding rent inflation – Chartered Institute of Housing/British Property Federation (September 2011) www.bpf.org.uk

5 – Tackling worklessness in Wales – Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University (July 2011) www.shu.ac.uk

6 – Early Intervention: Smart Investment, Massive Savings – Second Report to Government from Graham Allen MP www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk

7 – Hidden in plain sight: Inquiry into disability-related harassment – Equality and Human Rights Commission www.equalityhumanrights.com

8 – A guide to self-assessment – HouseMark (September 2011) www.housemark.co.uk

9 – In This Together: building knowledge about co-production – uses practical examples to illustrate co-production – New Economics Foundation (July 2011) www.neweconomics.org

10 – A Greenprint for the Valleys – Plaid Cymru consultation document that suggests ideas for the development of a plan that aims to bring together the natural, human and communal resources that are readily available in every community throughout the valleys www.english.leannewood.plaidcymru.org>

Welsh Government

Programme for Government

On 27 September 2011, First Minister Carwyn Jones announced the Programme for Government outlining the ‘roadmap’ for the rest of the Assembly term.

On housing, the aim is to ensure that people have a high-quality, warm, secure and energy-efficient home to live in. The Programme sets out a number of actions under three headings:

  • increasing supply and choice
  • improving quality
  • improving housing services and support

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

Local Government collaboration

2011 saw the publication of three documents on the future of local government services and functions:

  • the Simpson report Local, Regional, National: What services are best delivered where?
  • the Vivian Thomas Report The structure of Education Services in Wales
  • Sustainable Social Services for Wales – a framework for Action

Each set out expectations of collaboration between local authorities. The Simpson report sets out a number of principles for collaboration, the first of which is that the outcome must be better for the citizen and user. The report acknowledges that collaboration can take many forms and does not have to follow geography. The Compact that is to be developed between Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association will identify what success for the programme of collaboration will look like. Although housing does not feature to a great extent in the Simpson report, the collaborative agenda is as significant for housing as for other service areas.


The Welsh Government is consulting on guidance for local housing authorities on applications to suspend the Right to Buy and Related Rights in the event they wish to apply to suspend the Right to Buy and related rights in areas of housing pressure. The document sets out the process that local housing authorities will need to go through before applying. This includes consultation with specified stakeholders, preparing a draft of the direction that it wishes the Welsh Government to issue, informal discussions with Welsh Government officials and submission of a formal application. The application comprises four elements:

  • core evidence to show that demand exceeds supply. The suggested indicator of housing need is the ratio of re-lets to numbers of households on the waiting list
  • data requirements for all applications
  • additional supporting evidence
  • measures to be taken to increase supply

The requirements for each of these are set out in detail in the document.

This consultation closes on 31 October 2011; the consultation paper is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

The Welsh Government has been undertaking a major consultation on the future of Communities First. Although the consultation period will have finished by the time this issue of WHQ is published, it is worth outlining some of the changes that are being proposed:

  • from April 2012, the Welsh Government’s Communities First programme will be a community focussed programme that will support the Welsh Government’s Anti-Poverty agenda
  • the new structures set out in the consultation document support a greater focus on evidencing the impact that locally funded activities have toward three strategic outcomes:
  • 1. Prosperous communities

    2. Learning communities

    3. Healthier communities

  • the changes proposed aim to strike a balance between delivering the priorities of local communities and those at the regional and national level
  • new structures for the management of the programme both locally, regionally and nationally will provide more consistent governance and financial accountability across the programme, with clear and consistent demarcation of roles and responsibilities
  • many Communities First areas will need to combine to create the ‘clusters’ (of a population of around 15,000) seen in the document as the appropriate delivery level for the programme

These changes will also provide a greater focus on ensuring that Welsh Government and regional priorities are aligned to those at the local level.

Information about Communities First is available on the Welsh Government website http://new.wales.gov.uk

The summer also saw a consultation on a proposed national tenant profile data collection system (somewhat similar to CORE that operated for housing associations a number of years ago).

Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation

The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD) is the official measure of relative deprivation for small areas in Wales. WIMD 2011 updates the previous release, WIMD 2008. It is produced by the Welsh Government. Some headline findings from WIMD 2011 are:

  • Rhyl West 2, Denbighshire, remains the most deprived area in Wales. St James 3, Caerphilly is ranked second most deprived and Twyn Carno 1, Caerphilly is third
  • Butetown 2, Cardiff, was ranked first in WIMD 2005, fourth in WIMD 2008, and has moved to rank 68 in 2011
  • the local authority with the highest fraction of lower layer super output areas (LSOAs, the small areas on which WIMD is based) in the most deprived 10% in Wales is Merthyr Tydfil, with one in four (25.0%) of its 36 LSOAs in the most deprived 10% of areas in Wales. Blaenau Gwent is the next most deprived local authority by this measure, with just under one in four (23.4%) of its 47 LSOAs in the most deprived 10% in Wales
  • Ceredigion and Monmouthshire have none of their LSOAs in the most deprived 10% in Wales
  • over one in five (21.7%) people identified as income deprived in the WIMD 2011 income domain live in the most deprived 10% of areas in Wales

The full statistical release for WIMD 2011 is online at http://wales.gov.uk


Welsh success in shortlist for UK Housing Awards

A number of Welsh housing organisations have been shortlisted in the 2011 UK Housing Awards:

  • RCT Homes for three initiatives – Their Future in Our Hands, Supporting Communities to Thrive and Taking the Lead
  • Melin Homes – Fit for the Future Initiative
  • Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd – Going it Alone Resource
  • Cardiff Community Housing Association – Creating Safer Communities
  • Wales & West Housing Association – Eco-friendly External Refurbishment Project

The winners will be announced at the ceremony to be held in November 2011.

WHQS news

Ugly flats get a make-over

Pen Dinas in the Rhondda have undergone a dramatic transformation as part of RCT Homes WHQS improvement programme. The internal and external makeover included new windows and doors for each flat, a brand new roof on the building, new balconies and extensive renovations to the external cladding of the building to transform the look of the entire blocks. The old fashioned bin chutes have also been replaced with bin stores with key fob entry for each block of flats.

Doing it differently

In order to implement its improvement programme to tenants’ homes, Tai Calon will be working directly with nine new contractors, eight of which are small to medium sized local enterprises based in South Wales. This is a unique approach for a Welsh registered social landlord in relation to the delivery of its improvement programme. Tai Calon will also be working in partnership with its contractors to provide local training opportunities and apprenticeships.

Changing homes in Dyffryn

Newport City Homes Chief Executive Peter Cahill and Board Member Cissie Beal unveil a show home at the newly refurbished Woodside and Nightingale Court Sheltered scheme in Duffryn. The ambitious refurbishment project saw previously undesirable bedsit and one bedroom flats converted into new modern two bedroom apartments. Two apartments were decorated and furnished by two teams as part of a ‘Changing Homes’ style competition. The teams, made up of residents of Woodside, NCH staff and interior design students from the University of Glamorgan, spent the week before the launch creating mood boards for each apartment and brought these to life in readiness for the launch event, when residents voted for their favourite design.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library comes to Wales

Cadwyn is bringing to Wales an innovative child literacy programme that was established by Dolly Parton in her home state of Tennessee. The Imagination Library provides a free age-appropriate book, for all children who have been registered, every month up until their fifth birthday. Cadwyn is setting up the first Imagination Library in Wales, specifically for the children of tenants, staff and board members. 50 children have already been registered to receive their free books and this number is likely to increase significantly when Cadwyn officially launches the programme on 28 October 2011.

Local people to get priority

Plans by Newtown based Mid-Wales Housing Association to give local people priority for its housing has received overwhelming support locally, as well as tacit approval from the Welsh Government. 63% of responses from tenants supported the association’s proposals to give preference to local people and/or applicants that would provide a positive impact on the local community, such as those with a history of employment or of volunteer work.

Cardiff Community inspires Butetown

Cardiff Community Housing Association has been awarded the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Inspire mark for its art and media project at Loudoun Square in Butetown, Cardiff. The Inspire mark recognises projects which involve the local community and celebrate local history, culture and diversity. CCHA’s project aims to engage with the local community and encourage then to produce art and film work which celebrates the rich history and cultural diversity of the area. It centres around the development of the Tiger Bay Film, Media and Culture Centre which is due to open in Loudoun Square in March 2012 and is part of a major £13 million redevelopment of the area.

New homes for Tregaron

An artists impression of a £1.7million new sustainable housing scheme in Tregaron, Ceredigion due to be completed shortly by CT Cantref (below left). The new homes will have timber frames, high levels of insulation, high efficiency condensing boilers and solar panels. They will also feature dual-flush toilets and low-flow taps, showers and baths. Cycle storage, rotary drying lines, composting facilities, water butts, recycling areas and bat and bird boxes are also being installed.

Go Paul! Paul Roberts, Chief Executive of Cadarn Housing Group, in training for cycling from Wales to Paris at the end of September 2011 to raise money for Shelter Cymru (above centre).

New Newydd tenants, pupils from Gladstone Primary School and Barry Island Primary School hold the key to Jackson\’s Quay as Superintendent Paul James, Chris Koehli Newydd Board member and Group Chair, Jane Hutt AM and Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council Cllr Gordon Kemp look on (above right).

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