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Policy update – January 2012

Policy developments

Autumn statement

The Chancellor’s autumn statement brought together financial projections for the UK economy made by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and a series of actions to be taken by government.

The projection of the OBR is gloomy – slower future economic growth, lower economic output in productivity terms and higher borrowing over the current Comprehensive Spending Review period. The reasons for this are cited as higher than expected inflation, increasing commodity prices, increasing instability and uncertainty in the Euro Zone and a reappraisal of the severity of the 2008/09 financial crises.

In terms of actions to be taken by government, these fall into three areas and include:

  • protecting the economy – extending the austerity measures for another two years up to 2016/17, raising the state pension age, restricting public pay awards and not going ahead with planned increases in some elements of Tax Credits
  • building a stronger economy for the future – making an investment of £6.5 billion in infrastructure, involving pension funds in infrastructure investment, increasing the Regional Growth Fund with consequentials for Wales and Scotland, introducing a loan guarantee scheme for small businesses and a series of measures on employment. Specific measures on housing are introducing a new build indemnity scheme to increase the supply of affordable mortgage finance for new build homes and reinvigorating the Right to Buy to support social tenants who aspire to own their own home
  • fairness – a series of measures around the cost of transport and introducing a Youth Contract worth a total of £940 million over the Spending Review 2010 period

The autumn statement is online at cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk

A very useful analysis of the measures in the autumn statement and their impact on local government, economic development and regeneration has been produced by CLES

Welfare reform

The introduction of the universal credit is being delayed from October 2013 until April 2014 for new claims and for existing claimants until ‘around’ the end of 2015.

A useful update on welfare reform from the Rent Officer’s Wales is online at www.chcymru.org.uk

Feed in Tariffs

Significant changes to the level of Feed in Tariffs were set out in a Department of Energy and Climate Change consultation paper which had a closing date for responses of 23 December 2011.

The Feed in Tariff scheme launched in April 2010 pays people 43.3p for every kilowatt hour of electricity they generate. The consultation proposed cutting the payment to 21p per kilowatt hour and for large schemes to 16.8p. The new tariffs will take effect from April 1 2012, but schemes installed on or after December 12 2011 will only receive the current tariffs until April 1 2012. After that date they will receive the new reduced tariffs.

This change drastically affects the viability of many schemes planned across Wales and many local authorities and housing associations have had to significantly reduce the scale of projects to install photovoltaic panels.

The consultation paper is online at www.decc.gov.uk

English Housing Strategy

November 2011 saw the publication of Laying the Foundations: a housing strategy for England. The document both restates existing policy and announcements that have already been made and sets out new approaches and interventions, including:

  • a mortgage indemnity scheme for purchase of new build property
  • support for locally-led large scale development
  • further efforts on public sector land release
  • provision of development finance for stalled sites
  • further support for custom-build (self-build) housing
  • the next steps for council housing finance reform
  • clearer intentions around reinvigorating the Right to Buy
  • clarity on guidance around allocation of social housing
  • support for investment in new private rented sector homes
  • additional financial support to tackle empty homes
  • consideration of ways to improve housing options for older people.

The strategy is online at www.communities.gov.uk

A CIH briefing on the strategy is available at www.cih.org


10 to look out for

1 – Measuring the impact IV – assesses the impact of housing associations on the Welsh economy during 2010/11

Community Housing Cymru


2 – Pulling up the ladder 2 – how we made life tough for our children and what we can do about it: A year of progress?

DTZ, winter 2011


3 – Broken Ladder 2 – Mind the Deposit Gap – calls for a significant increase in housing supply

Home Builders Federation, November 2011


4 – Unfreezing the Housing Market

CBI, November 2011


5 – Tackling the housing crisis – policy review and recommendations

Federation of Master Builders, November 2011


6 – Local lettings agencies: a good practice guide – Providing access to the private rented sector while generating income

Crisis, November 2011


7 – Incapacity benefit reform – the local, regional and national impact

University of Sheffield, November 2011


8 – The Housing Report – Edition 1 – seeks to establish whether the Government’s approach to housing is helping, and to ensure housing policy remains at the heart of political debate over the course of the Parliament.

CIH, National Housing Federation, Shelter, October 2011


9 – Housing LIN newsletter – regular newsletter that promotes examples of good practice, reports and other events that relate to housing with care for older people

Housing Learning and Improvement Network


10 – Pathways to Prevention – Maximising the opportunities of the integration of health with social care and housing for the benefit of low income, older home-owners

HACT, November 2011


Welsh Government

Meeting the housing challenge

On 8 December 2011, Housing Regeneration and Heritage Minister Huw Lewis launched a statement Meeting the housing challenge: building a consensus for action. The document sets out many of the significant issues that need to be addressed to respond to the challenges that face the housing sector. It is not a typical consultation paper that sets out detailed proposals for comment, but views on the issues it raises are invited by 17 February 2011.

The document addresses the following issues:

  • the Welsh Government role as system steward
  • affordability
  • the case for a more comprehensive housing advice service across Wales
  • credit unions
  • fuel poverty
  • the rented sectors
  • boosting the range of housing finance options by working with private lenders
  • permanent affordability and co-operative housing
  • housing supply
  • land
  • access to capital for subsidised housing
  • making the best use of existing homes
  • empty homes
  • park and mobile homes
  • quality
  • preventing homelessness and helping vulnerable people
  • improving public services and standards
  • realising the benefits of housing investment

The ministerial statement is online at wales.gov.uk


The Welsh Government final budget for 2012-13 was published on 6 December 2011. The final budget includes a new grant – the Pupil Deprivation Grant – which will direct support to children who need it most. Overall housing budgets show a small percentage decrease.

The budget is online at wales.gov.uk

Compact between national and local government

A Compact for Change between the Welsh Government and Welsh local government has been agreed which sets out the terms of a new relationship between the Welsh Government and local government, based on mutual respect and partnership. Its provisions and their delivery underpin the funding to be provided to local government over the period 2012-14 and set the framework and realistic milestones for reform. The reforms are intended to improve performance, efficiency and outcomes for the people of Wales.

The Compact brings together the implementation of the Simpson Review, a review of the structure of education services in Wales and a policy statement on social services. The document notes that collaboration is one of the key tools in dealing with the challenges of variable service quality, fragmented delivery, duplication of effort and inefficiency but emphasises that it is based on the development of voluntary collaborations between councils.

The Compact encompasses three implementation contracts – on education, social services and other services. Two specific actions are included on housing:

  • Local Government to work with Welsh Government to develop revised Guidance for the Supporting People Programme and the role and operation of regional committees – by March 2012
  • Local Government and service providers to establish Supporting People Regional Collaborative Committees in line with the revised guidance by June 2012

The Compact is online at wales.gov.uk

Regulatory framework

The regulatory framework for housing associations in Wales has been published by the Welsh Government, replacing the Regulatory Code for Housing Associations Registered in Wales. Housing associations are expected to meet the new framework from 2 December 2011.

The framework contains ten delivery outcomes (standards of performance) relating to housing provision, governance and financial management. There are three main principles behind the Regulatory Framework:

  • tenants are at its centre. The framework’s goal is that tenants and their families have decent, affordable, homes and receive high quality services
  • housing associations have to take full responsibility for their actions and the way they operate
  • the framework is based on close working relationships between Welsh Ministers, housing associations, their tenants and service users, and key partners

The framework is online at wales.gov.uk

The Welsh Government’s first regulatory assessment report has been published relating to North Wales Housing Association – this is online at wales.gov.uk

Welsh planning review

An Independent Advisory Group has been set up to review the current planning system in Wales and consider how best to deliver planning services in the future. The Group’s findings will help provide the evidence base for the proposed Planning Bill for Wales.

The review will look at, and make recommendations about:

  • options for future delivery of the planning system including a preferred approach
  • the legislation and policy guidance necessary to introduce the options and preferred approach
  • an assessment of the resources necessary to deliver the options and preferred approach – this will include staff numbers and costs, and
  • improvements that can be implemented quickly and easily

The Group is seeking evidence by 3 February 2012 on:

  • the key policy objectives that the planning system should deliver
  • how the planning system can be delivered most effectively, and how this can be measured
  • the current delivery mechanisms and institutional arrangements, and
  • any other evidence or examples that people think are relevant

The call for evidence is online at wales.gov.uk


Current Welsh Government consultations include:

  • new mandatory power of possession for anti-social behaviour – responses are required by 10 February 2012 wales.gov.uk
  • homelessness data collection. This consultation paper proposes further changes to the current quarterly and annual homelessness data collection return and the introduction of a new twice yearly data collection return covering homelessness prevention and relief. Responses are required by 16 January 2012 <a href=\"http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/statistics/homelessness/?lang=en
  • \”_blank\”>wales.gov.uk

In addition, views are invited on a Welsh Government discussion paper on the Sustainable Development Bill. One Wales, One Planet explains the Welsh Government’s current thinking. The Sustainable Development Bill will be introduced into the National Assembly for Wales in Autumn 2013.

New race forum

Jane Hutt, the Welsh Government Minister responsible for equalities, announced in October 2011 that a new race forum will be set up in Wales. The group will provide the Welsh Government with expert support and advice to aid understanding of the key issues and barriers to integration within Black and Minority Ethnic Communities and look at practical examples of how best practice within communities can overcome such barriers.


Mergers and collaborations

Diverse Cymru has been formed from a merger between Awetu and Cardiff and Vale Coalition of Disabled people. www.diversecymru.org.uk

Llamau and Hafan Cymru announced a strategic partnership between the two organisations with the aim of ensuring the sustainability of services and the future of the organisations. The two organisations have formally adopted a set of common goals which will underpin joint work and future service provision. www.llamau.org.uk, www.hafancymru.co.uk


Bron Afon Community Housing’s quarterly magazine for tenants, leaseholder and members, Community News, won ‘best external magazine’ at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations PRide awards for Wales.

RCT Homes’ social enterprise Grow Enterprise Wales which offers training, employment and real business opportunities won the Outstanding Achievement in Housing in Wales at the UK Housing Awards in London in November 2011.

Former carpentry apprentice with Carmarthenshire Council, Shane Evans picked up the UK Young Builder of the Year Award in 2011. He has secured a Building Cadetship with the council.

Facilities management company Ian Williams is taking on the highest number of apprentices in its 60-year history to give young people a foot on the employment ladder thanks to its partnership with organisations including Newport City Homes. Pictured is Daniel Llewellyn.

Pictured is the opening of Melin Homes’ new Mountain Road development in Ebbw Vale.

Pictured is social exclusion charity, Caer Las’ new business development manager – Dan Jolley.

NPT Homes’ two main improvement programme contractors, Mears and MiSpace held a recruitment day in November 2011 providing details of local employment opportunities.

Clwyd Alyn’s extra care scheme in Wrexham, Plas Telford, welcomed its first new resident. Mr John Simmons (Jack), is pictured with Housing Support Assistant Karen Washington-Dyer.

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