.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Government by crystal ball

This morning's Western Mail quite rightly reports on fears of a growing homeless crisis in the face of Wales' position as having the second highest rise in repossessions over the past year. The paper reports that unsustainable levels of debt and economic gloom have sent the housing market spiralling downwards.

John Puzey, director of housing charity Shelter Cymru, points to the fact that high house prices and low incomes in Wales has forced those struggling to get on the housing ladder to turn to expensive sub-prime lenders who are quicker to take defaulters to court and less willing to renegotiate repayments:

“We have seen the number of people coming to our advice services with mortgage arrears problems treble in the last two years,” he said. “But the real worry is that about 70% of those have already had court proceedings begin. People are seeking help far too late.”

Asked to comment, the Welsh Assembly Government produces its usual list of initiatives and strategies, many of which will come too late to avert the current crisis. However, I do not blame them. They are merely fire-fighting. It is quite clear that we are where we are because of the UK Government's mishandling of the economy, something that the Welsh Government has little responsibility for, though at least one party in it does also form the government in Westminster as well.

What I did find a bit crass was the throw-away remark from the Welsh Government spokesperson designed to show that they were in charge. He or she told the Western Mail that “The Welsh Assembly Government is well aware of the latest repossession figures, a situation it foresaw, and is therefore already working to help the situation in Wales." All that spokesperson really managed to do was to make the administration in Cardiff Bay look complacent.

If WAG does have such an efficacious crystal ball then why do we have to wait until September for detailed guidance on the mortgage rescue scheme? Surely, it would have been in place ready and waiting for the current crisis to emerge. Why are affordable housing development plans not already in place in each local authority and why has the review of the homebuy scheme not been concluded? After all that review first reported in April 2007. More importantly, why do we have to wait until later this year for the ten year homelessness strategy? Surely the government's crystal ball told it that the plan would be needed earlier.

Let us be charitable. The government foresaw the crisis but were just slow in responding to it. Maybe they had lent out the crystal ball to the Education Minister so she could predict how much extra cash was needed to fund the foundation phase (you have to look into the crystal Jane, not use it as a paper weight). Perhaps the First Minister had been monopolising it to plan out his redeployment strategy following the bonfire of the quangos two years ago.

Whatever the facts the government needs to trade in its crystal ball for a new one. This one clearly does not work as well as it used to. Its predictions are tardy, its users slow to react. Maybe it will be safer in the future if the One Wales Government just sticks to blaming all its troubles on Westminster. Such a tactic has served them well so far.
The Daily Express has been predicting a downturn in the housing market for the past five years at least.....

More seriously, we have a Prime Minister, who has lost the confidence of the nation. I recently come across an article from Peter Hargreaves of the stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown. Quite scating of Gordon Brown's running of the economy when Chancellor, around issues of selling the gold reserve of the country when the price of gold was rock bottom not the $950 oz. level it is now, not having any reserves built up through taxation over the past 10 very good years of a booming economy, reducing unemployment by having more people in the civil service than every before, likewise employing so many in the NHS, all these people have pensions where the pot is empty.

PFI was another great critism of Peter Hargreaves, renting back buildings at an excessive rate, a "left over" from the John Major's time in Number Ten, yet Labour have embraced this concept fully.

Mortgage lenders have been throwing money at people, specifically around lending people 125% the value of the property during the early part of this decade, the Principality was more than willing to lend me 3½ times my salary back in 2000, although in 2007 when I moved house they weren't prepared to offer me a mortgage.

With every boom, (and the way the housing market has been going it has been a boom) comes a bust, NO one should be surprised that the housing market has taken this downturn.

My understanding is that building firms are in the process of selling off some of their packages of land, just to increase their cashflow and provide some funds for shareholders; if WAG showed some initiative (which it won't) it would look to purchase some of this land with a view to creating employment by building some social housing and accomodation, working closely with the likes of The Wallich, Hafod Housing, Wales & West Housing.

But that takes vision

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems
Sad to see repossessions when the Uk is an affluent nation..second homers in West wales are common .
My experience talking to lads in there twenties is that the availability of 1st time buyers houses is a real problem.
It is abysmal for them and they have my pities. All the development seems to be for characterless executive properties for characterless executive types. The carmarthenshire council planning dept have not adequately addressed this issue. Planning approvals for a new detached property ,same old record.
Can we assume that the lack of contributions to the serious issues raised in this blog are in agreement with your analysis?
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?