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Monday, September 13, 2010

Recycling the news

Proof that it is not just history that can repeat itself, the news can often be recycled as well.

In this case the Western Mail carried almost identical stories a year apart. It still remains a problem but one that is in the hands of the Deputy Housing Minister and the Finance Minister to address. Thank goodness Jocelyn Davies and Jonathan Edwards are in the same party.
Sack the researcher I say. It looks like advantage Black with your service! The system also works to the disadvantage of numerous authorities in England but why spoil another Wales as the 'victim' story.
It's worth repeating because the issue is still there and particularly, as Aled Roberts said, the last Finance Minister couldn't give a damn so maybe the current one will. Would you preferit had just been left there a year ago and ignored?

As he also points out it should have been sorted out in 2000 or 2002 when his lot (your lot) were in coalition in the Assembly. You might feel embarassed about this but your probably right that it's more important to point out that you made reference to it over a year ago before it has been raised again by Jonathon Edwards. Well done on having been first in the queue. No doubt it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.
Actually Aled has got his dates wrong on that. Up until about 2004 Wales was part of the same housing subsidy system that exists in England. However the then Finance Minster negotiated a settlement which gives us control over the way that the housing subsidy system works in return for an annual payment by way of compensation to the Exchequer. That is why the Treasury did not have the details to release as part of an FOI. The system is administered by WAG.

It is that agreement that now needs to be renegotiated as part of the review of the English Housing Subsidy system and that means that the current Finance Minister and the current Deputy Minister for Housing need to engage with the UK Government on this issue.
Changes to the system had already been agreed for England before May 6th.Look at the announcements by the then minister John Healey in Parliament. There is quite a useful document on the whole issue which was published by the House of Commons library in April and which is on the net. Why Jonathan Edwards felt that he had to use an FOI request to get information that is freely available is an interesting question. I suppose he was trying to give the impression that he had discovered a'scandal' which as usual the 'London' politicians were hiding from the people of Wales.It also fits in well with the idea of Wales the 'victim' of the so called 'London based' parties which always goes down well with Nationalists.In fact as you rightly point out its an old story with the LGA issuing a pamphlet entitled 'My rent went to Whitehall' on the issue as long ago as 2008. The person leading the charge for change was the LGA spokesperson who happened to be a Tory councillor. It's a system that is long overturn for change given that over 150 authorities contribute and just 50 benefit from the subsidy. 40% of the subsidy goes to 5 English authorities.It's also generating a surplus which you pointed out in 2009 had reached nearly £200 million. If there was no reform this surplus would be over £900 million by 2020. Stories such as yesterday's will I'm sure become the stocking trade of Nationalism over the next few years. Today's was a claim that WAG or should I say the Labour ministers in WAG had exaggerated the extent of the cuts required over the next few years. The criticism was aimed at Labour ministers when in fact we have a coalition which I assume means that all cabinet members including the Plaid ministers agreed the figures which were issued regarding potential cuts. The truth of the matter is that no one will know the full extent of the cuts required until October 20th.In the meantime any prudent and sensible politician will plan for the worst case scenario.
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