For the second week in a row, the Leader of the House, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West), was standing in for the First Minister.
Nailing his colours to the mast with an anti-M4 campaign badge, Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) returned to the M4 Newport bypass, accusing Labour of being paralysed by division and citing the delays to the decision as typifying the “gridlock” at the heart of the Welsh Government.
The Leader of the House rejected this, saying it was a fundamental misunderstanding of the quasi-judicial process behind the decision process. The legal advice isn’t ready yet and she all but confirmed that any decision won’t be made until 2019.
Adam Price suggested partially closing slip roads at Junction 26 near the Brynglas Tunnels which was estimated could reduce traffic using the tunnels by 40%. The Leader of the House repeated that this was dependent on complicated legal advice and he would be entitled to bring up these complexities in a future debate and vote – now wasn’t the time.
Is Wales building enough houses?
With the Welsh Conservatives recently launching a new housing policy, that’s where the Leader of the Opposition focused his questions this afternoon:
“The new housing completion rate consistently falls short of the targets set by the Welsh Government with just 6,000 homes being built in the last 12 months: 19 per cent fewer than the year before, as opposed to the target of 8,700. Now, according to Prof. Holman, a leading expert on housing who your Government commissioned to look into this issue, Wales needs an additional 12,000 new homes per year between 2011 and 2031 to avoid people living in unsatisfactory housing.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.)
The Leader of the House that Welsh Government commitments to build 20,000 affordable homes will be met and Help to Buy had already helped 17,800 applicants access home ownership.
Paul Davies argued that scrapping Right to Buy had removed a key avenue for home ownership and there was a failure on the Welsh Government’s part to bring the estimated 27,000 empty homes in Wales back into use.
Julie James told AMs the Tory proposals bemoaned red tape, most of which was there to protect green belt land. There was also no mention of social and affordable housing, with many homes sold under Right to Buy now in the private rental market – it’s not a route onto the housing ladder but a route into poor quality housing full stop.
The future of local government
We haven’t heard about local government reform in a while, so Mandy Jones AM (Ind, North Wales) asked for an update on Welsh Government plan. So far they’ve failed to drive through plans for mergers or the promised “radical changes”. Did the Leader of the House agree that radical changes were needed?
The Leader of the House thought collaboration was key:
“I think it’s clear that there’s an appetite amongst local government to work well together and to collaborate. Members across the Chamber today have mentioned things where collaboration has worked extremely well. Unlike in England, we’ve protected local government in Wales from the worst of austerity imposed by the UK Government, and we’ve ensured that vital services can continue to be delivered. Our local authorities….should be very proud of their ability to withstand the onslaught of austerity.”
– Leader of the House, Julie James