Call for a windfall tax on developers to fix high-rise safety defects

(Title Image: via Wikipedia – note the building is included for illustrative purposes only, with no reported safety defects)

Families “stuck” in high-rise buildings with safety defects

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) raised the matter of high-rise safety – particularly in light of the Grenfell Disaster – saying some families were effectively stuck in buildings deemed unsafe as they can’t sell on and nobody has taken responsibility for fixing defects. She suggested a possible deterrent to avoid this in the future:

“Minister, I think one thing that could happen is that there could be a change in planning law, to ensure that, especially the big developers who’ve profited from these frauds – and I use that word deliberately – can have their previous records taken into account as material considerations within the planning system. You’ve been on record as saying that some of these new developments will be the slums of the future….Do you agree with me that it’s time for a windfall tax on these large firms, to pay for the restitution of the defects caused by poor development? “
– Leanne Wood AM

Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West), said there was a difficult situation where private sector landlords have been unable to come forward to carry out works themselves.

The Minister didn’t believe Leanne Wood’s suggestion of a windfall tax was within the bounds of the Senedd’s powers. Building regulations are being looked at although, admittedly, that didn’t help people who were trapped in this situation.

Better leadership in local authorities

Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales), called back to a report on local government leadership published over the summer recess which revealed that while some councils had leadership development programmes, others were unable to do so.

The Minister said there has been some good work in this area:

“Academi Wales is actually an extremely good organisation, and has been praised, and indeed is praised in that report, for its ability to frame the leadership conversation in local government. We’ve also been working very hard with the WLGA, and indeed with some Welsh European Funding Office funding that we have, to fund leadership possibilities for third-tier and below officers, right across local authorities in Wales, so that they have career-enhancing leadership opportunities.”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James

The Welsh Government has encouraged local government officers to hold public events to properly understand how they deliver services on the ground.

No “one size fits all” for how councils are run

Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) brought up the absolutely-not-discussed-at-all subject of the number of local authorities in Wales. He said the Welsh Government’s new position that there’s no evidence that larger councils are better than smaller ones was very different to their previous positions. Was there any analysis of the fixed costs of running a council?

“….what we say is that one size certainly does not fit all; it doesn’t fit all in any arrangement across Wales. Local authorities work hard to deliver services across a range of different mechanisms and different sizes, and, as I say, there is no evidence at all from anywhere that says that one size of a local authority is always more effective and more efficient than any other size. What we are doing is working very closely with the WLGA and local government leaders, through the local government sub-group of the partnership council, to develop a mechanism to support regional working and collaboration where that’s appropriate….”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James

She added that a forthcoming Local Government Bill will include provisions to allow councils to merge voluntarily if they want to do so as well as change their voting systems.

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