Local council funding bias complaints put in early ahead of next week’s draft Welsh Budget

(Title Image: Wales Online)

Here’s a round-up of this afternoon’s questions to Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West).

Plans in place for rough-sleepers

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) focused on rough-sleeping. He noted that housing-related support has been cut by £37million since 2012 (in real terms). He’s noticed an increase in the number of rough-sleepers in Swansea – particularly poignant in the run-up to Christmas.

Whoever wins the election tomorrow, would the Minister commit to prioritising homelessness reduction?

The Minister told AMs the draft Welsh budget for 2020-21 has been continuously delayed due to the election but is due to be published next Monday (16th December) – including Welsh Government spending on homelessness. She refused to make promises she couldn’t keep:

“I’m not going to promise to get everybody in off the street because it’s impossible to do; anybody who made that promise would be bound to break it. What we have said is that we will know who everybody is that’s sleeping rough, and we will have a plan for them. If we can get them in off the street, of course, we will. Otherwise, we will have the assertive outreach workers reaching out to them.”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James

Claim that “no council has asked for funding formula review” disputed

Ahead of next week’s draft budget – which will include the local government financial settlement for 2020-21 – Shadow Communities Minister, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales), brought up the 2019-20 settlement which the Conservatives considered to be favouring some authorities over others.

He said Flintshire Council had written to the Minister after comments she made calling for local authorities to ask for a funding formula review. As that letter was “about how the cake is sliced” rather than “the size of the cake” he implied it was a request for such a review.

The Minister didn’t remember the correspondence and said no council has made a formal proposal for a formula review. The blame for council funding cuts lay with:

“But I would say, Mark Isherwood, as usual, it’s all very well for you to stand there and tell me I should give local authorities more money, but you’re the architect of nine years of austerity, aren’t you? You’re the ones who’ve cut our budget, you’re the ones who haven’t sent us enough money, you’re the ones who’ve made sure our funding formula is lower now than it was nine years ago, so you’ve only yourselves to blame.”
– Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James

Minister to visit Celestia flats once enforcement notice appeal is over

Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) raised the Celestia apartment complex in Cardiff Bay – used by several AMs (below) – which has been in the news recently due to concerns over fire safety defects within and outside the building. Residents were keen to meet the Minister after she said she would visit the flats; when would that happen?

“Llywydd, I’ve got to declare an interest, in that I live in this complex myself, and I know several AMs do, and their staff. What strikes me is the complete lack of information on this. There’s been no correspondence through the letterbox in the flats or anything, there’s been no notice of meetings, there’s been no news apart from what I actually pick up in this Chamber.”
– Mandy Jones AM (BXP, North Wales)

The Minister said that due to a legal appeal by the developer against enforcement notices issued by South Wales Fire Service, she couldn’t visit yet in case the Welsh Government becomes involved in legal proceedings. The responsible agent has a duty to keep residents informed.

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