Friday, 13 March 2009

We couldn't agree more

Aled Roberts

Published Date: 13 September 2007

"We are located in a part of the country which is probably an economic hotspot at the moment. Now because of restrictive planning policies in Cheshire, a lot of the pressure over the past five years has been on the three north east Wales counties as far as new build starts are concerned.

"Historically, we've always planned for about 600 starts a year. Over the past three to five years we've probably been running at the pace of 1,000. Developers are increasingly looking to develop more profitable upmarket homes which are not then catering for the local population whose work is relatively poorly paid.

"If we allow housebuilding to continue at the current rate, the reality is that a lot of our young people will be priced out as prices increase. We would then be creating housing, not for our own young people, but for people moving into the area.


I believe central government must authorise a new programme of council house building and allow local authorities to raise the money to do it.

This would offer economies of scale and ideally place local authorities to vet the quality of what is built.

The Assembly disagrees and successive ministers have pressured Wrexham to dump its council houses, or more politely, transfer housing stock out of its ownership. The previous council in Wrexham spent a £1 million on propaganda, trying to persuade tenants to accept a transfer.

They refused, preferring the devil they knew in what was really a back-handed compliment to the council. Tenants reaffirmed their decision with a greater majority when given a second vote.

The council has now spent £15 million this year refurbishing council houses and complying with the wishes of tenants. Wrexham is the second highest contributor in Wales in the amount of tenants' rents paid back to the Assembly. Last year Cardiff clawed back £10 million out of £30 million received. A sum that would pay for bringing all Wrexham's council houses up to the statutory standard.

Cllr Roberts says the claw-back formula was calculated on the number of homes, historic debt and average weekly rent recovered. In his view, none of it very convincing.

Meanwhile, Wrexham is struggling with a schools repair backlog, ageing leisure facilities, education and social services. All are demanding investment to serve the existing population of the borough, apart from any growth.

As for general needs housing in 2008/9, the Assembly is channelling about £70 million through the consortia of housing associations that oversee the actual building. Out of that Wrexham, the second biggest housing authority in Wales, gets a measly £840,000. There's got to be something wrong in that.

Plenty for Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths and others to discuss at a public inquiry into the housing situation which she has arranged at NEWI Wrexham on September 13.

1 comment:

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

If it was Plaid Cymru who would have said that, Aled would have accused us of being anti English and wanting to build brick walls across the A483 between Chester and Wrecsam...its what we've come to expect of 'wishy washy' Liberal Democrats.