Thursday, 11 November 2010

Plaid MP pushes to scrap housing subsidy rip-off for Wales

Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards MP calls debate on Housing Revenue Subsidy Scheme in Wales.

I've called a Westminster Hall debate today following shocking revelations about how the complicated Housing Revenue Account Subsidy (HRAS) system has been operating in Wales.

This system currently forces Welsh councils to pay back millions each year from their housing budgets to the Treasury.

It currently takes £100 million every year from Welsh Local Authorities, which results in a failure to address the real housing problems that exist locally, and acts as an incentive to stock transfer public housing.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have always been exempt, and now the system is set to be scrapped in England, precisely because it is utterly unfair.

Yet although the system is to be scrapped in England, it will continue in Wales – bizarrely and for no apparent reason.

Wales has lost out by over a whopping £2 billion in cash terms since the scheme was introduced in England and Wales. This is nothing less than a severe injustice.

The system has been criticised on the basis that tenants in well-managed authorities have effectively been subsidising those in areas where the council has not been running its housing account efficiently.

Councils that raise more from council rents than they spend in maintenance on those homes must send the surplus back to the UK government.

This system has stripped Wales of a staggering amount of money for too long. The Tories crippled Wales by placing them in the scheme and, scandalously, absolutely nothing was done to change the system under Labour, ensuring that we lost out on £1 billion between 1999 and 2011.

There is simply no justification for this to continue solely in Wales, with our local communities being specifically targeted in this way.

This money should be invested in our local economies to improve the condition of our housing stock and provide jobs and health benefits.

In my home county of Carmarthenshire, £5.7 million has been returned for this year and close to £51 million since 1999-2000.

This is outrageous, especially when I consider the amount of people that come into my constituency office looking for help with housing.

For Wales to have to continue to pay HRAS would be a great injustice.

I hope that raising this issue will mean that Conservative and Lib Dem MPs, not to mention the Labour politicians who seem to have been sleeping on the job for the past decade, will open their eyes to this disgraceful discrimination.

I have also tabled an EDM to garner support for the issue. The fact that the Treasury has allowed this situation to go on for so long is a complicated farce, but that does not mean this issue is not of vital importance.

£100 million every year could turn around the housing situation in Wales and that is why I'm championing this cause so forcefully.

Jonathan has been tireless in highlighting this issue since his election six months ago. Wrecsam Council is losing £11m from its Housing Revenue Account each year - money that could be used to improve council housing to the standard required. The sooner this unfair scheme is scrapped the better.

No comments: