Thursday, 10 June 2010

'We want our money back' - Welsh tenants lose £80m on unfair housing subsidy

Plaid Cymru's North Wales Assembly Member Janet Ryder has called for Welsh councils to be given a level playing field in housing by ending the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy Scheme.
She said:

"The subsidy scheme means that Welsh councils currently pay £80 million every year from their housing revenue accounts to subsidise councils in London and Manchester. This money should be spent on improving and modernising homes in Wales.

"The most extreme case is in Wrexham, where the council has to pay £11.2m out of its Housing Revenue Account of £33m every year. That's rent money from Wrexham tenants that goes to the UK Treasury, which is a disgraceful situation given the need to improve council housing in the borough. We need that money to ensure that the Welsh Housing Quality Standard is achieved. As well as improving the quality of housing, renovations and repairs would provide extra jobs for local craftsmen.

 "I'm delighted that my Plaid colleague, Jonathan Edwards MP, has today raised the matter in the House of Commons and demanded action to improve housing and create jobs locally."

Jonathan Edwards, the newly elected MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, is the party's spokesman on community affairs. He said:

Welsh local authorities return more than £80million per year to the Treasury as a consequence of the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy Scheme. My own local authority, Carmarthenshire County Council, which has retained its stock of council housing, returned £5.5million in 2008-09.

“This is money lost to Wales as it gets sent back from local authorities to London. It would be far fairer for this money to be retained locally to increase investment in public housing. It would help Welsh councils achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standard and help create jobs in the local economy.

Janet Ryder added: "This is money that Wales can ill afford to lose for frontline services such as housing. It comes on top of the findings of the independent Holtham Commission, which has shown that Wales loses out by an additional £300 million per year due to the unfair funding formula from Westminster. 

"Labour in Westminster did nothing to right this wrong while in power and there are no signs that the new Con-Dem government will treat it as a priority. It may not seem a priority to them, but it certainly is for tenants in Wrexham who are living in poor housing conditions. I would hope that pressure will also be applied on the new Con-Dem coalition by Wrexham's Liberal Democrat council leader Aled Roberts ."

Friday, 4 June 2010

Llangollen museum - a volunteering triumph

Llangollen museum is one of those rarities - a full-time operation serving the community that's operated entirely by volunteers. I recently visited the museum, which is in a great location in the town centre, and met up with some of the volunteers including Sue Evans.
 She showed the museum's latest development - holographs of Welsh historic treasures that are a fantastic innovation for the town. This enables small museums such as Llangollen to show off some of Wales's greatest treasures without the added security and cost burden - as the picture shows, the holographs are excellent. You really feel you can touch the artefacts!
 Sue and her team are also involved in a forthcoming dig this summer at the Pillar of Egliseg, a hugely important and imposing stone pillar - originally a Celtic cross - above Llangollen. I look forward to visiting the dig, which may throw up some interesting insights into the site's pre-history.