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Extra funding to tackle homelessness



WALES’ Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James has confirmed up to £50m to support projects across Wales.

The funding aims to provide people with safe and secure homes to ensure they do not fall into homelessness.

The Welsh Government has reiterated their commitment to tackling homelessness, rehousing everyone who has been provided with emergency shelter during the coronavirus pandemic, and building on the initial £10m in funding announced in March by making additional £40m available for local authorities.

The initial phase of the homelessness response focused on ensuring everyone had accommodation where they could self-isolate if necessary and could follow public health advice on basic hygiene, hand washing and social distancing.

Phase 2 focuses on a longer term approach to transform services, innovate and build accommodation, with the ambition of ensuring everyone who was provided with emergency accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic has a clear route to permanent housing and providing high quality accommodation for those who are threatened with homelessness in the future.

The Welsh Government has also provided a package of support to make sure as many people as possible facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic remain in their private rented homes, sustaining tenancies and avoiding eviction due to rent arrears.

Last week a temporary increase in the notice period for eviction was announced, providing greater protection from homelessness for tenants in private rented and housing association accommodation.
In July, an extra £1.4m was announced to help tenants boost their household income and manage problem debt, through the Single Advice Fund. In addition, the new Tenant Saver Loan Scheme will provide an affordable way to cover rent arrears, or future months’ rent, reducing the risk of eviction and homelessness.

The loans will be paid directly to landlords and are available for tenants who were not in significant rent arrears prior to March 1 this year.

Julie James said: “The coronavirus has shone a light on housing in a way that few of us have seen before and reminded us all of the fundamental importance of good-quality affordable housing, a safe and secure home and strong and cohesive communities where people want to live and work. The best way we can tackle homelessness is by preventing it in the first place.

“I have been clear that I do not wish to see anyone forced to return to the streets. We have a unique opportunity to change the services and change lives for the better – and make homelessness rare, brief and unrepeated. We want to build on the success we have seen so far and change Wales’ approach to homelessness in the long term.

“To that end I have increased the overall homelessness phase 2 funding to up to £50m, which clearly demonstrates the level of commitment we have to ensuring we can make a truly significant and transformational step-change towards achieving our goal of ending homelessness in Wales.

“Local Authorities, working in partnership with third sector and other organisations have come forward with some highly ambitious, bold and innovative projects that not only draw on energy efficient, modern methods of construction but also join-up with other services, such as substance misuse, mental health, primary care and community safety. This reflects the fact that homelessness isn’t just a housing issue; it’s a public services issue and it’s about having access to those services where and when people need them.

“We’re not tinkering around the edges – this is about bold, long-lasting solutions.”

Plaid Cymru Shadow Housing minister Delyth Jewell MS said: “This announcement from the housing minister is a long overdue commitment to tackling both homelessness and the housing crisis. I look forward to working with the Welsh Government and local authorities to ensure money is targeted where it is needed.

“But there is always more to do. To truly address these long terms problems we need a housing first model, more affordable homes being built and ending no fault evictions for good.

“The Coronavirus has exposed the grim truth that homelessness is and remains a political choice that should have been tackled long ago. Access to housing should be a human right and Plaid Cymru will work to see this enshrined in Welsh law.”

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Labour and Plaid agree on Senedd carve-up



LABOUR and Plaid Cymru this week pre-empted the results of a Senedd Committee’s enquiry and announced a huge increase in the number of Wales’s Senedd Members.
While the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform continues to hear evidence ahead of its final report, Labour and Plaid announced they had agreed that Wales would elect 96 Senedd members instead of the current sixty at the next election.
Securing electoral reform and expanding the Senedd were Plaid Cymru manifesto commitments while expanding the Senedd was a Labour policy pledge.
However, the arrangements announced on Tuesday (May 10) are likely to increase questions about how accountable Senedd members are to their electorate.


One of the key gripes of those in favour of Senedd reform is the abolition of regional members selected using Wales’s complex PR system.

The new arrangements will see 32 constituencies based on the new Westminster constituency boundaries electing three members each but grouped with six other constituencies to ensure seats are allocated (theoretically) more proportionately.

If that sounds complicated, the system will have one simple result.

It will sever the link between elected and electors.

Voters will vote for parties and not individuals. The party-list will decide who gets elected to represent you.

You will no longer have a say in the identity of your representatives.

Instead, the parties have all the power to decide who gets elected.

You’re made for life if you get in via the system proposed.

And if that sounds like modern Welsh democracy, it’s a very peculiar form of it.

The arrangement suits Labour as its voters won’t have any chance to vote for anyone else. In a properly proportional single transferrable vote system (STV), votes get the chance to rank their preferences.

Under the proposals, voters will vote for one party and whoever else gets elected depends on the system churning out results and favoured and otherwise unelectable party hacks.

Like most current regional members, Senedd Members elected under the proposed system will become

invisible in their communities.

MPs will have far greater local profiles.

Suppose the proposals want to encourage nation-building and create a stronger and more democratic Welsh Parliament. In that case, the results are likely to entrench Labour and Plaid in a permanently symbiotic relationship with very little chance for other parties to breakthrough.

It’s a system ripe for abuse by party managers and rooked to exclude small parties from any national say.

From Labour and Plaid’s perspectives, it will ensure the Conservatives are permanently excluded from power in Wales.


First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The case for Senedd reform has been made.

“We now need to get on with the hard work to create a modern Senedd, which reflects the Wales we live in today. A Parliament that truly works for Wales.

“The joint position statement we are publishing today will help support the important work of the cross-party Special Purpose Committee to move Senedd reform forwards.”
Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, said: “These reforms will lay the foundations for a stronger Welsh democracy and a fairer, more representative Senedd that will look entirely different to the outdated political system at Westminster.

“A stronger, more diverse, more representative Senedd will have a greater capacity to perform its primary purpose of making a positive difference to the lives of the people of Wales.”
Ensuring that the Senedd is more diverse is an interesting step forward.
The statement detailing the proposals says that electoral law in Wales will include “integrated statutory gender quotas and mandatory zipping.”
The first part of that phrase indicates an aim to ensure equal representation between the genders in the Senedd.

The second part, “mandatory zipping”, requires parties to put forward equal numbers of male and female candidates and alternate between men and women when preparing their candidate lists.
If number one on the internal party list is male, the second is female, the third male, the fourth female &c.
It is unclear whether the Welsh Government has the legal power to force those measures.
Mark Drakeford and Ada Price wrote to the Reform Committee’s Chair, Huw Irranca-Davies, saying their proposals are “most likely to achieve the two-thirds Senedd majority required by law to deliver reform.
“We are confident that the statement below will enable you to make recommendations on these fundamental issues.”


The Welsh Conservative response was swift.

Andrew RT Davies said: “Wales does not need more politicians in Cardiff Bay – we need more teachers, doctors, dentists, and nurses.

“While we have consistently objected to more politicians, we recognise Labour and Plaid have enough votes to push ahead.

“That’s why we have engaged constructively with the Senedd Reform Committee.

“Sadly, both parties have completely undermined the committee’s work with this announcement.”

Darren Millar, the Conservative Member of the Senedd Reform Committee, was even more scathing.

Announcing his decision to quit the Committee, he said: “It was extremely disappointing to see the Committee undermined by the publication of a joint position statement on Senedd reform by the First Minister and the Leader of Plaid Cymru.

“Issuing the position statement to the media in the absence of any written or oral statement to the Senedd was extremely discourteous to the Welsh Parliament.

“The publication of such a prescriptive statement before the Committee completes its work. However, this announcement effectively terminates its ability to draw independent conclusions.

“It is with regret that I have resigned from the Committee, but after the stunt pulled by the First Minister and Plaid’s leader, it has become futile.

“It is unacceptable that they have tried to strongarm the Committee by imposing their position in this way. Senedd committees should not be fettered in this way.

“We joined this committee and process in good faith as there was a mandate for change, but it looks like that was misplaced.”

The Reform Committee will report on May 31, but it looks like its decisions have been made for it.

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Former County Councillor with £80 per week ‘speed’ habit fined in court



FORMER County Councillor Paul Dowson – who says he has an £80 per week ‘speed’ habit – has admitted possession of 12g of amphetamine.

Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court heard on Tuesday (May 17) that police attended his home in July last year, gaining entry with a warrant.

Dowson, then a serving councillor admitted there were drugs in his home, with the offending powder being found in his kitchen.

He was fined £80 and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a surcharge of £34.

The drugs were placed under a destruction order. Dowson has 28 days to pay the outstanding fine to the court.

Dowson stood to represent the Bush Ward in the recent local elections held on May 5, despite having committed the offence. He lost his seat after coming last in the poll. His electoral chances would not have been helped by leaflets sent to every home saying that Dowson was a racist.

Dowson told the Herald he is considering legal action over the leaflets saying they broke electoral law.

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Milford Haven could bid for Freeport status as UK and Welsh governments make agreement



THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, has confirmed.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

Tom Sawyer, CEO at the Port of Milford Haven, said: “I welcome today’s news that the benefits of the freeports policy are set to come to Wales.

We look forward to collaborating with public, private and academic partners to create a compelling bid to ensure Wales maximises this opportunity to deliver accelerated green economic growth and well-paid career opportunities for future generations.”

The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed:

  1. The UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.
  2. Both Governments will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.
  3. Both Governments will remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.
  4. As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

News that the UK Government has struck a £26 million deal with Labour ministers to establish a freeport in Wales has been welcomed by the Welsh Conservatives.

The freeport, backed by millions in UK Government funding, will create high-quality jobs, attract new businesses and investment and help regenerate communities.

Both governments have also agreed that they would be prepared to consider creating another freeport in Wales if a truly exceptional proposal was presented at the bidding stage.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Paul Davies MS, said: “Creating a freeport in Wales will be a real shot in the arm for our economy and the country as a whole with more high-quality jobs and investment as a result.

“Freeports bring a vast array of opportunities and benefits, and this exciting project highlights just how serious the UK Government is about levelling up Wales.

“It is incredibly positive to hear a second freeport could be on the cards, and I sincerely hope lots of innovative bids are submitted.

“This landmark milestone just goes to show what can be achieved when Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay stop picking fights with the UK Conservative Government and work with them instead.”


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