Plaid claims victory over billion pound rent scandal

Housing Revenue Account Scheme reformed

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has claimed a victory following news that the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy Scheme – which has seen over a billion pound of Welsh council rent money paid to the Westminster Treasury – will be reformed, leaving more money in the hands of Welsh councils.

Until now, councils which raised more money from council housing rents than they spent on maintaining those properties have had to send surplus monies to the Treasury. Money was then redistributed to councils throughout England and Wales which spent more on maintenance and refurbishment than they received in rent.

Figures obtained by Jonathan Edwards back in 2010 revealed that 21 of Wales’s 22 local authorities had lost money to the Treasury ranging from over £139million in Cardiff to under £2million in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Carmarthenshire County Council had paid out just under £51million.

Jonathan Edwards first raised the ‘great rent robbery’ just two days after giving his June 2010 maiden speech in Parliament. After his debate later that year, he tabled a motion to gain the support of fellow MPs for scrapping the scheme. Unfortunately, not a single Member of Parliament from Wales, other than from Plaid Cymru, supported his calls to end the unfair scheme.

Plaid Cymru politicians were furious in March last year after the UK government brought in the Localism Bill and ended the HRAS in England, but not in Wales. They continued their campaigning with Plaid Cymru Peer, Lord Dafydd Wigley, tabling amendments in the House of Lords to see the scheme scrapped in Wales.

This week it was confirmed by the Welsh government that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has agreed for the 11 stock retaining local authorities in Wales to exit from the system. The new approach will see those 11 Welsh councils retain £33million each year.

Welcoming the news, Jonathan Edwards MP said:

“In my Parliamentary debate back in 2010 I described the rent robbery as one of the great injustices of public housing policy in Wales over the last twenty years. At that time, I informed Parliament that Carmarthenshire County Council had already paid £51million back to the Treasury in the last decade.

“It is a policy which has led to the rents from some of the poorest people in Wales being returned to the Treasury; led to chronic under investment in the public housing stock; has deprived our communities of a significant cash injections; and driven the housing stock transfer agenda.

“If we consider the pressure on housing waiting lists, retention of these rent monies in Wales since the Assembly was created could have built 12,000 brand new family houses, all at modern specifications, environmentally-friendly and would have helped to address major social justice issues such as fuel poverty.

“The last year of this campaign has been frustrating in the sense that no other party in Westminster appreciated the unfairness of this scheme only applying to Wales. Not a single Welsh MP, other than my party colleagues, supported by Parliamentary motion calling for an end to the system.

“Nevertheless I’m delighted that I was able to put this significant injustice on the agenda and into the consciousness of the both the Welsh and UK governments. As a result, councils like Carmarthenshire, which still control its own housing stock, will rightly get to keep millions of pounds each year.

“Given that the Labour leader of Carmarthenshire council just weeks ago warned of cuts of ‘biblical proportions’ coming our way, I’m proud to have worked to deliver this substantial change in attitude from the government which will now see millions of pounds being invested in the county.”

Leader of the Plaid Cymru Councillor group in Carmarthenshire, Councillor Peter Hughes Griffiths added:

“The loss of such substantial sums of money from Carmarthenshire Council will soon be coming to an end thanks to Jonathan’s tireless efforts.

“All parties in the Council know that this money would enable further improvement in the housing stock, can enable the council to build new council housing, and can bring long-term empty properties back into use.

“Investing money in Carmarthenshire, instead of sending it to the Treasury coffers, will undoubtedly provide a much needed boost to local businesses and construction companies which are suffering in the disastrous economic climate.

“I’m sure county residents will want to join me in thanking Jonathan for his hard work in bringing this issue to everyone’s attention and helping to deliver such an excellent result for Carmarthenshire and Wales.”

ENDS
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Notes to Editor:

17th June 2010 – Jonathan Edwards questions Minister: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2010-06-10d.452.5&s=%28Housing+Revenue%29+speaker%3A24743#g452.6

5th October 2010 – http://www.jonathanedwards.org.uk/plaid-call-for-urgent-meeting-with-uk-housing-minister-over-council-housing-payments?lang=en

4th November 2010 – Early Day Motion http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/964

(SPEECH) 10th November 2010 – A transcript of Jonathan Edwards’ Westminster Hall debate, which also explains the HRAS system, can be seen here: http://www.jonathanedwards.org.uk/my-opening-address-to-the-housing-revenue-account-debate?lang=en

7th July 2011 – http://www.jonathanedwards.org.uk/wales-to-lose-73m-this-year-in-housing-revenue?lang=en

8th July 2011 – http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/plaid-cymru-money-stolen-uk-1820374

9th September 2011 – http://www.partyofwales.org/news/2011/09/09/injustice-to-wales-housing-must-end/

26th April 2013 – http://www.rhodriglynthomas.org/plaid-calls-for-mortgage-action-to-help-young-people-get-on-property-ladder

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