FOLLOWING last week’s announcement that Carmarthenshire County Council plans to provide 1,000 affordable homes over the next five years, The Herald spoke to Executive Board Member for Housing Councillor Linda Evans.
The Affordable Homes Delivery Plan promises to create a total of 1027 affordable homes across the county by 2020. These will be provided through a number of routes, including managing private sector lets, purchasing privatesector properties for rent, and bringing empty private-sector properties back into use.
Cllr Evans said: “We haven’t had an affordable homes delivery plan for quite a while, so when I was elected in June it was one of the first things we did as part of the portfolio with the department; looking at how we could have more homes within the county, and doing it in a way that was reasonable as far as cost and answered need.
“It all started back before I was elected, when there was a consultation done with the public. Over 800 people responded a nd what was very clear was that almost 80% of the people who responded said that our priority should be bringing back empty homes within the county. “
When we suggested that this would be trebling the annual number of affordable homes created in the county, Cllr Evans gave a frank response: “It’s a huge ask, to be honest with you,” she admitted. “We are almost sure we can provide over 1,000 homes – we’re actually quite confident on that. But that is an ask of 200 homes a year over the next five years. When you think of it historically, it has been on an average around 70 homes a year.
“It’s stepping up the game and trying to answer demands. There’s no point having a register that keeps on going up and up. We need to do something about it and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Council has set a target of bringing 280 empty homes back into use. This will be partially funded by the Welsh Government Houses into Homes scheme, which the council has used before. As Cllr Evans pointed out, bringing empty properties back into use has benefits for the wider community: “We know that we have at least 2,000 empty homes in the county. We wouldn’t be able to bring them all back into use, but there are probably ways in which we could work with owners to try to encourage them to bring them back into use to be rented out or sold as affordable homes.
“Getting empty properties back into use is an advantage for everybody, because it’s not a good thing to have an empty property sitting within a community – I think it has an impact when there are empty properties in an area,” she added.
Managing private sector homes through the Social Letting Agency has already been done in Llanelli, and it is hoped that this can be developed across the county.
“The social letting agency is an ideal way for people who have a property that they do not use, that they wish to rent out, but maybe don’t want to be committed to managing that.
“So what happens there is that the council will manage it on their behalf. They will find the tenants and make sure that everything is fine within that tenancy agreement. So it’s the council working as an agent on behalf of the private landlord,” Cllr Evans explained.
“With the landlord licensing that is due to come in the next year, there is a possibility, hopefully, that people will take advantage of this, because therefore these individuals would not have to get a licence. It takes that responsibility off individuals.”
The Landlord Licensing Scheme will involve landlords undergoing a certain amount of training, and it is thought that those with a smaller number of properties may take advantage of the social letting agency.
The majority of the affordable homes provision will be in rural areas, with 459 – almost half – earmarked for the Llanelli and District area: “That is where the population is, and that is where the biggest need is,” Cllr Evans explained.
“If you asked how we knew there was a need for 2000 houses, the reason we know is the register and where people have asked for houses – where the demand is. Everything will be done according to where the need is, and priority will be given in areas where people have asked for homes.”
However, she acknowledged that there was a ‘question mark’ over the reporting of housing need in rural areas. Only 75 of the 1027 affordable homes will be provided in market towns and rural areas.
“Do we understand exactly what is needed in rural areas?” Cllr Evans asked. “Housing need in rural areas could be underreported – I represent a rural area myself. What is the need in rural areas?
“If you look at the registers, very often you don’t have many people requesting council properties in rural areas for renting. But maybe we are misreading it. Maybe the fact is that people who live in rural areas and have always lived there don’t put their names on registers, because they believe they will never have a chance of getting a home.
“We will be looking at that over the next few months.”
We asked how the council had identified that it was capable of creating so many more affordable homes: “It’s a package – when you put things together, it adds up,” Cllr Evans said.
“That is what is important when you think about developing; that we are doing it the right way, using the right money, in the right departments.
“Development or buying property in rural areas is more expensive than urban areas so we have to think about how we do it in rural areas and how we do it in urban areas.
“One thing that is for sure is that one cap doesn’t fit all. We can’t build 2,000 houses because the money wouldn’t stretch to that and it would be foolish for us to even think so – on top of that, the people of Carmarthenshire would not be happy if we built 2000 homes when you do have empty properties sitting around in communities already.”
Cllr Evans suggested that the money raised from S106 agreements for affordable housing with developers could be put to better use in some instances.
“If a private contractor comes in and builds an estate of 20-30 houses in the past they would be providing a percentage of those as affordable homes,” she said. “But we need to ask the question sometimes – do we need the affordable housing on that site in that actual village or community?
“So we need to work with private investors to see if that money could be used within the electoral ward or within the nearest electoral ward where there is a need.
“We’ve started doing it, but it is something we need to look at. I know of contractors who have come back to planning and reported that they can’t sell the affordable homes on this site. Maybe the need is not in that particular place. There’s no point spending it within the ward if the need is not there. We have to make any funding stretch to the best resources possible.”
The council is also looking to purchase 187 existing private sector homes, which Cllr Evans suggested was one way of ensuring a quick turnover. “We’ve got to understand that when building new homes that takes time – it takes time to go through planning and everything else, so you are talking about 18 months.
“What is important is that our own valuers would go out and value the property as well, so we know exactly what needs to be spent on it and then we would put an offer in.
“Our intention is to make every house up to CHS, which is still cheaper than buying, and is using resources already available.”
Cllr Evans emphasised that the priority was maintaining the existing housing stock: “We mustn’t forget that we have 9,000 properties already and our responsibility first and utmost is to ensure that we keep the quality uppermost,” she added.
We’ve spent £200m on our properties over the last few years to get them up to the Carmarthenshire Homes Standard and we need to maintain that – our very first priority is to look after our tenants we’ve got already.”
Cllr Evans also warned that the delivery of the plan as it stood was reliant on Welsh Government funding being maintained at the current level: “What we’ve got to remember is that this is what we can do today,” she added.
“But this can only be done with the Welsh Government grants and making the best use of those grants possible. If any of those things changes, if those grants come to an end, obviously that would have an effect on this affordable homes plan which I’ve made clear to scrutiny and will also make clear to council as well.”
The Affordable Homes Delivery Plan went before the Community Scrutiny Committee on Friday (Feb 12) and was sent on to the Executive Board for approval, before going before the full council in March.
Kwarteng gambles on rush for growth
CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled his and Liz Truss’s economic vision for the UK on Friday morning.
The headlines are straightforward.
There will be £45bn in tax cuts by 2027; however, the largest cuts – national insurance cuts, the abolition of the cap on bonuses and the highest income tax rate- benefit only high earners.
Cut in the basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2023;
National Insurance will not rise as scheduled, and the Government will reverse the current year rise as of November 6;
New Health and Social Care Levy to pay for the NHS will not be introduced;
The top rate of income tax was cut from 45% to 40%;
Cancel the rise in corporation tax which was due to increase from 19% to 25% in April 2023;
Rules around universal credit tightened by reducing benefits if people don’t fulfil job search commitments;
VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors;
End of the cap on bankers’ bonuses;
Planned increases in the duties on beer, cider, wine, and spirits cancelled;
Government to discuss setting up investment zones with 38 local areas in England.
Alongside the above, the Chancellor announced plans to remove environmental safeguards for building developments and reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions.
KWARTENG LEAVES LABOUR AN OPEN GOAL
In an interview with Rishi Sunak during the Conservative leadership contest, Nick Robinson observed that it would be a nasty surprise for the former Chancellor when he found out who’d been in power for the last twelve years.
Kwasi Kwarteng followed Liz Truss’s preferred method of operation: he pretended they hadn’t happened.
The Chancellor comprehensively dumped on the policies pursued over the last dozen years by successive Conservative governments, for a decade of which Liz Truss has been a member.
His statement was, as one ministerial colleague said, “a game changer”, although perhaps not in the way he envisaged.
So complete was the change of economic policy that it leaves an open question about how Mr Kwarteng and his Cabinet colleagues ended up in the same political party as most of their backbench colleagues and served under the last three Conservative leaders.
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves did not miss the open goal. Even as Mr Kwarteng and Ms Truss shook their heads on the government benches, she hammered home that the Chancellor’s statement was an admission the record of Conservative governments since 2010 was one of a failure to deliver growth or a viable economic plan.
THE SUPPLY SIDE FIX
The Chancellor and Prime Minister’s rationale is that cutting taxes for the already well-off will benefit all citizens as they are incentivised to invest and act in entrepreneurial ways. In addition, reducing regulation for businesses will encourage increased commercial enterprise.
They believe the growth stimulated will make up for any loss in tax revenues as increased economic activity, encouraged by lower taxes, leads to increased government revenues.
That approach is called supply-side economics, which focuses on increasing the supply of goods and services through growth.
In every developed nation where the Government’s brand of economics has been tried, two things have happened: a cataclysmic bust has followed a short-term burst of economic activity.
In addition, wealth inequalities – and the UK is already grossly unequal – are embedded and made worse.
Low taxes on the wealthiest do not distinguish between those who generate wealth through their industry or create economic activity through business investment and those who inherit wealth or sit on capital without producing anything.
“THE RICH WILL REJOICE”
Wales’s Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans MS, responded: “Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Instead of delivering meaningful, targeted support to those who need help the most, the Chancellor prioritises funding for tax cuts for the rich, unlimited bonuses for bankers, and protecting the profits of big energy companies.
“Instead of increasing funding for public services in line with inflation, we get a Chancellor blithely ignoring stretched budgets as public services find their money is not going as far as it did before.”
Plaid Regional MS Cefin Campbell said: “This Budget will see the rich rejoice as their bonuses rocket and their tax bill sliced, once again it will be the poorest and most vulnerable bearing the brunt of the disastrous cost of living crisis.”
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, added: “Tax cuts for the super-rich will do absolutely nothing to drive growth in the Welsh economy.
“I urge the UK Government to recognise that our Government in Wales must be given the fiscal tools to unlock our economic potential ourselves. That is the only way to improve the lives of people across Wales.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Finance, Peter Fox MS, said: “Today shows that the UK Conservative Government has a comprehensive plan to provide a sharp boost to the economy by putting cash back into people’s pockets. Labour in Wales has the power to cut taxes in Wales but chooses not to.
“Mark Drakeford needs to take a leaf out of Liz Truss’ book and take immediate action to support hard-working people and struggling businesses, stimulating the Welsh economy rather than stifling it.”
Scott Corfe, Research Director at Social Market Foundation, said: “The Chancellor is taking a very high-risk gamble with the economy.
“If his package of enormous tax cuts and ‘supply side reforms’ fails to translate into significantly higher economic growth, we risk further falls in the pound and surging gilt yields as investors lose confidence in our ability to pay our way in the world.
“That, in turn, means higher inflation, an unsustainable trajectory for the public finances and steeper interest rate rises – potentially deepening rather than alleviating the cost of living crisis.”
The world watches HM Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest in state funeral
THE QUEEN’S state funeral is taking place with ceremonial processions in London and Windsor today. This is the latest update at 12:40pm.
The UK’s longest-serving monarch will be laid to rest after a state funeral.
The Royal Family, world leaders and dignitaries have descended on Westminster Abbey to honour the life of Queen Elizabeth II, after her death at the age of 96.
At 10.44am, the Queen’s coffin travelled from the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) to Westminster Abbey for the state funeral.
This is a very short journey, and was not be part of the public procession.
The state funeral service
The state funeral service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster and The Sermon and the Commendation will be given by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
During the Service, the Prime Minister and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth read Lessons.
The Archbishop of York, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Free Churches Moderator said prayers.
The Procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch
At the end of the Service, Her Majesty’s coffin wase borne to Wellington Arch, via The Mall on the State Gun Carriage.
The King’s Guard gave a Royal Salute as the Coffin passes the Queen Victoria Memorial.
All processions and services are being broadcast on near-all national television and radio channels.
Once the coffin reaches Wellington Arch, it will be placed in the State Hearse. The parade will give a Royal Salute and the National Anthem will be played as the State Hearse begins its journey to Windsor.
Procession from Albert Hall, Windsor to St George’s Chapel
When the Coffin reaches Windsor, the State Hearse will slow to join a Procession to be formed up on Albert Road to travel via the Long Walk to St George’s Chapel. Members of the Royal Family will join the Procession in the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle. Minute Guns will be fired on the East Lawn, Windsor Castle by The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, and Sebastopol Bell and the Curfew Tower Bell will be tolled throughout the Procession.
The Procession will halt at the bottom of the West Steps of St. George’s Chapel where a Guard of Honour, found by the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, will be mounted. The Queen’s Coffin will be borne in Procession into the Chapel.
The Committal Service
The Committal Service will begin at 4pm, and alongside His Majesty The King and Members of the Royal Family, the congregation will be made up of past and present members of The Queen’s Household, including from the private estates. Also in attendance will be Governors General and Realm Prime Ministers.
The Service will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor, with prayers said by the Rector of Sandringham, the Minister of Crathie Kirk and the Chaplain of Windsor Great Park. The Choir of St George’s Chapel will sing during the Service.
Prior to the final Hymn, the Imperial State Crown, the Orb and the Sceptre will be removed from Her Majesty The Queen’s Coffin, and placed on the Altar. At the end of the final Hymn, The King will place The Queen’s Company Camp Colour of the Grenadier Guards on Her Majesty’s Coffin. At the same time, The Lord Chamberlain will “break” his Wand of Office and place it on the Coffin.
As The Queen’s Coffin is lowered into the Royal Vault, the Dean of Windsor will say a Psalm and the Commendation before Garter King of Arms pronounces Her Majesty’s styles and titles. The Sovereign’s Piper will play a Lament and The Archbishop of Canterbury will pronounce the Blessing. The National Anthem will be sung at the conclusion of the Service.
Not seen on the streets of London since the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the State Gun Carriage will be pulled by 98 Royal Navy sailors, with a further 40 marching behind acting as brakes. The King and Members of the Royal Family will again follow The Queen’s Coffin in Procession. The Procession will include detachments from the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth, as well as detachments of the British Armed Forces who held a special relationship with The Queen.
A Private Burial will take place in The King George VI Memorial Chapel later that evening, conducted by the Dean of Windsor.
The Queen is to be buried together with The Duke of Edinburgh, at The King George VI Memorial Chapel.
Arrangements for the Funeral of Her Majesty The Queen
THE TRAGIC death of Queen Elizabeth II set into motion an intricate period of mourning across the country, which will close with her State Funeral on Monday, September 19.
Arrangements for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch’s funeral have been carefully detailed for many years. The Queen herself signed off on every detail before her death. The details were kept private until King Charles III gave his final seal of approval.
The State Funeral of HRH Queen Elizabeth II will take place at Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sep 19) at 11.00am.
Following the Queen’s death, her oak coffin—draped with the Royal Standard for Scotland and a wreath of flowers—sat in the ballroom at Balmoral, where estate staff had the chance to pay their last respects.
On Sunday morning, gamekeepers carried her coffin to a waiting hearse before she left Balmoral for the final time.
The first stage of the Queen’s journey saw the royal cortege travel to Edinburgh and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.
An honour guard made up of the Royal Regiment of Scotland greeted the hearse in Edinburgh with a royal salute before the coffin was transferred to the Throne Room by a military bearer party.
On Monday, September 12, a procession was formed on the forecourt of the Palace of Holyroodhouse to convey the coffin to St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh.
The King and members of the Royal family took part in the procession and attended a service in St Giles’ Cathedral where they received the coffin.
Queen Elizabeth’s coffin was laid in St Giles’ Cathedral, guarded by Vigils from The Royal Company of Archers, to allow those in Scotland to pay their respects.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 13, The Queen’s coffin travelled from Scotland by Royal Air Force aircraft from Edinburgh Airport. It arrived at RAF Northolt on Tuesday evening. The coffin was accompanied on its journey by The Princess Royal.
The Queen’s coffin was then conveyed to Buckingham Palace by road, to rest in the Bow Room.
The coffin was received by her family in a small private ceremony before her official lying in state.
On Wednesday, September 14, the coffin was borne in procession on a gun carriage of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster.
The Procession travelled via Queen’s Gardens, The Mall, Horse Guards and Horse Guards Arch, Whitehall, Parliament Street, Parliament Square and New Palace Yard.
After the coffin arrived at Westminster Hall, the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a short service assisted by The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, and attended by The King and Members of the Royal Family, after which the Lying-in-State began.
During the Lying-in-State, members of the public will have the opportunity to visit Westminster Hall to pay their respects to The Queen.
Members of the public were able to file past the Queen’s coffin during its first full day of lying-in-state at Westminster Hall on Thursday.
Brass plaques in the 11th-century hall mark the spots where Edward VII lay in state in 1910, George V in 1936, George VI in 1952 and Queen Mary a year later. The hall, which is 900 years old, is also where wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill lay in state in 1965.
The Queen was laid-in-state in Westminster Hall until 6.30am Monday (Sep 19) morning. The coffin will then travel in a procession led by King Charles III and his family when it is moved at 10.44am from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey.
He will walk with the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and Earl of Wessex and behind the quartet will be the Queen’s grandsons, Peter Phillips, Duke of Sussex and the Prince of Wales.
The Queen’s coffin will be carried during the procession on a 123-year-old gun carriage towed by 98 Royal Navy sailors in a tradition which dates back to the funeral of Queen Victoria.
The procession will be led by a massed Pipes & Drums of Scottish and Irish Regiments, the Brigade of Gurkhas, and the Royal Air Force.
It will arrive at the west gate of Westminster Abbey at 10.52am when the bearer party will lift the coffin from the gun carriage and carry it into the Abbey for the state funeral service.
The service will begin at 11am and will be conducted by the Dean of Westminster.
Westminster Abbey has a capacity of approximately 2,200 people.
Heads of state and dignitaries from around the world are expected to be invited to the British capital to join members of the royal family to celebrate the Queen’s life and unwavering service to the nation and Commonwealth. The majority of leaders were asked to take commercial flights to London for the funeral.
Many members of royal families across Europe are expected to attend the funeral. The White House has confirmed the attendance of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.
Leaders from across the Commonwealth, of which the Queen served as head for the entirety of her reign, are expected to attend. Many other world leaders are also expected to attend the funeral.
At approximately 11.55am the Last Post will sound, followed by two minutes of silence to be observed in the Abbey and throughout the UK.
Reveille, the national anthem and a lament played by the Queen’s piper will bring the state funeral service to an end at around noon.
After the service, the Queen’s coffin will be returned to the gun carriage by the bearer party and a procession will travel to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park.
At Wellington Arch the royal family will watch as the Queen’s coffin is transferred to the new state hearse, before it begins its journey to Windsor Castle.
At 3.06pm, the state hearse will approach Shaw Farm Gate on Albert Road, Windsor, and join the procession which will be in position.
At 3.10pm the procession will step off via Albert Road, Long Walk, Cambridge Gate, Cambridge Drive, George IV Gate, Quadrangle (South and West sides), Engine Court, Norman Arch, Chapel Hill, Parade Ground and Horseshoe Cloister Arch.
At approximately 3.40 pm the King and other members of the Royal Family who are walking in the procession join it at the Quadrangle on the North side as it passes into Engine Court.
At 3.53pm, the procession will halt at the bottom of the West Steps of St George’s Chapel in Horseshoe Cloister.
The Queen will be laid to rest following a committal service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, which will begin at 4pm.
She will be interred with the Duke of Edinburgh in King George VI’s Memorial Chapel in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in a private service at 7.30pm on Monday.
The burial service, conducted by the Dean of Windsor and attended by the King and royals, will remain entirely private.
Britain is projected to spend an estimated £78 million on Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
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