Thursday, 19 January 2017

Wales mulls deregulation to head off ONS

The Welsh Government is considering implementing similar deregulation to England as concern mounts over the potential reclassification of housing associations.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reclassified the English sector as public last November, triggering a flurry of deregulatory measures to get associations’ combined £60bn of debt off the national balance sheet.

The Welsh Government has become increasingly concerned that a potential similar assessment of the Welsh sector would result in reclassification, adding an estimated £2.3bn of debt to national books.

The ONS has not set a date for a review of the status of housing associations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but a spokesperson said this week it may assess their status “in future”.

As a result, the Welsh Government is understood to be working up deregulatory measures to pre-empt any reclassification decision which could be introduced later this year.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are watching with interest the steps the UK government is taking as a result of the Office for National Statistics reclassifying housing associations in England.”

Stuart Ropke, chief executive of Community Housing Cymru, added: “The housing association sector in Wales has looked on with a level of concern about what has happened in England, and we have been in conversation with Welsh Government about what could be done.”

Regulation in Wales is currently carried out by the Welsh Government, with many of the powers which triggered a reclassification in England also in place.

Last week, the regulatory board in Wales was made independent of key stakeholders for the first time.

David Bookbinder, director of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, said he did not believe there was the same level of concern in Scotland, as the regulator there is independent of government.

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