Stock transfer only option in Wales
The new Welsh government has ruled out giving local authorities an alternative to stock transfer as a means of meeting the Welsh housing quality standard.
A week into his new post, Andrew Davies, the assembly's public service delivery minister, indicated that he would not be pushing Westminster to give councils investment options other than transferring their homes to a housing association. ‘There's a huge proportion of housing in Wales that is not of an acceptable standard but the government's Treasury rules are clear,' he told Inside Housing.
‘If a local authority does not have its own resources then, at the moment, unless Treasury rules are changed, local authorities will have to transfer [their stock].
‘Clearly the aim is to reach WHQS and stock transfer is the only way this can be done. We have to operate within Treasury rules established in the Treasury.'
Aled Roberts, leader of Wrexham Council, said he hoped the new government would set out the sanctions it would impose if councils failed to meet the quality standard's 2012 target.
‘The issue for me is something of concern. We have not had any indication of what happens in this area for councils which have difficulty in delivering a yes vote and what sanctions the assembly government will apply for those.'
Mr Roberts said he was surprised the assembly had ruled out alternatives so soon after indications that the Labour Party was softening its stance on the fourth option, as lobbied for by Defend Council Housing.
‘I wouldn't have anticipated him making this that clear this early on having regard to comments Gordon Brown made,' Mr Roberts said.
Steve Long, director of the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, said: ‘The clock is ticking and local authorities who have not indicated how they intend to reach the standard need to be realistic as there is no prospect of Treasury rules changing.'
Mr Davies said that the key priority for his new post would be to ensure that housing and child poverty were ‘big on the agenda'.
Mr Davies said he would be seeking to work with the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru to develop a policy to suspend the right to buy.
‘We see it as an opportunity to bring in legislation that gives local authorities, when appropriate, the right to suspend right to buy to ease pressure on social housing…it's something we want to decide with them [other political parties] as a priority,' he said.
He added that the assembly was scouring its public sector land bank to pinpoint suitable sites for affordable housing.