20/11/2013 The Wales Report


With further financial powers announced for Wales, Huw Edwards speaks to secretary of state for Wales David Jones about the next steps on the devolution journey.

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Tonight on the Wales Report: The problem of poor quality housing in


the private rented sector in Wales affecting the health of tenants. Is


it time for new legislation? A clearer picture of how much control


the Welsh Government would have over taxes - but does it make sense? And


Swansea Bay will not be the British capital of culture - so how else do


we promote Wales on the global stage? Stay with us for the Wales


Report. Good evening and welcome to the Wales Report, where we explore


the issues that affect lives in Wales and question some of those


making the decisions. On tonight's programme - the latest facts about


private rented accommodation in Wales. In far too many cases, the


quality of housing is appalling. Tenants' health and sometimes their


lives are put at risk by damp, dangerous wiring, and crumbling


walls. This week - the Welsh Government launched new legislation


- the Housing Bill - part of which aims to clamp down on reckless


private landlords. But does it go far enough, given the scale of the


problem? Helen Callaghan reports. This is not a property viewing the


well in this house has invited me here to talk about the battle she is


having with third landlord. She has asked us to hydrate entity but once


people to know how problems with this house began to ruin her life.


What was wrong? Excessive cold and damp. Wires hanging from the


bathroom, it could cause a fire. You think this house was making the


bill? They put me on Valium. With the damp, you have problems with


breathing, you cannot work or pay the rent. Why should I? You have put


me in this condition that is worse than an animal. She says from


landlord tried to convert -- a victory for complaining but she


stared because was nowhere else to go. One day she came home to find


the locks were changed but although she was allowed back in, she still


does not have a full set of keys. You cannot use your back door? It is


locked. How do you get out? Through the window. She lived with these


problems for eight months before any repairs were made and during that


time she felt isolated and alone. Calling and nobody would do


anything. I just wanted not to be cold. When I went to the kitchen, to


have a nice, warm... Unite? -- you know? It is illegal for landlords to


put tenants at risk of injury or death. These problems are called


category one and according to figures from housing charities,


there are more than 75,000 properties in this estate being


privately let out across Wales. It is a landlord market and more of us


are renting than ever before. Mortgages are hard to come by and


social housing is in short supply. Experts predict we will need an


extra 6000 homes over the next five years just to meet demand. A perfect


situation for rogue landlords to take advantage of. The Housing


Minister thinks he has the answer. Launching the Welsh Government's


Housing Bill at this homeless charity, he outlined proposals to


tackle problems with homelessness, empty properties and unscrupulous


landlords. Under the plans, landlords would have to be licensed


and if they fail to comply, they could face fines or having their


rent withheld. But the housing charity is worried that lack of


resources will undermine what the legislation is helping to achieve.


There is not enough money for enforcement and most environmental


health departments are stretched. How can they cope with the


additional intelligence that will come from landlord licensing? There


is a fundamental question about these resources and something the


government needs to take on board. We spoke to the body representing


environmental health officers, who take on rogue landlords. They said


the extra information gathered through compulsory licensing will


help them identify the culprits but they stress that local councils must


provide adequate funding for the new laws to be enforced. It is important


that our elected members who set budgets appreciate that if you cut


money to housing teams, you have a real, direct and immediate effect on


people's lives and we encourage elected members to ensure their


teams are properly funded. We have spoken to all those representing


landlords and letting agents and they all have their doubts about the


effectiveness of increased legislation. They are worried that


fees for registration will penalised good landlords and they question


whether rogue landlords will even comply with the new laws. Con


artists and criminals will not and we know that that applies to


different sectors and society so we should partner up with all of the


stakeholders to make sure they don't get away with it. There is basically


enforcement against the good and not the bad. We believe an engagement


with good landlords and enforcement against the bad ones. It is an


indirect tax to the good, law-abiding citizens. Tenants might


the one I met welcomed the Welsh Government's good intentions but


they know the legislation will only have a positive impact on their


lives if the foundations of the new laws are solid. When you come home


and you have no happiness, it is not a home, you know? You wonder what


you have done wrong. You become depressed and it makes you feel very


bad. Helen Callaghan reporting. Joining me now from our Swansea


studio is the Housing Minister, Carl Sargeant. Lots of people applauding


what you are doing and they do not question your motives. But they do


question whether the rogue landlords will be felt with by this


legislation? -- dealt with. Our intention is to tackle the very


people who will not comply. The enforcement activities of local


authorities will be a very important part to ensure this happens. If they


do not have any resources to properly policed this, what do you


say? I do not accept the argument presented by some of your


contributors tonight and the issue around the financing has been worked


through with local government and we are confident that we can enable


this legislation effectively. There are many myths. One example is the


cost of legislation and enforcement is 65p per week for two properties


and that is not particularly onerous. Some of these departments


are not stretched? Local government and public services are always


challenged and the budgets from the UK Government have not helped. But


the issue with legislation and the financial profile has been worked


through with them and this is about being forced and legislation pathway


being successful to ensure that the cases you have heard about it on


your programme are dealt with effectively. But what you are doing


is adding a duty and burdens to staff who are already engaged in


lots of policing work in that sense and I am wondering how you can make


that logic for resourcing and say it is all there? Burden is a word that


you will use. The fact of the matter is... It is a duty that we will


impose on local authorities to comply with that will ensure we have


better accommodation across Wales. But is not unreasonable, the fact


that we should have safer accommodation is just a fundamental


part of society. And I think that what we are doing in the government


is making sure that rogue landlords can comply. We have some fantastic


landlords in Wales that deliver on this but as you have heard, there


are many that do not. It is about time we tackle them. What is your


analysis of why the private sector is booming right now? There are


supply issues. The bedroom tax is adding to displacement of


individuals and whether we agree with that or not, and I do not, but


the fact is that the UK has introduced this and it is displacing


individuals into different modes of accommodation. Therefore, the


private rented sector is playing its part and I am trying to support the


private sector to lift up policy and the profession to ensure that we can


get support to the professionals who want to be part of delivery and let


us make sure that we can tackle these issues when rogue landlords


failed to deliver. He did not mention social housing, you did


mention social housing. -- supply. We have got investments with social


landlords and a task force in place reporting to me at the end of the


year in terms of supply and we are looking at innovative finance models


and in doing things differently. We are in a very different time and


place compared to 12 months ago. Six months ago, I took the post and I am


very keen to tackle the issues around supply, quality and services


in housing. That is what the Housing Bill will produce. And the building


is already in place. Social landlords are increasing supply but


you will have heard that report today that there are pressures due


to that bedroom tax having an effect. Building new homes? New


homes are being built. We have got some major announcements coming up


shortly and I am sure they will be welcomed by the industry. Why, after


13 years in power in Wales, Labour has not actually tackled this social


housing problem before now? We have heard from some experts that we will


be short of 6000 homes. You're talking about committees and


consultations and projects, but when will the building happen? Some of


those questions have been lifted from a Conservative press lease and


the fact is, we are delivering... Not any press race I have seen! Six


months in post and I am keen to ensure that I work with the industry


and I have met with house-builders and met with social landlords and we


are turning the corner in our ability to deliver but let us not be


complacent. The fact is that we are under extreme pressure from the UK


Government in terms of the finances, which are being reduced to ?1.7


billion less into the Welsh economy. We can legislate around housing to


make Wales a better place to live and the very person you had at the


start of that interview shows that we need to do something. I am not


prepared to sit back, we will take action. In future, if the Welsh


Government had powers of income tax, it could tackle this better? The


income tax question is around the referendum and we have to take


action right now and that is what we are doing. Thank you for joining us.


This week a clearer picture has emerged of how new financial powers


for the Welsh Government announced recently by David Cameron and Nick


Clegg would be implemented. Some powers over income tax could be


transferred if the Welsh people gave their approval in a referendum. But


the Welsh government would not get the power to vary individual tax


bands. For some in the Assembly, that's disappointing news. The


Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones, who's joining me in a moment,


defended the decision at Westminster earlier today. I welcome the fact


that after one year, we have a statement from the Secretary of


State on this matter. But I want to question him further on details. I


make no apologies for ensuring that this proposal was properly


scrutinised and I believe that the package we have announced is good


for Wales and I'm glad to see that it was welcomed by the Welsh


Government. Joining me now from Westminster is the Secretary of


State for Wales, David Jones. Thank you for joining us. Are you a


convert for the income tax powers for Wells? Wales does need powers


because the big issue we have in Wales is poor performance of the


economy. By and large, lower taxes make for a more dynamic economy and


at the moment we have Wales getting progressively poorer and GDA is only


three quarters the British average and income tax powers would be good


for the economy. In the past people have been saying you have been


lukewarm on this. When did you change your mind? It is not a


question of changing my mind. Conservatives believe instinctively


in low taxation. Wales needs a competitive edge and devolution has


been used to impose more regulation upon the people of Wales. It would


be refreshing if we saw a lower rate of taxation in Wales which would


encourage people to come into Wales and set up businesses here. Do you


regret that it took so long to come up with the response to the


recommendations? No, I do not. We had to give it proper scrutiny. The


proposals we accepted mostly I therefore good. There will be an


impact not just upon Wales, but on the whole of the United Kingdom. I


do not make any apologies for giving proper consideration and going out


to further consultation as a consequence of the extreme doubts we


were seething from certain quarters of the property sector. There is one


significant exception and that is air passenger duty. Northern Ireland


benefits from that. Why is Wales to be deprived of it? There is a big


difference in the case of Northern Ireland's which is that it is


separate from the British mainland. In Wales we have got another


aircraft -- airport crows to Cardiff, Bristol. There would be a


distortion effect and it would have the effect of favouring one airport


at the expense of another which we did not think was the right thing to


do. What does that tell us about the Government's you about air capacity


in the South East of England and beyond? We need more capacity in the


South East of England and London is the only hub airport we have got at


the moment. We do as much as we can to improve capacity into Heathrow


and in Wales we are improving rail links. But the fact is to devolve


airport tax duty would benefit one airport at the expense of other


airports in the UK. That is a distortionary effect. The clarity of


that answer means lots of those people who were hoping you would


revisit this may as well stop because they are wasting their time.


No, I do not think so because it is a matter that we will keep under


review. It would have an unfair impact upon other airports in the


UK. What is your view on the varying of individual tax band for income


tax? Experts say if this is to be a meaningful devolution of power, a


Welsh Government would need to have that ability, but you are depriving


them of that. It would have an adverse impact on progressivity. The


higher tax rate in Wales is extremely low. Unbelievably only


4000 people in the whole of Wales pay the top rate. In terms of giving


the Welsh Government more flexibility and the capacity to


attract inward investment would have had very little effect. I think


something that emulates the Scottish model, which is what we have


approved, gives the Welsh Government the capacity to change income tax


rates. Most importantly, it gives the opportunity to entrepreneurs to


come into Wales and establish themselves. I feel a lower tax


economy is a better one and I would hope the Welsh Government would be


bold and go for a lower rate across the board. How bold should they be


in terms of the timing of a referendum? As you know I am


pressing for a referendum to take place as soon as possible. But I


think the Welsh Government needs to do something to kick-start the Welsh


economy. At the moment they have not used devolution to give Wales that


competitive edge it needs. In many respects they have made Wales less


competitive. It would be a strong signal if they said, we want a


referendum and we want to have it as soon as possible and if we get those


varying powers, then we will be moving to a lower tax regime in


Wales. That would be bold and just the thing Wales needs to improve the


Welsh economy. But doesn't Carwyn Jones have a point when he said


unless we sort out the fundamental basis of funding for Wales, the


Barnett formula, there is no point talking about a referendum? That is


indicative of his mindset and the Labour Party's mindset as a whole.


Labour expect Wales to be a kind of supplicant part of the United


Kingdom for every more. They should be more ambitious. We agreed last


year a formula that would protect the Welsh Government against


so-called convergence, in other words the benefit of the Barnett


formula dwindling. They have got that agreed. But now is the time for


the Welsh Government to say, we want that to be ambitions for Wales and


we want to move towards a lower tax economy. You think it is entirely


practical and realistic to look forward to a referendum before the


next Assembly elections? I think they should do it as quickly as


possible. The question of when the referendum is triggered will be a


matter for the Welsh Government and the Welsh Assembly. But I know my


colleagues in the Conservative Party will be pressing the Welsh


Government to do it as quickly as possible. Frankly, if it is


Labour's timidity that is holding us back, it will be the Labour Party


who will pay the penalty in the ballot box. You are saying before


2016? It is a matter for them, but my preference is to go as quickly as


possible. People would know what they were voting for. The UK City of


Culture in 2017 will be how. It is a great city. Well done. They beat


Swansea Bay, Leicester and Dundee. But some people are asking how did


Swansea Bay managed to lose because the potential gains are significant?


The current holder, dairy in Northern Ireland, has hosted events


such as the Turner prize, an outdoor theatrical extravaganza written by


Frank Cottrell Boyce and BBC radio one's Big Weekend. We will be


discussing the lost opportunity for Swansea Bay. I am delighted to


announce the UK City of Culture, 2017, is how. But I am also


delighted to pay tribute to all of the short listed candidates as well.


They all gave fantastic presentations. These things would


happen anyway. This part of the world creates its own indigenous


culture. We are gutted, but we pick ourselves up and we dust ourselves


down. We take ourselves forward. Some evident disappointment. Joining


me is Lleucu Siencyn, the chief executive of Literature Wales and


the broadcaster and broadcaster John Gower. How gutted are you? We are


very gutted, but it is a bitter disappointment for us all. The


Swansea Bay bid was a really strong one and everybody involved should be


congratulated. Not strong enough. I am really surprised, because if you


had asked me yesterday I would have said Hal would have been long down


at the bottom of my list. A long dead poet was not in the business of


celebrating anything. A small theatre company. I thought


Swansea's clever bit should have won out. Lester was a bit build on a


platform of multiculturalism. The great building in the centre of it.


I would have said Swansea would have been top of my list. What was the


weakness? Was it to do with the logo or was it more fundamental?


Swansea's bid was amorphous, it was about a whole region. Even although


that allowed them to bring in some very heavyweight names like Michael


Sheen, that would have been part of the problem. But you sometimes have


to ask yourself questions about the bigger picture. These things deliver


at the end of the day. As much as people say they do? For Glasgow it


though. It transformed Glasgow. Now Glasgow is sexy, cultured and sharp


and quick thinking. The big, huge, global Dylan Thomas brand and


despite that it does not get there. It raises a few questions. You


mentioned Glasgow and people in the early 90s would have said Glasgow,


surely not? Saint Andrews would have been more mentioned. Maybe this is a


subtlety that needs that cultural regeneration and Swansea does not.


We have got art sensors and a fantastic programme of events


beginning very soon, celebrating Dylan Thomas. Swansea is very much


at the heart of those celebrations. We have got a City of Culture


already and we will be celebrating that hopefully through literature


and other activities. You are basically saying this project might


not have delivered that much for Swansea as much as for other


cities. Is that what you are saying? If you have the seed of a successful


programme, any investment will develop that further. Also with the


Welsh Government's own investment in the Dylan Thomas celebrations next


year, the biggest investment in literature activities, and I am


thrilled with that, what we see is a strong legacy of rebranding and


repositioning South West Wales through the brand of Dylan Thomas


which will have an equally lasting legacy. Is there any point in


Swansea or Cardiff or any Welsh cities bidding for this kind of


profile in future? Or do we say we are happy with our cultural heritage


and richness as it is? There is a question about granting the City of


Culture status in the future. The main players have been rewarded in


the past. We are now getting down to decisions when we are thinking do we


need the whole process? Of course Swansea will want to bid for it


again because Swansea is one of these second cities. All around the


world you have got cities that are capitals and they have all the


formal business of culture. You have got other cities, like Manchester


versus London, worked at grassroots level it is happening. Swansea has


always had that mentality. Little poetry groups are happening in


Swansea because they want to put it on. Because of the inheritance from


the Dylan Thomas Centenary celebrations of course Swansea can


do it. They have seen the value of sport. Premiership football is


bringing in a lot of money and extra students into the university because


they can see the brand of Swansea being promoted. Like you say it is


already a cultural capital, a very cultured city, and has been for many


decades. What will be the highlight of the Dylan Thomas year? All the


workshops we are delivering in schools throughout Wales, not just


in Swansea. There are so many films, theatre projects. The main thing is


to return to the poetry. There are a handful of absolutely glorious


poems. Forget the boozy bard. Go back to the work itself. If we do


that, it will be a fantastic legacy. We will be back next Wednesday. In


the meantime you can get in touch with us on e-mail and we are on


twitter. As we have been discussing, Wales is to mark the


Centenary of Dylan Thomas' birth. I will leave you with a taste of what


is ahead in the coming year. Good night. Mostar. An ugly, lovely town,


or so it was and is to me. Crawling, sprawling by a long and splendid


curving shore where true with boys and sound field boys and old men


from nowhere beach combed, idled and watched the dog bound ships, or the


ships steaming away into wonder and India, magic and China, countries


bright with oranges...


With further financial powers announced for Wales, Huw Edwards speaks to secretary of state for Wales David Jones about the next steps on the devolution journey.

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