Week 17 to 22 November
More detail on UK government’s response to Silk. (see http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2013/11/new-powers-over-cash/) and Carwyn Jones lecturing the Scots on independence ( http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2013/11/hell-take-the-low-road/ )
Panic all round for middle class parents they may have to pay more in fees to get their kids through university, but not just yet. Huw Lewis has chosen to set up a review of the current policy of Higher Education funding. But it’s not going to report back until after the next Assembly election in 2016. Degree courses take three years, but do inquiries have to be as long? Meanwhile the architect of the current policy ex Education Minister Leighton Andrews was criticized by the Welsh Audit Office of not telling the full cabinet of the potential costs of the policy. Not so says Andrews described the WAO’s conclusion on cost estimates as a “glaring error”, insisting the government was aware of the potential extra costs of fees being charged at the maximum £9,000, rather than an estimated £7,000. Despite the spat it still an awful lot of cash and in these austere times, unlikely to continue. So parents had better start putting money aside in their piggy banks if they want little Johnny and Jane to have a three year ball, sorry, University education.
The Welsh government produced its first Housing Bill. It aimed at: helping access to affordable homes and ensuring those at risk of becoming homeless receive help; raising standards in the private rented sector and placing a greater emphasis on action to prevent people from becoming homeless; providing local authorities with the power to introduce an increased rate of council tax on empty homes; placing a duty on councils to provide sites for the Gypsy and Traveller communities; assisting the expansion of co-operative housing; setting standards for those local authorities that retain their housing stock on rents, services charges and quality of accommodation and supporting the achievement of the Welsh Housing Quality Standard and abolishing the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system to enable stock retaining local authorities to become self-financing. It hits all the buttons, very worthy, but there hasn’t been a Housing Act passed yet, that hasn’t unforeseen consequences and the suspicion is that this one is no exception.
A bill to recover the costs of treating Welsh asbestos patients from businesses or insurers has been passed by assembly members. The bill was a pet project of Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw. Before being elected he was a solicitor who had acted for asbesto victims. The bill was passed despite the insurance lobby expressing serious concerns about it. Well , they would, wouldn’t they. Never heard of an insurance company paying out without a great deal of bother.
Joel Barnett’s formula’s under the cosh again, this time not by the whinging Welsh but the English. According to the Local Government Association, England’s communities are being “short-changed” by £4.1bn a year under the model used to allocate central government funding across the UK. This money needed to be “repatriated”. The UK government disputes the LGA analysis. Well, they would, they’ve no intention of upsetting the Scots this side of the referendum. But after then, all bets will be off.
The Scottish Affairs select committee took evidence from Jane Hutt on the guidance the Welsh Government had given on the practice of employers blacklisting workers for their trade union activities. She admitted that because the area had not been devolved they could only issue guidance had this had the potential open up the government to legal challenge. Despite not having the legal powers the MPs were told that the Welsh Government was committed to eradicating blacklisting. It must be the week that Welsh Ministers are telling the Scots to wise up.
Lord Ashcroft’s warned his party to get its act together on the basis of his own polling and it seems that this week’s polls underlines his point of view. On the average of current polls (Con. 31% Labour 39% Lib. Dems. 10%) Labour would gain an overall majority of 92.
A long way to go yet, but it doesn’t seem that the economic news is helping the government, Miliband’s message on the cost of living and the goodies not reaching the punters is helping his party greatly in the polls.
Populus CON 32%, LAB 41%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 9%.
YouGov/Sun CON 32% LAB 39% LDEM 11%,
ComRes/Independent CON 29%(-3), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 10%(+1), UKIP 17%(+1).
Opinium/Observer CON 28%(-3), LAB 37%(nc), LDEM 9%(+2), UKIP 16%(nc)
YouGov/Sunday Times CON 33% LAB 39% LDEM 10%, UKIP 12%.
Populus CON 31%, LAB 40%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 10%.
Ipsos MORI/Standard CON 32%(-3), LAB 38%(+3), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 8%(-2).
TNS-BRMB CON 30%(-4), LAB 38%(+2), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 12%(-1).
YouGov /Sun CON 32%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%