Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Council tax debacle over

Assembly Members came back from their Christmas holidays to finally pass legislation to enable people to continue to receive council tax benefit after next March. 

Responsibility for this means tested scheme is being transferred from the Westminster government to the Welsh Government.

The original attempt to pass the regulations fell because the Welsh government failed to deliver their regulations in time for the National Assembly to properly supervise them. (see previous blog “No way to run a whelk stall.”)

What seems to have been forgotten in the political shenanigans is that in the transfer process, the Westminster government cut the budget by 10%. 

330,000 households in Wales who receive the benefit will be, on average, £67 worse off. Many, 230,000 to be precise, will also have to pay council tax for the first time.

Unlike, Scotland who are making up the difference, the Welsh government says it cannot afford to make up the gap. Although they seem to have cash to buy an airport.

Labour won the vote after First Minister Carwyn Jones agreed with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats a “sunset clause” allowing the assembly to revisit the regulations in a year's time.

It was precisely this assurance that the opposition parties wanted last time the regulations were discussed but at that time government refused to do a deal.

Government have finally got their way. It  was passed without AMs having even to bother their pretty little heads with a vote, as there weren't any objections.

But it could all have been handled better. It's no exaggeration to say that government made a bit of a pig’s ear in resolving the matter.

Questions must surely be asked about the competence of the Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant and his handling of the issue. 

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