Thursday, 6 December 2012

No way to run a whelk stall

In the words of Malcom Tucker from the “Thick of It” it was an omni-shambles. Government were trying to get regulations in place to give Council tax benefits for 330,000 homes in Wales. But they managed to mess it up.

You’d think it was a simple enough task. After all it had been flagged up for some time that the UK government was devolving the administration of the benefit scheme to the governments of Wales and Scotland and to local government in England. 

More powers yes, but there was a sting in the tail. The UK were ridding themselves of the powers but were trying to work a flanker by keeping back some of the cash. To be precise in Wales there’s a £20 million shortfall. 

The Scottish government are making the money up from their own funds the Welsh government are not. So there will be on average a £74 shortfall to the households claiming the benefit in Wales. 

Treasury only provided the Welsh government with the actual figures this week. And there in lies the rub. The Welsh government held back the regulations until they knew what the cash was. So that’s why Assembly Members were left until the very last minute before they had a view of what was in the regulations. 

Normally Assembly Members have to be given time, twenty days, to look at things before they vote them through. Opposition politicians said that they only received regulations, which numbered around 340 pages, from Mr Sargeant minutes before the vote proceedings began.

So in order to pass the regulations the ordinary procedures of the Assembly had to be set aside. That’s what yesterday’s row was about. In order to set the rules aside you have to have the  agreement of two thirds of the Assembly Members. Yesterday, they didn’t agree. And in the immortal words of Laurel and Hardy it was another fine mess they found themselves in.

The Opposition blamed the government with treating AMs with “contempt.” The First Minister Carwyn Jones blamed the Conservatives of not caring about the poor. 

So we’re now into the usual default of politicians, the blame game. All trying to blame each other for the mess. Playground tit for tat.

The Conservatives say that they reached a deal with the government that would have resulted in the debate being allowed but allege that the government reneged on it.  

A Conservative source says that they were approached for a deal by Labour.  The government source say that it was the Tories that approached them.

Deal or no Deal? Well on Tuesday a deal is alleged to have been reached with the Local Government Minister.  Do deal done, not quite. It's said when the deal was taken to the boss, it was over turned. By Wednesday, no deal. Result chaos.

A Welsh government source said the Tories had made "unacceptable, inappropriate and unrelated demands" in exchange for their support, and blamed them for creating "needless financial uncertainty on 330,000 Welsh households over Christmas". 

The Conservatives say they were approached by the Minister and agreed a deal. The deal was the introduction of a Veterans card. 

Despite the shambles there is little doubt that the regulations will be in place for the April start of the new system. 

Twenty days after Assembly Members come back from their Christmas holidays a debate can take place. All that Carwyn and his team will then need is a simple majority.  Even they won’t mess that surely. 

This last fortnight has seen an attempt to ban a Welsh language soap and now this shambles. Are these the consequence of perpetual one-party rule? Are the government getting tired?

What seems to have been lost in all the nonsense, is that some of the very poor households are going to again suffer   cuts while relatively affluent politicians willy wag.

Stop Press
The politicians in the Bay have finally got their act together and will meet on the 19 December to pass the regulations. Rosemary Butler the Presiding Officer responded positively to a request from Carwyn Jones to hold the meeting as it's "a matter of urgent public importance." 
Politicians have got round the standing orders debacle by agreeing to convene the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee to scrutinise and report on the regulations in advance of the debate. This will allow the debate to take place. 
So there we have it, job done. But one cannot but reflect that the whole sorry saga reflects very badly on the Assembly. Whelk stall owners would have done a better fist of things.

1 comment:

  1. And a possible wages free for all, for top officials in Labour run local authorities