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Action to tackle homelessness

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Homelessness: Minister sets out new approaches for WG

REBECCA EVANS, Minister for Housing and Regeneration, has published new policy documents which set out new approaches to tackling homelessness in a statement to the Assembly.

Rebecca Evans said: “Talking to those I meet, I often hear distressing accounts of family breakdown, domestic violence, mental health problems, financial problems, substance misuse and bereavement.

“These issues can lead to some people losing their homes and create a vicious cycle leading to rough sleeping.

“The recent increase seen in the National Rough Sleeper Count is disappointing in the face of our efforts and investment but I believe it largely reflects the increasing effects of continued austerity, increasing in-work poverty and welfare reforms”.

As well as new funding to their revenue settlements, councils in Wales will receive grant funding of £2.8m in 2018/19 to embed homelessness prevention best practice models which will help to reduce rough sleeping, prevent youth homelessness, improve access to the private rented sector and strengthen services for people with mental health and substance misuse problems.

Rebecca Evans AM also said: “Today I’m publishing a policy document which outlines how Housing First will be taken forward across Wales. There is strong evidence that Housing First works best where its core principles are followed – housing with no strings attached, ready and available support services and access to funds to help meet individuals’ needs.

“I’m also launching our Action Plan to reduce rough sleeping. Developed with organisations including Shelter Cymru, and members of Rough Sleepers Cymru, it covers a range of activity, supporting people to engage with services and get off the streets as quickly as possible. It also addresses wider issues such as a review of priority need and our guidance on cold weather plans.

“Rough sleeping is one aspect of homelessness. We can only truly address the issue if we have a system that offers secure housing for all. Building homes and expanding social housing stock can only go so far and I will work with the private rented sector to find innovative ways to harness their supply and meet demand. I will also be looking at how we continue to reduce the number of homes lying empty.

“The Welsh Government has a good track record of delivery on homelessness prevention and we will continue to provide the leadership to ensure we can end the need for people to sleep rough in Wales.”

Conservative Housing spokesperson David Melding welcomed the initiative, but, speaking outside the chamber, called for the Welsh Government to set a target for ending rough sleeping in Wales.

“We know that in Manchester they have set a highly ambitious target of eradicating rough sleeping by 2020, and the UK Government target is to halve rough sleeping by 2022 with targeted full eradication by 2027. I think that we should be aiming for a more ambitious target than that, perhaps somewhere in between.

“Wales has the potential to be a real leader in this area and so I do hope that the Welsh government step up and tackle this problem once and for all.”

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Leading the way in managing planning

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A KEY Officer in Ceredigion leads the way in sharing what it’s like to have a career in planning.

Russell Hughes-Pickering is Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration, which involves being the head of planning. He has been part of an informative article in February 2020’s edition of ‘The Planner’, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Russell Hughes-Pickering is one of twelve Corporate Lead Officers who sit on the council’s Leadership Group. He says planners need to “be politically astute and look above plans and policies”. This means understanding the organisation, their role in delivering corporate objectives and thinking strategically “so they see how they fit in across the board and in turn help deliver better services and better places for people.”

Russell left Llandovery College in 1985 to start a degree in planning at the University of Westminster. He started work at the London Borough of Hounslow in 1989 as a planner before becoming the lead officer in development plan work in 1997.

The RTPI’s article delves into the careers of a chief planning officer and is campaigning for heads of planning to be incorporated into local authority senior leadership teams. This is amid fears of a declining profile and diminishing corporate presence of spatial planning.

Russell continues, “The more I’ve been involved in preparing corporate plans or the council’s development programme, the easier it is to see, influence and ensure planning is involved at the right time. This has helped avoid issues when major projects go through their planning stage, whether that’s a town centre development, a change to a care home or a new school. Fortunately, I’m involved in an excellent leadership group where the culture focuses on improvement and helping each other to achieve better services.”

He moved back to Aberystwyth in 2000 when taking up the Principal Forward Planner role at Ceredigion, before becoming the Assistant Director for Planning in 2006. This job evolved from a primarily planning remit to one that also included building control and housing matters. In May 2013, he became Head of Performance and Improvement, then became Head of Performance and Economy in 2015. From 01 April 2018, Russell has been the Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration.

When asked what advice Russell would give younger colleagues, he wants to see more authorities improve arrangements on major development projects by setting up corporate development and project management groups and involve planners in them. He also wants to involve the next generation of planners. He said, “Young planners should get involved in these as much as possible so they’re involved in a wide range of service improvements, embrace projects or new development, seek ways to help progress and improve them, and engage in a positive way.”

Councillor Rhodri Evans is the Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration, which includes planning. He said, “We are grateful to Russell for his vision and strong voice for planning matters in Ceredigion. A planner has a big part to play in helping to develop and deliver corporate priorities. It shapes the future of our county for future generations.”

The council’s decision to prioritise the planning process shows how the council is working to reach its corporate priorities of boosting the economy and Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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Elin Jones calls on Ceredigion community groups to apply for ATM fund

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Elin Jones, Assembly Member for Ceredigion, has called on community groups to apply for The Community Access to Cash Pilot in order to make sure that ATMs are readily available in rural communities.

The initiative has been launched by UK Finance, the collective voice for the banking and finance industry in the UK.

Responding, Elin Jones AM said:

“Access to cash is still essential for many people, but getting access to cash can be particularly difficult for many communities. We’ve seen bank closures in many towns in Ceredigion, particularly in rural areas, despite opposition from customers in many market towns. Mobile banks do sometimes ease the burden, but the availability of these services is often infrequent.

“I’m glad this initiative has been launched in order to help local communities to identify and secure appropriate access to cash and payment services.

“Community groups are being encouraged to access the fund by applying on the UK Finance website, and I would be happy to assist any community group that is interested in applying. Please feel free to contact my office and I would be happy to help in any way that I can.”

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Politics

Ben Lake MP toasts to the reopening of The Rhydypennau Inn

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Ben Lake MP joined patrons to celebrate the reopening of The Rhydypennau Inn on Wednesday evening. The pub was closed on 12 January for over a month for a £346,000 refurbishment by Heineken owned Stars Pubs & Bars. 10 new jobs have been created, including a role for a second chef on the back of the investment which will see the wet-led community pub upgraded and transformed into a top-quality village pub offering stand-out, food, drink and service.

The refurbishment of The Rhydypennau Inn is a part of Star Pubs & Bars’ £50 million nationwide investment in pubs and bars in 2019.

Ben Lake MP spoke with the local licensee, Barrie Jones on the value of pubs in the community and spoke about the importance of the Long Live the Local campaign which highlights the need for a cut to beer duty rates.

Ben Lake MP said:

I am thrilled I was able to join The Rhydypennau Inn on the night of the reopening. Pubs are often the cornerstones of our local communities and at a challenging time for the industry, it’s great to see toast to a fresh start for the Rhydypennau Inn. It was a pleasure to visit The Rhydypennau Inn and see a local pub that has received a substantial investment and been given a new lease of life as a result.”

Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of Star Pubs & Bars said:

“The Rhydypennau Inn is at the heart of its community, a welcoming place where everyone can come together and socialize. We are pleased to be able to contribute to future of the Great British Pub by upgrading the Rhydypennau Inn and broadening its appeal. We wish Barrie continued success and many happy years behind the bar.”

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