The voice of housing professionals must be at the heart of local authority merger discussions
Today CIH Cymru’s Tyfu Tai Cymru project launched its second piece of research – ‘Weighing the options’.
'Weighing the options' focuses on the impact proposed local authority mergers could have on housing delivery in Wales. The findings demonstrate the range of opinions from those who feel reforms will have a negative impact on the services they deliver to those who feel transformation is needed.
The report found that:
• Communication was a consistent theme with many respondents feeling discussions about the mergers were dominated by political disagreements and that the full impact of potential merger had not been considered and they were in the dark about what would happen to their jobs and the communities they work in.
• Over 50% highlighted concerns about losing touch with local needs and accountability.
• The highest number of respondent (32%) selected that their preferred option would be no merger - the next highest was voluntary merger, selected by 26%
• The positive outcomes of merger were identified, these included more opportunities to share best practice, share resources, expert staff and provide communities with more housing options.
CIH Cymru is calling for:
• Local authorities to review their internal communications and increase the opportunities for staff to feed-in their expertise.
• The Welsh Government to ensure merger discussion and progression do not have any unintended consequences for local authorities to deliver towards the 20,000 affordable homes target.
• The Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and the Minister for Housing and Regeneration should convene a joint meeting with representatives from local authority housing departments to facilitate an open discussion about the proposed changes.
• Assembly members and local authority councillors to engage proactively with housing departments to gain insight into the impact of proposals, both positive and negative.
• The Welsh Government should consider undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the impact merger could have on areas where merger brings together those authorities who still manage and develop their own home and those who do not.
• The voice of tenants should be at the heart of any proposed, large-scale change to how their services are delivered.
Supporting the launch of the report, John Griffiths AM said:
“This report is a key step in creating positive changes for housing delivery. Housing is such an important aspect of people’s quality of life and wellbeing. It is pivotal that we continue to discuss progress in this area and work towards reaching targets for affordable homes.”
Tyfu Tai Cymru manager Catherine May said:
“Our report shows how important it is that housing professionals working within local authorities have a clear voice in shaping how the proposed changes could impact housing delivery in their area. Whilst there are clearly fears over how the proposals could work in practice there are also some great ideas about how to improve the delivery of the housing function. It is vital that Welsh Government ministers take swift action to have an open dialogue with housing professionals and ensure their expertise and insight play a positive role as discussions progress.”
Matt Dicks, director at CIH Cymru said:
“We’re calling today for the Welsh Government and local authorities to take swift action to ensure the voice of housing professionals is fully considered in these merger discussions. It is crucial that as a first step, the Minister for Housing & Regeneration and the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services come together to hear the views of these professionals and consider how the proposals can benefit from their insight.”