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Housing needs of ex-prisoners 'will continue to be met'

Despite the announcement that former prisoners will no longer receive priority housing, the Welsh Government has insisted other changes in the Housing Bill will help the most vulnerable former prisoners to find accommodation.

Several respondents expressed concerns about some aspects of the proposal, particularly the potential impact on the successful resettlement of vulnerable prisoners and the impact on reoffending. The broader provisions on homelessness will provide much-improved help for prisoners before release to find them suitable accommodation.

I would like to emphasise that the needs of vulnerable former prisoners will continue to be met through the legislation, within the context of a more proactive approach to prevention.

– Carl Sargeant AM, Housing Minister

Former prisoners 'will no longer have priority housing'

Former prisoners will no longer receive priority treatment when it comes to being housed by local councils under changes announced by the Welsh Government.

Following a consultation on the changes, Housing Minister Carl Sargeant says those leaving prison will be assessed using the same criteria as any other vulnerable person wanting to be considered homeless.

Currently local authorities are obliged to treat them as a higher priority.

The changes will form part of a major Housing Bill to be published next week.

I am mindful that the subject of former prisoners having priority need status for housing has long been a controversial one. The needs of former prisoners are recognised but the current arrangements are widely perceived as being unfair in that they are given priority over many other vulnerable people irrespective of their personal circumstances.

– Carl Sargeant AM, Housing Minister

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Controversial fund closure late but welcome says Tory

The decision by the Welsh Government to take direct control of the controversial Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales has been welcomed by the Conservative AM who first raised the concerns. But Byron Davies says he wants to know why it's taken so long to reach such a decision.

I welcome the cancellation of activity by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales (RIFW) as currently constituted. For over a year, I have been voicing my concerns about why the taxpayer has lost millions of pounds in the mis-selling of pieces of land.

Openness and transparency are critical in rooting out wrongdoing from public life and delivering value for money for hard-pressed taxpayers.

Selling off large pieces of valuable land in private deals was never going to deliver value for money for the public purse and it is vital that this Labour Government learns the lessons.

Investigations are still on going, and I will be asking serious questions about why it has taken this long for this decision to be taken given how long serious concerns have been raised.

– Byron Davies AM, Shadow Transport minister

Welsh Govt closes under-investigation investment body

The Welsh Government is to close down an arms-length investment organisation in the light of Wales Audit Office investigations into the sale of land. Housing and Regeneration Minister Carl Sargeant told AMs that he will take direct control of the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales.

This action is intended to ensure that the resources currently tied up in the Fund should be made available for investment in communities around Wales as soon as reasonably possible.

– Carl Sargeant AM, Housing and regeneration minister

RIFW's activities had been suspended in 2012 when the investigations were launched by the WAO. The minister says he's taken his latest step because he's concerned that the suspension is stopping the flow of investment to communities.

These investigations are still continuing and in the circumstances I have concluded that I am not in a position to remove the moratorium on the activities of the Fund. I am conscious that the effect of that would, without further action, simply be to extend the uncertainty surrounding the Fund. I am also very concerned that unless I take further action resources which should be made available to invest in our communities will instead be lying unused in RIFW’s bank account.

Following consultation with the RIFW Board I have therefore concluded that we should draw the investment activities of the Fund as currently constituted to a close. This will ensure that the resources currently locked up in the Fund can instead be reallocated for other projects supporting jobs and growth across Wales. My Department will assume direct responsibility for overseeing the Fund through this process.

– Carl Sargeant AM, Housing and regeneration minister

Anglesey Council 'capable of managing own affairs'

The Chief Executive of Anglesey Council has welcomed the announcement that the Welsh Government will hand control back to councillors.

Five commissioners were appointed to turn around the failing authority in 2011.

Since democratic control was restored in October 2012, Anglesey has clearly demonstrated an appetite and commitment to change.

I'm confident that the authority is now more than capable of managing its own affairs. We're already making good progress in delivering service improvements and have responded positively to the guidance provided by Commissioners and our regulators.

The authority now has an ambitious transformation programme in place, which will provide a catalyst for significant service improvements on behalf of people of Anglesey.

– Richard Parry Jones, Anglesey Chief Executive

End to Anglesey Council intervention announced

Lesley Griffiths said she is 'convinced the council can now manage its own affairs without external intervention'

The Welsh Government has announced the end of its intervention in the running of Anglesey Council.

Five commissioners were appointed to turn around the failing authority in 2011 - the first time a council in the UK had been taken over in this way.

Local Government Minister Lesley Griffiths made the announcement during a visit to the Council where she addressed a full meeting of councillors elected at the island’s recent election.

She said: "I am convinced the Council can now manage its own affairs without external intervention."

The Welsh Government’s intervention will formally end when the current direction expires on May 31st.

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More than a consolation prize for ex-health minister

by Adrian Masters

As if to answer the question I posed just a few minutes ago, the next announcement reveals that the outgoing health minister Lesley Griffiths has been appointed Local Government minister.

It's not a bad move for Lesley Griffiths who will take on a portfolio with almost as big a challenge involved as the health job did. It's much more than a consolation prize. Her reappointment also means that Carwyn Jones hasn't lost a female minister and one from the north.

The question is now, what happens to her predecessor, the popular Carl Sargeant who was widely seen as doing an effective job in the role?

Council 'set to be taken out of special measures'

Anglesey Council is set to be taken out of special measures within the next three months, according to local government minister Carl Sargeant.

Commissioners were sent in to turn around the ailing authority in 2011.

The Labour AM today said the council had continued to make 'good progress' since last October when the commissioners' role was scaled back and councillors resumed day-to-day control.

Council politics remain stable and mature. Councillors continue to engage effectively and have proven that they are able to manage routine business. I am increasingly confident this is a permanent change and the old Anglesey is a thing of the past.

– Carl Sargeant AM

We won't be part of Cameron's 'Big Society' scheme -Welsh Government

by Nick Powell

The Welsh Government has rejected calls for Wales to join the National Citizen Service, a scheme for teenagers in England that's part of the Prime Minister's 'Big Society'. David Cameron today saw youngsters from London training for the scheme in an outdoors centre at Gilwern near Abergavenny.

My ambition is to offer every teenager the life changing opportunity to take part. National Citizen Service is an investment in young people – it gives them the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and learn about how they can make a difference in their communities, whilst all the time gaining new skills and confidence. Young people are responding to this opportunity by committing nearly three-quarters of a million hours of volunteering this summer.

– Prime Minister David Cameron MP

We have no plans to introduce the National Citizen Service in Wales. The Welsh Government has always recognised that volunteers have a key role in supporting their communities and has invested accordingly. The Minister for Communities, Carl Sargeant, last year announced £2 million funding split equally between the Volunteering in Wales Fund and for GwirVol - an initiative supporting and promoting youth volunteering. Both initiatives help to make volunteering more accessible as well as increasing the number and quality of volunteering opportunities.

– Welsh Government Spokesperson

The UK Government intends to have 90,000 16 and 17 year olds on the English scheme by 2014 and today the Wales Office Minister David Jones urged the Welsh Government to 'take up the opportunity for Welsh teenagers'.

Northern Ireland will be undertaking a pilot scheme in the autumn. I have already encouraged the Welsh Government to get involved in the National Citizen Service scheme and hope they will begin discussions with the UK Government in implementing this scheme in Wales. I will be visiting an NCS Project in Hereford next week and would invite Carl Sargeant to accompany me so that he can see for himself how beneficial NCS is to our young people.

– Wales Office Minister David Jones MP

Despite Mr Jones' pleas, it is now clear that the Welsh Government will stick to the schemes it funds through the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, a body that pre-dates David Cameron's 'Big Society'.

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