Ahead of next week's recall of the Assembly, First Minister Carwyn Jones explains to our Political Editor Adrian Masters why he believes controversial new regulations for council tax benefits will be voted through following an agreement with Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
The First Minister says the Welsh Government has reached an agreement with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats on new rules on council tax benefits schemes. Carwyn Jones was speaking at his monthly news conference.
The regulations must be approved before January so that local councils can implement them. Assembly Members have been recalled during their Christmas break, and will be back in Cardiff Bay on 19 December to try to push them through.
Council tax benefits row:First Minister says Welsh Govt’s reached agreement with Plaid & Lib Dems which shd see regulations passed next week
First minister denied vetoing any agreement with Welsh Conservatives on council tax vote: ‘there was never any deal'
Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies has welcomed the Presiding Officer's decision to recall the Assembly on 19th December. He said:
– Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Opposition
While we deplore the laziness and inaction of Labour Ministers, which brought about this debacle, we welcome the cross party discussions which have resulted in this sensible agreement to recall Assembly Members.
Although not perfect, this timetable will allow robust scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s proposals and ensure the effective implementation of Council Tax support.
Assembly Members will have to return to Cardiff Bay from their Christmas breaks, it's been confirmed. It follows a failed attempt by the Welsh Government to push through new rules for council tax benefits schemes which must be approved before January so that local councils can implement them.
The Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler, says her decision to recall the Assembly reflects the sense of urgency and the need to give the regulations full scrutiny. A committee of AMs will examine them next week and provide AMs with a report before they reconvene on the 19th December.
I understand the leaders of Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats have met the First Minister to try to reach an agreement which would allow the Assembly to be recalled from its Christmas break. It follows Labour's failure to push through rules for new council tax benefit schemes yesterday.
The most likely date for a recall seems to be in two weeks' time. Plaid sources say their agreement is subject to a 'sunset clause' which would mean limit the regulations to a year. It's what Plaid was calling for in the run up to last night's vote as its Local Government spokesman told me earlier:
The Welsh Conservatives have hit back at Labour's claim that no deal had been done to win their support for a vote which would have helped push through new council tax benefit rules. An opposition source says:
– Welsh Conservative source
We were approached to make a deal by Carl Sargeant. (There was) a meeting on Tuesday when a deal was agreed. The deal was for a veteran's card but we understand the First Minister vetoed this proposal. If Labour don't want further support for veterans, shame on them.
A bitter dispute has broken out between the Welsh Government and Welsh Conservatives in the wake of Labour's failed attempts to push through new council tax benefit rules. Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies says his group had reached an agreement which would have 'facilitated' a vote on the rules.
– Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Opposition
We were working until the day before (the vote) to find a way to facilitiate this. We believed we had found a way to facilitiate it. But at lunchtime on Wednesday, the Welsh Government refused to take up the offer.
He said that he'd made the agreement with Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant on Tuesday night and denied that he was holding out for spending commitments. But the Welsh Government is categorically denying not only that there was any agreement, but that negotiations took place at all.
A source told me that 'they (the Conservatives) came with a set of demands and we showed them the door.' The source added:
On Wednesday, the Welsh Tory Leader approached the Welsh Government with a set of totally unacceptable, inappropriate and unrelated demands, in order to secure their support to get the vote through the Assembly.
Not content with deliberately trying to impose needless financial uncertainty on 330,000 Welsh households over Christmas and the New Year, the Welsh Tories tried to exploit the situation for their own narrow political ends. Their behaviour was reprehensible.
– Welsh Government source
The Welsh Government’s response to the Welsh Tory Leader and his grubby deal, was to show him the door. No negotiations took place and nothing was offered.