RLA Welsh Policy & Public Affairs Officer Calum Davies shares his thoughts on the political landscape in Wales post-general election.
Readers will be forgiven for thinking the General Election result will lead to seismic change everywhere.
However, with housing and much more devolved to the Welsh Assembly – which has recently backed a law that will see it be called the Welsh Parliament by the time of its next election in 2021 – there will be a great deal of law-making that will only apply in England.
One pertinent example was referenced in the Queen’s Speech, with the Conservatives committing to bringing forward legislation to abolish Section 21.
However, in Wales, though possession reform is on the agenda, such repossessions will not be wholly banned.
But with the Conservatives making headway in traditionally working-class, Labour-voting areas, leading to a substantial majority across the UK and gaining six seats in Wales, will there be a change of tack west of Offa’s Dyke?
Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016
Welsh Labour, which has been the leading or sole party of government in Wales since 1999, is focussed on the long-awaited implementation of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 (set to change possession law in Wales) before that election.
However, it will be interesting to see whether Welsh Labour will be able to stand being “less pro-tenant” than the UK Conservatives.
Despite working and consulting on changing the minimum notice period from two to six months and the period at the start of a contract when notice cannot be served from four to six months, will they go into the 2021 election advocating a new policy and timescale once again?
Additionally, there is a difference of policy of between the UK and Welsh Conservatives on this front too.
Will Wales’ official opposition change its mind in 2021 and seek alignment with its parent party, and try to hobble Welsh Labour on what is usually considered its own turf?
In the case that neither Labour nor the Tories in Wales change from their current positions, then Plaid Cymru will likely enter the election as the only potential party of government advocating an “end to no-fault evictions”.
Leaving possession issues aside, what does the general election mean for the next elections in Wales when it comes to the PRS?
As welfare is a reserved competence, the end to the benefits freeze will be UK-wide with both tenants and landlords being better off from the increase in housing benefit.
However, the UK Government’s intention to abolish Section 21 so soon, means landlords are unlikely to get the court reform that they need to go alongside such actions. With justice being in the hands of Westminster, this will also have an impact on those in Wales.
There will also be some reflection from the parties given what the electorate rejected when they went to the polls. Hopefully, it will be enough to put Wales’ parties off the idea of counter-productive, punitive, and economically illiterate rent controls.
We should not forget, either, that the Welsh Conservatives will be keen to pick up the seats they won in the general election in the Senedd ballot too – they hold 14 constituency seats in Westminster, but only six in Cardiff Bay.
With electoral dynamics changing so fast and the crumbling of Labour’s “red wall” we could be looking at the most distinctive Welsh election of the devolution period, with the potential for parties to behave in new ways in terms of policy.
What is essential is that parties do not forget – or, indeed, do start learning – that private landlords are already under a huge amount of pressure from government as it is and that they are partners, not the enemy, when it comes to fight against homelessness and the effort to keep tenants in safe and affordable homes.
The UK Conservative Government now has the opportunity to adopt that attitude. Hopefully they will and that it will go on to set the example for political parties before Wales’ own general election in less than a year and half’s time.