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'Lack of powers affecting policies'.

THE Assembly Government's approach to housing policy has been hampered by its lack of lawmaking powers, according to one of Britain's leading experts in the field.

Professor Steve Wilcox, of York University, was speaking in Cardiff yesterday at a devolution conference organised by think tank IPPR.

Before the conference, he told the Western Mail: "Not surprisingly, there has been more innovation in housing policy in Scotland - to a large extent because of the availability of primary lawmaking powers.

"The Scottish Parliament has been able to introduce changes in a number of important areas, including the law relating to security of tenure, as well as the right to buy council houses. On the 'right to buy' issue, it has brought down the maximum discount available to new tenants to just over 25%, as opposed to the 50% maximum that exists in England and Wales. That is a realistic discount on normal market value, given that the homes have a sitting tenant. This has provided the Scottish Government with extra receipts which, unlike in Wales, do not have to be returned to the Treasury." Prof Wilcox said the "convoluted" nature of the current devolution settlement in Wales, where it typically takes the Assembly years to get permission from Westminster to legislate in specified areas, made it harder for the Assembly to bring in new housing policies.

He said that given the impact of the recession, it was "extremely unlikely" the Assembly Government would meet its target for all social housing to attain a minimum quality standard by 2012.

Meanwhile, regeneration expert John Adams - also a speaker at the conference - said the Assembly Government's approach to tackling poverty in poor communities would take longer to deliver jobs than similar initiatives in England and Scotland.

Mr Adams, who was a special adviser to Ron Davies during his period as Secretary of State for Wales in 1997-98, said: "The Communities First programme is largely geared to building the capacity of local neighbourhoods, rather than directly providing jobs for local people in the short-term. I'm not saying this is the wrong approach, but it has to be judged over a generation rather than just a few years.

"In England, more emphasis has been placed on getting results in the short term through initiatives like the Social Exclusion Unit and the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 29, 2009
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