UK Government set to reject assembly housing powers bid

Council houses generic
Image caption Right-to-buy has been a sticking point in negotiations over housing powers

The UK government is expected to reject the assembly's bid, in its current form, for more power over housing.

The assembly is seeking the right to legislate on housing, including the right to suspend the sale of council houses.

But after a three-year wrangle, the UK coalition government said the powers should not be devolved in full.

The decision has angered Liberal Democrats in the assembly who said it breached the coalition agreement.

However, the Wales office insisted the agreement makes clear its commitment to take the order forward.

The housing Legislative Competence Order (LCO) has been under intense scrutiny for the past three years.

Sticking point

The assembly government wants the ability to legislate on issues such as homelessness and the social housing sector so it can address policy aims.

But its desire to control right-to-buy has been a sticking point in negotiations.

The aim is to ensure that people on modest incomes can still find houses to rent in the areas where they live.

Members will now have to decide whether to re-draft the LCO quickly to amend the clauses relating to the right-to-buy, or risk losing the chance to legislate on a wide range of Welsh housing issues before the next assembly elections in May next year.

Deputy minister for housing Jocelyn Davies AM expressed deep disappointment at the news.

"The UK coalition government very clearly stated in its programme for government that it would take forward the sustainable homes LCO. I, like many other members I am sure, took this to mean that the LCO would be taken forward as drafted. Unfortunately, that is not the case," she said.

"Let me reiterate, it is not, and never has been, the assembly government's intention to do away with the right to buy for tenants.

"I see no need for the LCO to be amended, and I have been pleased to receive the support of the vast majority of members for my position."

The Welsh Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Peter Black said he believed the UK government's decision to reject the LCO in its current form is a breach of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition agreement by under-secretary of state for Wales David Jones.

Mr Black said the Welsh Liberal Democrats had attempted to go over his head to the office of deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to get the decision overruled, but had not yet been successful.

A Wales Office spokesman said: "The coalition agreement makes clear our commitment to take the order forward.

"The minister has met with Jocelyn Davies and others to discuss how we can best make progress and we have set out to the Welsh Assembly Government a means of doing that quickly.

"We await the Welsh Assembly Government's formal response."

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