Powers and Policy Levers
At the end of November we launched a two year programme of research and knowledge exchange funded by the Economic and Social Research Council which is investigating how the Welsh Government has used its powers and policy levers and the lessons for policy makers in Wales. The programme will seek to address some important questions including:
- Do Welsh Ministers have the powers and policy levers that they need to achieve their objectives?
- If not, what additional powers might be necessary?
- Could they make more effective use of existing policy levers?
- How can the Welsh Government work effectively with the UK government, local government and other agencies?
At the centre of this programme have been two case studies of Welsh Government policy making drawn from the period 2011 to 2016. This period, which is that of the fifth term of the National Assembly for Wales, has been selected because it is the first in which the National Assembly had full primary legislative powers in devolved matters.
Our case studies were chosen because we believe that they illustrate different aspects of recent Welsh policy making. The first study is of the development and implementation of reforms to statutory provision for homeless people in Wales, which came into force in April 2015. The second study is of the Welsh Government’s (as yet unsuccessful) attempt to introduce a statutory Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) regime for alcohol in Wales. Both cases examine the Welsh Government’s ability to develop distinctive legislation-based policies in devolved areas and draw on original oral evidence from key policy actors in government, the third sector, and academia, as well as comprehensive analysis of policy documents, debates, and academic and ‘grey’ literature.
Our outputs so far include:
- A paper entitled ‘How can sub-national governments deliver their policy objectives in an age of austerity? Reshaping homelessness policy in Wales’, which we delivered at conferences in Paris and Cardiff in December 2016 and have revised for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
- A paper entitled ‘Meso-level policy making in interesting times, lessons from Wales’ which we delivered at the to the Political Studies Association annual conference in April 2017 and are revising for publication
- A policy reunion in February 2017 which brought together academic experts, practitioners from the public and third sector, and key policymakers to discuss what can be learned from the trajectory of homelessness policy in Wales.
- A blog post on policy making in Wales entitled ‘What does it mean for public policy to be ‘Made in Wales’?’ for the London School of Economics British Politics and Policy Blog, 19 October 2016.
- A co-authored magazine article on minimum unit pricing in Wales and Scotland entitled ‘What can we learn from the Scottish Government’s experience of minimum unit pricing for alcohol’ for Scottish Policy Now, December 2016.
- An accepted proposal for a paper entitled ‘Cross-border influences on policy innovation and diffusion in devolved nations: The case of minimum unit of alcohol pricing in Wales’, to be delivered at the European Consortium for Politics Research annual conference, in Oslo in September 2017.
In addition, in March 2016 we convened an expert workshop entitled ‘Improving policy delivery in Wales’, which brought together policymakers and policy experts from the academic, public and third sector to discuss the wider context of policy making and delivery within Wales since devolution. This produced a very constructive discussion, which was so candid that we decided, after consultation with participants, not to publish the report of the workshop. However, the report helped participants reflect upon policy making practice and culture, and very helpfully informed our own thinking about the wider project.