New publication: Community buildings, places of worship and faith groups

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

This funding guide outlines and signposts sources of financial assistance available to organisations and groups for the construction, development and maintenance of community buildings and places of worship. This guide also includes sources of financial assistance available for faith groups in Wales.

Community buildings, places of worship and faith groups (PDF, 2,529KB)


National Assembly for Wales Research Service

National Endowment for Music

08 February 2017

Article by Sian Hughes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

violin_landscape

Image from Flickr by Jason Hollinger. Licensed under Creative Commons.

On 14 February 2017, Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education will make a statement in Plenary on the establishment of the National Endowment for Music.

Background

There have long standing concerns about funding pressures for non-statutory, local authority music education services. In March 2015, the then Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis, established a Music Services Task and Finish Group. The Group, looked at  music service delivery; charging policies, musical instrument supply and partnership working.  The Group also considered issues around resourcing the future development of music education in Wales, and the potential for a National Endowment for Music.  The Group recommended that:

The Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Government should investigate the possibility and parameters for the establishment of a National Endowment for Music to develop the opportunities for young people to realise their possibilities through music skills and talents. The research should look at the model for such an endowment and its resourcing, including the potential for a voluntary ticket levy, and Ministers should receive a report on initial feasibility within six months.

The then Minister accepted the recommendations in October 2015. Trio Consulting was commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales to undertake a feasibility study on the establishment of the endowment. The report was presented to the previous Minister for Education and Skills and Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism in December 2015.

What can we expect?

In his written evidence to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on 14 September 2016, [PDF 241KB] Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure said that in partnership with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Arts Council for Wales, the Welsh Government were considering the establishment of  a permanent endowment fund for music.

The aim is to build-up a fund of £20 million or more. In time, it could yield up to a £1 million per year to support young people to develop their skills and talents in music. Achieving this target is possible, albeit it will be very challenging, so the fund will need to attract funds from various public and private sector sources.

We are consulting a range of potential partners and beneficiaries, to ensure we have an effective plan for creating and sustaining this new body.

In March 2015, Huw Lewis and Ken Skates, then Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, jointly commissioned a task and finish group to look the future of the National Ensembles.  The group’s report, Securing a sustainable future for the national youth arts ensembles of Wales [PDF 825KB] (January 2016) made recommendations for the Welsh Government, Arts Council, local authorities, and National Youth Arts Wales (NYAW)  – the umbrella body for the ensembles.

One recommendation was that a remodelled National Youth Arts Wales and the Welsh Government should fully explore the potential for NYAW to become a key beneficiary of the National Endowment.

The announcement will clearly be of interest to all those involved in music in Wales and for the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee who are conducting an inquiry into funding and access to music education.

A look at the work of the Welsh Language Commissioner

14 October 2016

Article by Osian Bowyer, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

meri_huws

Image taken from ComisiynyddyGymraeg.org

Four and a half years ago, Meri Huws started in her role as the first ever Welsh Language Commissioner. An independent post created by the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011. A separate blog post provides background information on this.

The Commissioner recently appeared before the Culture, Language and Communications Committee to discuss her Assurance Report 2015-16 – Time to set the standard: A portrayal of Welsh language users’ experiences.

On Tuesday 18th October 2016, a debate will be held in Plenary on the Commissioner’s annual report.

Welsh Language Standards

30th March 2016 marked a milestone in terms of rights for Welsh speakers. Welsh language standards set new legal duties on local authorities, Welsh Government and national park authorities to provide public services to citizens through the medium of Welsh.  The Commissioner stated that the journey to this point had been long, but that these rights “realize the official status of the Welsh language and enable people, in every part of Wales, to use the language in their everyday lives”.

Over the coming months, duties will be placed on 54 additional organisations, including Natural Resources Wales, Estyn, the BBC and Welsh Police Forces. The regulations relating to the 54 additional organisations (Regulations Numbers 2, 4 and 5) were approved by the Assembly in February and March 2016. However, regulations no.3 relating to Universities were not approved by the Assembly following calls to delay the process to resolve specific issues within the sector.

Over time, more organisations will be included as Welsh Government publish regulations relevant to other sectors. (See this blog post for more background information on the standards).

Dealing with complaints and statutory investigations

One of the Commissioner’s key functions is to investigate “suspicions of failure by public organisations to implement their statutory duties” in relation to the Welsh langauge. During the reporting period, a total of 250 cases were referred to the Commissioner, although not all cases complied with the statutory definition of a complaint under the Welsh Language Act 1993.

Many complaints can be resolved without the need to conduct statutory investigations, however, in some cases, a statutory investigation will be conducted into alleged failures by an organisation. Eight statutory investigations were conducted during 2015-16.

Where organisations do not operate within the standards system or operate a statutory or voluntary Welsh language scheme, the Commissioner can act on the basis of concerns from the public about a service or lack of it. In these instances, a review can be conducted. For example, a review was conducted by the Commissioner in April 2015 into the Welsh language services of high street banks in Wales following “significant increase in the number of concerns raised by members of the public regarding a lack of Welsh language services in banks”.

The review was based on evidence provided by the public and interviews with senior officials within banks operating in Wales. The review resulted in eight recommendations for banks, from “setting timescales for establishing Welsh language online services and mobile bank apps” to “ensuring consistency in the use of Welsh across all branches”.

The Commissioner’s budget

The reduction in Welsh Government budgets for the Welsh language as a whole in 2016-17 is 5.9% overall. According to Welsh Government, the reduction was limited to ensure that activities to promote the language in communities in Wales are protected.

The Commissioner’s budget for 2015-16 was £3.4 million, 8.1% lower than the previous year. Welsh Government has confirmed that there will be a further 10% cut to the Commissioner’s budget for 2016-17, down to £3.05 million. Over a period of 4 years, the Commissioner’s budget has been cut by 25% in financial terms, or once inflation is factored in, a 32% cut in real terms.

According to the Commissioner, the budgetary cuts seen over the last few years mean that “existing resources are not sufficient to extend the hold of the Welsh language measure on different sectors in the near future”.

The Commissioner has also highlighted the inconsistency in cuts to other similar organisations with regulatory functions and statutory obligations.

Assurance Report 2015-16

The 2015-16 Assurance Report: Time to set the standard – A portrayal of Welsh language users’ experiences, is the second such report the Welsh Language Commissioner has published, which focuses on areas of concern for the Commissioner. The report emphasises the need for organisations to “step-up and deliver good quality public services that enable Welsh speakers to increase their use of the language in their everyday lives”.

The Commissioner told the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee that she believed that many organisations had reached a plateau in terms of Welsh language public services, whilst some had rolled back their Welsh language services provisions over the last few years. She cited GOV.UK as a particular example where Welsh language services have deteriorated since its introduction by the UK Government, and that provision of Welsh language services by Government agencies such as DWP, which were once strong, have since weakened.

The Commissioner is due to appear before the Culture, Welsh Language and Communication Committee in the near future to discuss her 2015-16 Annual Report.

Draft BBC Charter: What does this mean for Wales?

23 September 2016

Article by Robin Wilkinson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg / View this post in Welsh

This article is intended to inform and complement the Plenary debate scheduled for Tuesday 27 September 2016.

Last week the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport published the Draft BBC Charter. The BBC Charter is the constitutional basis of the BBC: it sets out in broad terms how the BBC should be organised and what it should do. These requirements are fleshed out in an Agreement between the BBC and the UK Government, a draft of which was published alongside the Draft Charter. The Draft Charter is set to run from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2027.

Previous Assembly business: Does the BBC do enough for Wales?

Towards the end of the last Assembly, the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee (CELG) conducted an inquiry into how the BBC Charter should reflect Welsh interests. Key concerns raised by the Committee included:

  • Between 2006-7 and 2014-15 BBC Cymru Wales spend on English language TV output for Welsh audiences reduced from £24.6 million to £20.8 million: a reduction of about 30% in real terms.
  • Since about 2006 BBC network spend has increased in Wales, to the extent that in 2014-15 Wales secured 7.8% – or £59.1 million – of UK BBC network television spend, greater than its 4.9% population share. The Committee shared stakeholders concerns that, welcome though this spend in Wales was, the network programmes made with it did little to address specifically Welsh issues.

This is an infographic showing BBC Wales expenditure

The Committee made a number of suggestions as to how the BBC’s activities as they relate to Wales could be improved. These included:

  • The Committee endorsed calls from the Welsh Government and the Institute of Welsh Affairs for the BBC to invest an extra £30 million into the services it provides for Wales.
  • The BBC should decentralise its commissioning arrangements so that more big decisions are made in Wales.
  • The BBC should set itself targets for Welsh portrayal in its network productions, and report on these annually.

The Committee’s concerns were clear: the BBC does not spend enough money on Welsh productions, or make enough distinctly Welsh programming. Many of the Committee’s views have subsequently also been expressed in the following reports:

To what extent are these concerns addressed by the Draft Charter and accompanying Draft Agreement?

The Draft Charter: does it address the Committee’s concerns?

Key points for Wales in the Draft Charter and Agreement include:

  • A strengthened public purpose which states that the BBC must “reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the UK’s nations and regions and, in doing so, support the creative economy across the UK”.
  • Accountability arrangements between the BBC, the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales were established in a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this year. These have been re-affirmed in the Draft Charter, which states that the BBC must comply with requests to provide evidence or submit reports to Assembly committees in the same manner as they do committees of the Houses of Parliament. The Welsh Government must be consulted when the Charter is reviewed or renewed.
  • The BBC’s annual plan, report and accounts must include details of provision for the UK’s nations and regions.
  • The new BBC Board – which will govern the BBC – will have a non-executive director from Wales, whose appointment will be agreed between the UK and Welsh Governments.
  • Ofcom has a new role in regulating the BBC, including ensuring that audiences in the individual nations are “well served”. Ofcom must “secure the provision of more distinctive output and services” on the BBC: which could be interpreted to mean more regionally and nationally distinct programme-making.
  • As well as policing content, Ofcom will be responsible for ensuring that a “suitable proportion” of network programmes are made outside of London, including in each of the UK’s nations. Back in 2006 the BBC set itself the target of investing 17% of its overall network spend in the devolved nations, broadly in line with their combined population size: something it has exceeded in Wales. The UK Government intends for this minimum requirement not to be reduced.

These provisions suggest that the next Charter period could see more regionally and nationally distinct programming on the BBC, including that for Welsh audiences: depending on the extent to which these provisions are accompanied by money and action.

However, BBC Wales recently announced that the organisation would need to save £9 million a year by 2022 to cope with the “cash flat” licence fee agreement. Rhodri Talfan Davies, BBC Wales Director, told staff that he hoped to limit savings in content areas to around £3 million over 5 years, whilst directing any new investment at English language television services.

Mr Talfan Davies has previously indicated that the BBC management is receptive to requests from the Welsh Government and elsewhere for extra funding for BBC Wales, though how this receptiveness converts to extra money remains to be seen.

What about S4C?

Since 2013, the majority of S4C’s funding has come from the BBC licence fee. Prior to this, its funding came from the UK Government’s DCMS, which continues to provide a small grant.

In 2011-12, S4C received £101 million from DCMS. In 2014-15, its budget reduced to around £82 million. The CELG Committee stated that the 36 per cent real terms funding reductions imposed on S4C since 2010 have been ‘both severe and disproportionate’. The BBC Draft Agreement states that S4C will receive £74.5 million from the licence fee annually until 2020-21.

The UK Government is planning a review of S4C in 2017, to consider its funding arrangements, remit and accountability.

The Welsh Government’s view

When giving evidence last week to the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language Alun Davies AM (who has responsibility for the Welsh Government’s broadcasting policy) noted the broad agreement between the Welsh Government and the CELG Committee’s work on the BBC Charter. He described the agreement between the BBC and S4C as “mature”, whilst stating that more funding for both the BBC and S4C would be welcome. He noted that he will be meeting the Secretary of State next week to discuss the draft Charter.

Presumably more details of the Welsh Government’s views will become clear on Tuesday 27 September, when the Assembly debates the Draft Charter in Plenary.