Debate on Committee report on the Education Improvement Grant and Gypsy Traveller and Minority Education

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

On 3 May, Assembly Members will debate the Children Young People and Education Committee’s report on its Inquiry into the Education Improvement Grant: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller and Minority Ethnic Children [PDF 739KB] which was published on 21 February 2017. The inquiry focussed on the educational outcomes of these groups of learners and considered:

  • How local authorities’ use of the funding to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller, and Minority Ethnic learners is monitored;
  • The effectiveness of other policies and strategies for supporting these groups; and
  • Key issues arising from amalgamating the other separate grants into the EIG.

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Debate on the Final Police Settlement 2017-18

10 February 2017

Article by Sarah Hatherley and Owen Holzinger, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

flikr_jon_candy

Image from Flikr by Jon Candy Licensed under the Creative Commons

Policing policy is not devolved to Wales; however, the Welsh Government delivers an element of the annual funding as part of a three-way system that also involves the Home Office and council tax. Police forces also have access to special and specific grants and other income sources.

Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) replaced police authorities in each police force area (outside of London), with the first elections held in November 2012. More recently, PCC elections were held alongside the Assembly Elections in May 2016. PCCs appoint the chief constable, set local policing priorities and set the budget and council tax precept.

The Police settlement is derived in a two-stage process with a provisional settlement released in line with the Welsh Government’s draft budget and a final settlement in line with the final budget. The four Welsh police forces are consulted on the provisional police settlement, before agreeing the final settlement. The National Assembly for Wales must then approve this funding. As part of this process, the settlement will be debated in plenary on Tuesday 14 February 2017.

Final Police Settlement 2017-18

For 2017-18, the overall funding allocated to PCCs in Wales has been set at £349.9 million. This represents a 1.4% reduction from the 2016-17 settlement and is a 1.4% reduction for each of the four PCCs. The overall funding is outlined in table 1 below:

Table 1: Police Revenue Funding – Total Central Support

2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Dyfed-Powys 53.0 50.3 50.0 49.3
Gwent 76.8 72.9 72.5 71.5
North Wales 77.1 73.2 72.7 71.7
South Wales 169.2 160.6 159.6 157.4
Total   376.2   356.9   354.9   349.9

Within the £349.9 million allocation, the Welsh Government’s element is £138.7 million. This can be broken down further and comprises funding from the Revenue Support Grant (£85.8 million) and Non-domestic rates (£53 million). The remaining £211.2 million funding is provided through the Home Office. The sources of Police funding are outlined below:

Home Office Police Grant

In England and Wales, the main source of income for police forces is the central UK government grant made available through the annual Home Office Police Grant Report. The Home Office Police Grant is general revenue funding and is not ring-fenced. It is paid directly to PCCs. The Police Allocation Formula determines the allocation of central government funds between the 43 police force areas of England and Wales. This is based on the estimated workload of each police force area, including crime related activity, policing special events, policing sparsely-populated areas and population and socio-economic factors. The Home Office has recently reviewed its funding formula for police forces, which will continue to be a needs-based formula. As has been the case in recent years, the Home Office has again decided to overlay its needs-based formula with a floor mechanism. This ensures all police forces in England and Wales can expect to receive the same percentage reduction, this year this is 1.4%.

Funding from the main grant is subject to “damping”, which in 2017-18 will redistribute £12.2 million from South Wales and £417k from Gwent to Dyfed Powys (an additional £5.1 million) and North Wales (an additional £7.4 million). The PCCs for Dyfed-Powys (£3.6 million) and North Wales (£2.4 million) also receive top-up grant.

Welsh Government formula grant/ Police Revenue Settlement

In Wales, the equivalent funding previously provided by the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government in England is devolved to the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government funding to PCCs still forms part of the local government finance settlement and is paid under provisions of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and must be approved by the National Assembly for Wales.

Council tax precept

Each police force can also raise additional revenue funding through council tax precepts. The elected PCC in each police force area determines the annual level of the police precept, which is added to residential council tax bills. A greater proportion of police funding comes from council tax in Wales than in England; 37% compared with an average of 24% in England in 2015-16. There is also much less variation between the Welsh police forces than in England. PCCs are known as major precepting authorities. Whilst they set the precept, the funds are collected on their behalf by local authorities. In 2016-17 the Police element of council tax amounted to approximately 16% of the total, average, council tax bill in Wales.

The Welsh Government has the power to cap excessive council tax rises (generally considered to be anything over 5%).

Specific and special grants

There are also a smaller number of special and specific grants that are ring-fenced for national policing priorities. The Home Office provides a series of specific and special grants in addition to the Police Main Grant. This funding comes from the Home Office resource departmental expenditure limit crime and policing group. Some of the grants are funded by top-slicing the Police Main Grant, that is reducing the funding available for general revenue funding through the Police Main Grant to pay for some specific grants. The largest element of this is the Counter Terrorism Police Grant; other grants include the Police Special Grant and the Police Innovation Fund.

Other income

Police forces can also charge for some of their services. The main source of income from fees and charges is through charging for special police services. These are police services provided over and above core policing at the request of a person or organisations, such as football matches and music concerts. The basic powers to charge for services are set out in the Police Act 1996. Police forces are prevented from making a profit on special police services and for some types of event are prevented from recouping 100% of costs.

More information regarding how each element of police funding is calculated can be found in the Local Government Finance Report (No. 2) 2017-18 (Final Settlement – Police and Crime Commissioners). Welsh Government has published the financial tables and other information regarding the police settlement on their website.

Final local government settlement 2017-18 published

21 December 2016

Article by Martin Jennings and David Millett, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

Following the Welsh Government Final Budget for 2017-18 (released on Tuesday 20 December 2016) the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government has today published the Final Local Government Settlement 2017-18, this outlines funding for each of Wales’ twenty-two local authorities.

The total settlement is £4.113 billion, which is an increase of £10 million (0.2%) when compared to the Final Settlement in 2016-17. This is the first increase in the local government settlement since 2013-14.

The provisional settlement includes increases and decreases in funding for different local authorities. The largest increase is 1.1% in Gwynedd and the largest decrease is -0.5% for three local authorities (Wrexham, Powys and Merthyr Tydfil).

The full breakdown of percentage change in funding by local authority is outlined in the below infographic.

draft-budget-2017-18-local-government-settlement-01

This year no authority will experience a decrease more than -0.5%. Of the three authorities where the funding change equates to -0.5%, two have received top-up funding totalling £1.6 million to ensure they do not experience a reduction beyond -0.5%, allocated as below:

  • Powys – £1,237,000
  • Merthyr Tydfil – £391,000

General Capital Funding for local authorities in 2017-18 is £143 million.

The Cabinet Secretary’s letter to local authorities, the Local Government Finance Report 2017-18 and the Local Government Revenue and Capital Settlement 2017-18: All Wales – Tables, can be found on the Welsh Government website.

Provisional local government settlement 2017-18 published

19 October 2016

Article by Owen Holzinger and David Millett, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

Following the Welsh Government Draft Budget for 2017-18 (released on Tuesday 18 October 2016) the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government has today published the Provisional Local Government Settlement 2017-18, this outlines funding for each of Wales’ twenty-two local authorities.

The total settlement is £4.107 billion, which is an increase of £3.8 million (0.1%) when compared to the Final Settlement in 2016-17. This is the first increase in the local government settlement since 2013-14.

The provisional settlement includes increases and decreases in funding for different local authorities. The largest increase is 0.9% in Gwynedd and the largest decrease is -0.5% for five local authorities (Wrexham, Powys, Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen).

The full breakdown of percentage change in funding by local authority is outlined in the below infographic.

draft-budget-2017-18-local-government-settlement-01

This year no authority will experience a decrease of more than -0.5%. Of the five authorities where the funding change equates to -0.5%, four have received top-up funding totalling £2.3 million to ensure they do not experience a reduction beyond -0.5%, allocated as below:

  • Wrexham – £181,000
  • Powys – £1,374,000
  • Merthyr Tydfil – £585,000
  • Blaenau Gwent – £147,000

The Cabinet Secretary’s letter to local authorities, the Local Government Finance Report 2017-18 and the Local Government Revenue and Capital Settlement 2017-18 (Provisional): All Wales – Tables, can be found on the Welsh Government website.

General Capital Funding for local authorities in 2017-18 is £143 million.

Bus company closures: what is the future for local bus services in Wales?

14 October 2016

Article by Eleanor Warren-Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

Graph showing decline in bus passenger numbers in Wales

Figure 1 – British passenger journeys on local bus services by country (Index: 2004-05 = 100). Source: DfT Bus Statistics Series, passenger numbers are in BUS0106 (notes and definitions of these statistics)

The Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure will give a statement to plenary on the future of bus services in Wales on 18th October. This follows the closure of three Welsh bus companies, Silcox Coaches, GHA Coaches and Lewis Coaches over the summer. This blog post describes the current condition of the Welsh bus industry, discusses the evidence which emerged during an inquiry into bus and community transport services held in the Fourth Assembly, and outlines a Written Statement issued by the Welsh Government on 15th September 2016 about local bus services.

Declining bus service provision and use

Buses are the most widely used form of public transport in Wales, but service provision and passenger numbers (Figure 1) are in decline.

The Traffic Commissioner’s annual reports show that the number of registered local bus services in Wales fell by 46% between 2005 and 2015. The Enterprise and Business Committee in the Fourth Assembly published a report on bus and community transport services in Wales in March 2016, making 12 recommendations. Evidence received by the Committee suggested a range of possible reasons for the decline, which include consolidation of services by operators, reductions in public funding, increased car ownership and more stringent route viability assessments by commercial operators.

Regardless of the reasons, the Committee heard that loss of services has a big impact on those people and communities most dependent on bus travel, particularly rural communities, older people, those with disabilities, young people and those on low incomes.

Profitability and structure of the bus industry in Wales

Data published by Passenger Transport Intelligence Services suggests that the profit margins of bus operators in Wales (7.0% in 2014) are comparable to those across Britain (6.7%), non-metropolitan areas of Britain (7.2%) and Scotland (7.3%). However, these data only cover six larger bus companies. Evidence submitted (PDF 405 KB) to the inquiry by the Traffic Commissioner showed how Wales has more small bus and coach operators than other parts of Britain.  He described the effect of this, saying:

The composition of the PSV industry in Wales features a significant portion of small family run businesses. These businesses are often the first to suffer in times of falling patronage or when exposed to an unlevel ‘playing field’ as a result of a lack of enforcement.

Professor Cole provided evidence (PDF 1.64 MB) suggesting that currently, Welsh bus companies’ profit margins are below the pre-1990s levels of up to 15%. He concluded:

profit levels of [Welsh] bus companies are below those required by most companies to prosper and grow

Public funding for bus services in Wales

The Welsh Government provides funding to Welsh local authorities to support bus services through the Bus Services Support Grant (BSSG). The BSSG, and its predecessor the Regional Transport Services Grant, have remained frozen at £25 million since 2013-14, representing a cut in real terms.

Local Authorities are also able to support “socially necessary” bus services through their core revenue funding. However, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) published Buses in Crisis 2010-16  (PDF, 5.4MB) in November 2015, which found that local authority funding has declined in recent years. The report found that funding from Welsh local authorities had reduced by 11.4% in 2015/16, the second highest reduction in England and Wales, and the highest outside the South East of England. It also found that a number of Welsh local authorities, such as Neath Port Talbot and Wrexham, no longer provide any funding for bus services from their own revenue funding. CBT has published a map showing reductions in local authority bus funding in England and Wales over the period 2010 – 2016.

Around half of all Welsh bus journeys are undertaken by disabled and older people as part of the All Wales Concessionary Fares Scheme. The Enterprise and Business Committee found that revenue from the scheme makes up 46% of income for bus operators in Wales.  The current financial year, 2016-17, is the final year of a three year funding agreement for the concessionary fares scheme.  The level of funding available for the scheme from April 2017 should be confirmed following publication of the Welsh Government’s draft budget on 18 October 2016.

Future bus policy and devolution of powers

The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government, Taking Wales Forward 2016-2021, contains a commitment to “deliver a more effective network of bus services once powers have been devolved”.

The Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates AM, stated on 15th September that he was keen to deliver a stable or growing bus network in Wales, setting out a five-point plan to support the sustainability of the bus industry. His plan includes:

  • offering professional support to bus companies;
  • asking local authorities to protect financial support for buses;
  • putting in place strategies to respond to planned withdrawals of bus services;
  • learning lessons from sustainable bus networks; and
  • providing funding “for the establishment of the role of a new bus co-ordinator post within one of the North and South Wales local authorities”.

The Cabinet Secretary also announced a Bus Services Summit to be held in early 2017, designed to bring together local authorities, bus operators, Bus Users Cyrmu, the Community Transport Association, groups representing disabled people, and other stakeholders.

Appointment of a full-time Wales-specific Traffic Commissioner was announced in August 2016. The Commissioner began his role on 1 October. The Traffic Commissioner responsible for Wales has historically been based in Birmingham and was also responsible for the West Midlands. Traffic Commissioners are the regulators of the bus industry and the registrars in their Traffic Areas of all local bus services. They have powers to take action against operators who fail to run their services in accordance with certain standards. Appointment of a Welsh Traffic Commissioner is anticipated to bring improvements in bus safety and reliability standards.

The Wales Bill includes provisions which, once enacted, will devolve bus registration powers to Wales. Bus registration documents are currently processed by the DVSA in Leeds. Devolution of bus registration powers is anticipated to improve bus service standards, and the quality of bus network information provided to customers.