A Stronger Voice for Wales: First Minister to give evidence

16 March 2017

Article by Dr Alys Thomas National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

How an Assembly committee is investigating relations between institutions.

The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee  is undertaking an inquiry into inter-institutional working in order:

  • To produce best practice principles for inter-institutional working for constitutional legislation.
  • To reflect and build on the work of other legislatures on inter-institutional working as it relates to broader policy areas.
  • To seek, establish and promote opportunities for inter-parliamentary working, including promotion of citizen engagement.

The inquiry is focusing on two strands: Constitutional Matters and Policy Matters. The Committee is currently looking at Strand I: Constitutional matters. It is reviewing how inter-institutional relations have influenced development of Welsh devolution since the Assembly was set up in 1999. This includes looking at:

  • How intergovernmental mechanisms have impacted on the development of the devolution settlement.
  • How intergovernmental relations have developed and evolved, what worked well and the impact these relations have had on the devolution settlement.
  • How inter-parliamentary relations have evolved, the current state of these relations and how they could be further developed in relation to the development and scrutiny of constitutional legislation.

The Committee has been hearing from key players in the development of devolution in the past 18 years. It has heard from Lord Murphy, who was Secretary of State on two occasions – see our graphic on the Governance of Wales. At the last meeting the Committee heard from Baroness Randerson, who has been a Minister in the Welsh Government and in the Wales Office, and Elfyn Llwyd, former Leader of Plaid Cymru in Westminster. The Committee has also heard evidence from Sir Paul Silk who headed up the Silk Commission which played a part in the most recent devolution Act, the Wales Act 2017.

On Monday 20 March the Committee, as part of #SeneddNewport, is meeting in the University of South Wales, Newport and will be taking evidence from the First Minister, Carwyn Jones AM as part of the inquiry. He will also be questioned about the white paper on Wales leaving the EU, Securing Wales’ Future. The meeting begins at 2.30pm and is open to the public.

The Committee has launched a public consultation to seek views on the inquiry. The deadline for responses is 5 June 2017.

What type of youth service does Wales want? Assembly Members to debate Committee report

02 February 2017

Article by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

Group of young people sitting at a cafe, with mobiles and tablets, top view

On Wednesday (8 February 2017), Assembly Members will debate the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report of its inquiry into the effectiveness of the Welsh Government’s strategy and policies in respect of youth work: What type of youth service does Wales want? (PDF 1.11MB).

The Committee concluded that a ‘radical approach’ is needed to address an ‘alarming decline’ in youth services across Wales. It made 10 recommendations to the Welsh Government on how it should deliver the youth service that people in Wales want.

The Committee’s inquiry focused primarily on:

  • Young people’s access to youth services;
  • The effectiveness of the Welsh Government’s strategy and policy on youth work; and
  • Funding for youth work from local authorities, the Welsh Government, the European Union and the third sector.

Over 1,500 young people submitted their views to the Committee and their clear message was: when youth work provision disappears from a young person’s life, the impact is considerable. The Committee also heard from stakeholders working with young people. Here is what they had to say: six minute video.

What does youth work look like today?

The Committee heard that financial pressures have had a serious impact on youth work over recent years. Welsh Government statistics show that the total amount of expenditure which local authorities budget for youth services has reduced by almost 25% over the last four years. There has also been a decrease in the proportion of young people registered as accessing youth work provision from 20% in 2013-14 to 17% in 2015-16. The Committee described this as an ‘alarming downward trend’.

The Committee heard the outlook for the voluntary sector is seen with no more optimism, with the Council for Wales Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS) reporting that 30% of its members were unsure about their financial future.

The Welsh Government’s launched its National Youth Work Strategy for Wales in February 2014, intending to set the direction for youth work organisations for the following years until 2018. The Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies explained (PDF 662 KB) that the strategy seeks to maximise the role and contribution of youth work provision to young people’s engagement and success in their mainstream education.

The Committee considered the extent to which the capacity in the voluntary and statutory sector is maximised, concluding that:

There needs to be an urgent and radical intervention on the part of the Minister if he is to deliver his ambitious vision of a truly open access, bilingual provision. He must also address the lack of strategic and joint working between the statutory and voluntary sector, which the Committee believes is a significant barrier to delivering a universal youth work offer.

What role should the Welsh Government take?

The Committee recommended the Welsh Government reviews its National Youth Work Strategy and refreshes the existing Extending Entitlement statutory guidance, which was issued in 2002. The Minister told the Committee that the current strategy is being reviewed, the findings of which will be published in Spring 2017. He said this would form the basis of a new strategy from 2018 and work to refresh the statutory guidance.

Evidence submitted to the inquiry by stakeholders showed they believe there is a lack of leadership and strategic direction from the Welsh Government. The Minister’s views on the current state of youth work in Wales differed considerably to those of the local government Principal Youth Officers Group and CWVYS. The Committee called on the Minister to work with these organisations, ‘harnessing their expertise and understanding’ to make progress on improving youth work provision.

What type of youth service does Wales want?

Many of the contributors to the Committee’s inquiry called for a new national body to be established to drive forward youth work policy and implementation across both the statutory and voluntary sectors. These stakeholders believed a national model would, as the Committee’s report puts it, ‘enable better collaborative processes, reduce duplication across the sectors, raise the status and profile of youth work, enable workforce development’ and ‘maximise the available resources for the benefit of young people’.

Alun Davies AM told the Committee he does not intend to ‘nationalise’ youth services or seek to deliver them centrally from Cardiff Bay. He said he would decide on a future model for youth work provision in early 2017. However, he added:

Overwhelmingly, my view remains that this is a matter for local government to take these decisions and not a matter for a Minister to intervene in. (…)

The Committee has recommended that the Welsh Government introduce a national model for youth work, encompassing both statutory and voluntary provision.

In its report, the Committee expressed concern about a ‘lack of accountability’ for how local authorities use the funds which are nominally allocated for youth services within the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) but are not hypothecated for that purpose. In response to a question about the possibility of setting outcomes for local authorities as a condition of funding, the Minister said:

Setting outcomes by local authority area—I’m happy to consider that. (…)

I’m more attracted by the concept of outcomes than I am by hypothecation … If we are going to look at a national outcomes framework, then perhaps how we break that down into local areas could be something we could look at.

The Committee has recommended that the Welsh Government develop an accountability framework for local authorities’ use of funds for youth work via the RSG, including sanctions if these are not delivered.

The Welsh Government’s response

The Welsh Government’s response (PDF 293KB) has been published today (2 February 2017). The Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies, has accepted 5 of the recommendations and accepted the other 5 in principle.

How to watch the debate

Assembly Members’ debate on the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report is scheduled for around 4.00pm in Plenary on Wednesday 8 February 2017. It can be watched on SeneddTV and a transcript will be available on the Assembly’s Record of Proceedings.

New Inquiry into Bus and Community Transport Services in Wales

20 August 2015

Article by Andrew Minnis, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

The Enterprise and Business Committee of the National Assembly for Wales (E&B Committee) is carrying out an inquiry into Bus and Community Transport Services in Wales. This blog post sets out the background to the inquiry addressing declines in the provision of bus services and the number of passengers in Wales, changes to bus policy, and proposals surrounding devolution of powers.

You can access the inquiry page with terms of reference, evidence received etc. via the inquiry page.

You can also follow the E&B Committee, including this inquiry, on Twitter: @SeneddEcon

Provision of bus services and passenger numbers decline

The provision of bus services and the number of passengers using them has declined in Wales (Figure 1). The Traffic Commissioners’ Annual Reports indicate that the number of registered bus services in Wales declined by approximately 25% between March 2005 and March 2014. Department for Transport (DfT) quarterly bus statistics show that bus passenger journeys have also declined by about 18% from their peak in 2008-09 to March 15. This decline in passenger numbers is greater in Wales than any other part of Britain. By comparison bus journeys in England outside London declined by just over 6% in the same period, and just under 16% in Scotland.

During its inquiry the E&B Committee are planning to look into the current condition of the bus and community transport sector in Wales, including the reasons for the recent decline in both registered bus services and bus passenger numbers. It will also explore the social, environmental and economic impact of the recent decline in bus services and passenger numbers.

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)

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)

Bus policy in Wales

Bus policy in Wales has undergone significant change in recent years with changes to the Welsh Government funding mechanisms and levels. For example in January 2014, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport announced the replacement of the Regional Transport Services Grant (RTSG) with a Bus Services Support Grant (BSSG) allocated directly to local authorities. In real terms this resulted in cuts in funding. For further details see previous posts on Funding for bus services and Changes to transport planning and funding in Wales. In addition to this there was the abolition of the Regional Transport Consortia last year.

The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport commissioned a review of bus policy which was published in July 2014. The review focussed on; measures to improve operator’s commercial performance to reduce their reliance on public subsidy; accessibility for disabled passengers; and options to support young people’s transport needs. The report makes 29 recommendations including recommendations for action by local authorities, bus operators, Welsh Government and other organisations to work more closely to organise and integrate bus services more effectively. Following on from this the new National Transport Finance Plan commits to implementing the ‘responses to the recommendations arising from the bus policy review’.

During its inquiry the E&B Committee will investigate the steps which should be taken to ensure bus and community transport services meet the needs of Wales.

Devolution of powers

While the Welsh Government is responsible for bus policy and funding in Wales, the bus industry in Britain was deregulated during the 1980s and the Assembly cannot currently legislate to change bus regulation arrangements in Wales.

The UK Government set out proposals to devolve powers over bus registration in its Command Paper – ‘Powers for a Purpose: Towards a Lasting Devolution Settlement’ in February 2015. However, devolution of wider bus regulation powers has not been proposed to date, but the Welsh Government has said it believes devolution of these powers is needed.

During its inquiry the E&B Committee are planning to look into the potential benefits or otherwise of devolution of bus registration powers, and whether further powers to regulate the bus industry are desirable.

The E&B Committee will be taking evidence from stakeholders during the coming months as the inquiry progresses.  

Video of young people’s views on entrepreneurship

A video of young entrepreneurs saying what they think about the help and support available in Wales for them to set up their own business has been presented to a Committee Inquiry and published on the Assembly’s website.

The Enterprise and Business Committee is undertaking an Inquiry into Youth Entrepreneurship in Wales and saw the video at its meeting on 12 June 2013.  The video was compiled and edited from footage of approximately 35 interviews carried out with young people across Wales involved in starting a business.

Video of young people’s views on entrepreneurship

Video of young people’s views on entrepreneurship

The video lasts approximately 13 minutes and is ordered into the following five sections:

  • Enterprise in Education
  • Signposting and Mentoring
  • Funding and Support
  • Economic and Regional Context
  • The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Article writtwn by Michael Dauncey.