New Publication: Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Bill – Summary of changes at Stage 2

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The Land Transaction and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Bill (‘the Bill’) was laid before the Assembly on 12 September 2016. The Bill was introduced in plenary by Mark Drakeford, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, on 13 September 2016.

The Bill is the first tax specific legislation to be introduced in the Assembly. It establishes provisions for Land Transaction Tax (LTT) in Wales, which will replace UK Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in April 2018.

This document sets out some of the key changes made to the Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Bill (“the Bill”) during Stage 2 proceedings.

Stage 3 consideration will take place in Plenary on 28 March 2017 to consider amendments to the Bill (as amended at Stage 2).

Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Bill – Summary of changes at Stage 2 (PDF, 1040KB).


Article by Christian Tipples, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.

Children’s Advocacy Services: No more false starts

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On 29 March 2017, the Assembly will debate the Children and Young People and Education Committee’s report of the inquiry into statutory advocacy provision (PDF 519KB], published on 2 February 2017.  The Welsh Government published their response [PDF 87KB] on 22 March 2017.

What is advocacy?

This is a picture of a child

The Welsh Government’s 2003 National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services [PDF 498KB] said:

Advocacy is about speaking up for children and young people. Advocacy is about empowering children and young people to make sure that their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times. Advocacy is about representing the views, wishes and needs of children and young people to decision-makers, and helping them to navigate the system.

There are statutory requirements for local authorities to provide independent advocacy services for looked after children and young people, care leavers and children in need, initially under the Children Act 1989 and more recently incorporated into the Social Services and Well-Being Act (2014).

Latest Welsh Government statistics provide an indication that 28,105 children were potentially eligible for statutory advocacy services in 2016. Of these 5,660 were looked after children; 3,060 were on the child protection register; and 19,385 were children in need.

Why it’s important

The importance of looked after children being able to access independent advocates was elevated when the Waterhouse Inquiry report (published in 2000) found that the victims of decades of widespread sexual and physical abuse of children in north Wales care homes had not been believed or listened to. It recommended that all looked after children should have access to an independent advocate.

In the Missing Voices, Right to be Heard report of July 2014, the then Children’s Commissioner for Wales said:

There is no starker reminder than the emergence of the fresh allegations of historic abuse in North Wales and the establishment of Operation Pallial and the Macur Review. The current prominence of historic child abuse scandals demonstrates the immediate need to get advocacy right for children and young people today. Advocacy enables us to create a climate where we listen to children and young people, a culture where we can better protect our children. In short, advocacy safeguards children and young people.

The National Youth Advocacy Service told the Children, Young People and Education Committee:

Statutory advocacy is fundamentally a provision to protect and safeguard the most vulnerable children and young people in Wales. We must not lose sight into the history of why advocacy is so critical in Wales which was a direct result of many children being abused whilst in the care of local authorities. The recommendations from Sir Ronald Waterhouse report; “Lost in Care” are still as relevant today as it was in 2000.

Reports since Waterhouse

Between 2003-2014 there have been seven reports setting out concerns about advocacy services and how best to deliver them in Wales.

Between 2008 and 2010, the Children and Young People Committee of the Third Assembly published three reports and made a range of recommendations and repeated calls about the provision of advocacy services for looked after children and other vulnerable groups of children.  These can be seen on the National Assembly website:

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales was established in 2001, the first in the UK. In 2003, the then Children’s Commissioner published his Telling Concerns report [PDF 720KB] which included a review of advocacy provision. During the period 2012-2014, the new Children’s Commissioner went on to publish three reports and made a series of recommendations in respect of statutory advocacy services.

The 2014 report said that the quality and quantity of commissioning of the provision of advocacy services differed markedly between local authorities and:

Without significant change this local model of commissioning is likely to perpetuate the well documented shortcomings of current provision. It is time to move towards a national model of commissioning that would hopefully provide the focus, impetus, and accountability structures that appear to me to be lacking at the moment.

The reports published by the Children’s Commissioner led to work being undertaken by the  Welsh Government and a Ministerial Expert Group on Advocacy being established in 2014 to develop a proposal for a National Approach to Statutory Advocacy Services.

What the Committee found

The Committee heard that there had been a frustrating and unacceptable delay in agreeing and implementing the National Approach to Statutory Advocacy Services. However, the Committee also heard that progress in agreeing the National Approach was being made during the course of the inquiry.   The WLGA said they were sure that local authorities would have an agreed all-Wales approach to commissioning advocacy (the ‘National Approach) in place by June 2017.  The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant said that this was his expectation and he had made it clear that there would be sanctions if there is a failure to deliver.

Implementation of the National Approach had been costed at between £1 and £1.1 million, including an ‘active offer’.  An active offer is where all children and young people are made aware of advocacy services and how they could access an advocate at the point at which they entered the statutory care system.  The Welsh Government had allocated £500-550,000 towards these costs.  While recognising the competition for available resources, the WLGA confirmed that there was a level of commitment to finding the remaining funding for the National Model.

The Committee makes eight recommendations in its report, including that the Welsh Government should:

  • Monitor and ensure that all local authorities have actively signed up to the National Approach by January 2017;
  • Monitor annually local authority expenditure on statutory advocacy services and that it is funded in line with the population needs assessment analysis; and
  • Commissions an independent review of progress at the end of the first year of implementation of the National Approach;
  • Provide a detailed update to the Committee on progress in implementing the ‘National Approach’ in June 2017.

Article by Sian Hughes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.
Image from maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

Assembly to debate the general principles of the Landfill Disposals Tax (Wales) Bill

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

 

The Landfill Disposals Tax (Wales) Bill was laid before the Assembly on 28 November 2016, and introduced in plenary by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government on 29 November 2016. The Assembly will debate the general principles of the Bill on 21 March 2017.

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Welsh Government Second Supplementary Budget 2016-17

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The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government (Mark Drakeford AM) laid the Second Supplementary Budget 2016-17 on 7 February 2017.  This was accompanied by an explanatory note and tables showing departmental allocations.  This supplementary budget amends the First Supplementary Budget 2016-17 approved by the National Assembly in July 2016. The Finance Committee published its report on Scrutiny of the Welsh Government Second Supplementary Budget 2016-2017 on 2 March.

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The foundational economy

02 March 2017

Article by Jack Miller, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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Ceiling of the Senedd Chamber

As in the UK, Wales has lost much of its manufacturing base but retains its ‘foundational economy’, argue researchers from the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC). Whilst this ‘mundane’ yet vital area of the economy provides the goods and services essential for citizens’ well-being, they suggest it is ‘pervasively mismanaged’.

On 8 March, Assembly members will discuss the foundational economy during a Debate by Individual Members. This comes within the wider context of the development, by the Welsh Government, of a new economic strategy for Wales later this year. The Committee on the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills will hear from CRESC researcher, Professor Karel Williams, on 15 March to discuss the foundational economy during a session on alternative perspectives on what the strategy might include.

Foundational economy: The basics

The foundational economy is built from the activities which provide the essential goods and services for everyday life, regardless of the social status of consumers. These include, for example, infrastructures; utilities; food processing; retailing and distribution; and health, education and welfare.

They are generally provided by a mixture of the state (directly or through funding outsourced activities); small and medium enterprise (SME) firms; and much larger companies such as privatised utilities or branches of mobile companies such as the major supermarkets, who often originate from outside of Wales.

The importance of the foundational economy to Wales

Unlike manufacturing sectors where production is concentrated in specific areas, the foundational economy is nationally distributed along with population. As expressed by CRESC’s ‘Manifesto for the Foundational Economy’ (PDF, 435KB), in many areas of former heavy industry throughout Europe the foundational is ‘all that is left’. It is thus vital for many people in Wales, not only to provide the goods and services they need but also as an employer.

The report estimated that in 2013, 37.8 per cent of the Welsh workforce were employed in activities that contribute to the foundational economy, compared to 10.3 per cent in manufacturing. In England, 33.2 per cent of the workforce were employed in the foundational economy in the same year. A more recent report by CRESC researchers for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), entitled ‘What Wales Could Be’, suggests that ‘on any count, grounded SMEs and large scale foundational employers account for at least 40 per cent of the Welsh workforce’ (p.32).

Many sectors of the foundational economy are ‘sheltered’; because they are inherently local, international competition is limited and offshoring is difficult. Foundational goods and services are also ‘inelastic’, i.e. demand for these essentials does not change significantly when their prices or consumers’ incomes change. Combined, these effects lead to a greater level of resilience to external economic shocks in the foundational economy than, for example, in manufacturing, whose output can decline markedly during recession.

Challenges for the Welsh foundational economy

CRESC researchers have argued that the provision of foundational goods and services has been overlooked by industrial and economic policy in the UK and Wales, whose focus tends to be on high-tech processes and sectors. These are often technology-intensive, and produce tradeable and exportable goods, yet form a very small part of the Welsh and UK economies. Only three of the Welsh Government’s nine priority sectors for growth – construction, energy and environment and food and farming – produce foundational goods and services.

Moreover, they highlight that the foundational economy is marked by low-tech and low-wage employment, and that this issue is becoming more prevalent. Since 2010, they highlight that sectors such as hospitality and retailing – marked by low pay and part time work – have accounted for more than half the jobs created in the UK private sector.

There is a further issue of ‘occupational segregation’ in these sectors, whereby women are over-represented and hence often stuck in low wage or part-time work. This is a known contributor to the gender pay gap in Wales.

The FSB report highlights some of the specific issues facing foundational sectors in Wales. They suggest that in food, competitive chain supermarkets have captured the profits of food processors and left Welsh dairy and sheep farmers exposed to volatile market prices. In adult care, they continue, well-resourced private enterprises are displacing smaller family-run homes with large, purpose-built accommodation which can satisfy shareholder demand for high rates of return. This, they argue, has contributed towards an increasingly underpaid social care workforce, high local authority spending and worsening quality of care.

Towards a specific focus on the foundational

CRESC researchers call for a radical reframing of the economy that better accounts for the provision of foundational goods and services, considering ‘the multiple identities of citizens as producer, tax payers and consumers’ (p.70). The focus of this message involves moving beyond a key sectors approach to better understanding dynamics within sectors (for example, between firms of different sizes), as well as the behaviour of organisations within these sectors.

Given their significance both as providers and employers, by focusing on the quality of work within foundational sectors they argue that the Welsh Government could gain significant leverage on economic and social outcomes. Specifically, they suggest that the Welsh Government should ‘break with the idea of creating a generic business-friendly environment’, using non-standard policies which are adapted to sectoral characteristics and specific business requirements.

In food, for example, this might involve negotiating with suppliers on formal commitments on sourcing, training and living wages (p.70). Above all, the researchers argue that the Welsh Government should ‘encourage responsible business by promoting continuity of ownership for SMEs and “raising the social ask” of big business organisations in the foundational economy’ (p.7).

The Research Service acknowledges the parliamentary fellowship provided to Jack Miller by the University of Sussex, which enabled this blog post to be completed.