Is the Violence against Women (Wales) Act 2015 working?

10 February 2017

Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

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On 15 February, the Assembly will debate the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee’s report on its post-legislative scrutiny of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015.

The Act aims to:

  • improve the public sector response to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence;
  • give public authorities (such as councils and health boards) a strategic focus on the issue, and
  • ensure the consistent provision of preventative, protective and supportive services.

The main provisions of the legislation, alongside the Committee’s findings and the Welsh Government’s response, are highlighted below.

Pace of implementation

The Committee was concerned that the pace of implementation of the Act has, in some areas, been slow. It is more than 18 months since the Act was passed, and some key parts of the Act are yet to be delivered.

The Committee was particularly concerned that the commissioning of services was taking place without statutory guidance from the Welsh Government, which could lead to inconsistencies that would be at odds with the core aims of the Act. It also highlighted concerns that the rise in demand for services as a result of the Act was not being matched with sufficient and sustainable resources.

The Committee made recommendations including:

  • The Welsh Government should set out anticipated delivery dates for the outstanding delivery plan, guidance and regulations, with the priority on commissioning guidance; and
  • The Welsh Government should have urgent discussions with the UK Government about the future funding arrangements for independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs).

The Welsh Government response states that:

  • the multi-agency guidance “will be considered in light of the local government White Paper”;
  • “the plan for rollout of Ask and Act will be developed from July 2017”;
  • statutory commissioning guidance “will be consulted on by July 2017”;
  • “guidance will be published in relation to local strategies in July 2017”, and
  • national indicators will be published “not before” October 2017.

It also notes that discussions with the UK government have taken place, and the “national rollout of a regional funding approach for the Domestic Abuse Services Grant (DASG) from 01 April 2018. [..]2017-2018 will be a transitional year and [it will be moving] to a regional funding and commissioning model [in the future].”

National and local strategies

Sections 3-4 of the Act require the Welsh Government to prepare and publish a National Strategy to ’contribute to the aims of  the Act’ no later than 6 months after the Welsh election (i.e. By 6 November 2016). Sections 5-8 of the Act require local authorities and local health boards to prepare and publish local strategies by May 2018.

The Committee was “disappointed” that while the Act was passed more than 18 months before the Welsh Government was required to publish the National Strategy, it did not begin consulting on a draft strategy until August, leaving only one month before the deadline for amendments and improvements to be made. Many witnesses told the Committee that they were not satisfied with the draft, and in particular that the views of survivors of abuse had not been taken into account.

As a result, the Cabinet Secretary made the decision to publish a high-level strategy in November 2016, which will be followed by a ‘delivery plan’ detailing how the strategy will be achieved. The Committee was concerned that the delivery plan would not be legally enforceable (unlike the National Strategy), and that no timescales for its publication had been provided.

In addition, the Committee heard that local strategies are beginning to be developed before the delivery plan is published, which could lead to inconsistencies in strategic approaches.

The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:

  • clarify the legal status of the forthcoming delivery plan, which should preferably be issued as statutory guidance to ensure that it can be enforced;
  • outline when the delivery plan will be published, and how it will be consulted upon, and
  • ensure that the ten survivor recommendations contained in the report, Are you listening, am I being heard?, are fully considered during the development of the national survivor engagement framework.

The Welsh Government response states that “the legal status of the Delivery Framework will be considered with a Task & Finish Group, set up by the Advisory Group to develop the plan, with input from the Cross-Governmental officials Group. The Advisory Group will scrutinise the framework before being published” and “the timescale for the publication of the Framework will be determined by the Task & Finish group”.

Education

Section 9 of the Act places a duty on local authorities to report on how they are addressing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence within their education institutions. Section 10 gives Welsh Ministers and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) the power to issue guidance to further and higher education institutions.

Education was a contentious issue during the passage of the Act. The initial White Paper on the legislation from 2012 proposed that the Bill would ensure that education on ‘healthy relationships’ was mandatorily delivered in all schools.

This proposal was not included in the draft Bill. According to the then Minister in charge of the Bill, healthy relationships education was instead being considered as part of the curriculum review led by Professor Graham Donaldson, which would include a review of the basic curriculum including Personal and Social Education (PSE).

The duty in section 9 was introduced as a Government amendment during the passage of the Act.

Both the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children and the Cabinet Secretary for Education told the Committee that the regulations under section 9 would be developed in early 2017. It is not clear when local authorities will be required to start reporting.

The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:

  • commit to including teaching about healthy relationships in the new curriculum under the ‘Health and Well-being’ Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE);
  • expedite the preparation of regulations relating to the publication of information by local authorities on how they are exercising their functions to promote the purpose of the Act. It should also commit to requiring local authorities to begin reporting by the start of the 2017/18 academic year;
  • outline how healthy relationships and consent education will be addressed by further and higher education institutions.

The Welsh Government responded to these recommendations by saying “there may be opportunities to obtain information and data on what education settings within local authorities are currently undertaking with regards to Education provision stemming from the Act from external organisations currently enhancing the delivery of Healthy Relationships in schools”. It goes on to say:

Work on the development of the Health and Wellbeing AoLE will include consideration on approaches to the delivery of Healthy relationships and therefore there is potential that this can be considered as part of the overall work being undertaken.

The Welsh Government noted that in relation to the recommendation about further and higher education bodies, “this will be considered with Higher Education colleagues whilst drawing from projects already in place within Further & Higher Education.”

The National Adviser

Section 20 of the Act requires Welsh Ministers to appoint a National Adviser to provide advice, monitor implementation of the Act and undertake research.

The Committee found that the National Adviser’s role is part-time, meaning that her influence and capacity is limited. It also noted that the Adviser’s work plan was not aligned with the National Strategy, again potentially leading to inconsistencies.

The Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should:

  • Review of the capacity of the National Adviser role, and consider allocating additional resources to it to support the development of local strategies and undertake research;
  • Clarify what sanctions are available to Welsh Ministers if a public authority does not fulfil the requirements of the Act, and
  • Make reference to the National Adviser, her responsibilities and work plan in the forthcoming delivery plan and any future strategies.

The Welsh Government hasdiscussed and considered these recommendations with the National Adviser”, and it has agreed to keep it under review. In terms of powers, the response states that the Welsh Ministers have the power to “direct” an authority to take appropriate action, but does not detail what sanctioning powers are available.

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.

Tidal lagoon energy in Wales

10 February 2017

Article by Jack Miller, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

Image of sea waves with white foam

The report of an independent review of UK tidal lagoon energy was published on 12 January 2017 by a former UK energy Minister Charles Hendry. The report praises the proposed ‘pathfinder’ tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay as a ‘no-regrets option’, and sets out a supportive case for developing the sector.

The Hendry Review was commissioned in February 2016 by UK Government to assess the strategic case for tidal lagoon energy as a new industry in the UK. This followed a successful planning proposal by Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) to develop the world’s first tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, as well as a subsequent programme for a ‘fleet’ of five larger projects, including three in Welsh waters (Cardiff, Newport and Colwyn Bay).

Despite the Swansea Bay project appearing in the 2015 UK Conservative Party manifesto and receiving development consent in June 2015, uncertainties around cost and subsidy subsequently prompted the UK Government to commission an independent review. Its aim was to examine the ability of tidal lagoon energy to cost-effectively contribute to the UK’s energy mix, and the level of subsidy required to do so.

Tidal lagoons generate electricity by enclosing an area of sea adjacent to coastline with a sea wall, and capturing the energy from the rise and fall of tides using turbines. A number of lagoon projects in Wales have been proposed due to the significant tidal range along the Welsh coastline – particularly in the Severn Estuary, which has the second largest range in the world.

The case for tidal lagoon energy in Wales

The Hendry report (PDF, 2.72MB) highlighted the predictability of electricity output and extremely low carbon emissions (less than 20 grams of CO2 equivalent per kWh – on par with onshore wind and nuclear) as major advantages of tidal lagoons. Moreover, a lagoon’s estimated operating lifetime of 120 years or more is unparalleled by any energy technology. In combination, the Review found that they could make a strong contribution to UK energy security and decarbonisation targets. TLP estimate that their fleet of lagoons could supply 8% of future UK electricity demand.

According to the report, the potential benefits to Welsh economy are significant, and there have been many expressions of support from Assembly Members on a cross-party basis. The Review found that the Swansea Bay project would bring ‘very real and substantial economic and recreational benefits’ to the area (p.37) – drawing upwards of an estimated 70,000 tourists per year (p.51) – as well as wider economic benefits across the country.

Supply chain development and employment opportunities are thought to be considerable; TLP told the Review that over 1000 UK businesses have registered an interest in supplying parts and skills to the Swansea Bay project, and the company is aiming to source 50% of the materials and components from Wales. Many companies – including from within the steel sector – described the potential TLP programme as a ‘lifeline’ for their operations (p.47).

Rise and fall: project costs

With construction costs of £1.3 billion, there were fears that the 320 megawatt (MW) Swansea Bay project would not be cost effective for bill payers. Under the ‘Contracts for Difference’ (CfD) scheme, it was initially estimated that the ‘strike price’ – the guaranteed price needed for the sale of its electricity – would be more expensive than, for example, nuclear power from Hinkley Point C, and this would be met in part through increased consumers’ bills.

However, such costs were calculated on the basis of a 30-year model. As highlighted by the report, key economic characteristics of lagoons are low operation costs, and an ability to spread total costs across the very long operating life. When pricing over a longer 60- or 90-year CfD model, tidal lagoon energy becomes much more competitive. Swansea Bay, it concludes, would cost each Welsh household 30 pence per year, for 30 years, and could potentially be subsidy-free after 60 years (p.75). As a pathfinder lagoon, it is projected to bring about large cost reductions for any subsequent projects, making them very competitive with other low carbon technologies over project lifetimes.

Looking ahead

The Review is clear in its support of developing a small-scale project in Swansea Bay ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ (p.91), calling it a ‘no-regrets’ policy (p.89), and encourages the UK Government to build upon the progress it has made with TLP to move towards a final stage negotiation. TLP is also awaiting a marine licence from Natural Resources Wales.

A key recommendation in the report was that the Swansea Bay lagoon should be operational for a reasonable period before construction commences on any large-scale projects, so that the full range of impacts can be monitored over time. This is in part a response to environmental concerns over potential lagoon impacts on marine habitats and species, which carry considerable uncertainties that stem from the technology’s infancy.

To help maintain the supply chain during such a ‘pause’, the report calls for the development of a series of small-scale lagoons between larger projects. The Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure said in Plenary on 25 January 2017 that the Welsh Government is working with local government, skills providers and businesses to identify opportunities to maintain a constant pipeline of projects.

There have been expressions of interest by the Welsh Government in taking a stake in the Swansea Bay project, and Plaid Cymru have proposed a not-for-profit public energy company as a suitable organisation for doing so. A Welsh Government Debate will take place on 14 February 2017 to discuss these proposals, as well as the Review’s findings, in detail.

The UK Government will respond to the Review’s findings after it has assessed the report’s recommendations.

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

Welsh Government Second Supplementary Budget 2016-17

09 February 2017

Article by Gareth Thomas and David Millett, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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

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.

Over two thirds of the revenue allocations in this budget are additional funding to the NHS, including £75.9 million to address forecast overspends by Local Health Boards (£7.5 million of which is in addition to the £68.4 million announced in November 2016), £50 million to mitigate winter pressures, £27 million to fund a shortfall in income from the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme and £16 million to support the launch of the New Treatment Fund

Also, £20 million has been allocated to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to address financial demands from the recommendations of the Diamond Review, £8.5 million to establish Transport Wales to design and let the rail and South Wales Metro franchises, and £4 million to Tata Steel for skills support.

The main capital allocations are £47 million to support trunk road projects (including £22 million for M4 Route Development), £33.4 million capital grants and loans to deliver economic development priorities and £30 million to support the Programme for Government commitment to build an additional 20,000 affordable homes.

These investments are funded by a mixture of allocations from reserves and funds carried over from the previous financial year, and also takes account of changes in funding from the UK Government.

Changes in overall budget allocations, and in allocation of fiscal revenue and capital expenditure between different Welsh Government departments between the previous Supplementary Budget and this one, are summarised in the accompanying chart.

Infographic showing key allocations in the Welsh Government Second Supplementary Budget 2016-17

National Endowment for Music

08 February 2017

Article by Sian Hughes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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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.