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Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb, Llywodraeth Leol a Chymunedau

Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee

17/10/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Bethan Jenkins AM
Gareth Bennett AM
Jack Sargeant AM
Jayne Bryant AM
Jenny Rathbone AM
John Griffiths AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mark Isherwood AM
Sian Gwenllian AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Alun Davies AM Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Lywodraeth Leol a Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus
Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services
Claire Bennett Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Polisi, Cynllunio a Phartneriaethau Trafnidiaeth, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Transport Policy, Planning and Partnerships, Welsh Government
Claire Germain Pennaeth Partneriaethau Llywodraeth Leol, Llywodraeth Cymru
Head of Local Government Partnerships Policy, Welsh Government

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Chloe Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Clerk
Osian Bowyer Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:00.

The meeting began at 09:00.

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Bore da. Welcome to this meeting of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. Item 1 on our agenda today is introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. We haven't received any apologies. Are there any declarations of interest? No. Then we will move on to item 2.

2. Ymchwiliad i Fyrddau Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 6
2. Inquiry into Public Services Boards: Evidence Session 6

This continues our inquiry into public services boards in Wales with our evidence session 6 and I'm very pleased to welcome Alun Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services. Cabinet Secretary, would your officials introduce themselves for the record, please?

I'm Claire Bennett. I work in the local government department.

I'm Claire Germain. I head up the local government partnerships team.

Okay, thank you very much. Perhaps then, we might go straight into questions. Let me begin by asking questions on structure and functions. First of all, Cabinet Secretary, the extent to which you agree with views that public services boards are a significant improvement on local service boards: do you share that opinion?

Member
Alun Davies AM 09:01:28
Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services

I'm grateful to you, Chair, for the introduction and for inviting us to this hearing. You and I will remember, in Government, the conversations around the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill, as it was at the time, and the ambitions that were outlined for public services boards at that time. You and I will also remember the conversations that took place about how we structure that and move on from LSBs.

I think the jury is out, if I'm absolutely honest. I think the process of the assessments that have been done, as part of drawing up the local well-being plans, has been a good process and an interesting process. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and what I'm anxious to look at now is the delivery on those plans. I don't want to see plans that you used to say gathered dust on bookshelves, but, nowadays, I suppose they gather dust in a drive somewhere—some hard drive or whatever it is. I'm anxious to ensure that the plans are living documents that guide real action, that the people we all represent see change and that the people we represent recognise that we have different organisations working more closely together, sharing their ambitions and their visions for a particular area and delivering on that ambition. So, I think the answer is probably 'yes', but I hesitate to say 'yes' without qualification, because I want to see the reality of the plans being implemented.

So, is what you're saying then, Cabinet Secretary, that it's a little early to give an informed opinion as to whether the public services boards are delivering as expected and whether that delivery is an improvement on the local service boards? Is it too early to give an opinion in terms of how they're working—how the joint working is taking place and how the involvement of the necessary bodies is going forward in terms of the structure and the coming together? Is it too early to give an informed opinion as to whether that is as expected and hoped for?

Let me look at each individual element of it: I believe that the structure and the statutory basis on which they are established are an improvement on what was there before. I think that is an improvement. I think that the fact that you have a broad range of organisations that serve a public function gathered together around the same table is an improvement on where we were earlier. I think the fact that the non-devolved functions, such as the police, have involved themselves enthusiastically is an improvement—I think that is a good thing. I think the fact that health boards and local government are working together in a way that hasn't always been true in the past is a good thing. So, I think there are a number of elements there that, through the process of being established and a process of planning, have been proved. So, in terms of a structural approach, I'm very content with that, but I keep coming back to my concern, which is about delivery and the delivery of change.

Okay. Are you content that the current structure is robust and sustainable? Given what you've just said, I would take from that that you believe that the way that they've structured themselves initially and organised themselves is an improvement and is what the legislation set out to do, but given austerity, given all the challenges of the current time, are you confident that what we have in terms of the structure and the organisation is sustainable and robust?

09:05

I have no reason to believe otherwise. I think there are significant issues about the sustainability of public services in an age of austerity. I have no issue with that, and the committee has heard my views before on the sustainability of local government. I simply don't believe that 22 authorities are a sustainable number and have a sustainable structure. I don't believe it, I've seen no evidence to sustain that, and local government doesn't believe it either. So, I'm clear in my mind on those sorts of matters. But is the structure of a board that comes together to exercise its particular functions sustainable? I have no reason to believe that that is not the case. No, I don't think I've had any correspondence or issues from any PSB across the country that has indicated to the contrary, and I do not believe that you have received evidence that I've seen—correct me if I'm wrong on this—that would question the sustainability of the structures. I know that many people would ask for more money, more resources, but, you know, why wouldn't they? I don't think that's a reason to question the sustainability or the robustness of the structures in themselves.

Well, of course, we have some joint PSBs, but I guess it's left to an organic approach, as it were, in terms of whether others decide to go down that route. Is that something you'd have a clear view on, as to whether we'd need more joint PSBs? 

Yes, I have a clear view, and the answer is 'yes', I think we need more joint working. If you take our part of the world, Chair, as an example, in Gwent—and Jayne will be aware of this as well—five PSBs with a single health board and a single police force, to me, seems a level of overkill, shall we say, an embarrassment of riches in terms of committee meetings. I would believe that a single PSB serving the Gwent area would be a more efficient way of functioning and would enable local authorities to work more closely together with policing and the health board and other voluntary organisations to deliver what I would hope would be a more sustainable form of service change.

Now, I've heard the arguments on this, and I recognise the importance of localism and the importance of different organisations coming together to deliver solutions in sometimes very discrete areas—Sandfields in Port Talbot, I think, is a good example of that, and so is Pill in Newport—but, for me, it is the skill of collaboration that it is able to deliver change in a particular area to the people who we serve. If collaboration, working together, is unable to deliver that change in a particular area—I think Pill is a great example of that—then the footprint doesn't really matter. It's what is being done within that footprint that I would seriously question. So, I would certainly say in places like Gwent it would be certainly far better to have a single PSB.

I'm interested in the north Wales examples of Conwy and Denbighshire. They seem to be working very well together as a single PSB. I'm interested—and we have a Member here from Arfon—to see that Gwynedd and sir Fôn are getting close and working together but not quite merging, and I'd be interested to see if that is an effective model of delivery. And that would then look at Wrexham and Flintshire. Now, I've had conversations with the Member for Alyn and Deeside about service delivery in Flintshire, I know he's very concerned about the sustainability of those services, and I would simply suggest very gently that a review of some of those structures might help resolve some of the issues that have been raised. 

Jest rhywbeth byr, yn sgil hynny, felly. Rydw i'n credu pan oedd y drafodaeth gychwynnol ynglŷn â sefydlu'r byrddau yma, mi oedd y drafodaeth ar ad-drefnu llywdoraeth leol yn llawer mwy byw, onid oedd? 

Just something short as a result of that. I think when the initial discussion was ongoing about the establishment of these boards, the discussion on local government reorganisation was much more alive, wasn't it? 

Wel, nid ydy hi cweit mor fyw ag oedd hi, efallai, yn y cyfnod yna. Ond mae yna 19 bwrdd; nid oeddech chi wedi rhagweld, mae'n debyg, ar y pryd, pan oedd y ddeddfwriaeth yma yn mynd yn ei blaen, y byddai yna 19 bwrdd. Mae'n siwr bod hynny yn dyblygu gwaith—mae'n bownd o wneud, onid ydy?

Well, it's not quite as lively as it was in that period.  But there are 19 boards; you hadn't foreseen at the time, when this legislation was going on, that there would be 19 boards in existence. I'm sure that that duplicates work—it's bound to do.

09:10

Wel, mi oeddwn i, wrth gwrs, achos, pan oedd y ddeddfwriaeth yn mynd drwyddo, roeddwn i'n deall goblygiadau'r ddeddfwriaeth. Felly, roedd y ddeddfwriaeth yn sefydlu 22 o fyrddau yma. Rydw i wedi bod yn glir yn fy marn, rydw i'n gobeithio, nad ydw i'n gweld pwrpas 22 o fyrddau. Ac nid wyf yn gweld pwrpas 22 o gynghorau. Rydw i'n meddwl, mewn gwlad 3 miliwn o bobl, gyda phroblemau mawr ariannol, cyllidebol—rydw i'n siŵr y bydd y pwyllgor yn trafod hynny dros yr wythnosau nesaf—fod angen i ni sicrhau bod llai o gymhlethdod yn y ffordd rydym ni'n llywodraethu ein hunain. I fi, mae gormod o gymhlethdod. Rydw i'n credu bod y gogledd yn rhanbarth diddorol iawn o ran sut yr ydym ni'n llywodraethu ein hunain. Nid oes gen i sylwadau i'w gwneud amboutu'r bwrdd iechyd, fel y buasech chi'n disgwyl, ond i fi, fel Gweinidog llywodraeth leol—rydw i'n edrych ar rai o'r fframweithiau sydd gyda ni yn y gogledd ac rydw i yn edrych arnynt ac yn cwestiynu a oes gyda ni'r siâp iawn. Rydw i'n credu bod y gwaith y mae sir Fôn a Gwynedd wedi bod yn ei wneud, a Dinbych a Conwy yn ei wneud, yn ein symud ni i'r cyfeiriad iawn.

Well, I had, of course, because, when the legislation was going through, I did understand the implications of the legislation. The legislation established 22 boards. I have been clear in my opinion, I hope, that I don't see the purpose of 22 boards. And I don't see the purpose of 22 councils. I think, in a country of 3 million people, with very severe problems in terms of finance—I'm sure the committee will discuss that over the coming weeks—that we need to ensure that we have a simpler way of governing. For me, there is much too much complexity. I think north Wales is a very interesting region in terms of how we govern. I don't have any comments to make about the health board, as you would expect, but for me, as the Minister for local government—I look at some of the frameworks that we have in north Wales and I question whether we have the right shape. I think that the work that Anglesey and Gwynedd have been doing, and Denbigh and Conwy also, is moving us in the right direction.

Okay. So, it's a complex picture, isn't it? Because, from what you've just said, it would indicate to me that you don't think that regional health board outlines are necessarily the way forward for PSBs, because it has to depend on the geography.

Yes, it does. That's exactly the point I'd make. What would work in the north I don't think would work in Gwent, for example. So, I think the geography does determine—it certainly determines my view on many of these matters. We are seeing a great deal more collaboration amongst local Government than we've probably seen at any time in recent years—I think that's fair to say. I think local government is moving—I think local government finds it very difficult sometimes, actually—in the direction of greater and deeper collaboration, but I think it's inevitable that it does so, particularly under the financial pressures it has. But what I've always sought to avoid is seeking uniformity across the face of a country. I don't think we need uniformity. But I think what we do need is consistency. These are very different things.

What would work, for example, Jenny, in the centre of Cardiff, would not work for me in the Heads of the Valleys. I think we need to recognise that geography does demand sometimes different structures, and certainly the delivery of services and the delivery of structures in a different way. When I represented Mid and West Wales, I was lucky enough to represent Ynys Enlli and Hay-on-Wye. I wouldn't suggest for a moment that two areas as different as that would have exactly the same structures in place. So, I do think we need to look hard at what works in different places. I try to avoid being dogmatic about these things. I try to have principles that guide me towards a conclusion, but not principles that imprison my thinking.

Okay. Just going back to your earlier remarks about the criteria you're going to use for deciding whether or not PSBs are a success—or, indeed, just an improvement on local service boards—a lot of the priorities that have been established are not necessarily things that are easy to count like beans: for example, reducing isolation amongst the elderly, reducing child poverty. I mean, these are complex things and the Welsh Government struggles to make progress on this too. So, how are you going to determine success, given that you have plenty of information coming through to you through the PSB co-ordinator network?

For me, accountability and scrutiny should be done locally. I'm a strong believer, as you know, in local accountability and local scrutiny. One of the really good things, I think, about the well-being plans is the variety of them. I think it's really good to see that the happiness index has been used in Gwent, and then climate change in Ceredigion. You can see elements in both that are important, but for me it is absolutely essential that the PSBs are able to set their own priorities according to their own circumstances and their own values and their own visions and their own ambitions for the areas they represent and then that there are robust elements of scrutiny that hold the PSBs to account locally. Now, I recognise that sometimes there can be criticisms of those structures of accountability and scrutiny; I don't have any criticisms to make—I'm not in a position to make any criticisms of scrutiny and accountability issues, certainly not at the moment. I hope that what we will see, as a consequence of the well-being assessments and well-being plans coming through, is greater, more accountable political debate in the different parts of the country where PSBs are putting forward these plans. And I want that to happen locally. I want us all as individual Members to be a part of that within our individual areas. But what I wouldn't want is for the Welsh Government to say, 'This is what a local well-bring plan looks like in different parts of the country.' Because I think that's the sort of decision making that should properly rest locally. 

09:15

Okay. So, lastly from me, in this section: we've had quite a lot of evidence that moving PSBs onto a statutory basis—as opposed to LSBs, which were voluntary—has hugely improved the engagement of political leaders in the process, whereas the LSBs tended to be run by senior officers. So, we've had a lot of evidence that very senior people in all the various organisations are fully engaged, but do you think nevertheless there should be a requirement on statutory organisations to ensure seniority of attendees on PSBs, or can that be done informally? 

I'm not sure how you do it in law, but let me say this: I hope that, where there is a structure that is making a difference to the lives of the people that leaders or others represent, they would want to be there in that meeting, leading that meeting, contributing to that meeting, shaping that meeting. If senior—whether it's elected or non-elected or professional—leaders were not attending, then I think that would probably reflect on their priorities. It probably wouldn't reflect well on their priorities and perhaps it wouldn't reflect well on the meetings. But, then again, if you're elected, you're elected to make sure that those things happen properly, not to simply wash one's hands of something. So, it's a responsibility of leadership and I've got no evidence to sustain any assertion that that isn't happening, but certainly one of the roles of leadership is, if something isn't working, to fix it. 

A ydych chi'n dal i ddisgwyl i'r awdurdodau lleol ddarparu gwasanaethau ysgrifenyddol i'r byrddau gwasanaethau cyhoeddus? 

Are you still expecting the local authorities to provide secretariat services to the PSBs?

Iawn. Byddwch chi'n gwybod, wrth gwrs, eu bod nhw'n dweud wrthym ni—rhai ohonyn nhw, beth bynnag—fod y pwysau parhaus ar eu cyllidebau nhw yn ei gwneud hi'n anodd i hynny gael ei gynnal. Dywedodd Bro Morgannwg, er enghraifft, mewn tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig, eu bod nhw yn gweld efallai ei bod hi'n mynd i fod yn anodd cynnal y lefel maen nhw'n ei darparu ar hyn o bryd. Ai esgus ydy hyn ganddyn nhw, neu a ydy o'n gonsýrn real, a beth fedrwn ni ei wneud am y peth?

Fine. You will know, of course, that they tell us—some of them, anyway—that the continued pressures on their budgets make it difficult for that to be sustained. The Vale of Glamorgan, for example, told us in written evidence that they saw it was perhaps going to be difficult to sustain the level of provision that they're doing at the moment. Is this an excuse or is it a real concern, and what can we do about it?

Wel, fuaswn i ddim yn defnyddio'r gair 'esgus', ond, os yw y gwaith o gefnogi y byrddau yn gymaint o faich, rwy'n credu y buaswn i wedi clywed mwy amdano fe erbyn hyn ac nid ydw i wedi. Nid ydw i'n credu ein bod ni wedi cael gohebiaeth ar hyn. 

Well, I wouldn't use the word 'excuse', but, if the work of supporting the boards is such an onus, I do think that we would have heard more about it by now and I haven't. I don't think I have had any correspondence on this. 

We've had some feedback that it's challenging, but not universal.

Ocê. So, mae wedi bod rhywfaint o kickback ar hynny. I mi, beth sy'n bwysig yw y gwasanaethau eu hunain, sut maen nhw'n cael eu gweithredu, a dyna ble y dylai'r gyllideb fynd, ddim at y gwaith ysgrifenyddol o gefnogi'r pwyllgorau yma a'r byrddau yma. So, fy marn i buasai fod yn rhaid i awdurdodau lleol barhau i gefnogi'r byrddau, ac rydw i'n credu bod gan awdurdodau ddigon o adnoddau i wneud hynny.

Okay. So, there has been some kickback on that. For me, what's important is that the services themselves are run properly and that's where the budget should go, not to the secretariat work
of supporting these committees and these boards. And so my opinion would be that local authorities have to continue to support the boards, and I do think that the authorities have enough resources to do that.

09:20

A ydych chi wedi ystyried darparu rhyw fath o gronfa fechan i awdurdodau lleol er mwyn iddyn nhw fedru darparu'r gefnogaeth weinyddol? Achos rydw i'n siŵr eich bod chi'n derbyn bod yn rhaid cael y weinyddiaeth, yr ysgrifenyddiaeth, neu nid yw'r byrddau yma jest ddim yn mynd i gyfarfod, onid ydynt? Ac er eich bod chi'n dweud efallai nad ydych chi wedi cael llawer o ymateb, mae'r pwyllgor yma wedi clywed bod hyn yn gallu bod yn broblem ac efallai y bydd o'n fwy o broblem wrth i gyllidebau llywodraeth leol grebachu, fel rydym ni wedi ei glywed yn y setliad wythnos diwethaf. Felly, beth mae rhai wedi'i awgrymu ydy cronfa fechan gan Lywodraeth Cymru fel bod yr awdurdodau lleol yn gallu cael access i arian penodol. 

Have you considered providing a small fund for local authorities for the purpose of providing administrative support? Because I'm sure you'd accept that you have to have the secretariat, the administration, or these boards are just not going to meet, are they? And even though you say that you haven't had many responses, this committee has heard that this can be a problem and perhaps it will be more of a problem as the local government budgets are restricted, as we've heard in the settlement last week. So, what some have suggested is perhaps a small fund from the Welsh Government in order for local authorities to have access to specific money.

Nid wyf i'n derbyn y pwynt am y setliad, gyda llaw. Ond—

I don't accept the point about the settlement, by the way. But—

Beth nid ydych chi'n derbyn y pwynt bod—

What, you don't accept that—

Rhowch hynny wrth yr ochr—rydw i'n siŵr mi fyddwn ni'n trafod hynny rhywbryd, rhyw ben arall. Os ydych chi'n edrych ar y weinyddiaeth, liciwn i glywed beth ydy'r weinyddiaeth sy'n achosi'r baich ar lywodraeth leol. Beth yw e? Beth ydy'r holl adnoddau yma sydd eu hangen arnyn nhw er mwyn cynnal cyfarfod? Nid wyf i wedi gweld hynny. Beth fuaswn i ddim eisiau gweld yw ein bod ni'n creu biwrocratiaeth newydd i gefnogi'r byrddau yma. Beth rydw i eisiau ydy sicrhau bod y byrddau yn cyfarfod ac yn gwneud y gwaith ac wedyn bod y byrddau yn dod â gwasanaethau at ei gilydd.

Mae hwn yn gwestiwn diddorol, actually. A beth sy'n fwy diddorol na'r weinyddiaeth y tu hwnt iddo fe yw beth mae byrddau actually yn ei wneud. Os ydym ni'n edrych ar waith y byrddau, a sôn amboutu preventative services, fel y mae'r WLGA wedi bod yn ei wneud dros y wythnosau diwethaf, wel, dylai'r byrddau fod yn gwneud hynny. Felly, mae yna achos i ddweud, petai'r byrddau'n cael eu gweithredu'n iawn, nid yw hynny'n costio dim i'r awdurdodau lleol, ond gall helpu efficiencies tu mewn i lywodraeth leol. So, liciwn i weld hynny mewn ffordd tipyn bach mwy rounded, os caf i ei ddweud.

A hefyd, wrth gwrs, mae'n bosibl i bob un o'r byrddau ddod at Lywodraeth Cymru i ddefnyddio arian cyhoeddus fel y mae anyway am eu prosiectau a'u rhaglenni gwahanol. Felly, nid wyf i'n derbyn, ar hyn o bryd, bod yna achos i gynyddu'r adnoddau i weinyddu'r byrddau neu i ariannu'r byrddau'n uniongyrchol. 

Put that to one side—I'm sure we'll come to that at some point, some other time. If you look at the administration, I would like to hear what the administration is that's causing the onus on local authorities. What is it? What are all these resources that are necessary in order to hold a meeting? Because I haven't seen that. What I wouldn't want to see is that we are creating new bureaucracy in order to support these boards. What I want is to ensure that the boards meet and that they undertake the work and then that the boards bring services together.

This is an interesting question, actually. And what's more interesting than the administration is what the boards actually do. If we look at the work of the boards, and talk about preventative services, like the Welsh Local Government Association has been doing over the past few weeks, well, the boards should be doing that. So, there is a case to say, if the boards were administered properly, that that wouldn't cost authorities but it could help efficiencies within local government. So, I'd like to see that in a more rounded way, if I may say so.

And also, of course, it is possible for each one of the boards to came to the Welsh Government and use public money as it currently stands, for their different projects. So, I don't accept that there is a case at present to increase the resources to administer the boards or to fund the boards directly.

Roeddwn i'n amau mai dyna oeddech chi'n mynd i'w ddweud.

I suspected that that was what you were going to say.

Thank you, Chair. Just to carry on with the impact on public services, some witnesses felt that the requirement for a new needs assessment with every new piece of new legislation impacts negatively on resources and time. Is that something that you recognise?

I recognise that it is, and can be, resource intensive. I do recognise that, and I recognise the strength of some of the evidence that you have received on that. However, it'll only take place once in every cycle, and the first assessment would, clearly, have been the most difficult and most resource intensive as a matter of—. I think it's common sense to suggest that.

So, what I would hope is that, now that the investment has been made, the public services boards can build upon that investment and take that investment forward. And, certainly, we are providing support in terms of providing a common data set, for example, to boards to enable them to function more easily, and we are providing boards with support to ensure that they are able to function more effectively.

And I think, going back to the question from Siân Gwenllian, the support for Welsh Government should be targeted support to enable the system to operate more effectively and efficiently rather than recourse support in actually running it. And I think that's probably a more correct way of ensuring that you do have the local scrutiny and a local accountability that isn't, in any way, compromised by being funded by Welsh Government.  

Thank you. Some witnesses said that the requirements around the £25,000 to support regional collaboration was too prescriptive. Perhaps you could explain what restrictions and limitations are placed on funding.

09:25

In terms of this funding stream—do we have significant demands upon it?

So, we allocate to health board regions, and each year that the funding's been provided there's been a different focus, and that focus has been linked to the work that the boards would have been operating on. So, during the phase that they were preparing the assessments, it was focused on support for analytical work, essentially, and public engagement. And then the priorities were adjusted to reflect the sort of work that would be required during the plan preparation phase. So, it was the case that it wasn't a sort of pot of money that you could use for anything, but the idea was to focus it on the, I suppose, type of activity that was important, like involvement, and also on areas where local authorities themselves may have had more limited capacity—some of the analytical capacity. So, we felt that was a sensible way of, I suppose, structuring how the funding was made available to focus it on the sorts of things that would add value to the work of the boards. And, as we move forward, each year the money's made available, those priorities are flexed to reflect the sorts of activity the boards should be undertaking, and we do meet regularly with the public services board co-ordinators to get their input as to what do they think the focus is for next year, and try and reflect that in how we plan the funding.

Okay, thank you. Have you explored the possibility of diverting certain funding streams to support the work of PSBs? For example, it's been suggested that invest-to-save funding could support some of the PSBs' work.

I think that's already the case, that public services boards can access any Government funding stream, whether it's the invest-to-save fund that you have used as an example or other funds or flexibilities or programmes or projects that Welsh Government is delivering with a specific funding stream. So, what we seek to do—and I think Claire's answer to your previous question, Jayne, is very instructive there—is to provide the base-level support that will create the foundation upon which each individual PSB is able to take its own decisions about its own priorities, and be able to take informed decisions and to have a level of resource that is able then to deliver on those priorities.

I can't think—and, officials, correct me if I'm wrong—of any restriction on PSBs accessing additional funding from Government in terms of those additional sorts of programmes or resources that are made available to other parts of the public sector.

The only requirement will be that there will need to be a lead partner to take receipt of the funds, and in the case of invest-to-save, there will need to be an agreement amongst the PSB partners of how they guarantee the repayments, because, obviously, invest-to-save is that you get the money and you have to pay it back from the savings you make. But that's a requirement on any project that comes forward to that fund, and there have been a number of—I happen to sit on the invest-to-save panel in Welsh Government—collaborative projects that have come forward, and those partners have agreed how they're going to allocate funding within that.

Thank you. When the future generations commissioner spent much of her first year visiting the regions of Wales, engaging with local communities, listening to their needs and then summarising those in the context of the Act, she produced her first report, and throughout that report was the consistent message that we must turn the power thing upside down, we must deliver upwards, we must start with communities and people. The PSBs, however, are entirely—with one exception of the requirement for a minimum of one voluntary sector representative to attend—statutory sector, and the concerns that are consistently raised with me relate to that imbalance of power and often very well-meaning people getting it wrong because it's too top-down. So, how would you propose to ensure that, not only in developing needs assessments but also in developing and delivering programmes, we are turning that thing upside down, not only in terms of general communities, but also specific needs? So, for instance, sensory loss, public spaces such as wheelchair user access, such as the communication needs of people on the autistic spectrum and so on. Because otherwise we'll spend millions getting it wrong.

09:30

I was just conferring with my officials because, and I'm correct in my assumption, but there is a minimum involvement of the voluntary sector but no maximum. So, it's a matter for each individual board to take some of the decisions that you've described there, Mark. And there is also a requirement upon the boards to consult and to hold exactly the conversations you've described within their different areas whilst developing their assessments and well-being plans. So, I would suggest that the statutory framework is robust, which enables all the conversations that you've described—and which I would completely agree with, by the way—to take place.

But I would say it's more important than that, because given the structure—you say 'top down' and the rest of it; I'm not sure I quite follow the terminology. But let me say this: this is not a Minister telling a PSB in your part the world, in Flintshire, 'This is what you must do.' It's a matter for the PSB there to take those decisions to reflect the priorities of the communities they represent and to do so in a way that they believe best meets the needs of their community, and I use the term 'community' in its widest possible sense. So, I don't want to see, and I'm sure you wouldn't either, me as a Minister, or the National Assembly as a Parliament, taking decisions that compel a PSB in Flintshire, or wherever, to take particular decisions or to operate in a particular way.

We've created the statutory framework, and within that statutory framework, they have the absolute freedom to take the decisions that they best believe reflect the best interests of their communities. That's why we've seen such a variety of different priorities from different PSBs, and I think that's a good thing. I think that is empowering communities and empowering public service leaders and public service workers across the country. So, I've said on a number of occasions—and, on times, we've even agreed, I think—that what we want to see is more power held more locally and less power held more centrally. I believe the PSBs are a way of devolving more power out of this place and into communities and structures that represent communities across Wales.

May I continue? How do you monitor that constructively to help them manage the change in their approaches that too often is required? I'm not just talking about Flintshire—I obviously represent more than Flintshire—and similar issues are raised everywhere with me.

Yes, the legislation stipulates that a minimum of one voluntary organisation will be invited, but all the other stipulated organisations with their statutory—or those that will be—are public sector, and, as you know, there's a tendency to work to the minimum in certain cultures—not every culture, but in certain cultures. But, equally, somebody in the voluntary sector who's delivering in the environmental field may not necessarily be an expert on access to public spaces for people with sight loss, for example. And, again, the tendency is to have people in power—through no fault of their own, because they haven't had the wider experience—adopting medical-model approaches rather than social-model approaches and not engaging with the real experience of people in the world who they're supposedly there to help—I'm sure sincerely seeking to help.

But that's your job as well: to hold people to account. That's what the National Assembly, Wales's Parliament, is there to do—to hold me to account, certainly, but others as well. Let me say this: I think there is always a constructive tension between national priorities and national policies and the local delivery of national priorities. For me, I'll be absolutely clear, the independence of local government is actually quite important, that's why I want to see local government stronger than it is today. It breaks my heart to see what's happening to local government today across Wales and elsewhere. I want to see more powerful local government than we have today, and I've been very, very clear on that. I also want to see greater and more capacity for local decision making to reflect the needs of local areas. But that local decision making must then be reflected, of course, in local scrutiny and local accountability. I do not think it's right and proper that a Minister in Cardiff Bay has the ability to dictate, in perhaps the way that you're describing, to PSBs or to local authorities about the way in which they create their own set of priorities.

The different scenarios that you've described to us, that you've put to us, are perfectly fair and reasonable, and I've got no issue with your description of the different tensions that may exist in determining the membership of a PSB. But I disagree with you that a minimum should also be a maximum. That's not how I operate—it's not how I operate.

09:35

No, I'm saying that the tendency is to work to the minimum.

I accept what you say. What I'm saying to you is that I don't work like that, and if people do work like that, then it would be a matter for locally elected representatives to actually take issue with that, if they believe there is a case to do so. I think there's a real contradiction—a real contradiction—between people who say, 'We want more localism'—and you've said that on a number of occasions—'but at the same time what we want is the Minister's size-9 boots walking all over localism whenever it suits.' I don't think you can have both. You can't have both. You've got to decide whether you have localism or whether you have a national—I'm trying to avoid using the word 'dictatorship'—a national framework that is ruthlessly delivered locally.

So, for me, 'local government' means 'government' and not 'administration', and that means enabling and allowing and creating the structures whereby these decisions are taken locally. Now, there are some decisions that would be taken with which I would disagree, and that's certainly the case locally in my own constituency. And that is my role, then, as a locally elected Member, to take issue with that and to campaign, sometimes, or to have discussions about and around those issues with my structures that exist locally. But as a Minister, when I'm sitting here in Cardiff Bay or in Cathays Park, I don't believe it is my role to intervene on every occasion where I feel that a local authority or a PSB has taken a decision with which I disagree.

Cabinet Secretary, we're coming on to accountability issues now, so perhaps we could move on to Bethan Sayed.

Diolch. Nid fy mod i eisiau amddiffyn Mark Isherwood, ond nid ydw i'n credu ei fod e'n dweud bod angen i chi fod yn ymyrryd ar yr hyn sydd yn digwydd. Rydw i'n credu ei bod hi'n bwysig i ni, fel Aelodau Cynulliad, godi gyda chi, fel Gweinidog, y ffaith ein bod ni'n credu, mewn lot o'r enghreifftiau lleol, eu bod nhw'n ymgysylltu â rhai grwpiau, ond bod rhai grwpiau lleol—er enghraifft, mae yna grŵp amgylcheddol ym Mhort Talbot sydd newydd gychwyn—. Mae'r byrddau yma jest ddim yn gwybod eu bod nhw'n bodoli. Felly, os nad ydyn nhw'n gwybod eu bod nhw'n bodoli, nid ydyn nhw'n gwneud eu swyddogaeth wrth geisio ymwneud ag ecosystem o grwpiau sydd yn gwneud gwaith positif ar lawr gwlad. Dyna fy nghonsérn i gyda'r byrddau: sut maen nhw'n gallu ymwneud ar lefel real a dwfn â phob grŵp sydd eisiau ymwneud â llesiant pobl leol.

Yn hynny o beth, byddwn i eisiau gwybod gennych chi, felly, beth ydych chi'n meddwl o'r sgrwtini gan gynghorau lleol. A ydych chi'n credu ei fod e'n digwydd yn ddigon robust? A ydych chi'n credu ei fod yn ddigon cadarn er mwyn ichi ddeall yn iawn a yw'r systemau o fewn y Ddeddf yn gweithio? Os nad ydyn nhw, a oes angen newid hynny er mwyn creu system fwy cadarn, nid i gymryd pwerau oddi wrth bobl leol ond i sicrhau ei fod e'n digwydd ac yn digwydd yn effeithlon? 

Thanks. Not that I want to defend Mark Isherwood, but I don't think that he's saying that you need to be interfering in what's happening. I think it's important that we, as Assembly Members, do raise with you, as Minister, the fact that we think that there are a number of local examples of when they have engaged with some groups, but that some local groups—for example, there's an environmental group in Port Talbot that has just started—. These boards just don't know that they exist. Therefore, if they don't know that they exist, they don't carry out their functions as they engage with the ecosystem of groups who carry out positive work at a grass-roots level. That's my concern with the boards: how they can engage on a real and deep level with every group that wants to engage in the well-being of local people.

In that respect, I'd want to know from you, therefore, what you think of the scrutiny by local councils. Do you think it's robust enough? Do you think it's resilient so that you can understand properly if the systems within the Act are working? If they're not, do we need to change that in order to make it a more robust system, not to take away powers from local people but to ensure that it is happening and happening efficiently?

Nid oes gen i reswm i feddwl bod y math o atebolrwydd yr ydych chi'n ei drafod ddim yn digwydd—nid oes gen i reswm i feddwl hynny. Os oes gan y pwyllgor gasgliadau ar hynny, buasai gen i ddiddordeb mawr mewn darllen a deall beth mae'r pwyllgor yn ei ddweud ar hynny. Ond nid oes gen i dystiolaeth fy hun i ddweud bod hynny ddim yn digwydd ar draws y wlad.

I don't have a reason to think that the sort of accountability you discuss isn't happening—I don't have a reason to believe so. If the committee has conclusions about that, I'd be interested to read them, and I'd be interested to listen to what the committee has to say on that. But I don't have any evidence myself to say that that isn't happening across the country.

Felly, rydych chi wedi asesu pob cyngor sydd yn craffu ac wedi edrych i weld sut maen nhw wedi craffu ar y byrddau, beth maen nhw'n ei wneud, sut maen nhw'n ei wneud e a sut maen nhw wedi monitro.

So, you have assessed every council that scrutinises and looked to see how they scrutinise the boards, what they're doing, how they're doing it and how they've monitored.

Edrychwch, mae gyda ni system o lywodraeth leol—llywodraeth. Nid oes gennym ni system o gynghorau sydd yn agents o Lywodraeth Cymru. Felly, mae'n fater i bobl leol benderfynu a yw cynghorau yn gwneud eu job yn iawn, ac wedyn y blwch balot ydy'r ffordd o ymyrryd fanna. Felly, rydw i'n cymryd rôl lot mwy expansive o hawliau llywodraeth leol nag, efallai, rydych chi. Ond a gaf i ddweud hyn: rydw i'n cydnabod bod yna le i sicrhau bod y sector gwirfoddol yn gallu ymyrryd a chymryd rhan yn y byrddau ei hun, ac rydym ni wedi bod yn cydweithio gyda'r WCVA i sicrhau bod grwpiau lleol, grwpiau cymdeithasol neu gymunedol yn gallu gwneud hynny? Felly, rydym ni yn trio cryfhau'r cyfle i'r sector gwirfoddol gymryd rhan yng ngwaith y PSBs yn y ffordd y mae Mark Isherwood wedi awgrymu. Ond, mi fuaswn i'n dod nôl at brif bwrpas y byrddau lleol, sef sicrhau eu bod nhw'n penderfynu beth ydy eu blaenoriaethau nhw ar sail beth ydy blaenoriaethau'r bobl sy'n byw yn yr ardaloedd gwahanol o'n gwlad.

Look, we have a system of local government—government. We don't have a system of councils that are agents of Welsh Government. Therefore, it's a matter for local people to decide whether councils are doing their job properly, and then the ballot box is the way of intervening. So, I have a much more expansive role in terms of the rights of local councils than you do, perhaps. But can I just say this: I acknowledge that there is room to ensure that the voluntary sector can intervene and take part in the boards themselves, and we have been collaborating with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action to ensure that local groups and social and community groups can do so? So, therefore, we are trying to strengthen the opportunity for the voluntary sector to take part in the PSBs' work in the way that Mark Isherwood has suggested. However, I would come back to the main purpose of the local boards, and that is to ensure that they decide what their priorities are on the basis of what the priorities are of those people who live in the different areas of our country. 

09:40

Ocê. Rydych chi'n sôn am y grwpiau elusennol a'r grwpiau lleol. A oes yna le i newid y ddeddfwriaeth i ganiatáu craffu aml-asiantaeth, nawr na fyddan nhw'n gallu bod ar gyngor i graffu? Felly, a fyddai yna le i wneud pethau'n wahanol, fel eu bod nhw'n gallu craffu mewn ffordd fwy creadigol? Nid wyf i'n siŵr a fyddai hynny'n gweithio, oherwydd nid ydyn nhw wedi cael eu hethol mewn ffordd fel cynghorau lleol, ond jest rhywbeth yw e rydym ni wedi'i glywed o ran syniad.

Okay. You talk about the charity groups and the local groups. Is there room to change the legislation in order to allow more multi-agency scrutiny, now that they're talking about how they can't be on a council to scrutinise? Would there be room to change things so that they could scrutinise in a more creative way. I don't know if that would work, because they haven't been elected in the same way as local councils, but it's just something that we've heard in terms of an idea.

Un o'm gwerthoedd gwleidyddol i yw democratiaeth, ac rydw i'n credu bod democratiaeth yn eithaf pwysig, so nid wyf i'n mynd i newid unrhyw ddeddfwriaeth na chefnogi newid i unrhyw ddeddfwriaeth i alluogi grwpiau anetholedig i gael rôl yn sut rydym ni'n craffu neu'n llywodraethu ein gwlad. Nid wyf i'n fodlon gwneud hynny. Ond a gaf i ddweud hyn: roedd eich arweinydd chi, actually, yn cwoto o ddarlith a roddais i, rai misoedd yn ôl—efallai fe wna i ei chylchredeg hi i'r pwyllgor i bawb cael darllen y ddarlith? Fe wnaeth Adam, wrth gwrs, ddweud bod y geiriau yn feirniadaeth o Lywodraeth Cymru. Roedd e'n rong. Nid oedd e wedi darllen y ddarlith yn ei chyfanrwydd, ac nid oedd e yno ar y pryd. Beth oedd hi oedd crynodeb o botensial y sector gwirfoddol, fel rhan o gymdeithas ddemocrataidd, i gymryd rhan fwy pwysig yn ein cymdeithas ddemocrataidd ni. Rydw i'n credu bod y syniad o gymdeithas ddemocrataidd yn un sy'n hynod o bwysig, ac rydw i wedi bod yn siarad yn gyson dros y misoedd diwethaf amboutu active citizenship a phethau eraill, ac rydw i'n credu bod hynny'n hynod, hynod o bwysig. Ond, pan fydd hi'n dod i benderfyniadau gwleidyddol, craffu gwleidyddol, rydw i'n credu bod rhaid i hynny ddigwydd mewn ffordd ddemocrataidd a gydag atebolrwydd democrataidd.

One of my political values is democracy, and democracy is quite important, so I'm not going to change any legislation or support any change to the legislation to enable unelected groups to have a role in how we scrutinise or govern our country. I'm not willing to do so. But could I just say this? Your leader, actually, was quoting from a lecture that I gave a few months ago—perhaps I'll circulate it to the committee to read the lecture? Adam, of course, said it was a criticism, that my words were a criticism of Welsh Government. He was wrong. He hadn't read the lecture as a whole and he wasn't there at the time. What it was was a summary of the potential of the voluntary sector, as part of a democratic society, to take a more important part in our democratic society. I think the idea of a democratic society is one that is extremely important, and I have been talking constantly over the last few months about active citizenship and other matters, and I think that is very, very important. But, when it comes to political decisions and political scrutiny, I think that has to happen in a democratic way and with democratic accountability.

Ocê. Y cwestiwn olaf gen i yw bod y comisiynydd llesiant wedi dweud bod yna eithriad yn y ddeddfwriaeth, sef bod y rôl hynny yn gallu rhoi cyngor i fyrddau gwasanaethau cyhoeddus ond ddim yn gallu monitro a ddim yn gallu asesu'r hyn sydd yn digwydd. A ydych chi'n credu bod y newid deddfwriaeth yn ddigon cryf yn yr ardal yma—os nad yn y cwestiwn diwethaf—i ganiatáu i’r comisiynydd edrych ar hynny? Byddai'n rhywbeth y byddwn i'n ei groesawu, o leiaf, oherwydd byddai, efallai, yn rhoi sgôp gwahanol neu take gwahanol ar yr hyn sydd yn digwydd yn lleol, gan fod gan y swydd hynny arbenigedd yn y maes.

Okay. The last question from me is about the fact that the future generations commissioner has said that there is an exception to the legislation, where that role can give advice to the public services boards but cannot monitor and assess what's happening. Do you think that the change in legislation is strong enough in this area—if not in the last question—to allow the commissioner to look at that? It's something that I would certainly welcome, because it would, perhaps, give a different scope or a different take on what's happening locally, because that function does have expertise in the area.

Nid wyf i'n credu bod y ddeddfwriaeth yn ei rhwystro hi rhag gwneud hynny. Efallai nad yw'r rôl yn cael ei ddisgrifio yn y ddeddfwriaeth, ond, fel rydwyf i newydd ddweud, actually, nid wyf i'n gweld bod y ddeddfwriaeth yn stopio hi rhag gwneud beth mae hi'n meddwl sydd yn bwysig i gwblhau ei gweledigaeth hi.

I don't think the legislation prevents her from doing that. Perhaps that role isn't described in the legislation, but, as I've just said, really, I don't see that the legislation stops her from doing what she considers to be important to fulfil her vision.

Ond pe bai hynny yn y ddeddfwriaeth, yn sicr byddai hynny'n ei wneud e'n rhywbeth mwy cadarn.

But if it was in the legislation, certainly that would make it more robust.

Wel, nid wyf i'n siŵr am hynny. A ydym ni ddim ond yn gwneud beth mae deddfwriaeth yn mynnu ein bod ni'n gwneud?

I'm not sure about that. Are we only doing what legislation requires us to do?

Wel, mae'n rhoi sail—

Well, it provides a basis—
 

09:45

Mae'n rhoi sail, ond, rydw i'n credu, o fy nghof i—ac roeddech chi yn rhan o drafodaethau ar y mesur yma—i fi—. Roeddech chi'n Aelod Cynulliad ar y pryd. 

It provides a basis, but from my recollection—and you were part of the discussions on this Bill—to me—. You were an Assembly Member at the time. 

Wel, na, beth rydw i'n ei ddweud yw bod pethau'n gallu newid. Wrth gwrs, gwnaethom ni gytuno i'r ddeddfwriaeth, ond nid yw e'n—. Rydym ni'n gallu edrych yn ôl a dweud, 'Wel, actually, efallai y dylwn ni newid sut mae pethau'n digwydd' weithiau. 

Well, no, what I'm saying is that things can change. Of course, we agreed on the legislation, but we can look back and say, 'Well, actually, maybe we should change how things happen', sometimes. 

Ac rydw i wedi dweud sawl gwaith ers i mi fod yn Aelod fan hyn bod yna le i post-legislative scrutiny, ac rydw i wedi cefnogi ac rydw i wedi ysgrifennu adroddiadau pwyllgorau yn dweud y dylem ni edrych yn ôl ar ddeddfwriaeth ar ôl, dywedwch, pum mlynedd, a gweld sut mae'n cael ei gweithredu ar lawr gwlad. Nid wyf yn gweld hynny'n broblem i unrhyw beth, a dylai fod yn rôl i'r Cynulliad, i'r Senedd, i edrych yn ôl ar ddeddfwriaeth a gweld sut mae'n cael ei gweithredu. Nid oes gen i ddim problem gyda hynny, ond, i ateb eich cwestiwn, nid wyf i'n credu bod y ddeddfwriaeth fel mae hi yn rhwystro'r Comisiynydd rhag gwneud y gwaith rydych chi'n awgrymu y mae hi'n gallu ei wneud. 

And I have said on many an occasion since I've been a Member here that there is a place for post-legislative scrutiny, and I have supported and written committee reports saying that we should look back on legislation after, say, five years and how it is implemented at a grass-roots level. I don't see that as a problem for anything, and it should be a role for the Assembly, for the Senedd, to look back at legislation and see how it is being implemented. I don't have a problem with that, but, to answer your question, I don't think that the legislation as it stands prevents the Commissioner from doing the work that you're suggesting that she can do. 

There is, potentially, a sort of disadvantage, almost, of it being statutory because it does change the dynamic of the relationship at the point that you switch into—. You're officially a 'watchdog', as it were, rather than offering support. That does change the dynamic of the relationship, so—

It depends how you see the monitoring, though. That's your analysis of a monitoring system, not mine, potentially. 

I think what I'm saying is that, generally speaking, when we speak to public bodies, at the point that the scrutiny process becomes statutory, they do regard it slightly differently to something that's more about providing advice and working with you, and I'm not saying that either of them is wrong or right, but they are slightly different, and you could go about that process of statutory scrutiny in a really supportive way, but, at the end of the day, you are then empowered by legislation to pass judgement on that body, effectively, and that can make it potentially less effective. So, it's just to say that there are consequences for both choices, an,d in deciding what's the most effective way for the Commissioner to have the most impact, it's just weighing up which one of those would give the outcome that she and, I guess, the committee would be looking for, and it's not necessarily that statutory means that it'll be better. It'll be different, but it may not entirely be different in a positive way, potentially. 

And I must say, as a Minister, I'd always prefer to have a general power than a specific power.

Okay. Thanks for that. We'll move on to Jenny Rathbone. 

Regional partnership boards were created in parallel with public services boards using, obviously, two completely separate bits of legislation, and they have very clear duties. So, it's produced quite a complex situation, and some PSBs are indicating they'd like some direction. Some PSBs have decided that regional partnership boards should be designated sub-committees of public services boards, because, obviously, they have a very specific role to play in terms of integrating health and social services. Others—I mean, you, yourself, are saying it's best considered and determined locally. I just want to probe a little bit further as to whether it should be quite as free as that, because what happens if the PSB and RPB are paying no attention to what each other are getting up to? 

Look, I'm not confident that I would want to see PSBs merged with regional partnership boards—

—regional partnership boards have a very clear job to do. 

Have a specific purpose, yes. So, I wouldn't want to see that happen. But I think I've already said this morning and on other occasions that I believe there's far too much complexity in the way we govern Wales, and I want to see far less complexity in our means and methods and structures of governance. So, I think we do create a complex situation. I believe that we need to reduce that. That's what I've been saying to local government over the last year. I believe that we need to have, probably, fewer PSBs—that's my view—which will enable greater collaboration. I've used the example of Gwent, my own local area, in order to exemplify that. I think it's important that we are able to have a footprint that is realistic for the people who have to work within it, that delivers the policies and the agenda, delivers the services in a way that is appropriate, and which is done with a clarity of purpose. This goes back to the points that have been raised by Bethan and by Mark in terms of accountability. Democratic accountability is far more difficult in a complex environment than in an environment where there's less complexity.  A reduction in complexity increases accountability, and I think that is absolutely essential because, for me, the issues around democracy and accountability are fundamental. If we are able to hold people to account and to know, you know—. You and I will remember Tony Benn's description of the European Union, and his stinging rebuke, 'How do I sack you?'. It is absolutely key, fundamental to any level of political accountability and, for me, reducing complexity is key to that.  

09:50

So, if you want to reduce complexity, what would be the disadvantage of simply indicating to PSBs and RPBs that the RPB should be considered a sub-committee of the PSB, without in any way diluting their very serious duties? 

I'm not sure that I would be in a position this morning to endorse that sort of approach, because I do believe that the regional partnership boards have an absolutely key role in the way they've been established and they will run, and it's important to do that. I know that we are seeking at the moment—as we've discussed, and as I'm sure we'll discuss again, in terms of the overall local government settlement—to ensure that that is funded in a way that delivers the services it has to deliver. So, I really wouldn't want to go down that route today.

However, in terms of the wider issues around PSBs, I think that's a different question. I think it's a wider question. And certainly, when I'm looking, wearing a different hat, at the way that the police operate, for example, and the commissioners operate, it breaks my heart to see senior police officers going to five PSB meetings in Gwent and having five different sets of priorities, five different ambitions, five different visions, all seeking to achieve very similar outcomes for what is essentially the same group of people. And I think that is a tragic waste of resource. So, I would want to see—. I use my own area because I'm familiar with it, and because, in terms of what I said about localism, I do have an aegis to make these comments here. But I think it is an absolutely tragic waste of resource for people to be sitting in similar rooms, having similar meetings on similar issues when we could be taking away that complexity. 

I would use that as an example that could be used in other parts of Wales. We know now, with Bridgend coming into Cwm Taf, that we've got an opportunity there to look for further reduction of complexity as well. We also know that Swansea and Neath Port Talbot already work very closely together on a number of different issues. So, it seems to me that these issues are being resolved on the ground in some places, and I think I would like—if I had a role in that—to enable or to speed that process up. 

Okay. Just to probe a little bit more about who's accountable to who, in Cwm Taf, priorities have been identified that isolation and loneliness are specific issues within the PSB, but obviously you'll have regional boards working on integrated health and social services? Who's responsible for who in terms of avoiding duplication of effort?  

Clearly, the scrutiny roles of each individual organisation is responsible for the scrutiny of how that organisation delivers its own commitments, whether that be as part of a PSB or whether it be individually. So, you've already got established roles of scrutiny for each of the individual members of the PSB. Then, I would say that the overall PSB is accountable to each other in the way that it delivers its functions, so that, where you have an agreement with different bodies around the same table, they hold themselves to account for each one delivering on their commitments to deliver. At the moment, I see that as a reasonable form of scrutiny. Now, clearly, that happens within a political environment, in a way that I described earlier, and we all then have a role in ensuring that that happens. We also know that the local authority will designate one of its committees to review the governance arrangements of the PSB as well as to review or scrutinise decisions or actions taken by the PSB. So, there is that level of democratic accountability as well. 

09:55

Okay. Sticking with that specific example, though, whose responsibility is it to ensure that both organisations aren't going down exactly the same path?

The creation of the well-being plan and the objectives should actually allocate responsibilities clearly within that: who is delivering what, in which way and according to what resources and timescales? So, I would expect to see a plan whereby, for example, a local health board will say, 'We will deliver the following according to the following timetable. These are our objectives and this is what we'd expect', and then to report that and be responsible then to the wider PSB for the delivery of that. Within the local authority, they would have a very clear functional responsibility for delivering some elements of that, and then, of course, within the local authority you also have the scrutiny committees, which can take a much wider view of the activities of the PSBs. So, you do have there an interesting democratic question whereby a local authority scrutiny committee could take, if it so wished, as I understand—tell me if I get this wrong—

In this case, obviously, the PSB objective is being led by a third sector organisation—

Yes, but they would have the same scrutiny, I would expect, within the PSB for the delivery of their undertakings. I wouldn't expect the fact that their legal status would, in any way, prevent the PSB from holding them to account for that. And then, the scrutiny committee of a local authority—and this is the interesting thing—will be able to take a view, and can take a view, on how the governance arrangements of the PSB are being delivered. That's a very, very significant power that I'm not sure is always fully understood, because we've seen enough conversation about where the roles and responsibilities of local government lie, but this is a power of scrutiny and a power of report, and I believe that's a really fundamental power, which can be used by local government and by local authorities to make some very wide-ranging conclusions on exactly the sorts of matters that you are describing: whether the PSB itself—the governance of it—is working well and whether it is delivering on its ambitions.

So, even if the regional partnership board is being scrutinised by a different scrutiny committee within the local authority, you'd expect them to know what left hand and right hand are both doing.

And the same organisations are represented, so there is a—. Although they are separate entities, they're not unrelated to one another. We are bringing RPBs and PSBs together in the new year to explore some of these issues, because we've had some feedback, as you'd expect, around the interrelationship between the two structures. So, we're working with colleagues in the social services department to sit down with people who are actually working out in the real world to see how things are working and whether there are things we can do to make things clearer or more effective now that, I guess, both organisations are up and running and we've got more of a sense of how they interact with one another, to really get at what the things that we could helpfully clarify are and whether there are any real problems that we need to think about how to overcome. So, that's something for the new year, isn't it?

Okay. Cabinet Secretary, would you be able to provide us with a note on that because I think that—

Certainly. I've got no issue with providing a note on that, but also to say that, where we are today on the development of this, I think we would want to see the structures delivering, and, on the basis of understanding delivery, we will take decisions on wider structures. But we're not in a position to do that today, as I said earlier, but certainly I can provide a note on how we are reviewing the interrelationship between the regional partnership boards and the PSBs.

10:00

Thank you, Chair. Can I start, really, by just saying I'm really proud to be part of this inquiry, and discuss the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 with the committee and the Cabinet Secretary? I think the Members know the hard work that went into this, so I'm particularly pleased to be here today. Also, I feel if we get the implementation right on this Act, we do have an opportunity to create greater communities within Wales.

I'd like to move on to good practice. The Cabinet Secretary's mentioned waste of resources and PSBs with similar outcomes. Cabinet Secretary, do you see a greater role in the future for the future generations commissioner in sharing best practices and information within the Welsh Government?

Yes, I do. I think it's important. I take an expansive view of these things. The conversation we had with Bethan earlier about the role of statutory functions and then the role that can be played by different public figures is not necessarily the same thing. I would take an expansive view of how we would see these roles. I think there are some good examples of innovation taking place. The children's pilot in Sandfields, the Happy City and the Happiness Pulse in Gwent I think is a good thing. I'm fascinated by what Ceredigion might well be achieving in terms of climate change. I'm looking there, then, if we do have this innovation, and I think we do, and if we do have this good practice, and I think we do, then how do we share that and how do we enable people to learn from each other?

This takes us back to one of the conversations I think I had with the committee some time ago, which is about a single public service in Wales, and about how we ensure that we don't see each other in different silos, that we don't see each other doing different jobs in different places with different people at different times, but we see ourselves as serving the Welsh public in a very similar sort of way, so that we seek to work together to serve the public and that we don't work apart and we don't introduce needless complexity into how we work.

So, I certainly would want to see the commissioner, if she wishes to do so, to play a role in that, and I would see not simply the commissioner having that role as a discrete function but I would see it as a function of the whole of Welsh Government and the governance of Wales, the public sector of Wales, to actively seek opportunities to share that. Certainly, the Chair will be aware of the work of Academi Wales in terms of enabling that to happen. I think the Academi provide a great function in terms of enabling people to learn from each other. I certainly want to see more of that investment as well. 

Thank you for that answer. I fully agree we do need to share best practice throughout Wales.

Cabinet Secretary, I'd like to delve into the extent that you believe that PSBs will achieve the positive impact anticipated when the Act was first passed—the extent that you believe the PSBs will achieve the positive impact that was anticipated when the Act was first passed. Will they—?

Will they? I hope so. I'm an optimist, and that optimism has been challenged many times, let me tell you, in politics. It's being challenged at the moment in lots of different ways. But I believe that good people want to do good things. I believe that if we give public service workers the opportunity to use their knowledge, their skills, their ambition, their vision for their locality or their community or the functional area they're responsible for, then they will try to do a good thing, the right thing. For me, I think the greatest thing that we can do as public service leaders, if you like, is to provide people with the power and the opportunity and the resources to do that, to use their knowledge and experience to do the right thing. Clearly, we need levels of accountability and scrutiny, I don't demur from that at all. However, I fundamentally believe that public services boards, if provided with the right structures, could be and will be a force for good.

Thank you. One final question from me. Why in your view are members of the PSBs unclear as to the role that the Welsh Government officials on public services boards have? We've had evidence in the past to this committee that they think that there is a problem, there's no terms of reference and there is room to be more specific about the role of the Welsh Government's representatives on PSB boards throughout Wales. 

10:05

I'm aware of the evidence that the committee has received but it hadn't been brought to my attention previously. Clearly, the role of any Welsh Government representative is to bring a national perspective to meetings and to ensure that that wider national or regional view is taken on board. However, do you know, sometimes I feel that people have an expectation of Welsh Government as being—a directive expectation that the person who arrives from Welsh Government is going to say, 'This is what has to be done'? And I think, sometimes, when that person doesn't say that and says, 'It's up to you to decide what you want to do', there's a sense of, 'Oh, right. So, how do we do this? What do we do now?'. And there's that expectation that Welsh Government will be far more directive and a sense of, I don't know what it is—sometimes it might be fear, uncertainty or whatever—when Welsh Government actually says, 'It's over to you. It's up to you to decide what you want to do. It's up to you to decide your priorities. It's up to you to decide what your plan looks like. It's up to you to do the assessment that we've asked you to do.' I think when Welsh Government steps back sometimes like that, there's this sense of, 'So, how do we do this?' I can appreciate and understand that in some ways, but it's about empowerment. It's about empowering the public services to actually design a way that they want to deliver in the future.

That's why, Mark, I'm less pessimistic than you about the way in which public services will involve communities and the people they serve, because my experience of public service workers is that they live in those communities, they are those people, they are those different sorts of communities within a community, if you like. You know, they don't sit aside from a community—we are part of that community. So, I'm far more optimistic about the ability of public services to be able to be both responsive to and understanding of the needs of the communities they serve.     

I just wanted to go back to something we touched on earlier, which is the local government budgetary settlement for this year. This is because, clearly, it's difficult for all public services, in the context of ongoing austerity coming from the UK Government. But, clearly, there could be an important role for PSBs in ensuring we're delivering best value for communities. So, for example, in my local authority, Cardiff, we have regulatory services combined with Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend. I don't see that in any way undermining the democratic accountability or equality of those services, but they are administered across those three local authorities. So, in your conversations with local government leaders on the ways in which they're going to manage the local government settlement, what role do you see for PSBs in ensuring that how we deliver public services does deliver best value? 

Yes, I think that's a fascinating question and a fascinating debate to have, because one of the points that local government has made to me in recent weeks, and over a long period actually, has been the importance of preventative services, shall we say? I think one of the issues that the future generations commissioner has made in her review of the Welsh budget—the overall Welsh budget—is looking at what she would regard as preventative services being delivered in Welsh Government, and I think she lists four elements of that. I'm interested in that because much of what a PSB can do would be to bring together a more holistic approach to those preventative services, and this goes back to earlier questions about resources. Now, if it is the case that by working in a more collaborative function and by delivering preventative services in a more coherent way the members of the PSB—not simply local government but the wider membership—are able to deliver more robust services in a more profound way, then surely that is delivering on the preventative agenda that local government is pursuing. If that is the case, then that should, in itself, be a more resource-friendly way of using the funding available to it and the resources available to it. It should be more efficient and it should deliver better services in a more efficient manner. That is what I would anticipate and expect.

So, I can see a significant and growing role for PSBs in understanding how we deliver these services, and this is why, I think, that the footprint issue is important. So, we have to do it in a more coherent fashion across different geographies, but recognising the different demands of different places across the country, and that PSBs may be a way of delivering some of the collaborative change, the reform agenda, that everybody agrees to—I've never heard people disagree with it, but we need to deliver it. And the conversations that we're having at the moment in the working group that Derek Vaughan is chairing are very good, and I'm hoping that we'll make some significant progress before Christmas.

But in terms of the broad funding picture—I'm sure the committee will wish to consider these issues at another session in more detail—each one of us can take a different perspective on how we see the fiscal position in Wales over the coming years. My view, and this is my personal view, this is Alun Davies—I don't want to be quoted again—is that Brexit is going to be an absolute disaster for this country. It's going to be one of the greatest peacetime disasters facing us. I believe that it will lead to a significant reduction in economic activity, which can have a knock-on impact on public spending.

10:10

The point I'm making is that it will be more important in the future than, perhaps, it has been in the past.

Okay, sticking with PSBs, in the conversations you are bound to be having with local government leaders, what role do you think the importance of PSBs will play in that conversation? You know, sticking with the example I gave you, if my constituents have a problem with regulated services, I still go back to Cardiff Council. The constituent doesn't need to know that these are services that are shared across three local authorities. It's irrelevant.

But the constituent needs to hold somebody to account for the delivery of those services, and I think it's that democratic accountability that is important to me.

I think there are lots of different things that can be done in order for local government to share functions. An awful lot of very, very impressive work is already being undertaken in different places—not necessarily, simply, in local government and within Welsh Government, but in terms of private business and research as well—about how we can deliver services differently in the future. My view, Jenny, if you use your example and others, is that a significant shared service agenda can be pursued without compromising democratic accountability. 

Okay, so is this going to part of our conversation with local government?

It's already part of those conversations. And as I said, the shared services agenda was something I spoke on at the WLGA conference in Llandudno in June. It's something I've spoken on before. Julie James, as the lead Minister for digital issues, has already spoken on those issues. Julie and I have asked Lee Waters to do some work on how we deliver services digitally in the future. So, this is all looking at how we develop these concepts about sharing the delivery of services, and it takes you back to the single Welsh public service that I have already spoken on this morning.

Thank you. I'm going to develop on your theme of democratic accountability. I'll avoid the personal opinion, because I don't believe that's the role of the scrutiny committees.

Disability is not democratic. Yes, like yourself, I'm a strong believer in representative democracy for the ballot box, but unless people have had personal experience of certain things, at least remotely, then it's not going to be a priority for them. Their priority, if they're a parent, is going to be their children's local school, or if a general practitioner surgery is closing, it's going to be keeping the GP surgery open, or whatever it might be—it varies—whereas the role of these boards is potentially pivotal in order to reach those parts that the normal democratic process would not itself, by virtue of its purpose, necessarily reach. I agree with you that the Welsh Government representation is not there to dictate—it is there to bring a national perspective, but then to let go.

The question I had earlier was about monitoring and helping them manage change, managing performance rather than dictating performance, to ensure that the understanding of the decision makers or the plan makers is well informed by those who need to be within the dialogue and who are most dependent upon the outcomes of this.

The prime example, and we had this in the last committee I sat upon, is active travel. How are we ensuring that people with sight loss, for example, are engaged at the beginning of discussions about active travel programmes to ensure that barriers are not being created to their access? There are multiple other examples that can be added to that. I'm trying to close that gap between your presentation of a conflict between localism and central Government telling people what to do, and what—. Actually, it should be recognising that localism sometimes needs a helping hand, not to direct what they do but to help them follow the path that will help them reach enlightenment. 

10:15

Can I just say, in terms of your answer, Cabinet Secretary—obviously, these are very wide, all-encompassing questions, and we could get into the realms of philosophy and much else? We're talking about the public services boards here.

I'm talking about my casework—people who are in crisis putting pressure on statutory services because of a failure early on to understand their communication needs, and how prevention, at little or no cost, could've prevented what's now a huge cost on a statutory service.

Within the context of the function of the public services boards—this is what we're discussing today.

Look, I absolutely accept the points that have been made. There is, sometimes, a conflict—I prefer to say there's a tension, sometimes, between national priorities and local priorities. I think it's right and proper that those are played out in a democratic framework. For me, I would always, I hope, side with the sense of local people taking local decisions according to local priorities, and then being locally accountable with local scrutiny—that's important to me.

But, does that mean that Welsh Government then walks away from the process and washes its hands of it? No, I don't think we can do that. I think we do need to ensure that we have a relationship with the PSBs that is a constructive relationship, a relationship that is rooted in providing support, advice and encouragement, sometimes, providing training, providing opportunities to learn from each other, to share best practice and to enable PSBs to function more effectively to represent exactly the needs of the people that you've described. I think that would be the right and proper function for Welsh Government in these circumstances.

But, that tension between national and local priorities will always be played out in politics. You and I will take differing views and the same view at different times as that tension plays out. I think that's a right and proper thing for the political debate and for active political accountability, in terms of how these boards develop and how they will develop in the future. The points made, I think, by Jenny Rathbone in her earlier question are absolutely fundamental to that, and take that exactly to where it needs to be—the person, the individual, the community that we're seeking to represent here. The success of PSBs will be determined by their ability to respond to those people and their needs, to ensure that we are able to deliver more joined-up, coherent and holistic policy responses in exactly the way that you describe.

Okay, thanks for that. Thank you very much for coming along today to give evidence to the committee. Thanks to your officials also. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the usual way. Diolch yn fawr.

3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Okay, the next item we have on the agenda today, item 3, is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Is the committee content so to do? Yes, thank you very much. We will, then, move into private session.

10:20

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:20.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:20.

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