Y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus - Y Bumed Senedd

Public Accounts Committee - Fifth Senedd

01/02/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Darren Millar MS
Delyth Jewell MS
Gareth Bennett MS
Jenny Rathbone MS
Nick Ramsay MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Vikki Howells MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Adrian Crompton Archwilydd Cyffredinol Cymru
Auditor General for Wales
Andrew Charles Pennaeth Is-adran Dyfodol Cynaliadwy, Llywodraeth Cymru
Head of Sustainable Futures Division, Welsh Government
David Richards Cyfarwyddwr Llywodraethiant a Moeseg, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director of Governance and Ethics, Welsh Government
Heledd Morgan Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Jacob Ellis Swyddfa Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru
Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Llyr Gruffydd MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor Cyllid
Chair of the Finance Committee
Marie Brousseau-Navarro Swyddfa Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru
Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Reg Kilpatrick Cyfarwyddwr Cyffredinol, Cydgysylltu yr Argyfwng COVID-19, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director General, COVID-19 Crisis Co-ordination, Welsh Government
Shan Morgan Ysgrifennydd Parhaol, Llywodraeth Cymru
Permanent Secretary, Welsh Government
Simon Brindle Cyfarwyddwr Ailgychwyn ac Adfer ar ôl COVID-19, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director of COVID-19 Restart and Recovery, Welsh Government
Sophie Howe Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol Cymru
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Tim Buckle Archwilio Cymru
Audit Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Chloe Corbyn Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Claire Griffiths Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Tom Lewis-White Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

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.

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:15. 

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:15. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Can I welcome Members to this morning's meeting of the Public Accounts Committee? Today, we're joined again by Llyr Gruffydd, the Chair of the Finance Committee, so, good to have you with us again, Llyr. One apology has been received, I should say, and that's from Rhianon Passmore. Can I welcome Darren Millar, my colleague, to the committee, following the election held in Plenary on 26 January and thank Angela Burns—selection, I should say—and thank Angela Burns for her input into the committee and its work? Do Members have any declarations of interest that they would like to give at this point? No. Okay. Well, so long as you're all happy with the housekeeping rules and how to indicate to speak et cetera—. We've just spoken about the translation and how that works. 

2. Papurau i’w nodi
2. Papers to note

Item 2, then, and papers to note. The Wales Centre for Public Policy submitted a paper that draws on an independent study of the implementation of the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. It's been funded by Cardiff University. The research was based on case studies of four public services boards, interviews with PSB members and support officers in local authorities, including the office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and
Welsh Government officials. Are Members happy to note the submission? And that will be considered during the drafting of the report. 

Also, the Auditor General for Wales has written with additional information, following the evidence session held with him on 14 December, as part of the inquiry into the barriers to the implementation of the Act. If Members are happy to note that letter—. Unless Members have any questions to the auditor general, then, we'll note it. Good, okay. 

3. Rhwystrau rhag gweithredu Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015 yn llwyddiannus: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 9
3. Barriers to the successful implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015: Evidence session 9

Moving on to item 3, then, and our substantive item today and our latest witness session on barriers to the implementation of the Act. Can I welcome our witnesses to the committee today? Would you like to give your name, position and organisation for the Record of Proceedings? Who wants to start? It's always difficult with Zoom, because normally you'd go left to right, but it doesn't quite work out on this. Who have we got? 

Shall I jump in? 

Bore da, Chair and committee. I'm Sophie Howe, and I'm the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. 

Hi. I'm Marie Brousseau-Navarro. I'm the director for policy, legislation and innovation at Sophie's office. 

Morning; bore da. I'm Heledd Morgan. I'm one of the lead change makers at Sophie's office. 

Helo, bore da. My name's Jacob Ellis, and I'm also a lead change maker at the office of the future generations commissioner. 

Great. Thanks for being with us today on Zoom. I know these are unusual times. We've got a fair number of questions for you. So, if I'm moving things on at any point, it's just so that we can get through as many as possible. So, I'll kick off with the first couple of questions. How should the Act shape the Welsh Government's approach to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic? Sophie, do you want to start off?

Thank you. Well, the Act should be front and centre, in terms of the Welsh Government's response and, I suppose, reconstruction, post pandemic. Quite early on, back in May, I published a five-point plan, which outlined the five priority areas that I saw that the Government should focus on in terms of rebuilding post the pandemic. And, I'm pleased to see that in the Government's own policy approach—the policy documents—that they have reflected all of those priorities.

So, a focus on investing in low carbon affordable housing—the reason for that is that, if we invest in those areas, we have the ability to create jobs, to regenerate communities, and to help meet our carbon emissions targets and to address issues for those people living in fuel poverty; to invest in better ways to connect and move people—and, of course, we've seen some really substantial investment into sustainable transport already, and a new transport strategy in draft or in consultation at the moment from the Government, which is very welcome; investing in skills and training—the Government have clearly identified that that is a priority. I do have some concerns about how that is being taken forward, which I'm happy to share with the committee if helpful. Investing in nature and the climate emergency—again, we've seen that in their strategy, and investing in industries and technologies of the future. So, the Government are talking about their focus on the foundational economy. Again, I do have some concerns about the concept of 'something for something' through the economic contract, and I'm happy to share that with the committee if we have time.

09:20

I can go on, Chair. I'm conscious that you want to get through questions.

No, that's really helpful. My second question, before I bring some of the other witnesses in: what will you do to support public bodies to capitalise on and maintain positive changes in their ways of working post pandemic? We often talk about building back better and greener, so how is that going to work out?

Well, I think that's absolutely essential and, of course, it's not just an issue for Wales. Even the United Nations' secretary general is talking about very much the same sort of principles. And, of course, it's important for the Government to be showing leadership in this area, and what I just referred to there in terms of their reconstruction strategy—I think that that's a good starting point.

In terms of my own involvement, there are a number of things that I have been doing, am doing and will continue to do. So, particularly in terms of the housing retrofit challenge—so, estimations of the cost being around £1 billion a year. Obviously, that would be impossible for the Welsh Government alone to fund. I'm working with academics and the housing sector to look at innovative financing mechanisms for financing that housing retrofit challenge. We've been working with the Government over a number of years on the transport strategy, which, I think, is in a reasonable place. I've just submitted some correspondence and views on how it could be improved further.

In terms of skills, using work that the Wales TUC have done to identify the potential of skills and job creation in the green economy, they estimate that there could be up to 27,000 jobs created in the next couple of years in the green economy. However, my analysis suggests that there are some significant challenges, in terms of the skills pipeline for people to enter into those jobs. What that means is we could have the potential to create those jobs, but we haven't done the early preparatory work to make sure that people are going into apprenticeships and so on in those areas. And even if we do increase the numbers, what we're also seeing in terms of the current apprenticeships is that they are predominantly white and they are predominantly male, so there is some disconnect there between the Government's commitment around a fair, just and green recovery versus what is actually happening on the ground. So, there's further work that is needed there.

Other things that I've been focused on are digital—digital skills in particular. We've also been focused on how we build culture into the recovery, because I do have some concerns that culture is a missing element from the narrative around recovery at the moment. So, for example, on town centre regeneration, I welcome the Government's interventions and funding there, but, actually, I think we should be working much more closely with the cultural sector to see culture as a key part of that town and city centre reconstruction and regeneration.

Can I just dive in there, Sophie? That's all useful stuff, but what about that specific question of the support for public bodies? We talk about building back better, but it doesn't always happen on the ground. What positive support can be given to public bodies to help that?

So, my support to date has focused on the Welsh Government, and the reason for that is that if we get it right from the top, then we have a better chance of that trickling down. There's also an element of resources and capacity of my office, in terms of our ability to support the other 43 public bodies in an intensive way. From April, however, into the new financial year, I'm currently in the process of developing my more detailed work plan, and the intention is that we will focus working more closely with public bodies, building on the work that we've done with the Government and the priorities for reconstruction, and working with them to support them in terms of how that actually gets rolled out and how those principles get applied within public bodies out there.

Good. Thanks. Did anyone else want to comment before I move on to other questions? Jacob.

09:25

Thank you, Chair. Just to add that, of course, committee members will be aware that the future generations report, the statutory report that the commissioner published in May, includes a variety of recommendations that are applicable or interesting to have been applied, during COVID response and COVID recovery, to help public bodies understand what they need to do to contribute towards the well-being of future generations Act. So, just to draw on some of those: the access to nature recommendation—setting standards to ensure people can access natural green space within 300m of their homes—we value the role green spaces and nature has during the COVID lockdown periods. Therefore, I think that public bodies have a range of recommendations within that particular product, that report, that could help them as they build back better.

Thanks, Chair. Sophie was just saying about the need to make sure the Welsh Government is doing things properly so that that experience can then be rolled out to other public sector organisations. So, the question is: do you think the Welsh Government and other public bodies are doing enough to improve understanding of the Act amongst their staff, both existing staff and any new staff?

I think that there is an improvement, or an improving awareness, of the requirements of the future generations Act, but I think there are still significant challenges in terms of how that is filtering down throughout all levels within organisations. What we—. My assessment is, in terms of Welsh Government, we got off to quite a slow start at the beginning of the Act coming into force. We weren't really seeing that very clear political leadership around the Act, and therefore it wasn't really flowing down into the civil service and so on. And, consequently, many things that then came out from the Welsh Government to other public bodies were perhaps not aligned with the Act, at best, or, in some cases, probably competing with the Act. And so, we can see things like the fact that the national procurement policy statement was not amended and then it was amended, and only makes cursory reference to the Act. We can see things like the Welsh Government integrated care fund guidance in 2019 using a different definition of integration to the definition that is within the future generations Act. And all of those things tend to confuse matters.

I think that, throughout public bodies, we're definitely seeing organisations doing things, new things, in line with meeting the national well-being goals. What they're not necessarily always doing is connecting the actions that they're taking back to meeting their own well-being objectives. So, if I can give you an example of that: Sport Wales are doing some really good things in terms of their procurement and their environmental impacts. So, they've done away with single-use plastic. If you use the exercise bikes in the national sports centre, you will be powering the lights. That's clearly connected back to a number of the well-being goals. It's not, however, connected back to their own well-being objectives, which are primarily around increasing participation in sport and physical activity. And the duties under the Act are to set objectives that maximise your contribution to the seven well-being goals and then to take all reasonable steps to meet those objectives.

So, I think, in the early stages, what we're seeing is that the well-being objectives that have been set by public bodies probably aren't up to scratch; they haven't necessarily maximised their contribution to all seven of the well-being goals. However, they are now moving on in their understanding and awareness of the Act and trying to embed that contribution to the goals in some of the actions that they're taking. But we can see that kind of disconnect.

I think, in terms of prevention, for example, there is definitely increasing awareness of prevention amongst public bodies, but the actions, then, to actually invest in preventative spend isn't necessarily following. And I think, again, that is because it's very difficult to do, and often funding streams do not flow in a way that facilitates action in those preventative spaces. So, we want to see funding flowing in a way that can be integrated. I would strongly advocate more funding flowing, for example, through public services boards, where you have a large partnership of organisations who can, between them, be identifying where that money should be spent in a way that has the biggest preventative benefits.

And then, finally, what I wanted to say is that I don't think any of the public services—. Just by focusing on some of those challenges, it's not a kind of silver bullet. I think the other issues are around building awareness and a kind of movement for change out there, and pressure coming from sectors outside of the public sector to be embracing the principles of the future generations Act. So, I am really pleased to see, for example, the construction sector, through Constructing Excellence in Wales, who I've been working very closely with, declare that they want to be treated almost as a forty-fifth public body covered by the Act, because they want to embrace the principles and they want to do their bit. Also, in terms of the housing sector—not covered by the future generations Act, but very many of them absolutely embracing the things that it requires. Business, for example—there's a growing movement amongst businesses, and I'm involved at the moment with a number of businesses who want to embrace the future generations Act. And those things, I think—that pressure from outside—will also help to put pressure on the public sector in terms of raising awareness and in doing better things.

09:30

Thanks. You covered quite a few things there. You mentioned the public sector, the construction industry and then private companies. Now, what about the general public? Do you think that, in order for the Act to be effectively implemented, more public knowledge and understanding of the Act is necessary?

I think that that's a really good point. What I would say about awareness amongst the general public is—I suppose, it's similar to the points that I just made in relation to business and other sectors—if you have the general public becoming more aware of the obligations of the future generations Act and pressurising their politicians, their local authorities, their Government and so on to be applying those principles, then I think you're more likely to see change. Does that translate into all members of the public should have an awareness of the future generations Act and so on? I think it's probably unrealistic to expect that that is likely to be the case. There is no resourcing for my office or anywhere else, as far as I can see it, in terms of funding that kind of public awareness raising. Just to give you a flavour of the sort of resourcing that these sort of public awareness campaigns have taken: the 'Train. Work. Live.' campaign, £566,000; the Choose Well campaign,£149,000'; the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 implementation, £731,000. You can see that those figures—some of them—are half or more of my entire annual budget. And so there isn't the funding there to do be doing this big public awareness campaign.

I'm inclined to agree with what the Auditor General for Wales said, which is that the important thing is actually for the public services themselves to be doing the right thing, not necessarily for all members of the general public to know the intricacies of the future generations Act. But it has to be desirable, I would say, for as many people as possible to be pressing their politicians in that direction. And I think what we can see from the public awareness of climate change and a range of other factors is that some of those things are starting to happen.

Thanks. Finally, a last question from me: whose responsibility is it to ensure that the third sector businesses and local communities are involved in the implementation of the Act?

Well, the duty for that to happen is on each of the 44 public bodies covered by the Act. So, they have duties around involvement. I'm not convinced that all of them are doing involvement particularly well. There are some challenges around them doing that, not least austerity has meant that the corporate centres of a number of those organisations who would have been the departments who would have been doing community outreach, consultation, engagement and so on have taken a hit in terms of austerity. Also, there are a range of complicating factors in respect of other pieces of legislation. So, lots of legislation that has come before the future generations Act has focused on consultation and specific mechanisms around consultation—the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, for example, requiring particular things to be advertised in newspapers and so on. And that really takes things in the wrong direction and doesn't focus on that principle of involvement of members of the public or, indeed, other sectors. So, I think that a lot more needs to be done in that.

Part of my role is to try and help to facilitate that involvement. A lot of the work that I do is convening different groups, bringing different people together. As an example of that, I established a future leaders academy—20 young leaders across Wales—and have facilitated those future leaders to provide advice to Jeremy Miles on the COVID reconstruction strategy. I've done a range of other things in those areas, but I am very clear that the duties sit with the 44 public bodies covered by the Act.

09:35

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. I've got some questions around resources, which has been a theme that we've asked all of our witnesses about, and we heard from public bodies that they need additional resources, both financial and staffing expertise, to implement the Act successfully. What's your view on that, commissioner?

I think that my answer will come in two parts here. So, I think, undoubtedly, the amount of resource that has been allocated for the cultural change that is needed to implement this Act is woeful. There has been nowhere near enough focus on how we embed that culture change, which is really significant, throughout organisations covered by the Act. Just to give you some comparators there, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, when that came into force, or just before it was coming into force in 2012-13, there was an allocation of £12 million just in that one year to ensure that staff had the necessary training on the different approaches that that was going to require, and, of course, that was really just targeted at health, social care and associated staff. What we're talking about here is changing mindsets amongst everyone throughout the 44 public bodies covered by the Act.

I think that that kind of lack of focus on supporting that cultural change also speaks to some of the concerns that I've raised previously around the implementation gap. So, we can produce legislation, we can produce new policy and guidance, but if we haven't done the hard yards to embed that in organisations and recognised that that takes money and time to do, I don't think we're ever going to, or it will be very difficult for us to reach our aspirations around doing that. Again, an example of this: I've been working closely with the Government around the Welsh transport appraisal guidance, which is the criteria used for transport schemes. That guidance is now aligned with the future generations Act, but there's been no support for how we train up the transport consultants, the highways officials in local authorities—how we do those things—and, consequently, what I'm seeing is that it's not being implemented properly.

So, definitely, more support for that cultural change. Probably some more support for the mechanics, for example, of public services boards. I don't think that they are necessarily supported enough. But where I would perhaps disagree with, I think, some of the points that have been made by some of the people who've given evidence to you is implementing the Act itself—so, doing the things that the Act requires require more money or specific pots of money, because this isn't just about creating a sideshow of the future generations Act with a particular pot of money where you can do future generations Act things. This is about embedding that kind of cultural change and using the money that you've got to do things completely differently. Now, that's really, really hard. How do you shift from spending in this way to then spending in that way, whilst still—particularly when we're talking about demand for services and so on—managing that demand. But, essentially, that is what the Act is about.

The final thing that I wanted to say about this is that it would help if, when funding is being allocated, that it's allocated in a way that supports public bodies, public services boards and so on, to make that shift. So, if we're allocating funding against a narrow set of targets, or if we're only allocating it for a year or so on, which is still the case in many areas, then that makes it even more difficult for organisations to be making that shift. So, it would help, I think, if the Government and others were allocating funding in the longer term, allocating it to a group of organisations—and, again, I'd advocate that being the public services boards—to use flexibly in terms of where it could be spent best to solve particular problems. But as for new money to do the future generations Act, I don't think that's it.

09:40

Thank you very much. That's really useful. In terms of support from your office, some public bodies have suggested to us that they'd welcome the establishment of regional or sector-based representatives from your office to provide support for those front-line service delivery and sector-specific expertise as well. What's your view on that suggestion?

I'd absolutely love to be able to do that. I think that, looking at some of the evidence that you've heard from different organisations, it seems that quite a number of them have said that where we are able to go in and provide that support, it does have an impact, and quite a number of them have said, 'What we would like is more time from the commissioner's office,' and I couldn't agree more. My challenge is my level of resources. I am the lowest funded commissioner with the biggest remit. Just to give you a kind of flavour in terms of my resources, I get £1.509 million; £71,000 less than the children's commissioner, £1.648 million less than the Welsh Language Commissioner. Again, to give you some comparisons, my budget, £1.509 million, the Welsh Books Council, £3.649 million, and the Welsh Local Government Association, £3.2 million, just dealing with local authorities, fire and rescue services, and national parks.

So, I have a huge challenge in terms of demand on my staff time and also meeting my statutory duties. The simple answer is that we do not have the capacity to provide that at the moment. I think it could be an invest-to-save scenario. I saw what Velindre health board said in terms of whether there could be an allocation of one member of staff per organisation, and I don't think that that would be unreasonable. That would cost in the region of an extra £2.5 million, but I think the impact that we could have in terms of building those relationships specifically with those organisations, going in and holding their hand, taking them through how they're developing their strategies, how those things are getting implemented on the ground through the lens of the future generations Act, would be money—

Can I just intervene there, Sophie, because that impressive reeling off of the list of figures has drawn in the Chair of the Finance Committee, who was straight in there to question you on that. So, do you want a supplementary, Llyr?

No, all I wanted to add—and I hear what you're saying about resourcing and you're not unique in that respect, obviously, in this current climate—is that all those organisations that you mentioned should be doing your work for you, basically, shouldn't they? They have a role in delivering this as much as you do. I mean, I'm not justifying who gets more than anybody else, but you're not solely delivering this. You're actually working with them in order to deliver, as opposed to just delivering it yourself.

Yes. I think that that's a fair point, but I think there is a challenge, particularly in these early years of implementation of the Act, of different levels of understanding, and we can see that through even the Government, who have a statutory duty to promote the sustainable development principle, and the extent to which they are doing that—things like their own legislation using the term 'a resilient Wales' in a different way. In fact, in the early parts of the implementation of this legislation, we were seeing the term 'resilient Wales' being used to mean resilience as in local resilience forums, emergency services and all of those sorts of things. I'm not claiming we are the only people in the world who are experts on these things, but we do have a level of expertise around the real kind of technical issues on the Act, which do need to be explained and communicated and so on to others. But I totally agree with you—these organisations should be doing our work for us. There is an issue, though, here, I think, in terms of remit letters and so on and whether the funding that those organisations are allocated is specifically requiring them to do that, and, at the moment, we're not in that position. It would seem to me, and I've said this multiple times, that that would be a relatively easy fix—not a full fix, but it would be a—[Inaudible.]

09:45

Yes, that's an interesting point. Okay, thank you, Chair.

Thanks, Llyr. Vikki, had you finished, or do you want to continue?

Two more questions. Two more questions, please, Chair. Actually, building on Llyr's question there, Commissioner, I was going to ask if you felt your office could work differently to maximise the effectiveness of the resources that you have, and could that be something around those other public bodies and remit letters. Might that be a way forward?

I think that that's—. I think that that's a very fair question. We have tried right from the outset to do things differently, and, in particular, to work in partnership with others. So, the sorts of partnerships that I've established have been a large number of joint appointments and secondments. I've sought to develop memorandums of understanding and funding allocations from academic institutions. I've sought to share my office space with others and to share particular infrastructure posts—for example, I share a HR resource with the children's commissioner; I do payroll with the ombudsman. The amount of money that I have brought in to my organisation to help to address some of the funding gap since we set up has totalled £980,000. So, just to put that into context, that's about 17 per cent of the grant in aid that I get from Government. I don't think that there are any other commissioner offices who are bringing in resources to that level, so I think that that demonstrates how we've tried to look at this innovatively.

We have also, as I said, MOUs with universities. So, Cardiff University allocate £50,000 a year of time, of academic time, to us to help us to—. Well, for example, they helped us to produce the 'Education Fit for the Future in Wales' report; they've been working with me on my current procurement review. So, we are looking at those kind of innovative ways. But I think, in terms of what others could do, it would help if Government specified that there are particular duties on any organisation that they fund to either embed the future generations Act in their actions, if they're delivering services or infrastructure and so on, and, if they're the sort of organisation like Academi Wales or the WLGA or the NHS Confederation, or any of those sorts of organisations, that their remit letters or any funding comes with the strings that they must work with my office to help to embed that cultural change.

Thank you. And my final question, which you've started to touch on already, really, is: given the resourcing issues that you've outlined, how do you prioritise the work that you undertake and the levels of support that you provide to different public bodies?

So, early on in my term I undertook a big involvement and engagement exercise across Wales with a range of different organisations—ability for individuals to input—but also with academics and others to identify, essentially, what are my own well-being objectives. So, I have posed to myself the same question or challenge that public bodies are given: what are the things that, if we got them right, if we did them well, would make the biggest contribution to meeting the seven well-being goals? From those areas, what we identified were six priorities—so, housing, planning and transport, and then better ways of keeping people well, jobs and skills for the future, and adverse childhood experiences. So, those are the kind of themes that we focus on. There are cross-cutting issues through them. Decarbonisation is a key theme for each one of those areas, and also we tend every year to have a focus on the Welsh Government's budget, as the Chair of the Finance Committee will know, because that is obviously one of the biggest drivers in terms of people do what the money allows them to do. So, those are the areas that we focus on.

We also respond to requests from public bodies. So, over the last two and a half years, we've had 663 requests for advice from public bodies; 43 per cent of those requests have been from Welsh Government, and they're anything from, 'Can you take part in a panel on digital innovation for a period of nine months?' to, 'Can you help us with the marine protection strategy?', 'Can you help us with the culture strategy?', 'Can you help us to revise the Treasury Green Book?' I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that all of those things are really significant opportunities, which absolutely are in line with the future generations Act, but we've had to decline a large number of those requests, which I would liked to have been involved in, because we do not have the resources to do that. So, we prioritise in those six areas, with those cross-cutting themes. 

09:50

Just to diverge here, your reports aren't insubstantial, are they? I know that a couple of the reports have come before the committee in the past, and you certainly do get a lot of information in. Anyway. Sorry, Vikki, back to you. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Bore da. Commissioner, you've mentioned the implementation gap, but thinking about the Welsh Government—and you've talked about some of the ways where maybe the Welsh Government's priorities in terms of resourcing or, well, implementing policies have fallen short of the expectations of the Act—can I ask firstly, please, are you seeing evidence of cultural change within the Welsh Government in terms of them leading by example? And secondly, you mentioned, I think in response to the Chair's first question, that there were some concerns that you had in terms of the transport strategy and a few other things. Could you give us some more information on some of those concerns that you have? Whichever way round you want to—if you want to talk about the concerns first and then cultural change, that's also fine. 

Okay, yes. So, I think that—. So, in the future generations report, we talk about the need for the Act to be considered both in what you do—so, you know, do you prioritise the climate emergency over building roads, for example? So, what you do, and then how you go about doing it. So, it's the double test of the Act. So, again, to perhaps explain that a bit more, you could decide that we're going to build more houses to meet objectives around health, around giving people quality places to live and so on. That's good. How you then go about doing that is just as important, because you can build houses with bricks and mortar that are not energy efficient and that are not connected to good public transport and so on, or you can build them in a way that has a positive impact on meeting the well-being goals.

So, I would say that we are definitely making progress in terms of the 'what is happening'. So, we're seeing increased funding for the climate and nature emergency. I mentioned the COVID reconstruction plans—nothing in there that I would disagree with; all very positive. I mentioned the innovative housing programme, the economic contract, the new transport strategy, the new curriculum and so on and so on. However, when you get down to how those things are taken forward, I think that's where we are potentially missing opportunities and where we run into challenges. For example, on the economic contract—good initiative by the Government; if we're giving money to business, it should be something for something, we should be asking business to help us meet our well-being goals—when you ask how that is being monitored and what data is coming out of that and what businesses have actually done as a result of that, I'm not really getting any answers. So, that's the 'how' things that are not necessarily stacking up.

In the early phases of the housing innovation programme—again, good initiative—when it was rolled out by civil servants, the criteria were, 'You have to demonstrate how, in applying for this funding and being in receipt of this funding, you will meet one of the national well-being goals.' Now, that makes no sense. Why would we not be asking people, as the legislation requires, 'If you're having this funding, we want you to maximise or to meet as many of the national well-being goals as possible'? We intervened in that issue, and that has now been resolved, and the criteria have changed.

On COVID reconstruction, for example, it's all very well and good having the town-centre regeneration strategy, and that's excellent. However, if we're putting all of our eggs into a basket of, 'Let's use that to retain the local anchor store', rather than thinking about how do we bring in cultural professionals—who we're also giving money to to sustain their income, quite rightly—but how do we start connecting those two things, things that will bring people back into town and city centres, are cultural attractions, making them nice places to be. So, why are we not making the connections between, 'We need to help to retain our cultural professionals', 'Let's get them working to help us in town and city centre regeneration'? So, I suppose those are just a few of the examples where the 'how' is perhaps falling short.

I think that there are still challenges in terms of advice that Ministers are receiving from officials, in terms of how that really embeds the future generations Act. So, again, the Chair of the Finance Committee will be aware that for the last number of years I've been challenging the Government on how they're assessing the carbon impact of their spend. So, on the one hand, we're saying we have a climate and nature emergency, we're increasing funding in that area; on the other hand, we're still spending the majority of our funding for infrastructure on carbon-intensive infrastructure. So, the system needs to get better at providing that advice, not just in an individual ministerial portfolio, but actually saying, 'Economy Minister, if you take this decision here, the carbon impact of that for the whole Government is x, y or z, and therefore you may want to revise your decision.' 

I think that there—. I'm conscious of time, but I know that it was quite a comprehensive question, and I hope you don't mind if I go through my list of things here.

09:55

I think, in terms of some of the other challenges that we're seeing in terms of that cultural change and leadership at a Welsh Government level, it's around the infrastructure and governance. So, if we're to make this Act a reality out there on the ground, we need to be considering things like how are we adding to complexity, or how are we adding competing priorities. The complex landscape is a huge, huge problem. So, we keep layering new boards and bodies, which makes it difficult for implementation on the ground. We haven't yet completely nailed our performance management approach, so we're still managing performance or analysing performance on the basis of short-term performance measures. So, those, I suppose, are the kinds of almost infrastructure, the bureaucratic infrastructure, that I still don't think the Government have really got a grip of, and that means that we are taking people away from implementing the Act, rather than towards it.

That was really helpful; thank you so much. As well as the challenge you've been talking about in terms of, not the temptation but the default of dealing with this in a siloed way, when actually that's completely perverse and not how this should be addressed at all, one of the—. I'm not sure it's a paradox, but one of the disconnects in implementing the Act is that it is on the one hand an Act that requires national leadership, national oversight, at the very least, and yet also needs to be implemented very successfully at a local level. The Wales Centre for Public Policy, in the evidence that we've received from them, they highlighted that some public bodies have argued that the fact that they are required to be assessed by your office in terms of how they're implementing the Act means that they don't have freedom to implement it as they see fit locally. And then, contrasting that with the fact that we've also had evidence that many public bodies would want to have more oversight from you, or more guidance, where do you think the right balance is with this? I'm sure that they are both perfectly valid points that are being made, but they seem to be contrasting with one another. Do you think that that is an inevitability of the Act, or—? What would be your response to that?

10:00

Those are really valid points to come up. I will give some examples of where we have also seen that challenge in national versus local in other areas.

As a starting point, I'm not sure that anyone envisaged that you would have seven national well-being goals, and then, flowing from that, around 350-odd well-being objectives set by the 44 public bodies. That becomes a huge challenge to my office—to monitor those. It also becomes a challenge to Government. They can't flow their funding or their policy direction in 350 different ways. So, the obvious way to do it is to start with the national well-being goals, and if you are operating within the boundaries of the national well-being goals, there should be flexibility then for local interpretation of those through well-being objectives. I think that that's the nut that we need to crack.

The Welsh Government should act as an enabler, really, to enable that to happen. They should stop reinventing the wheel and bringing in new sideshows that don't reflect the Act; so, things like—. There was guidance issued a little while ago on ethical supply chains. Now, there's nothing wrong with ethical supply chains. We all support ethical supply chains. The problem is, it's not set in the context of the Act. So, it seemed like something different and something separate. If they put everything that they do within the confines of those seven national well-being goals, it would be a lot easier for the public bodies out there to then interpret them in a way that fits their local circumstances.

I think that the other thing is in terms of recognising local objectives and so on in governance—so, this complex landscape that I keep talking about. Again, as an example, almost every public services board and local authority has objectives on skills for the future. The regional skills partnership, which sit on a regional level—so, they cover a number of different local authorities—their plans make no reference to the objectives of the local authorities or their constituent public services boards. So, again, that's where you see this governance arrangement promoting this kind of disconnect.

A really live issue for us at the moment is that I have been embarking on a procurement review. Again, what we are seeing from that is that the use of frameworks, for example—the national frameworks for procuring food or various other things—many public bodies are relying purely on those national frameworks as a means of discharging their duties under the Act. Now, if those national frameworks were aligned with the seven well-being goals, we would be in a better position. Many of them are not, however, which is a problem.

Even if they were aligned with the seven national well-being goals, they still would not be discharging their duties, because their duties are to take all reasonable steps to meet their own well-being objectives. A national framework cannot cater for 350-odd different well-being objectives. So, you can see there the complexity of the Act before you even start. When you then have a system of governance at national level that doesn’t recognise that and that acts against it in many ways, you can see how an already complex situation becomes almost impossibly complex.

Thank you for that. Yes, certainly—. I think Llyr wants to come in, Chair. After Llyr has come in, can I just ask—? Forgive me, I should have asked if anyone else on the panel wanted to add to anything that the commissioner has said. No. You are all happy. Llyr. 

I was waiting to be unmuted. I have been unmuted. Thank you. There we are. I always get from the commissioner's office that everybody could do more. My interpretation this morning is that you are very much more critical—overtly critical—of Welsh Government. I've been jotting down a few things you said. You talked about the slow start earlier and that there wasn't the political leadership there. You said that the support for cultural change is woeful. You talked a lot about the implementation gap. In your written evidence, you tell us that the

'Welsh Government continue to introduce new guidance, policy, legislation, and reviews that overlook the Act'—

they overlook, they ignore the Act, basically—

'and create new layers of complexity and governance.'

This is scathing, isn't it, really. I'm just wondering—what would you give Welsh Government out of 10 for their performance so far?

10:05

I'm not sure if I should be in the business of scoring, and I think it's a complex issue. I think that we have definitely seen an improvement in what is being done. The political decisions that have been taken over the course of probably the last two years or so have been a definite improvement. I can point to the decisions on the M4, I can point to the new transport strategy, I can point to the investment in sustainable travel, the innovative housing programme—I could go on and on. There are some really good decisions. Where I think the challenge exists, as I was explaining to Delyth, is how those things are then actually carried forward, and the lack of recognition of what it takes to ensure that those really good decisions, at a national level, actually land on the ground. There are a number of areas or suggestions that we put forward in the future generations report for trying to address some of those issues. First of all, a Minister for prevention who could co-ordinate preventative action and spending across Government. Secondly, we think that the—

Yes, I completely agree with you, and we were very clear that that should not negate the responsibility of all Ministers. But what needs to happen is we need to better understand—. So, COVID is a really good example of this in terms of the way that we've seen certain groups be harder hit both economically and in terms of their health. That's not new news to us. We have known for very many years about the wider social determinants of health and so on, and yet, we are not spending money—there's a compelling argument that we're not spending money on the best balance between prevention and meeting acute demand. Now, if there was a Minister for prevention, who was co-ordinating that response—and I would suggest that there should be a top-slice initially from departmental budgets to co-ordinate that response, and then challenging each Minister on, 'Okay, this is the sort of top-slice that I'm allocating, and how then are the actions of your department supporting this preventative approach?'—I think that that would be a useful thing to have in the short term. It's the ministry of possibilities that we've talked about, which is where you bring in teams of people who are going to be required to implement these things in local government, in other areas, as well as people who have innovated in particular fields, not just to come up with the ideas. Because we are full of ministerial advisory boards, of boards on this, that and the other, who can come up with ideas, but nobody is focusing on the implementation, and that is the big, big challenge for Government going forward. 

I'm glad you said that right at the end, because I was going to say that you're critical of new layers of complexity and governance, and then you're proposing additional ones, which doesn't sound sort of—. In creating a new Minister and—. One of the big criticisms or the big worries about the legislation when it was passed was that it was creating a huge bureaucratic monster, with 22 well-being assessments, 22 well-being plans, and we were told, 'No, there won't be 22; we will have reformed local government by then, it will only be seven or eight.' Well, that went well, didn't it? You mentioned the 350 well-being objectives. We're walking through treacle here, and that's not a criticism of where we want to get to, and what we all are aspiring to; it's just that the Government in implementing this are just getting it wrong. They're just adding more and more complexities, and more and more layers all the time, and it really isn't helping the cause. 

I can't disagree with you there. I think that we have created a complex set of arrangements, which could be simplified if there were fewer numbers of local authorities, fewer numbers of public services boards and so on. They could be simplified if there was clear guidance on the alignment between existing infrastructure—how do the regional skills partnerships, the area planning boards, the regional partnership boards, the community safety partnerships, all of those things, how do they fit. I would say that having regional public services boards sitting above all of those things, with clear lines of sight and delivery to well-being objectives, would be the way forward there.

When you produce legislation for something like this, you have to have some process within it, because you can't just legislate for thinking or changing the way that you think, which is, essentially, I suppose, what this Act is all about. But the process part of it has to be in there. I think that the process is no bad thing, as long as it's not so complex that it undermines what it is you're trying to achieve with the thinking, and, if it was just on its own, it would be difficult and complex, but probably manageable. When you start layering multiple other things in there, and when you start getting different bits of guidance and policy coming from Welsh Government, which doesn't link to the thing that they've created in statute over here and that takes us off in a different direction, that is where the whole thing starts to be undermined. And that, along with this implementation gap in recognising what's needed for cultural change, is the big challenge in the next phase of this legislation implementation for the Welsh Government. 

10:10

Diolch. There's just one question left, please. The auditor general has recommended that the Welsh Government should consider adding additional public bodies so that they fall under the Act. What would your view be on that? Do you think that there should be specific criteria that they should be following in determining that, please? 

Feel free to be brief on this, Sophie, because we've got a couple more questions. 

It makes sense to me for the whole of the public sector to be covered by the future generations Act. Do we want another set of however many plans, well-being assessments, various other things? Not necessarily. I think that the ideal scenario would be to merge a number of those things together. The Government, no doubt, will tell you there's no reason why public services boards and others couldn't merge together, for example, but that doesn't seem to be a direction of travel that is happening. So, I think it would make sense if they were all covered by the duties, but they all need to work better together to work out how their duties interact. 

Thank you very much. It's a truism that turkeys don't vote for Christmas, so how are we going to get all this alphabet soup of strategic partnership boards to be more manageable? It gives the impression that everybody spends all their time in meetings and very little time on delivering services. So, what's your take on PSBs, RPBs, area economic boards, corporate joint committees et cetera? And how are we going to make the whole thing a little bit more rational?

I think that the sensible approach would be to regionalise public services boards. There are always issues and arguments around footprints, but the health board footprint seems to be a reasonable starting point. The PSB should be the overarching body to which the other infrastructure reports to, but there should also, I suppose, be an assessment of whether that bit of infrastructure is needed. So, as an example, most PSBs have some sort of objective relating to giving every child the best start in life. In order to do that, they need the regional partnership boards and their health and social care interface to be working effectively in line with that objective, they need what people are doing in terms of drug and alcohol services operating in that way, they need the community safety partnerships, who are dealing with gang violence and youth crime and various other things, operating in the right way, and, likewise, in terms of skills. So, it seems really obvious to me that you would make that PSB, which is the broader set of partners, the ones who can deal with things holistically, that overarching body. We don't have that situation. The Government could make that happen, if they wanted to, and I think that they should. 

In terms of the new, emerging partnership, so the corporate joint committees are just adding another layer to that, and the advice that I've given in the future generations report is that there should be a real stringent look as to whether any new partnerships are needed. And if there's an absolutely compelling case as to why they're needed, they should not be able to be established without real clear guidance on how their work interacts with the work of public services boards and of other partnerships. And I'm not sure whether we're going to see that. My team are working with the Welsh Government on that, but have had to be pushing quite hard on that.

10:15

Okay. Because, obviously, some PSBs have had regional partnership boards brought in as sub-committees of the PSB, which seems quite a good way of doing things, because obviously you can't be dealing with everything in one meeting, but at least you've got an organisational understanding of where they sit. But, instead, in your paper, you talk about money actually being taken away from PSBs in order to be given to regional partnership boards. So, do you think there's an aversion to public services boards in Welsh Government or what?

I think that public services boards are often bypassed by the Government, and what we do see is that funding is definitely flowing to regional partnership boards in particular, because it's the health and social care interface. And what we're seeing—it's human nature, I suppose, particularly when you're a busy local authority chief executive or what have you, that you're going to go and give your attention to where the money is. And that seems to be what's happening in terms of regional partnerships versus public services boards. You're absolutely right: regional partnership boards, it would help if they were seen as almost like a sub-committee under the PSBs. But I also think that giving money to PSBs to be directed downwards would get you a more holistic approach. So, as I described that example of giving every child the best start in life, you've got most of the key partners within that PSB infrastructure who could work out where that funding needs to flow, and then allocate that down through to skills, health and social care, and so on and so on.

Although some of our earlier witnesses said that PSBs aren't actually legal entities, so they can't hold budgets. Do you think that's a valid criticism or something that could easily be overcome?

Well, I think it could be overcome, and you could have a situation—. It could be amended in law, for a start. But in the interim, there's no reason why local authority X couldn't hold an amount of money on behalf of the public services board. It's a bit of a clunky way of doing it, but it's the sort of thing that happens in other areas and for other means.

Okay. I suppose my biggest concern is that you've said that a lot of the money has been flowing in to regional partnership boards and health and social care, but your critique of the way that health has failed to implement the Act is excoriating and, therefore, does that mean that that's really been a massive block on even beginning to move money down the pipe into preventative services?

I do think that it's a block on moving to preventative services because, when you start with the priority being the health and social care interface, as important as that is, you've already almost shifted away from primary prevention, which, as we know, is about housing, it's about sense of community, it's about quality of life, air pollution and economic position and so on. So, on the one hand, yes, it's right that we improve the relationship between health and social care, and there is certainly secondary or tertiary prevention that can happen in that space. How do you stop someone who already has significant challenges in their family from needing more intensive support? How do you do earlier intervention? I think that that is a good space to be in, but it's still missing that primary prevention.

And if we look at the World Health Organization evidence in terms of the things that make a difference to addressing the life-expectancy gap, about 35 per cent is income protection and social security; 29 per cent living conditions; and 19 per cent community—whether you have a sense of agency in your community and whether you have relationships. Those are the things that are facilitated by how we plan and design and build our communities, and whether we're addressing air pollution. Do people have access to nature and public open space on their doorstep? Are they in decent work? Are skills partnerships just—I mean, I'm not saying that they are—but are they focused on creating those decent jobs rather than just any jobs? Those are the things that make a bigger difference to addressing the life-expectancy gap than anything that can happen in the health and social care interface.

10:20

Okay. I'd love to go on, but I think I'd better hand over, back to the Chair.

Thanks very much. I'm catching up on this particular inquiry, Commissioner. Sorry, you'll have to forgive me for picking up what may seem to be loose ends that may well have been covered by other individuals.

But, obviously, one of the important things in the Welsh public sector is that different parts of the public sector must be able to learn from the good examples that have been set by others and to share good practice. Now, you've cited some examples of bad practice, really, I suppose, and good practice, in the many papers that you publish on behalf of your office. Can you tell me what role you think you play in making sure that people are picking up on the good practice that's actually out there, so that it can be replicated in all parts of Wales rather than just particular places?

Well, it's been a large focus of the work of my office, certainly over the last few years. Something that we did a few years ago was to produce something called—well, it was called the 'Art of the Possible' programme, which is essentially how we want people to think about the future generations Act: what's the art of the possible, what more can we do to help to get towards our national well-being goals? So, we produced journeys to each one of the well-being goals, and they showed public bodies simple changes that they could take with really practical examples of what those simple changes could be: this is what it would look like if you were being a bit more adventurous; and this is what it would look like if you were owning your ambition. It's important to say that wasn't—. I've heard some of the challenges from public bodies of, 'She produces all of this stuff, and how are we supposed to deal with it all?' This was not a set of things that everyone should do; this was a menu, if you like, of suggestions or options that, if you want to meet this particular well-being objective or goal, these are the sorts of things you could consider, and here are links and examples of where it's been done before.

The future generations report also is a compendium of all of those good examples from Wales, the rest of the UK, and, indeed, internationally. One of the things that we're doing at the moment is pulling all of those case studies out into what we call bite-sized and targeted resources. So, sharing infographics and so on of the case studies. We're taking each one of the chapters of the future generations report and condensing them into about three or four pages, directed at—if it's the planning chapter and you're a planner in a local authority, these are the particular things that you need to know. We send out a regular newsletter every month, showing best practice case studies. And in the next year, my work will be directed more away from Welsh Government, because that's where my focus has been in these first few years, towards more intensive hand-holding of public bodies. I probably shouldn't say that to Welsh Government, because they might rest on their laurels, however.

Thanks for that. Can you tell me: how do you collaborate with the other opportunities to share good practice? So, for example, the Wales Audit Office has its good practice exchange, which has been around for a good number of years now; people are familiar with it. I mean, are you engaged with working alongside things like the good practice exchange? How are you taking the opportunity so that you don't have to use your meagre resources in order to try and replicate something that may already exist?

Very much so. So, in the last year, GPX—the good practice exchange—and my office planned our events jointly. So, we have a really good relationship with them. We participate and present at many of their events, and their whole programme of events was structured around our priority areas. So, from things like addressing adverse childhood experiences to working with them to share our scrutiny framework for members of local authorities' scrutiny committees and boards to get to know how to use that. We also use a range of other organisations. So, working with the WLGA, working with the Welsh NHS Confederation, working with the Chartered Institute of Housing and Community Housing Cymru to convey our messages out to those other sectors, and Constructing Excellence in Wales for the construction sector and so on. So, we are using—. And, sorry, the other one I should mention is Academi Wales, which, of course, is funded by Welsh Government as the Welsh public sector leadership development agency. So, we work very closely with all of those organisations.

10:25

Okay, thanks for that. Can I turn to something else that you referred to in your submission to the committee? And that is this issue of well-being budgets. I think you're suggesting that the Welsh Government should adopt a model of well-being budgets in the future. What does that actually mean in practice? How is that different to the current budgeting arrangements?

So, you could argue that, in essence, well-being budgeting is already a requirement of the future generations Act—I suppose it's just trying to put a sort of label on that. Essentially, what it means is that all of the Welsh Government's spending decisions should be tested as to whether they are helping to meet their own well-being objectives. So, the statutory duties are for organisations, so the Welsh Government, to set objectives that maximise their contribution to the seven goals, and then to take all reasonable steps to meet those well-being objectives. What I'm saying is that a reasonable step—it's fairly obvious that a reasonable step would be, 'How do you spend your money?' And so the way in which they spend their money should be tested against, 'Is that going to help or hinder me meeting these well-being objectives?'

I suppose that the phrase 'well-being budgeting' was coined in New Zealand. They are, I suppose, the poster child for well-being budgeting. Actually, what they're doing, even though it's very good, is not as ambitious as I am suggesting. They have taken new money and they've set, essentially, their own well-being goals or well-being targets, and they have a process by which their spending decisions are tested against how they contribute to those well-being areas or well-being priorities. Now, what I'm saying is that this shouldn't just be about new money, although new money would be a reasonable starting point. This should be, over time, fundamentally shifting all spending decisions so that the test is how they contribute to our well-being objectives.

So, it's some sort of impact assessment, essentially, of each budget line, to make sure that it's nudging things towards the well-being goals, rather than away from them. A little bit like a sort of—we've got the child rights impact assessments, haven't we, but you're suggesting that we have these for budget decisions?

Yes, although I would take issue—well, I do take issue—with the term 'impact assessment', because that suggests that you've decided you're going to do something, and then you're looking to see what the impact of that decision is. I'm saying that we need to turn that on its head and we need to decide to do the things that are going to make the biggest contribution to the well-being goals. You then may need to do an impact assessment and say, 'Okay, I've decided we're going to do this in line with the well-being goals, or the well-being objectives, and I need to check that there's no adverse consequences on other areas.' That would be part of the application of the five ways of working in the Act, so you look at long-term prevention, integration, collaboration and involvement. So, I think the tests are already there in the Act.

So, the tests are policy tests, effectively, which are then followed by your budget test, if you like, as well—your check afterwards. I can see that Marie, I think, wants to come in.

Yes, just to add that in the statutory guidance from the Welsh Government, financial planning is one of the seven core areas that should take priority for the implementation of the legislation. So, it is designed that the financial planning is actually following this Act as a matter of priority.

10:30

Are you satisfied that that's happening at the moment, Sophie or Marie?

I think that the Welsh Government are making some progress. They published a budget improvement plan. I think, this year, in terms of what has actually been spent on the budget, considering the position that we're in with the pandemic, the way in which they've spent still on the climate emergency, housing retrofit and various other areas is in line, in many ways, with their well-being objectives. However, their budget improvement plan, I think, needs to step up the pace and needs to be more purposeful.

So, for example, they talk about considering the potential to reorganise the budget structure to support demonstration of cross-Government working. Now, I would say if you're going to start with the perspective of your well-being objectives, almost, departmental and ministerial budgets, portfolios or spend are possibly not the place to start; you need to start at—. If we're going to focus on meeting these well-being objectives, where does the money need to flow? Then we've got 'aim to embed an approach where spending proposals are assessed by long-term benefits' and 'explore a whole-budget response to how prevention could be supported.' So, 'consider,' 'aim' and 'explore'—I would like those to be 'do.'

[Inaudible.]—to ask, it sounds ideal, but how do you make ministerial responsibility for performance stick in that much broader way of thinking about things? Who would be made responsible when something goes badly wrong?

The way that I would see this working is that you would have an overarching set of agreements through, I suppose, a Cabinet committee led by the First Minister on, 'These are our well-being objectives, therefore this is where the money needs to flow.' How that would then flow down through to individual ministries or ministerial portfolios is that that Minister is responsible for delivering the programme or the spending and responsible for performance managing it. 

We've actually finished with four minutes to spare, which is highly unusual. Do any Members have any other final questions that they'd like to ask? Jenny.

I just wanted to come back to PSBs, because, obviously, your critique of the way health and social care have come together with each other a bit more, but not so much with the much wider well-being agenda—. I just wondered why you think PSBs haven't had a little bit more clout to get health, which is obviously where most of our budget is spent, to get to grips with their obligations.

This inquiry is obviously focused on the barriers to implementation, and I think that it is important to say that there are a number of good examples of where PSBs are working with health on that kind of broader preventative agenda. So, you'll probably be aware, Jenny, of the really good example around active travel and public health in Cardiff. The Gwent public services boards have got a really brilliant approach around something called 'Ffrind i Mi', which is health boards and all other partners working on tackling loneliness and isolation. The whole of the Valleys area's public services boards are working very closely with health around the Valleys regional park, so identifying the benefits to health and so on through regional parks. PSBs are also working with health on community co-ordinators or social prescribing approaches, and so on. So, I'm not saying that nothing is happening and that health aren't coming to the table, because there are some really new, good approaches starting.

However, we still can't get over the fact that 50 per cent of the Welsh Government budget is allocated to health. That seems to be following through into the way in which funding gets allocated to regional partnership boards, rather than to public services boards on those wider determinants. So, I think that is the challenge. I would start from the perspective of, 'Give the money to the public services boards with the requirement for them to deliver against their well-being objectives, and then that money flows through.' Now you would still expect, obviously, for the health and social care interface to be a significant recipient of that money, but what you might start seeing is actually a recognition, over here in transport or planning or housing, actually, if we allocated some of that money, or more of that money, in that way, that that, we could see, would have a significant impact on the ability of the health and social care interface to reduce demand and meet their own well-being objectives.

10:35

Thank you, Chair, and I don't need to take up lots of time as we've finished on time already. But I just wanted to make the point, I think, about the more existential role of the Act, and the committee's heard evidence linked to Jenny's question about how public services boards are being seen by various public bodies who sit upon them, and I think something that Clare Pillman said to the committee last week was really interesting in the way that they see public services boards being absolutely integral to what they do as an organisation. That's the sort of thing that we need to see happening in order for them to work most effectively. What is not helpful is when Government is not acting as an enabler for this. As an example, there's a consultation out at the moment proposing giving regional partnership boards more power around improving social care arrangements. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but what is not acceptable at all is that that consultation makes a cursory nod towards the Act, towards public services boards, towards the creation of corporate joint committees. It does not practically explain how that will help Welsh Government to meet its well-being objectives or enable us to best meet the well-being goals. So, I think that what the commissioner's been trying to say throughout this evidence session is that the Act is fantastic in theory; Government putting barriers in place for its implementation is not great when cultural change already takes a long time and there's already a complex thing to achieve. 

Okay, and on that very positive note, as we are out of time, it's a bit late to start getting into existentialism at the very end of the evidence session, but that's really encapsulated some of the answers that came up today in this inquiry. Can I thank the commissioner, Sophie Howe, and the other witnesses—the support staff—for being with us today? That's been really helpful. We know that everyone's got a lot on their plate with the pandemic, so thanks for being with us. We will collate today's transcript and send it to you.

Thank you. Diolch.

Diolch yn fawr. Okay, I propose we take a 10-minute break.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:37 a 10:49.

The meeting adjourned between 10:37 and 10:49.

10:45
4. Rhwystrau rhag gweithredu Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015 yn llwyddiannus: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 10
4. Barriers to the successful implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015: Evidence session 10

Hello, and welcome to our witnesses. Welcome to the second session of today's Public Accounts Committee meeting, concluding our inquiry into the barriers to the implementation of the well-being of future generations legislation. Thanks for attending committee today. Would you like to give your name and position for the Record of Proceedings, starting with you, Shan?

Shan Morgan, permanent secretary for the Welsh Government.

Reg Kilpatrick, currently director general of COVID crisis co-ordination, but also director of the local government department. 

David Richards, director of governance and ethics. 

Simon Brindle, director of COVID recovery and restart.

Andrew Charles, head of futures in the sustainable futures division.

Great. Thank you for being with us this afternoon. We've got a number of questions for you, so feel free to be succinct in your answers, and also, with questions, feel free to be succinct as well. So, I'll kick off with the first couple of questions. How is the well-being of future generations Act shaping the Welsh Government's approach to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic? Shan.

10:50

Thank you, Chair. I think that's a very good question. We were saying slightly earlier, before this started formally, that one benefit from this tragic period of the crisis has been the strengthening and embedding of the well-being of future generations approach to policy making and implementation. I think it's fair to say that the close partnerships developed over years in Wales have provided a very strong platform, and I think in particular the strength of the partnership between national and local government has been crucially important for making progress. But I've been struck by a number of things. I think, in the hearing on the accounts last year, I highlighted two initiatives where I thought the five ways of working had really helped us to make progress, and they were the track, trace and protect programme and also the shielding initiative, where both of those were co-created very successfully with stakeholders and customers, and brought home very vividly the benefits of working in that way. We've also used the Act to guide and inform our approach to reconstruction, including through the national conversation on 'Our Future Wales', and there was very strong support from respondents to that consultation for putting the Act at the heart of reconstruction. Simon Brindle could say more later on how that approach has been taken forward, if you like.

But there've been other things as well. As you might have realised from the way that people introduced themselves, I created a new directorate on restart and recovery and put into that the team responsible for the well-being of future generations policy. That seemed to me exactly the right place, so it's an engine within that overall team. In parallel, and as part of our approach to the five ways of working, we've developed a very strong social partnership model over recent years. I think that has helped a great deal as well. It's enabled us to design and establish the national health and safety forum, working in partnership with a range of actors, and that's generated a lot of good discussions and a genuine spirit of collaboration and co-creation. That led to some recent, important changes to regulations to strengthen the approach to workplace risk assessments.

Now, I'm aware that the First Minister has agreed with Sophie, the future generations commissioner, that social partners should focus together on the long-term impacts of COVID, including impacts on the economy and on young people. So, I would say that the virus has accelerated a natural development of our approach to the five ways of working, and it's really helping to embed the Act in the way that we do things in the Welsh Government. But if you would like more on the recovery work, then Simon would be able to say a few more words.

That's fine for now. If I could just go on to my second question to you, the Wales Centre for Public Policy has suggested that public bodies find the language within the Act confusing, vague and aspirational rather than giving clear guidance on how to implement things on the ground. How does the Welsh Government respond to that? Do you agree with that? Do you think that there's scope for things to be simplified?

I think that we have to listen to those concerns and respond to them. There's a conversation going on with stakeholders and the commissioner to improve the general understanding of the Act—what it means. I think the reports from both the commissioner and the Auditor General for Wales show that there are still quite different approaches across the public sector in Wales, and what we need to do is draw out best practice from that and share it. One of the ways that we've tried to approach this issue is by working very closely with the commissioner and also the third sector to agree on a definition of 'prevention' to help understand the application of that way of working, because it is complex. So, we have done that successfully, and I think that that's a good example of how we are approaching that issue. But I have to say, Chair, that, in preparation for this hearing, I obviously went back and reread the legislation, and I think in many ways it is very clear cut in the obligations and commitments that it makes. But our role is to listen to stakeholders, to listen to their concerns and to make sure that we are working widely with stakeholders to address them. 

10:55

And you can get that balance right between ensuring that these organisations have their own local autonomy but that Welsh Government is still giving that framework, that steer?

Well, I would say it's not the Welsh Government; I would say it's the Act itself that is giving the framework and the steer. You're quite right—there is always a tension, isn't there, between a national strategy and local autonomy. But from what we see with the operation of the PSBs, they are very much local partnerships, identifying the needs for their local areas, and they, in my view, are in the very best position to do that. 

Okay. I'm aware we've got quite a few questions to get through, so I propose to bring in Gareth Bennett now, and then we'll widen out the discussion with the other witnesses. Gareth Bennett. 

Thanks, Chair. Thinking about the civil service in Wales, how well have you ensured that existing staff and new staff have a thorough understanding of the Act?

I think the Act is something that I and the senior team talk about regularly in all contacts with staff across the civil service. And just to say, the First Minister, when he arrived, addressed all staff and put a very strong emphasis on the importance of the well-being of future generations Act as providing an overall framework for everything that we do. So, I think this commitment comes from the top, and we have reinforced it throughout the whole organisation. I think you'll find that, in the supporting paper that I provided to the PAC, I outlined a lot of the things that I've been doing over the last four years that I've been in this job to embed the Act and to raise awareness and understanding of the actual staff. It's been encouraging that our recent people survey—a survey of all our staff across a very wide range of subjects—shows that there is high awareness and pretty high levels of adoption of the five ways of working and understanding of what they involve. There's obviously some variation across the organisation, and we'll be looking to follow that up now and make sure that everybody has the same understanding and awareness of what the Act means for them, not just the nature of the Act but what it means for how we work in the Welsh Government. Of course, our training covers that, too, and all induction training for new entrants into the civil service of the Welsh Government includes a strong focus on the Act and what it means for the civil service. 

Thanks for that. Clearly, some work has been done—well, a lot of work has been done so that civil servants are well versed in it. Now, thinking about the Welsh Government as a whole, one of the problems with a kind of overarching Act like this is what we often call 'silo thinking', and we have heard evidence during this inquiry—the phrase has often been used—that the Welsh Government's response to the Act has been too much of a siloed approach and there has been considerable variation across the departments in terms of how they react to the Act. Do you accept that criticism and, if so, how will you address the danger of silo thinking, going forward?

I think this, perhaps, comes back to what we were describing before—the fact that this is an overarching framework, it's not a straitjacket, and nor should it be. There needs to be individual decision making involved. I don't want to take a check-list approach to how we respond to the Act in all of our documents, but what we're talking about here is a culture change, and that takes some time to embed. The Act came into force five years ago. I think there's been huge progress over that period. I personally see enormous commitment and pride across the whole of the organisation in an Act that is uniquely Welsh, and that, I think, is very powerful. We've got all the systems and guidance for staff in place. Now what we have to do is embed that climate, that culture change throughout the whole organisation and really make sure that best practice becomes standard practice across the whole organisation. One of the ways that we're doing that is by developing what we call a policy capability framework. That supports the development of the policy profession within the civil service, and it is building in the five ways of working. Simon Brindle, who's with us today, the director for restart and recovery, and whose directorate includes the team providing momentum on the well-being of future generations Act, leads on the development of the policy capability framework and I'm sure would be happy to add any points that you would like.

11:00

Simon, if you'd like to come in, and then Llyr Gruffydd, I think, had a supplementary.

Thank you. I think the response to coronavirus has accelerated some of this, and the creation of my directorate, which is bringing together planning and policy work, has helped strengthen that one Government response to the crisis. We are able to bring different groups and teams together to balance the—[Inaudible.]—21-day review, to the restructuring recovery work, has to balance those immediate health, longer term health issues and socioeconomic issues in the round. So, that has really accelerated the embedding of the Act in the way in which we're responding, so that we can actually deal with the crisis.

Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to pick up on what the Permanent Secretary said about culture change. Absolutely, we want to see that culture change happening, but it isn't happening, of course, at a pace and on a scale that we would like to see it happening. And just referring to what the future generations commissioner told us about half an hour ago, she said that support for culture change from Welsh Government is 'woeful'. How do you respond to that?

I heard the commissioner's evidence, obviously, and I've read her reports, and I know that's something that she feels. I think it depends on how you see the responsibility for culture change. What I was talking about just now was culture change within the civil service of the Welsh Government, which is very much my personal responsibility and an important part of my role. I would, really, like to turn it around and think about where we've seen that culture change, what has generated it and how we can spread that more widely. Simon just now talked about the pandemic, the experience of the pandemic, accelerating that culture change, accelerating the ways of working better together, across silos, joined-up working. And I think that's absolutely right—we need to learn from that. We are taking stock and looking at that for the future. So, I hope very much that what we can do is focus on what has worked in practice, identify what it looks like, why certain things worked, and then make sure we're creating conditions more widely for those to happen, and, as I said, make best practice into standard practice. And a big part of that will, of course, be the PSBs and, indeed, the commissioner herself.

And I wouldn't disagree with anything that you've said, but of course, in her written evidence as well, the commissioner tells us that the Government continues to introduce new guidance, policy, legislation and reviews that overlook the Act. So, it isn't just looking at what has been working or hasn't been working; it's still not institutionally embedded in the way that the Government operates. And again, just referring to the oral evidence we had in the previous session, there was talk of new policies being introduced that were just giving a cursory nod to the Act. So, you're not practising what you're preaching.

Well, that's a disappointing comment, I have to say, because it is something that we believe should drive the whole of the Welsh Government. We have built in systems and guidance structures to make it natural to apply the five ways of working and to consider the contribution that any given policy will make to the well-being goals. In each of our templates that we have for making submissions and giving advice to Ministers, there's a section in there about how this will help embed and implement the well-being of future generations Act. So, it is brought to the attention of policy advisers at crucial stages throughout the policy development process. Now, that's something that we can always look at again, and I'm sure that we'll be keen to learn from the messages coming out of this report. I can certainly commit to going back and looking again at that kind of systemic approach that we are taking to remind and provide a prompt to all policy makers that they must take into account how initiatives will lead to delivering the goals of the Act.

11:05

Okay and if they choose not to accept that advice, then clearly that's another discussion that we need to have with them. Thank you.

Chair, may I add something to the Permanent Secretary's comments?

It's more about our response to COVID, and I suppose you wouldn't actually see the principles of the Act being exposed in a very clear way, but, actually, they have driven the way that Ministers, certainly, and my colleague officials within Government have behaved over the last year. So, for example, Simon mentioned the 21-day review. As we've seen elsewhere in the UK, this has been a very centrally driven process, which has effectively handed down regulations and handed down guidance, which, as a consequence, have had less impact, I would argue, than they could have done.

In Wales, our commitment to the five ways of working, and actually the fact that they're embedded in the way that we've approached the task, means that, as officials, we've had a very broad set of engagements involving and innovating across the Welsh Government. We've advised Ministers constantly, and Ministers, actually, themselves have I think embodied the principles of the Act in engaging widely with people—those groups, those local authorities, health boards and representative groups—in a way that would help them to understand, contribute to and shape what was very, very important and, in some cases, quite necessarily restrictive law. As a consequence of that engagement and the way that we, as officials, and certainly Ministers have behaved, I would argue—and I think the current figures show that we've had quite a lot of success—that the regulations and the guidance have been accepted and adhered to in a much, much more positive way than they have, for example, in England, where we have seen quite a lot of, if you like, the national versus local, rather than, as the Permanent Secretary said, the national working with the local.

So, I think, while I couldn't say that the five ways of working were badged in any of that piece of work, they were principles that drove our approach, they drove our engagement and they drove, I think, a much better set of outcomes for the Welsh population as a result.

And, Chair, if I could add to that, I mentioned in response to your initial question, the track, trace and protect programme and the shielding initiative, and both of them were developed in exactly the way that Reg is describing, which, for me, is a really vivid example of the benefits that the five ways of working and the Act as a whole can bring to how we deliver for Wales.

Yes, I just wanted to come in on the reflection that Reg Kilpatrick gave regarding the development and the implementation of the coronavirus regulations. I have to say that a lot of people in many parts of the country have felt that these things have been imposed on them, frankly. I appreciate that there may well have been engagement with local authorities, for example, in north Wales, but many of the local restrictions certainly did feel imposed upon people, and there were many people who were concerned about them. If I can cite some examples from very early on in the pandemic as well, supermarkets with their shielding lists and the accessibility of the information regarding who was shielding and who wasn't so that they could prioritise the delivery of goods I think was—. You know, there were signs that that was very difficult. So, I'm not quite sure that that was a very good example of how people have been consulted and engaged. And, of course, many people who are Assembly Members received many concerns from different parts of the business sector regarding the development of coronavirus regulations that they were expected to impose. So, whilst I can see that there absolutely has been some good, positive engagement, particularly in terms of the public sector, I don't think that's always been the case when it comes to the private sector, and I certainly don't feel as though all parts of Wales have felt listened to throughout the process in terms of the implementation of the coronavirus regulations. I just wanted to put that on record, if I may.

11:10

Can I respond to that by—

Thank you, Chair. Can I respond to that by saying that I, obviously, as Permanent Secretary, attend all meetings of the Cabinet and regular ministerial discussions? And it has been clear to me throughout that Welsh Ministers have had to take some very difficult decisions about restrictions. Of course, almost by definition, people are going to find them difficult, although it's clear that they have a great deal of confidence that Ministers are following the scientific advice. But I also see Ministers—in addition to following very, very closely the scientific advice that they are being given, I see them consulting very extensively before they reach final decisions, consulting, including with local government and stakeholders, including business. So, that is what I have seen throughout this process. So, I would endorse very much what Reg said, whilst understanding that there will be many for whom these are very, very difficult decisions at an incredibly difficult time. If Reg wants to add anything to that, perhaps, Chair—he was very closely involved in the regulations.

Thank you, Chair. I understand the comments that Mr Millar makes. These were extraordinary regulations, and they continue to be extraordinary regulations in extraordinary times. Not everybody will always be happy with them, but we have made, certainly as officials engaging with the private sector and the public sector, every possible effort that we possibly can—and that is in our DNA these days, as a result of the Act—to make sure that we discuss, as far as we possibly can, before advising Ministers to take what are inevitably very difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions.

One question left. It's to do with public awareness. I don't know if you want me to do it or not. We could skip it. It's up to you.

Yes, ask it quickly, and if we can have a succinct answer.

Thanks. Do you think that public awareness of the Act is central to its effective implementation? And how has the Welsh Government engaged with the general public of Wales about this Act?

I think public understanding and awareness is important. I'd agree with what the commissioner said in her hearing just now that it isn't absolutely fundamental that the general public has a detailed understanding of the Act. The important thing, she said, is for public services to be doing the right thing. And I would agree with that. We have, in the Welsh Government, put a lot of effort into public awareness. We are accountable, after all, and therefore, in the early phases of implementation, resources were provided, including lots of animations, the famous booklet, and all the other things that we put out to generate public awareness and understanding of something so fundamentally important to how we are developing policy for the future. So, I think the really important thing is that people understand how we are doing things. The national conversation that was led by the Counsel General that I referred to, on 'Our Future Wales'—that was a good example of how Government has involved a wide range of people on the reconstruction work, and we'll continue to do that.

I think general knowledge and understanding of the Act will increase as people see tangible outcomes and a difference of approach. We've just spent some time discussing how that happened, how that continues to happen, during this pandemic period. I imagine people will recognise the difference that Reg highlighted between the approach that was taken in England to developing their system for tracing and protecting people and the one here, which was genuinely co-created with local stakeholders and customers; the same with the shielding initiative. Both of those took a little bit longer to develop as a result, but, once co-created, they had buy-in from all of those stakeholders and customers involved, and I think that was really impressive. So, I do think public understanding and awareness is important, which is why we've put a lot of effort into providing resources, including on our website, about the Act and how it affects everything that we do in Wales. But the really important thing—I'd agree with Sophie—is for public services to be doing the right thing as a result of the Act.

11:15

Thank you, Chair. Permanent Secretary, it's obviously very important, as you mentioned earlier, that civil servants give the right advice to Ministers, and, clearly, when you've got an Act that is very broad, like this particular Act, there will be times, no doubt, when civil servants have to give very firm advice as to whether something is compliant with the spirit of the Act and meets the requirements of the legislation or not. Can you tell us a little bit more about how civil servants navigate that line, which is sometimes difficult, I know, with Ministers who perhaps are going to step beyond the bounds of the Act as it's written?

I think, in the Welsh Government, we are extremely fortunate that the First Minister and his Ministers are very strongly committed to the Act. They show real leadership. They are demanding of us in respect of the future generations context in developing policy. As Permanent Secretary, I obviously aim to promote leadership within the civil service and with our partner public bodies, and I'm really encouraged that we're all talking a lot more about future generations rather than less. As I said before, the future generations team, which acts, really, as our engine, sits within my own part of the civil service; I moved it there in order to be able to report directly to me, because I think it is so fundamentally important.

But I think, as I said, we have systems and processes in place to make sure that the well-being of future generations provides that strategic framework for everything that we do as the Welsh Government. And, as I said, we're pushing at an open door. We have a First Minister and Ministers who genuinely believe in the importance of the Act, and I think, as I said, within the Welsh Government, I do see huge pride in something that is uniquely Welsh, and a commitment to take that forward.

So, can you describe, then, how you would actually go about challenging a Minister if they were proposing any sort of policy or legislation that you felt was going to be contrary to the Act, going to undermine the Act, going to row back from the principles that it sets out? You said you have systems and processes in place—describe them to me.

I mentioned one already in the template for all of the advice that we provide to Ministers. Another one is that—I introduced, when I first arrived, something I call challenge sessions, where, on big policy areas, I got together in the same room all of the senior officials dealing with that subject and threshed through what they were doing, what was going to be the result, what the benefits were, how they were working together across the whole of Government to achieve the right result—so, genuine challenge sessions that would last normally about two hours and look at all aspects of how a policy was going to be delivering those objectives. And I will embarrass Reg now by revealing that I was once told by a Minister that Reg had said he had to postpone a meeting with that Minister because he was preparing for a challenge session, which I hope shows that they were taken very seriously. 

11:20

I'm very pleased to hear that they are taken very seriously by everybody. Okay. So, you have challenge sessions amongst yourselves; in terms of how you challenge Ministers, though, you haven't quite described that. Can I just pin you down on how do you actually challenge the Ministers, if you feel they're going beyond the bounds that they should go, given the legislation?

That is a natural part of the policy development process. So, as any policy is being developed, there will be regular conversations between senior officials and Ministers to discuss how the policy should be developed. That is the process. And I, obviously, have regular meetings with the First Minister, where I engage with him on things that I think are key issues to raise with him. So, there is a process throughout the whole policy development phase, culminating in the template for the formal advice that goes to Ministers, which requires policy makers to set out very clearly how what is proposed, and what is being discussed, therefore, with Ministers, will fulfil the requirements of the Act. 

Okay. So, in terms of you and your civil service colleagues here today, have there been any times since this Act became law back in 2015 where you've had to challenge a Minister regarding an inconsistency between the policy or approach that the Minister wanted to take and this particular legislation? And, if so, how did the Minister respond?

I can't think of an example where that would happen. And, for me, that shows that the system works, because the policy development process should not result in a situation where there is, if you like, a clash between civil servants and Ministers at all. It should be a process of developing policy and airing concerns early enough in the process to be able to address them.

So, you can't point to any examples of where you've had to challenge Ministers about inconsistency on areas of policy or implementation of their decisions?

I cannot—I can't point to any of those. I mean, to be honest, it's more the opposite that I can point to, where I can see that the way that policy has been developed has been very much accelerating the development of the five ways of working and delivering the Act.

So, it kind of gives the impression that either the Act hasn't been necessary, or that it's not really packing much of a punch in terms of you being able to hold Ministers to want to make sure that they're implementing Act. You're saying they're always so on-side with wanting to implement this legislation that they never ever get to a position where you think, 'Oh, perhaps they're making a decision that is contrary to the spirit of this thing here.'

That's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm saying two things. I'm saying, first, they are instinctively committed to the Act—both the First Minister and his Cabinet are very clear about the requirements of the Act, and fully committed to making them a reality. So, that is one thing, that that fundamental commitment is there. And then, secondly, as you will have heard Reg say earlier, how we have developed some really difficult policies have benefited from and been driven by the five ways of working. So, I would not say that the Act hasn't shaped things; quite the opposite. I really do think that the Act has shaped successfully part of how we have responded to this awful crisis, but on the basis of Ministers who are genuinely both committed and knowledgeable.

11:25

You've referred in your written submission to the 2020 review of strategic partnerships. I think everybody recognised that the outcome of that paper was acknowledging that there were far too many partnerships in Wales, yet since the publication of that paper, of course, we've had the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021, which has created yet another partnership body, the corporate joint committees. Given that that seems to have been contrary to the way that things should have perhaps developed once you'd recognised that there were too many partnerships, and given the fact that we have a well-being of future generations Act that tries to minimise, if you like, the need for so many partnerships, how did you advise Ministers on the possible impact of the proposal to create yet another body from the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act?

Let me give you a general response, and then I'll ask Reg to come in and give you more of the detail, because he was very closely involved in that development. Now, I think there are fundamental differences between corporate joint committees and the other bodies that we have. They are intended to be a vehicle for regional collaboration between local authorities, and the intention is to build on existing, successful regional arrangements and provide the basis for those to evolve. In fact, the development of the CJCs responds very directly to a call from local government, through the local government working group, for more consistent mechanisms and structures that can support that kind of regional working and collaboration. But if I may, Chair, I'll turn to Reg to give more practical detail about how those were developed.

Thank you. The conclusion about there being many partnerships in Wales was certainly an outcome of the review, but that wasn't everything that it said. There are a number of other really key points that I think we have to bear in mind in this discussion. The first thing that I think was quite surprising, actually, was that there was no consistent call from that review to Welsh Government that we should rationalise or abolish all of the partnerships. That was a bit of a surprise to me, but, nonetheless, that was the evidence that we got.

There was a really clear recognition from local government particularly, but others too, that the local is a really, really important aspect of working together. It's not necessarily—. I think the Permanent Secretary mentioned a framework rather than a straitjacket, and so that was something reflected very strongly in the review as well. Many people also said that, actually, yes, there are partnerships, but if we want it to work effectively, a culture of collaboration, an attitude of innovation and a willingness to work together are much more important.

I think there are two other points I'd make, actually, that there was a very strong push from the local level that many of the issues that they face should be dealt with at a local level, identified at a local level and the solutions created at a local level. The really strong lesson for me, as the director who was responsible at the time, was the idea that many partnerships and many organisations aren't fully aware of the flexibility that they have. Yes, of course, there are lots of partnerships, but we have always said as a Government, and certainly in my policy department, that if local organisations have a better way of organising themselves, and that's practically, or if they want to amalgamate partnerships, or indeed, as we have seen in some areas of Wales, bring PSBs together, then we are very supportive of that. We do not want to create immutable frameworks that will not suit local working or local responses.

In terms of corporate joint committees, as the Permanent Secretary said, for some time now, there has been a call from local government and others for a different approach to regional governance and regional service delivery that will help to rationalise, actually, rationalise and simplify, the number of partnerships that operate at that level. So, while the CJCs are in existence, they have a very clear mandate, first of all, to replace the functioning of the joint transport authorities and strategic planning panels. So, the work of both those partnerships will be brought together within the CJC, aligned with the work around economic development that's happening within the city regions, in a way that is absolutely in line with the principles of the future generations Act. We will have three very, very significant parts of local and national policy, so that's transport, land-use planning, including housing, and economic development brought together in a single governance structure, a single area—a single table, if you like—and all of those things can be planned strategically together. This is a massive step forward from what we have now. It will rationalise some partnerships, but actually, more importantly, it will provide a really unique forum for joint planning between a whole host of organisations at a scale that is appropriate for the functions that they need to deal with.

From a policy point of view, we developed that, as I said, in response to calls from local government. We also developed that with extensive consultation within Welsh Government with all of the policy departments—and I know, Darren, you were pressing the Permanent Secretary on how we develop these things with Ministers. And, of course, each of those policy departments needed to advise and bring their Ministers along, in the same way that we had to engage with external colleagues as officials and at a political level to bring local government and others with us too.

So, CJCs are there. It's a start. I believe that they are a new structure that will provide the foundation on which many, many other things can be built. But that will take time, although, as I said, we've, I think, made a really good start so far.

11:30

Given what you've said, I'm surprised that the future generations commissioner is so unhappy that a new structure was developed. It seems very clear to me that having these CJCs alongside the existing regional partnership boards, the skills partnerships, the growth deal boards that are operating, the area planning boards, et cetera, et cetera—I think many people are wondering is it absolutely necessary to create this additional, what many people see as an additional, tier if you like of governance that hasn't been universally welcomed, certainly not, by local government. There may well have been some fans of this arrangement, but certainly the local impression that I get in north Wales is that many people see these as another unnecessary opportunity for people to get together. Very often it's the same people who are getting together in all of these different meetings.

So, Reg, perhaps you can just tell me a little bit more then. So, when you were navigating whether to create these CJCs or not with Ministers, I'm assuming that there was a discussion with those Ministers, and sometimes a difference of opinion at times as to whether this was going to be increasing the burden of meetings on local authorities or whether it was actually going to be helping to reduce those. Can you just tell us how that discussion is held? Because it's a good example, I think, of the sort of thing that we perceive from the outside as being, 'Well, here's something that does appear to be contrary to where the well-being of future generations Act should have been getting us to.'

Okay. Well, to begin with, we responded to calls from local government and other partners that there was a need for a regional governance mechanism. So, in that sense, whilst Government Ministers and officials were listening to our partners, we wanted to consider how we might create something that would be sustainable in the long run, would be quite innovative and, more importantly, would involve all of the key people in some of these very big policy areas that need strategic oversight; they need bringing together in a much more coherent and consistent way at a regional level.

The discussion we had with Ministers was, I would say, the normal sort of policy arguments, and actually, there were Ministers who would have said exactly what you said, Darren, i.e., 'Do we really need this?' Well, I think the arguments for CJCs proved quite clearly to those Ministers—as they have, I think, to many people outside—that, yes, what those new committees will do will actually be of benefit in terms of rationalising existing work, but if we look at the outcomes of bringing together those big pieces of strategic thinking and strategic planning, the potential benefits of those CJCs for the population, for the communities, and ultimately for Wales, are very significant prizes. And in that sense, it makes, I think, great sense—and that is one of the things we were advising Ministers—we need to invest in this set of structures. And I agree: that is another structure, but I think in the longer term, we would envisage some of those other partnerships, some of those other structures, becoming redundant, actually, because the CJCs will be taking a much more powerful overview—and a much wider overview as they settle in—that will begin to pick up some of that work of the other partnerships.

I would just say: in terms of partnerships—and I've heard these comments before, that it's always the same people around the table—we do have a relatively small senior leadership group in Wales who can take these decisions, and there is an argument that the regionality of CJCs means that there would be fewer meetings—rather than one for every local authority; there might be one for every region—and so, in the longer term, the opportunities posed by CJCs I think are very significant.

11:35

Okay, thank you for that, Reg. Can I just ask about your response to—? This is to Shan Morgan. Can I ask, Permanent Secretary, about your response to the assertion from the future generations commissioner that there is an implementation gap within the Welsh Government in relation to the Act? Do you think that that's a fair assessment of the position, and if you don't, then why don't you think that that's a fair assessment of the current position?

I think this comes back to some of the points I was making a little earlier that our people survey, as we call it, looking at the attitudes of staff across the whole organisation, demonstrated that there is, as I said, real commitment and pride across the organisation in relation to the Act. It's clear that, as we've been describing, the systems are in place and the task now is to generally embed culture change, which takes a little time.

In fact, in February last year—that was before the commissioner's report came out—I brought my senior executive team together to discuss what were the internal barriers to implementing the Act and achieving the benefits successfully, and Andrew, who is here today, presented findings on what we might think of doing, and then, the following July, July last summer, after the reports of both the commissioner and the Auditor General for Wales, I and the top team had another look at how we could embed the sustainable development principle thoroughly across the workings of the civil service. Those two discussions came up with a sort of revised strategic framework, if you like, but importantly, a set of very concrete actions, some of which are included in the report that I've submitted to the committee. But just to give you an idea, the commissioner and the auditor general came and talked—online, obviously—to the whole of the senior civil service of the Welsh Government to explain the key findings from their report and to have a discussion. That was immensely valuable. That's something that we will take forward. They also came to talk to the public leaders forum, which is an important communication channel with all of our public bodies, our arm's-length bodies.

I decided that I wanted to do a series of things that would both help improve my own understanding and embed the Act. I decided to attend PSB meetings, and regular meetings with the Welsh Government representatives who sit on the PSBs. We agreed to look at how, as I was saying earlier, we are embedding this into our policy capability work, developing the training and personal development for policy professionals within the civil service. We are going to hold a second what we call future generations Xchange event. We had one last year, and we're having another one—there will be two webinars in March. One of those is actually specifically about sharing best practice between PSBs, but another is looking ahead at the recovery and how we can engage on that within the framework of the Act. So, there are a range of things that we have put in place to follow up the commissioner's concern that implementation was not even throughout the whole of the organisation. As I said, I do believe that there is a very strong pride in and commitment to the Act across the whole of the civil service, but inevitably there will be best practice in some areas that we need to turn into standard practice. So, that's what we're looking at—where is there best practice and, as we've said a number of times, developments through the pandemic have shown us where there are real examples of best practice, and we want to learn from those to embed that across the whole organisation.

We're keen to learn. I think it's really important to remain consistently open to the mirror that other people shine on us, to learn from that and to improve. I think the COVID-19 crisis has certainly accelerated collaborative working within the Welsh Government and with all of our stakeholders, and it has definitely demonstrated very vividly the benefits of the five ways of working.

11:40

Okay. We've got just under half an hour left, so, Darren, have you finished your questions?

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Just picking up on what you were saying, Permanent Secretary, at the end there about how you as a civil service would be aware of the mirror that others are shining on you, and picking up the point that the future generations commissioner mentioned to us this morning that she'd argue that there would be more of a role, as she would see, for the civil service to be challenging Government Ministers in terms of how to implement the Act, to make sure that it does happen. I note what you were saying to Darren Millar there that you couldn't think of an example where that had happened to date. Will that be something that you'll be reflecting on after the evidence that you've heard this morning as well?

Inevitably, I will reflect on what has come out of this hearing, but also, I think importantly, what comes out of the report itself that the committee will produce. That's something that we will all take very seriously for the future. But I should say that we have a very close working relationship with the commissioner. I have regular conversations with her, as, obviously, do the First Minister and other Ministers. And at all levels of the organisation, officials work very closely with people from her team precisely to look at how we can improve the way that we implement the requirements of the Act.

Diolch am hwnna. Dwi'n ymwybodol iawn o'r amser, felly dim ond un cwestiwn arall gennyf i. Mae nifer o wasanaethau cyhoeddus wedi dweud yn eu tystiolaeth i ni—ac dwi'n siŵr eich bod chi wedi clywed y bore yma hefyd—mae'n anodd iddyn nhw gysoni'r ddeddfwriaeth yma gyda rhannau eraill o ddeddfwriaeth gan Lywodraeth Cymru. Er enghraifft, os does dim ariannu'n mynd gyda'r ddeddfwriaeth yma yn yr un ffordd â rhannau eraill o ddeddfwriaeth, mae'n amlwg bod hyn yn broblem, achos mae'n rhywbeth sy'n codi tro ar ôl tro. Pa gamau bydd y Llywodraeth yn cymryd i ymateb i hyn, plîs?

Thank you for that. I'm very aware of the time passing. I have one more question. A number of public services have said in their evidence to us—and I'm sure that you've heard this this morning as well—that it's difficult for them to have consistency between this legislation and other pieces of legislation by the Welsh Government. For example, if there is no funding to accompany this legislation in the same way as with other pieces of legislation, it's obvious that this is a problem, because this is something that arises time after time. So, what steps will the Government take to respond to this problem?

Can I just clarify? Are you saying that the problem is about additional funding for delivering the Act?

I would think that that is one of the prime examples that have been raised with us. But I suppose the overarching issue is how difficult some organisations find it to understand how this piece of legislation, and how they should be implementing it, fits in with the expectations placed on them under other pieces of legislation. And I suppose the point about funding is something that complicates that as well as exemplifying it, if that makes sense. 

11:45

Okay. It is complex. It's such a wide-ranging and frankly groundbreaking piece of legislation, and it covers all aspects of life. When the Act was first implemented, we drew up a lot of guidance and we have a legislation handbook that sets out how officials within the Welsh Government should be approaching this. After the—. I think it was way back at the time of the Royal Assent of the Act, we gave general guidance on how the Act works with others like the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which are probably the ones where people have the greatest concern about overlap.

So, we have tried to address that in the guidance, but that's partly why we need the PSBs to look in practice at how things happen on the ground. This is all about not having a beautiful, elegant theory and infrastructure, but actually making change happen on the ground. We have provided—as we're required to and as we should—the guidance about how different pieces of legislation relate to each other, and we will continue to do that in consultation with stakeholders and, of course, the commissioner where we feel that there might be a gap, and we'll clearly respond to the findings of this committee.

But there is a great deal there already, and I think the really important thing is that, at local level, the PSBs, working with other stakeholders, are the ones who put it into practice and look across the different pieces of legislation to bring everything together in the right way for their local area. 

Okay. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you—unless anyone wanted to add anything else.

Can I just respond quickly on the resources point, because that is something that we do hear? I think I would simply endorse what I heard the commissioner saying in her hearing this morning that it's absolutely fundamental that the well-being of future generations Act is not an add-on, not what she called a sideshow—it's not that at all. And it's the framework for how we use all of our existing resources. We're not going to give an extra chunk of money just to the well-being of future generations. That wouldn't be within the spirit of the Act. The Act is all about how we spend the resources, the totality of the resources that are available to Wales. 

Okay. Thanks, Delyth. If you hear a noise in the background, my printer has jumped into action and it's going mad, so apologies for any noise. Okay, we're running short of time. I'm thinking that the public services boards area is probably of less importance than public bodies, Jenny, unless you particularly want to ask on the PSBs. But I'm thinking—. But anyway, it's—.

I think I do quickly need to ask about PSBs, because I just need to wrap up. Shan, you said you're focusing on making change happen on the ground, and it's the PSBs who need to put it into practice. From your observations of PSBs you've attended, how effectively do you think they're doing it?

I've only attended one so far. I intend to attend them regularly, and the other thing I have attended, and will continue to attend regularly, is the quarterly meeting that the Welsh Government representatives on PSBs hold to discuss issues. I was very impressed by the board that I attended, and it struck me that they did what—

11:50

It was Caerphilly.

It brought together people from a wide range of sectors, including the local community, to discuss overarching issues. What was clear to me during the discussion was that they brought to bear a great deal of local knowledge and networks, and they were also describing how they were putting together different resources to take forward delivery of their local well-being plan, and that relates to what I was just saying about how resources are used. I was very impressed by that. I will continue to attend other PSBs, but I was really encouraged by that one. I thought it was an impressive and very committed membership, and they were doing what we wanted.

Okay. Well, there's a lot of them. You've got an uphill task there, and meanwhile, I just want to refer to the infographic that the future generations commissioner included in her written evidence, which shows the small number of the 44 organisations that are believers and achievers as opposed to those who are overwhelmed and overconfident, or overconfident. So, I appreciate your anxiety about not walking in there with big boots on and destroying the local networks, but on the other hand, it's really about how many bodies can we put up with without really losing sight of our overall objectives, and also, how PSBs are really being empowered to challenge some of the more siloed thinking.

Okay. I think I saw Reg wanting to come in earlier. I'll ask him to come in in a moment, but just to say we keep in regular contact with all of the PSBs, in a number of ways, including through the Welsh Government representatives who sit as observers on the PSBs. We have drop-in clinics for our staff and PSB support staff to talk about issues, and we have network meetings of the PSB co-ordinators, to help keep them up to speed and to understand what kind of support is available for them. Last year, we held a task and finish group, and that was made up of a mix of PSB co-ordinators, Welsh Government officials, and colleagues from Data Cymru, so that they could look ahead at the next round of well-being assessments that will need to be made, and the type of support that the Welsh Government could provide to the PSBs. So, we are looking at that. It was a very worthwhile event, and we will draw on that for the future and, as I said, we are very keen to listen and to learn from them what they need from us. I'll ask Reg to come in, perhaps with some of his experience.

Okay, fine. Reg, you said that the corporate joint committees could have the power to decide to meet on a regional basis rather than on a local authority basis. Do PSBs also have that power?

Well, could I answer, first of all, how well I think PSBs are doing? I sat on Torfaen for a number of years, and I'm in very close co