Pwyllgor yr Economi, Seilwaith a Sgiliau - Y Bumed Senedd
Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee - Fifth Senedd20/01/2021
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Hefin David MS|
|Helen Mary Jones MS|
|Jack Sargeant MS||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Joyce Watson|
|Substitute for Joyce Watson|
|Russell George MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Suzy Davies MS|
|Vikki Howells MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Andrew Gwatkin||Cyfarwyddwr, Cysylltiadau Rhyngwladol a Masnach, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director, International Relations and Trade, Welsh Government|
|Dean Medcraft||Cyfarwyddwr Cyllid a Gweithrediadau, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director, Finance and Operations, Welsh Government|
|Huw Morris||Cyfarwyddwr, Sgiliau, Addysg Uwch a Dysgu Gydol Oes, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director, Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, Welsh Government|
|Ken Skates MS||Gweinidog yr Economi, Trafnidiaeth a Gogledd Cymru|
|Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales|
|Lee Waters MS||Dirprwy Weinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth|
|Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport|
|Simon Jones||Cyfarwyddwr, Seilwaith yr Economi, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director, Economic Infrastructure, Welsh Government|
|Sioned Evans||Cyfarwyddwr, Busnes a Rhanbarthau, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director, Business and Regions, Welsh Government|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Lara Date||Ail Glerc|
|Robert Lloyd-Williams||Dirprwy Glerc|
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 09:50.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:50.
Croeso, bawb. Bore da, good morning. Welcome to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee. I'd like to move to item 1. We have an apology this morning from Joyce Watson, and we have Jack Sargeant substituting for Joyce Watson this morning. We have agreed, before the meeting, that if there are any technical issues with my feed, that Suzy Davies would stand in. And if there are any declarations of interest, please say now. And finally, under Standing Order 34.19, we are excluding the public from this meeting for public health reasons, but this meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the transcript of proceedings is available in the normal way.
I move to item 2, and we have just a few letters to note. We have a letter from the chief exec of Transport for Wales in regards to evidence taken on 18 November to committee, and we also have a letter under 2.2 from the Chair of Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee to the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding the UK prosperity fund. And that's just for noting as well, if Members are happy to note those two letters. Thank you.
In that case, I do move to item 3, and this session is in regards to the Welsh Government's draft budget for 2021-22. And we have with us the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales and the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, also with a number of officials. So, this session is purely on the budget scrutiny, but if I could ask the Minister, Ken Skates, if, perhaps, he just wants to—if he has any opening remarks, but perhaps just introduce any officials that are in the meeting as well today for this session on the economy.
Well, thanks, Chair, and happy new year to everybody. I'm joined today by Lee Waters, the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, and also in terms of officials, we have Simon Jones, who heads up transport and infrastructure; Sioned Evans, business and regions; Dean Medcraft, finance, and also Andrew Gwatkin, who leads on trade and international relations.
Thank you, Minister, for that. This is just a first question from myself—I've got just a number of questions in regards to property development. I'm happy for Simon to respond to this directly as I'm just quoting him from a letter from his evidence last year, and if the Minister wants to come in as well, obviously that's helpful as well.
Good morning, Simon. Last November, I know you told the committee at that point that it was quite hard to put a specific number on the costs of delivering the SQW property development plan. Now, your letter to committee—or the Minister's letter to committee—also makes a point of uncertainty around the replacement of EU funding, and how that will have an impact as well. So, there were a number of uncertainties, I suppose, you were pointing out. So, I suppose, what I'm asking is: how did you manage to get to that budget allocation line decided for the 2021-22 financial year?
Thanks, Chair; good morning. So, as you say, and as we pointed out in the evidence paper, it's a pretty complex piece with lots of moving parts, and the uncertainty about the replacement of structural funds adds to that, but also the economic uncertainty. And, as you know, as we've discussed in these sessions before, the property development plan is hybrid of different types of use of money, so grants, intervention as well—we're supporting the private sector at various different intervention rates. So, there are lots and lots of different moving parts.
The other complexity, of course, is that this is just a single year revenue and capital budget, and the property development plan runs over a 10-year period, as we discussed, I think, the last time we met. The SQW work is effectively the latest iteration of that 10-year plan, and in the absence of anything more concrete, the budget for next year really is just a carryover of the previous year's budget. There will be challenges further down the line, but the amount of money that we need to spend in-year—the difference year to year is probably relatively small. The bigger differences will happen later on in the plan, but given that we've only got a single-year budget, that's not possible to reflect.
Thank you, Simon. If I come in on the same theme, I'll perhaps ask the Minister—your paper on page 2 says that as the economy moves forward
'towards recovery, there will need to be a greater role for the public sector'
again, in relation to property development, and you say 'than might have been envisaged.' Can you perhaps expand on what this might mean in practice?
So, the SQW report that was commissioned, that actually suggests that as the economy moves towards recovery, there'll need to be a greater role for the public sector, as you've outlined, than might have been envisaged when the original market analysis and potential interventions report was prepared. So, in terms of the role the public sector might play, it's not just in terms of property development, as well. There are other interventions that the wider public sector can make in terms of supporting business development, in supporting skills training as well. So, there will be an increase in demand for intervention from across the public sector.
What are the likely cost implications of this greater role, if you like, and how are they reflected in the allocations for the budget in 2021-22?
The implications are not significant in 2021-22, because the increase in investment will come later in the stages of the delivery plan, and also, in terms of property development, schemes tend to be carried out over a period of two financial years, as well. So, the 2021-22 budgets are not actually that relevant at this moment in time to the delivery plan.
Yes, I noticed that the budget lines are pretty much the same as the previous—
Okay. Helen Mary Jones. You're on mute.
[Inaudible.]—and officials. We know that the COVID crisis has highlighted and exacerbated inequalities that pre-existed in our economy before COVID, so can you tell us a bit about how the allocations in the draft budget are targeted at addressing some of these intersectional inequalities, and particularly the scarring impacts of the pandemic on young people? We know that that's worse for young people from low-income families, for black people and people of colour, and for disabled people.
Thank you, Helen Mary Jones, and you're absolutely right. What we know from previous recessions is that those who are furthest from the labour market tend to be left furthest behind, unless you have very significant interventions to support them. We know, for example, that young people in particular could be left further from the jobs market as a result of COVID. There is a significant impact on people who have low levels of skills, and with regard to COVID, of course, that relates very directly to some of those key sectors that have been hardest hit, and I'm thinking tourism and retail. And then, when we look at other groups, such as black, Asian and minority ethnic, again, there is significant evidence that shows that there is a risk of people from those communities being further left behind. And so, interventions are required right across multiple protected groups.
We've involved organisations such as Chwarae Teg in the development of the economic resilience fund, and we're keen to ensure that they continue to be part of our thinking and our deliberations over the plan for the recovery and reconstruction in years to come.
In terms of some of the direct schemes that are captured within the budget, obviously, the budget underpins our COVID commitment, a commitment to provide training, advice and support to anybody over 18 in Wales who is affected by the pandemic and who is at risk of being unemployed or is unemployed. And there'll be targeted support as part of the COVID commitment, through Working Wales, to ensure that those who are most likely to be adversely impacted are given the greatest level of support. Members may be aware that we increased human resource within Working Wales in 2018; that is being maintained in the current budget, recognising how many people are going to require help.
We are appointing disability champions as well, who will work with businesses the length and breadth of Wales—six disability champions. They'll be working with employers to assess what's required by employers to take on more people who face disabling factors in their lives. They'll look at some of the challenges that individuals face as well in accessing employment. We then also have Communities for Work Plus, and there's an additional £6 million in the budget for that particular scheme. And that scheme offers mentoring services to people who are either in or at risk of poverty. And then also, of course, we've got the budget available for ReAct and Access programmes. There's the £5.4 million available for personal learning accounts, that's being extended. And we're also, through the extension of the one-year programme of Time to Change Wales, we are providing additional support for people who are facing mental health challenges as well, in terms of accessing employment. And as part of that one-year extension with Time to Change Wales, we're looking at how we can explore ways to better reach people in BAME communities as well.
That's really helpful, Minister, but one thing—. The specific schemes are really important, and they will make a difference to the individuals that they reach, but to what extent, when you're making budget allocations within your portfolio, do you mainstream the considerations right across the programmes, the way that different programmes might impact positively or negatively on those groups that most need support to get access to the economy? It's that balance, isn't it, between obviously needing specific support but also needing to ensure that all your more mainstream programmes also support those groups and don't have any unintended negative consequences, which can happen, of course.
Yes, absolutely. So, with the, if you like, broad umbrella schemes that are operated through Working Wales, obviously they're there to provide support to every individual, but within the Working Wales programme of support, obviously there is tailored and specific support available to people with protected characteristics, people who are at risk of being left further behind. And in terms of the skills interventions as well, it's worth noting, I think, that the 100,000 apprenticeships that are being created in this Senedd term have actually resulted in a majority of those opportunities being taken up by women, which is a pretty impressive factor, actually. I think Dean has his hand raised as well.
All I wanted to say was that—[Inaudible.]
I'm sorry, Chair, I'm having a bit of trouble hearing Dean. I don't know if that's just me.
Can I just check the sound on that, Dean?
Hi. Can you hear me now?
It's a little light, but perhaps we'll just get by.
[Inaudible.] I do apologise. Just what I was going to add to the Minister is that, when we do the budget process, we go through the equality impact assessments to look at the impacts across all sectors of the community as well so they're not disproportionately affected by the decisions that we make in the budget process. So for every change, we look at that impact, basically. Thank you.
That's helpful to know. Thank you.
Minister, you mentioned the percentage of women taking up apprenticeships, which was really encouraging, but we do know, don't we, that women have been more adversely affected by the effects of the pandemic than men. Within the programmes you've mentioned, are there specific actions taken to mitigate the issues that women are facing? We know, for example, that homeworking can be more of a challenge for women because they do tend to end up with the majority of childcare and support when children are at home. And to what extent are you able to monitor, for example, the effects of the economic resilience fund? Is it possible to look at who owns those businesses and who's working in those businesses that you have been able to support?
Yes, that's a really good point. I'll bring Sioned in in a moment, concerning the support that we've offered businesses during the course of the pandemic, because we're gathering all of the data concerning individuals, employees, who have been supported as a result, and Members will be aware that, as a consequence of the direct support we've offered through ERF, we've protected more than 100,000 people in employment. I think Sioned will be able to outline some of the work that's taken place to capture all of the intelligence and data.
And you're absolutely right, there are specific programmes of support captured within the budget for women, including, for example, the bespoke service that's offered for female entrepreneurs. It's a bespoke 5-9 Club for women who are operating through our enterprise hubs, then also there's the barriers grant fund, which offers up to £2,000 for people looking to start a business, and that is prioritising black, Asian and minority ethnic people and also women as well. The uplift in terms of some of the Communities for Work programmes and employability programmes is significant as well, given the high proportion of people who are female who are supported by those schemes.
But there are some other wider initiatives taking place as well alongside the direct financial support. So, for example, we set up in the past 12 months a diversity and transport group looking at how more women can take up opportunities, right across all modes of transport, but, particularly, to begin with, we're focusing quite heavily on rail. And, of course, we're progressing the diversity review as well, but I'll bring Sioned in regarding the data and intelligence concerning direct support for businesses. Sioned.
Hello. Thank you, Minister. Yes. So, we collect an awful lot of data across the whole Business Wales platform that have enabled us so far to have a sense of where the money has been taken up—so, not so much where it's been targeted, but, actually, more importantly, who's been accessing that money. Because I think we have pretty robust systems in order to ensure that we are engaging with the representative groups that we ought to be engaging with, but, actually, the test comes in terms of who is taking up those products that we have.
So, one of the things that we are very pleased with is the Minister did approve a barriers to start-up grant as part of the ERF package, a £1.2 million grant, but specifically for those who were looking to start up businesses during the pandemic. And what's been interesting with that is that 55 per cent of the applications we've had for that have come from women, so that provides us with some really encouraging figures around how, even though it's a small grant—and some of the other grants we've had to do through ERF have been targeted at properties and the sort of things that truly support businesses in their long-term viability, or certainly over the period of the crisis, but, in terms of these sorts of niche activities, it's been really encouraging to see that the figures coming from women have been so high.
We're also, now, in the next stages—if further ERF intervention is required moving forward, we are working again with those groups representing those who are marginalised or under-represented in order to ensure that we are further building on our successes on that front in order to develop that into the next phase of ERF and in the next phase of the other support that we needed to give in the wider Business Wales context to ensure that we get a more balanced approach.
The other thing, and I'm sure you're aware of this, is we have—I was going to say 'new responsibilities'; they're not really new responsibilities, but we have clarity around the socioeconomic responsibilities that we have moving forward in the duties we'll have from March, and that again provides us with a really tight framework to ensure that we're able to not only target the under-represented parts of our communities but also ensure that we are able to encourage them to participate as well, so that we have everyone in the community in Wales taking part in the offers and the support we can offer.
That's really helpful. The last question from me then, Chair: your paper, Minister, notes on page 7 that 23 per cent of all people in Wales are still living in relative income poverty, and that this figure has stayed stubbornly the same. I think the word that you've used is 'stable', but that's not the kind of stability we'd want to encourage, I know. How has this issue guided the allocations of your draft budget? I'm particularly thinking of the things that we've been saying through the COVID crisis about not wanting to build back to where we were, because, for many people, our economy wasn't doing a very good job before the crisis hit. So, thinking about that—and that ties, I suppose, into what Sioned Evans has just said about the new socioeconomic duty, and how that will impact on how your budget is used.
The 23 per cent figure obviously has been stubborn. It's been stable over many years, not least because of welfare being something that it is out of our hands—it's still a reserved matter— and so benefit changes and so forth have contributed to that figure being stubborn.
What we aim to do as a Welsh Government is to try our best to mitigate the effects of poverty, and also to enable people to be able to come out of poverty, primarily through employability programmes and improved transport infrastructure and services. So, if you look at what we're doing on transport as a key enabler, we're maintaining the free bus services on the TrawsCymru network at weekends, there's the £60 million concessionary free bus travel available for people aged over 60, there's the discounted bus travel offer for younger people, the £25 million bus services support grant, which is maintaining bus services where they would not be commercially viable, and then, on employability, we've got Communities for Work, Communities for Work Plus, there's the PaCE programme—Parents, Childcare and Employment—and there's also the out-of-work peer mentoring service as well. So, there is a series of programmes in place to support people who are in poverty to get out of poverty through employment, and there's also some significant support that's offered in terms of mitigating the effects of poverty as well.
I think it's worth saying at this point that the role of the foundational economy is going to be increasingly important as well in supporting—we've talked about women, but other people who are struggling to get into the labour market, particularly young people. The foundational economy will have a key role, I think, in supporting people who are experiencing poverty now by driving up wage rates, by driving up local economic activity, so that people can access better jobs closer to where they live. I don't know whether there's anything that Lee would like to add regarding the foundational economy, which he leads on, but I think that it is going to be a crucially important piece of work, and of course that extra resource for it is very important indeed.
Well, I think you've covered it very well there, Ken. [Laughter.] Depending on time, obviously, I'm happy to elaborate, or—.
I think if you think the Minister's broadly addressed the questions, we'll move on, because I'm just a bit concerned about time. Thanks for the offer; I appreciate that. Jack Sargeant.
Thank you, Chair, and good morning, all. Minister, I want to talk this morning a little bit about business support, and I think I should start by thanking the Welsh Government. I've had a number of businesses who have welcomed the support, right from soft play centres to heavy engineering through to a driving instructor who yesterday wrote a letter of thanks, so I think that's needed for the record.
Just looking to your paper, you've highlighted that the Minister for Finance has set aside funding for the fourth phase of the very welcome economic resilience fund. Will any of this allocation come from the 2021-22 budget, and, if so, can you outline what this additional allocation might be?
I'll bring in, if I may, Sioned and Dean to outline the deliberations over budget issues concerning the next round of the economic resilience fund. Obviously, we want to make sure that we go on supporting businesses in Wales with the most generous package of support anywhere in the United Kingdom, not just towards the end of the 2020-21 financial year, but beyond into 2021-22, to make sure that the recovery is as strong as possible. But if I could bring in, perhaps, Dean first of all and then Sioned.
Thanks, Minister. Hopefully, you can hear me. Thanks. The ERS for, basically, the current round is all from within the 2020-21 budgets, basically. Going into next year, that money is being held—any money that we need is being held by the centre. Obviously, we are dependent on what UK Government gives us in terms of consequentials as well. However, currently, the money that is ERF 4 is coming out of this year's funding, basically. Thank you.
Thanks, Dean, and just to give some specifics, really, around that, to confirm, ERF 4 is actually up and running now; we've had to move quite quickly in terms of, particularly, the restrictions that occurred over the Christmas period. The Minister's responded really, really quickly to that. We had the NDR support—the non-domestic rate support started to flow pre Christmas, and the sector-specific support around tourism, hospitality and entertainment opened on 13 January. Before the end of that week, there was money arriving in people's bank accounts.
So, at this stage—forgive me for looking down; I've got reams of figures in front of me, as you can imagine—we've got about 28,000 grants that have been applied for at £90 million value, and it's a £180 million fund, as you know. So, from our point of view, it's encouraging that we have the figures right in terms of the number of businesses out there, and we've got a reasonable period of time in order to encourage as many businesses and the supply chains affected to apply for this grant, and that is something that we are actively doing now—making sure that everyone who is eligible for this will apply for it. So—. So, sorry, the pre-Christmas resilience fund is 28,000 grants, £90 million; the sector-specific, which opened on 13 January has 7,500 applications, circa, around about £65 million, and 900 offers have already gone out, to the value of £5.6 million.
So, a bit of specifics around there, but I think what I want to stress with this is that the offer for Wales—and we've done some figures on this, and it might be helpful for the committee to see those at some stage, but, actually, we've done some figures around how it compares and contrasts with the offers from England and, indeed, from the other devolveds. And there's a really good story to be told there across the period of the entire pandemic of the business support that Ministers in Wales have been able to provide.
In our view of the figures, how we've presented them and how the applications have come in, the offer in Wales has been considerably better. We are looking towards a further potential phase should the lockdown restrictions continue into February and March and, obviously, at the same time, having a mind to the recovery and how we can make the most of the funding we have this year by helping to support the development bank to be able to use their structure to fund businesses, and support them into the next year.
So, we have a range of different funds within the ERF—freelancer funds, all sorts of things—and, actually, the freelancer fund, for example, it's been seen as an exemplar by the well-being of future generations team. It's not offered in England, and it's gone down pretty well in terms of the responses we've had. So, we do have some real bespoke support in Wales that isn't offered elsewhere, and I thank you for your comments around thanking the Ministers, because, actually, Ministers have moved really, really quickly on this, and it's been very impressive.
Thanks, Sioned, and perhaps we could also offer up the latest statistics concerning the business death rate as well for Wales and the other nations.
Yes, we can and, actually, the interesting thing around that is that, normally, there is a pattern of death rate of business—you know, businesses start, businesses have to fold. During this period, considerably fewer businesses have folded. You could argue both ways if that's to do with the support that's given—possibly, but, actually, that does lead to both a very positive message and perhaps something we need to be mindful of moving forward, regarding, when the support naturally comes to an end once we're through the pandemic, how that might profile itself in terms of businesses folding.
Thank you for that, and I'll extend my thanks to the whole team, not just to the Minister, and I think the committee—. It would be very welcome, that additional information, in due course. And again, I think the committee would join you in encouraging as many businesses as possible to apply and seek support. Minister, I just want to move on to a comment that Dean referred to in his answer, and that's to do with discussions with the UK Government and UK Government consequentials. What discussions has the Welsh Government had with the UK Government about its requirements for additional funding to support businesses not only through the coronavirus pandemic, but obviously into the important economic recovery phase? As part of those discussions, I just want to pick up on a campaign that I've been working with, and that's the 3 million excluded by the UK Treasury. I just wondered whether the UK Government have offered any conversations and input into that—whether they're going to finally support that 3 million, nearly 11 months on.
Thanks, Jack, and thanks for your kind comments regarding my officials as well. They have been heroic in the way that they've worked throughout the pandemic, particularly over the Christmas period as well, and I'm incredibly grateful to them.
In regard to engagement with UK Government over further support that is required, I have very regular discussions with UK Government Ministers, regular quadrilaterals involving Ministers from the other devolved administrations as well, and regular calls with the Secretary of State for Wales. Just last week, I met with the new Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Paul Scully MP. Also, obviously, I meet regularly with other Ministers within the transport and skills and economy and business departments of UK Government. Our ask of UK Government has been reflected, I think, by the ask from businesses as well. We've called on the UK Government to make sure that there is an extension of furlough beyond April, that there is a continuation of VAT reduction, that there is a delay in HMRC payments, including, crucially, I think, for self-employed people, and that there's a delay in terms of repayments to the CBILS scheme—the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme—particularly ahead of the budget on 3 March. Now, I can also inform Members that the Minister for Finance and I yesterday sent a letter to the Chancellor, urging the UK Government to offer appropriate extensions to furlough and other support schemes, so we'll await a response to that letter.
In direct regard to your question about the 3 million, obviously I make very regular requests of UK Government for updates on any consideration that is being given to support for people who have fallen through the gaps. As an example, last week I raised with Minister Scully the question of whether there is going to be a directors income support scheme. Members will be aware that directors who pay themselves primarily through dividends have fallen through the gaps. I raised that question last Thursday. Minister Scully obviously is aware of the issue, but there is no update as of that particular scheme right now, but obviously I'll share with Members and I'll share with the Senedd any information that I get from UK Government regarding support for those who have fallen through the gaps.
Thank you, Minister. If I can move on to Business Wales—
Jack, I think Dean wanted to just come in on the back of that question as well.
Thank you. The other big issue for us as a Government is that, obviously, the pandemic is not going to finish on 31 March. However, because of the accounting regime we're in, it's really hard for us to carry money over and profile, basically, our support to businesses as well. Again, we're pushing the Treasury, basically, to have more leeway to carry some money over into next year to support companies going into the next financial year as well. So, that's what we're pushing with the Treasury as well. Thank you.
Jack, over to you.
Dean, I think that's a very sensible approach and I think that's something not only Governments should be allowed to do, but right through, whether it's businesses or individuals. We all need leeway in these very uncertain times.
Minister, if I could move on to Business Wales and what's allocated in the current budget, in the 2021 budget, for Business Wales, I believe it's almost double last year's. Can you just outline what the additional funding will be used for, and how this increased allocation was decided? Perhaps more importantly, is the additional funding sufficient for the expected demand?
Thanks, Jack. Well, there are two specific allocations: one for the foundational economy, and also for town centres. These are hugely important pieces of work in terms of supporting the scaling up of businesses within the foundational economy, and also in terms of supporting town centres. That includes work concerning the potential of creating remote working hubs. It is a significant sum of money. Will it meet demand? We will have to test whether it will meet demand and if additional resource is needed in future years, and I'm sure that this will be a priority area for any future government, recognising the increasingly important role of the foundational economy, of Business Wales in supporting business development, and the role town centres play in terms of providing work but also in ensuring that there's social cohesion.
Okay. Thank you, Minister. Just a final question from me, with regard to the new export plan. It states in your paper to the committee that an additional £1.6 million has been allocated. Can you quantify the specific outputs of that plan and what it will be seeking to achieve? And is the Minister content that sufficient resources have been allocated to the plan?
Okay, so the export plan is hugely important to our recovery. I'll bring in Andrew Gwatkin in a moment regarding the export plan. Obviously, we're going to be looking at how many businesses engage with us, with our offices abroad, the value of new exports, the number of events that are held here and overseas, and I think it's also worth saying, actually, that we've increased staffing resources. We increased it temporarily during the lead-up to EU transition. We've now made that increase in human resource permanent in order to deliver the actions within the export action plan. I'll bring in Andrew Gwatkin.
Thank you very much, Minister. Yes, exactly that. This assignment of budget ensures that we are working face-to-face with customers, additional online support, we have a programme of events, international trade shows and also trade missions—all of which at the moment is being done virtually, but being done very successfully—and we're working with key partners across Wales, for example with Chambers Wales. We're developing export clusters as well. This is all within the export action plan. Also, I'd just say that trade and export are very clearly identified in the economic action plan and in our international strategy, so this is a really important activity for us to work directly with exporters and help them at this time.
Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Minister.
Thank you, Jack. And there are just a number of questions from me on this particular area. You've outlined the economic resilience fund in terms of phase 4. I've just got a question in terms of the restrictions that came into place at the beginning of December for hospitality. There were, obviously, restrictions in place at that point. That's when the round of non-domestic support was paid directly to businesses. As I've understood it, when the further restrictions came in on 19 or 20 December, putting all of Wales into tier 4, more funding was put into that particular package to allow those on the non-domestic rates register to receive additional funding for retail. That wasn't a new fund; those were additional funds to go into the fund that started in December. The hospitality sector has been under restrictions for a greater period of time. So, effectively, for six weeks they've either been closed or under tighter restrictions. So, for those in the hospitality sector, I'm thinking, whether it's a coffee shop or a shop on the high street or take-out restaurant, there seems to be no additional support for those under the non-domestic rates system, rather than a retail shop that was closed at a later date. Have I understood that right? And what's your message to those in that particular category?
So, there is a sector-specific fund that is still open to businesses—a sector-specific fund for tourism and hospitality businesses—and that, alongside the direct funds through the rates system is what provides the most generous package of support for tourism and hospitality businesses in the UK. It's quite a considerable sum of additional money that's available from that sector scheme, and I think, as Sioned's already outlined, more than 7,000 businesses have so far applied for it, and I think we've already supported 900 applicants with funding. So, that fund is still available, businesses can still apply for it and it is quite a considerable additional resource.
And in terms of the continued position of being in tier 4, there will be some retail shops and those on the high street continuing to be closed, for coming up to four weeks now. What is there in terms of additional support through the non-domestic rates grant system that we can now expect, going forward?
So, options are being put to Ministers. We'll be making an announcement very soon concerning support that could be offered further into the winter and as we approach the spring. I'm hoping an announcement will be made in a matter of days concerning that additional support.
And is one of those options presented likely to include more regular payments, maybe on a so-many-weeks or a monthly basis, if we're in this uncertain position of waiting to see when restrictions are going to be eased?
Yes, we'll try to offer as much surety as we can to businesses that they'll be getting support from the Welsh Government. Obviously, in terms of the support that we're able to guarantee, to a degree—to a significant degree, it must be said—the support that we offer is dependent, in part, on the consequentials that we get from the UK Government when they announce support for businesses as well. So, we're trying to give as much surety to businesses as we possibly can, but we are operating in a very, very fluid environment at the moment.
Understood. In terms of funding that has arrived with Welsh Government, as a result of the consequentials of the UK Government spend in England—I think the figure is around about £5.2 billion for the entire Welsh budget in terms of the pandemic—as I understand it, not all of that funding has been allocated. That position was about £1 billion. So, I'm just trying to also understand what your asks of the finance Minister are on ensuring that an appropriate portion gets delivered to your portfolio area, but also in terms of understanding—. We don't know where we are; there are further consequentials that will no doubt come to Welsh Government. But the position, I suppose, is that, in one sense, you're waiting, perhaps, for UK Government to provide additional consequentials, but on the other hand there is that money that is unallocated yet that could be also pulled on.
Well, I'll bring in Dean on this point, because my understanding is that we're not sitting on £1 billion, just as the UK Government Chancellor isn't sitting on £25 billion. But, obviously, the recognition of the economic impact is what has led Ministers across Welsh Government to offer up the most generous and comprehensive package of support to date in the UK. And so, whilst we've made a very strong case for supporting businesses, it has to be said that Ministers across Government have been very responsive and have acknowledged the economic harm of coronavirus, and that's why they've been so keen to support our proposals for various rounds of the economic resilience fund. But I'll bring in Dean with regard to that direct question about the £1 billion. Dean.
Thank you, Minister. We have got a slight issue, which brings me back to where I was coming from earlier, about money in central reserves, because of consequentials coming in late from the UK Government. And it's, actually, have we got enough time in the next 10 weeks or whatever to spend that money, ensuring value for money and ensuring proper governance, et cetera? We, as a department, are applying for additional funding from the finance Minister, but, again, equally we need to make sure that we don't then end up with a massive underspend because that would be inappropriate as well. So, the best thing we can do, as I said earlier, is actually apply to the UK Government to transfer some of that money over into the next financial year. I think there will be flexibility given, but is it going to be as much as we need? I don't know yet, and that's what the finance Minister's taking forward with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the moment. But what we don't want to do is waste the money or lose the money to Wales. That's our concern.
In part—and, again, I'm trying not to misrepresent what's been said in any way—just to get clarity, there is a request to the finance Minister for additional funding. But what you're trying to balance up is whether you can bring forward a scheme quickly enough in order to spend that before the end of the financial year. Have I got that right? Clearly, it must be important, from your perspective, to bring forward those schemes as quickly as possible in order to pull down that money, to get the money out as quickly to business as possible. I think Sioned wants to come in on that point.
Thank you for that, Chair. It's just, really, to reaffirm my earlier point: it's both getting the schemes open and ready, but also ensuring that people apply for them. We really need to make sure that all those who are eligible do apply for it, to ensure that we can work our way through the budget in the way that we would like to do, based on the evidence that we have in terms of the businesses that require the support out there.
And in terms of schemes that are already in progress now, it sounds like there might be a concern that not enough people are applying for the schemes. Is that fair?
Well, I mentioned the current sector support scheme that we have out there at the moment. We've done some robust figures in terms of the number of businesses we know that are in Wales, and, indeed, the supply chain, but we're not seeing quite those figures coming through yet. Ministers wish to ensure that all those who are eligible do take advantage of the money that the Welsh Government has to offer to support businesses in order to ensure that our economy recovers well from the current crisis.
Okay. Thank you. There's so much more I would like to dig in on this, but I'm just conscious of time. Vikki Howells.
Thank you, Chair. To go back to the foundational economy, please. Your paper, Minister, states that there's more to be done to spread and scale the Welsh Government's approach to the foundational economy. So, can I ask what specific allocations are in your draft budget for 2021-22 to support this, and whether there are any activities in this area being undertaken by any other Welsh Government departments as well?
Lee—Minister Lee wants to come in on this one.
Thank you. So, there is a specific allocation of £3 million for the next financial year for spreading and scaling. The point to emphasise here is it's not about the quantum of money, because the whole point of the foundational economy agenda is about spending the money we already spend in different ways. It's about bending spend towards benefiting local economies, rather than significant additional spend. Now, some additional spend is needed to lubricate and to encourage the change that is needed, but I don't think we should get too distracted by the sums involved. The real challenge is not the amount of money, because if somebody gave me x amount of money, it wouldn't necessary make the agenda any easier, because this is a really tricky behavioural change agenda of getting public bodies and businesses to see things through a different lens.
So, from our current programme of activity, we've got £4.5 million from this financial year for the experimental fund. The intention always was to look at those, and we have a community of practice that Cynnal Cymru are running for us, looking at sharing experience between them—spot projects within there that have the potential to scale. So, for example, we think there is one from social care that has potential to scale. And then what I'd hope in the next financial year—and these projects, obviously, are due to end in March, so we're not at the point yet where we can fully assess them all, and COVID has significantly delayed some and made sure that some couldn't go on at all, and we've brought some additional ones forward. But what we hope to be in a position to do towards the end of the financial year is to identify those that could be scaled, and then that £3 million is there to help that, and I dare say that other departmental funds could be brought on board to apply those within different departments. We're currently assembling a group of senior civil servants from every department to work with us, looking at each of those experimental funds in their areas, to see how we can mainstream the learning from those projects.
Thank you. So, if I could just clarify there, then, Deputy Minister: are you saying that the knowledge gained from the foundational economy challenge fund helps to inform allocations to projects?
Yes, there are two things: so, we have a specific fund to upscale projects when we think they have potential, and then we're also, in parallel with that, working with departments to learn the lessons from both the successes and the failures of the challenge fund project to apply in their own departments, which is why this is such a tricky agenda, because it involves working across Governments. It really involves working with public service boards and local governments and the NHS specifically to try and change their behaviour, and the way that they tackle problems. And that involves multiple different points of friction to try and break them down. So, for example, we've been working on personal protective equipment procurement over the last six months, and through doing that and bringing local firms on board to produce PPE for the NHS, we've used that as a test case, if you like, for understanding how you were to do more of that across the public sector. And there are multiple barriers in place to doing that. So, for example, procurement policy is one—does procurement policy allow us to spend more on procuring local goods, which might cost more than they cost in China, for example? And we've had that example with masks, where there are local firms that can produce masks, but they cost more than they cost in China. Now, what is the premium that is reasonable to pay for a Welsh company to produce it rather than a Chinese company? That's a difficult question to work through.
Then there are issues around standards and certification. You can't just produce a mask, you have to produce the mask to a standard that is safe for the NHS to use. Now, if we're going to get small and medium-sized enterprises into the space—and it's not just PPE equipment, it was just an example, the same would apply with food. If we identify an opportunity for more Welsh companies to provide services to the public sector in the first instance, it's not just a case of giving them a contract; they have to make sure they're able to produce to the right standard and so on. And there are five or six different barriers that we've discovered trying to open up the potential here, and each of those we're working through in turn.
So, the money in the budget is a good bit of money for us to play with to work these things through, but the barriers and the solutions go far beyond budget, and it's frustrating and it is slower than I'd have liked, but we are getting there and making progress.
So, which other Welsh Government departments are working within the foundational economy areas then?
Well, they're all in different ways, because there are challenge fund projects in almost every department. The particular themes from the challenge fund projects we have, in particular clustering around procurement, in particular clustering around social care, and a clustering around food. So, we've got CLES, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, doing analysis with six clusters of public services boards, analysing their spend to look at what they call—they can find supply voids, so that's where, for example, a local health board will be procuring a product from outside of their area, from outside of Wales that could be supplied inside of Wales. So, if we take food, for example, the analysis across Wales shows that 49 per cent of NHS Wales's food budget is from firms from outside of Wales, when, in each case, there are capable firms within their regions who could provide that food. So, we're working now closely with the NHS to understand how we shift that spend.
Thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Vikki. Hefin David, unless Helen Mary wanted to come in. No, you're fine. Hefin David.
In November 2020, Minister, you told the committee that you were waiting for the chief regional officers to advise you as to whether the regional economic frameworks were still required in the way that was originally intended, so can you just update us on the latest position and whether they're still in development?
Yes, sure. Thanks, Hefin. So, the chief regional officers vary in their approaches across the regions to the development of regional economic frameworks. They're obviously working still with regional partners on the development of the frameworks. It remains a priority for Welsh Government, but it is a fact that in south-east Wales the work has been paused at the request of the local authorities. There is no doubt whatsoever that the priorities across all of the regions have focused very much on the immediate response to coronavirus, and, as a consequence of that, work on the regional economic frameworks has slowed down. In the case of south-east Wales, it's been paused. But there is still no doubt that there has to be that great alignment of investment and planning in terms of economic development support across Welsh Government and local authorities operating at a regional level, and that's why we still view the regional economic frameworks as very, very important in making sure that we work to the same ends.
We had, at the end of last year, what can only be described as a very thoughtful session with a representative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and you've previously told the committee you'd respond to their 15 recommendations in their report on regional development this year. So, when would you expect to do that?
It will be later in the year. We're working with the OECD—I think I outlined back in September when the report was published that we'd be working with the OECD in regard to all of the recommendations, and then that would be followed up with a comprehensive response. So, I expect it to be towards the end of 2021.
Okay. Therefore, will there be any specific allocations in the 2021-22 budget that will enable the OECD recommendations to be taken forward, or is it too difficult to say?
Yes, it's pretty difficult, and it's really very soon, because many of the big recommendations are so significant, i.e. the recommendation in respect of regional development agencies—there is no need at the moment for a budget allocation for 2021-22 for some of these big-ticket items, not least given that in regard to regional development agencies, we still need to consider those in the context of the establishment of the corporate joint committees. So, it could take some time to realise some of the recommendations. And, as a consequence of that, budget provision is not necessarily needed in 2021-22.
Would you have moved faster if it wasn't for the coronavirus crisis?
I think it's possible that we could have moved faster on this piece of work, but that same issue can be applied to so many other pieces of work that Welsh Government's engaged in.
Okay. Thank you.
Are there any other questions from Members in terms of the economy section, at all? No. In that case, we'll take a 10-minute break and, after the break, we will move on to transport and then skills. If Members in the meeting and officials want to stay in the meeting and just mute themselves and cancel the screen, rather than logging out, that might help us to resume in approximately 10 minutes. A 10-minute break.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:46 ac 10:59.
The meeting adjourned between 10:46 and 10:59.
Welcome back to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee as we continue on to item 4, which is a continuation of our budget scrutiny with the Minister for the economy and the Deputy Minister also.
If I can just ask some questions around the UK Government spending review to start with, I understand that the Deputy Minister is taking questions around these areas. Perhaps, Minister, you could give a view on the treatment of Network Rail and high speed 2 line impacts on the calculation of the transport comparability factor used in the UK Government spending review, which has fallen to 36.6 per cent. And also then, perhaps if you could continue on to talk about what that means for budget allocations in regard to the transport portfolio in the 2021-22 budget year.
I'll call in Simon Jones to talk about the budget management impacts, but I would just say as an outline that this flies in the face of calls to level up. This is quite a significant drop in comparability. We already know that HS2 is a £100 billion project that is going to take money out of the Welsh economy; it's overall impact on Wales is negative. There are some regional impacts in north-east Wales, but for Wales as a whole, this is a harmful project to the Welsh economy. It's a significant infrastructure project for the whole of the UK and the Treasury obviously regards it as having UK-wide benefits, even though its own figures show it being damaging to the Welsh economy, and by so blatantly reducing the comparability factor, it effectively is further starving Wales of vital rail infrastructure that we are already languishing in. As we've told the committee before, an analysis of the funding shows that we're likely to get something like £60 million for rail infrastructure over the next 10 years, and a fair apportionment of that funding would see us getting closer to £5 billion, so there is already significant shortfall, and the HS2 fiddling of the comparability factor is rubbing salt in the wounds to that.
Simon, would you like to talk a little bit more about the impacts on budgets and how they're managed?
I think the challenge, really, is for future years, if the Treasury persists with this. As it happens, this year, they've massively reduced the DfT's capital budget, so we're getting a small share of a small number, but I think the thing we're much more worried about is what happens in the longer term.
Just to add to the Deputy Minister's point, though, about the fairness of the comparability factor, back in March of last year, Members will recall that the core Valleys lines asset was transferred to Wales. There is no reflection of the fact that we are now the operator of a significant amount of rail infrastructure in their comparability factor. We get 0 per cent comparability for rail infrastructure, even though we own the bit of track that carries nearly 50 per cent of all the passenger traffic in Wales. So, it feels like there's a basic issue there that needs to be addressed and I don't know, Welsh Government Treasury colleagues are in dialogue with UK Treasury officials about that.
Thank you. I'll move on if I can to some questions around the South East Wales Transport Commission. I appreciate that there was a statement on this yesterday, Deputy Minister, so I'll move into some more budget-specific questions. The First Minister had previously stated that the commission—or the recommendations flowing from that—would have first call on the £1 billion that was available for the relief road project. Is that still the case, given the other demands and pressures on Government?
Yes, we've made our commitment to making sure that we implement the Burns recommendations. Obviously, a number of them are not within our power, and just referring back to that point on rail infrastructure, a good proportion of the Burns recommendations—more than half—falls on rail infrastructure, and that's something the UK Government has to play its part in, but we certainly stand by the commitment that the First Minister made that we will stand by the implementation of this report that we're responsible for.
Thank you for that. That confirmation is clear. Your paper, Deputy Minister, states that additional allocations will be needed for any recommendations taken forward. So, how will these be calculated in the final budget? Or are some of these budgets working on a longer term budget, or are they included in the future supplementary budgets?
I think, as we rehearsed yesterday, this is a 10-year capital programme. In the first instance, the delivery unit within Transport for Wales is working closely with Newport City Council, and are now being tasked with treating in effect the Burns—. The Burns commission report has been a really hefty and helpful piece of work, because it in effect gives us our first stage of our business case for a lot of these interventions. So, the task now for the delivery unit is to work that up further and to put in place all the different stages and statutory processes that need to go through to implement them. They're going to be working up in detail a programme management approach for each of the different discrete elements, and as those come forward, they will be built into budgets for future years. I don't think it's anticipated in the next year; not a huge amount of capital outlay will be able to be spent, because there is a business case and programme management that needs to be put in place. So, these are going to be for future years, but as the programmes come forward, obviously, it will be for whoever forms the next Welsh Government, but if we are part of that Welsh Government, we have made our commitment to make sure those are funded.
Okay, thank you, Deputy Minister. If there are no other questions or comments from officials on the transport commission, I'll move to Jack Sargeant.
Thank you, Chair. I would like to pick up on some discussion today on the Welsh transport appraisal guidance, please, if I may. Deputy Minister, you've told the committee previously that, while the WelTAG document 'ticks all the boxes', in practice,
'time after time…the results WelTAG churns out are the results it's always churned out'.
Does this mean, then, that the Welsh Government is not achieving value for money from transport investments?
It's a more complicated answer to this question. So, what is the purpose of WelTAG, I guess, is the first thing to think about. It's an appraisal mechanism. It's only as good as what you put in. There's an old IT saying, 'garbage in, garbage out', and the same would apply for any formula. So, WelTAG is an attempt to move away from the standard Treasury model, which is simply about value for money as they define it, and the old formula had all sorts of odd things in it, for example, the old formula said that schemes that increase fuel revenue to the Treasury are a good thing for the economy, and therefore schemes that increase car use, for example, are a plus, and they'll be scored up. Now, the point of developing WelTAG is to allow us to put our own values and policy preferences in there, and we've developed a new iteration of WelTAG that is compliant with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 to move us away from those sorts of distortions. But that's my point: the formula's only so good as the underlying judgments and values and biases you put in it.
So, WelTAG in a sense is a little beside the point, really, because the argument I'm making is that, if we want to shift transport policy to a way that is climate friendly and that plays its part in delivering our 95 per cent carbon reduction target in responding to the climate emergency, then focusing just on WelTAG is a bit of a side issue, really. Because the point I was making in the quote you've just used there, Jack, was that you can change the formula and you can change the processes, but if the people who are sitting down making those decisions have already made their minds up on what they want the outcome to be, WelTAG is sufficiently malleable that it can produce the result that you want it to produce. You can still then sit in front of the committee and say, 'Well, it's gone through WelTAG and it's compliant', but it doesn't change the outcome. Actually, if you want to put us on to a llwybr newydd, a new pathway, as our transport strategy has discussed, then that approach simply won't do anymore. So, WelTAG itself is not unimportant, but it's not the main point, I would say.
Okay, thank you for that answer, Deputy Minister. I'm with you; I think we really do need to focus heavily on the importance of the climate emergency, and clearly transport is a big area of that. You did say that WelTAG is not the main artery, if you like, in what we're trying to achieve here, but it is part of the appraisal process. So, I wonder if you could just comment on when you expect that appraisal process, the WelTAG again, to be satisfactory, or is that something that we're trying to move away from?
I think it does need further looking at in terms of the implications of the Wales transport strategy, because that is putting modal shift at the centre of the Welsh Government's transport approach, which has not been explicit before. And to achieve that, WelTAG does have a role, and we need to make sure both in terms of the way it's used and its mechanisms to make sure that it properly weighs in the costs of not complying with the climate change targets.
Certainly, the work that the Burns commission has done also showed some shortcomings in the way that WelTAG was applied, and I think we have some lessons learned to reflect on from the Burns commission. Certainly, the feedback we had from the secretariat was that WelTAG was not fit for the purpose that they had set out to do in applying a public-transport-first approach to the problems of congestion. So, I think there are things for the Welsh Government to reflect on based on that experience and, as I say, based on the new priorities that we hope to agree as the Wales transport strategy. So, it certainly has a part to play and it will need revisiting.
Again, thank you, and that moves me nicely on to the Burns commission. Obviously, they have proposed a public transport solution to the M4 congestion, but yet in developing the M4 relief road, the Welsh Government repeatedly said that public transport would have a minimal impact. Can you explain perhaps the contrast in those two statements?
Well, I guess these are policy choices first and foremost and then, obviously, transport officials work within that policy framework. The process that came up with the M4 was a process that looked at road solutions primarily, and therefore, given that framing, a public transport solution was never going to score highly, given that that was the framing. The framing set for the Burns commission was a very different framing, and that was a policy choice made by the First Minister not to go ahead with the M4 relief road, and one of the reasons he cited was its impact on biodiversity loss and on climate change. So, you're starting from a different position and I think the Burns commission took that as its starting point. Therefore, unsurprisingly, it came up with a different set of judgments about how you would achieve a different response to congestion.
I think you've answered my final question, and that essentially is that if the root and policy is different at the start, you would expect a different set of outcomes compared to public transport options and road solutions. Would that be correct in summarising?
Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Minister.
Apologies, Chair; I didn't hear you. Thank you. Do you mind if I just ask a question about WelTAG before I move on to my own questions? Lee, you've been very frank in saying that it doesn't really work as a tool at the moment, and doesn't help you that much in making decisions because what goes in and what comes out are closely linked. How have you used the information you're getting out of WelTAG at the moment to help you with the budgeting process? Because part of this is about assessing value for money regardless of what your criteria are, and yet you're having to make decisions on the back of results that you're saying that you haven't really got a lot of faith in.
Perhaps Simon would like to answer this one.
The WelTAG process provides us with the best options from a particular policy starting point. So, if the policy starting point is—. Bear in mind that these projects can take 10 years to deliver, if you think about how long the M4, which we've just been talking about, took. That went from 2010, I think, through to 2019. There are very long gestations with these. So, there is a policy choice that's made at the outset, and then the WelTAG process allows us to be able to be assured that we're getting value for money as we move through the policy ladder from that outset. So, I think the committee can take assurance from the fact that once we're locked into a policy approach, we are designing the best value solutions. But I think the Deputy Minister's point is: how do we go into that system? What's the starting point?
It's not actually answering the question about how do you discover whether a long-term project is proving value for money, and whether something along the road needs to change. And that, of course, has got not just in-year budget implications but inter-year budget implications as well. If it's not helping you do that, I'm just a bit surprised it wasn't fixed earlier.
You make a strong point, Suzy. I guess we're answering a different question to the one you're asking, to be fair, specifically how does it help us with long-term budget planning. Well, that's not what it's meant to do, really. Simon, feel free to jump in and correct me here, but WelTAG is about the initial assessment, about whether or not something is the right transport solution, and whether or not, of the range of options that goes into WelTAG, it provides value for money. That's different, then, from the programme and project management of that scheme. For example, I presume the Heads of the Valleys road, when it was at the WelTAG stage, came out showing value for money. The problems that scheme has encountered were problems around project build. They weren't about the assessment of was this the right solution and value for money at the starting point. So, I guess there are slightly different things that you're conflating and putting into WelTAG. That's not quite what WelTAG is designed to do.
Okay. That's helpful, actually. It still doesn't give us an indication of where a policy decision might prove to be wrong, simply because it got too expensive. You mentioned HS2 earlier on; I'm sure it went through a similar process, albeit a different one, in the UK, and you've been quite happy to be critical about that.
Let me just move on, though, to buses. I know this is everyone's favourite. I wonder if you can tell me—. Obviously, some money was brought forward, effectively, to help deal with the COVID crisis with the bus situation, and I think we'd all understand why that was done, but presumably, then, it's left a gap in the spend in the work for which it was originally intended. How are you filling that gap at the moment, or is that work just being left undone?
Shall I take that, Minister?
The bus funding in a normal year to operators comes from two revenue sources inside Government. One is for reimbursement of concessionary fare travel, which we budget about £70 million for each year, but it's a needs based thing. If fewer people who are eligible travel, we pay out less. And then the other component is something called the bus services support grant, BSSG. That's also got a needs based element, but it's slightly easier to predict, and in the main, the money that goes directly to operators there is based on a kind of per-kilometre charge—so, the number of miles that the operators do, they get a bit of money from the BSSG for that. That's how money is allocated in a normal year, and those two funds together add up to about £100 million of revenue that we put into the bus industry. By our calculations, that's around 50 per cent of the revenue of the scheduled bus industry. The other 50 per cent comes from passenger fares, in a normal year.
What we did at the beginning of this year, recognising that the needs based bit of BSSG and concessionary fares wasn't going to be there, because there will be fewer people travelling who will be eligible and there will be fewer miles travelled, is we took that money and we put that into a new pot, which has become the bus emergency scheme fund. We reallocated budget that was going to be paid out on a needs basis, and we've put that into an emergency pot. That pot was sufficient in the months between April and August to pay for about 30 per cent of the route network to operate.
In September, we increased the frequency of services to allow the economy to reopen and for pupils to go back to school and things, and, in September, services increased to about 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels. That induced additional costs, because there were relatively few passengers. The revenues were just not sufficient to be able to cover that gap, so there was an additional amount of money that was provided. We internally call that top-up funding that we've put in place, and if you notice in the budget for next year, there's an allocation made of that kind of top-up funding—I think we might have called it something slightly different—for just the first quarter of next year, to allow us to be able to run 80 per cent service levels for the first quarter of the year.
Okay. Thank you. I understand how you were able to survive on no new money. The equivalent of the £18.6 million that you've just mentioned—I'm guessing it was roughly the same amount, in year, that you needed to do the top-up.
That's right, yes. That ran from September and that's still in place now; that's gone through various supplementary budgets, so that's in place now through until the end of March.
Yes, but where did it come from? Because that must have been new money.
That was new money that came as a result of a consequential. The same problem has occurred everywhere else in the UK, so there was a consequential to Welsh Government from the Department for Transport. Because the DfT were having to do exactly the same thing as we've had to do.
Okay. And it was enough, so that's good to know. This extra £18 million, then, you've explained that it's there, basically, to support an existing service. It's been described as for bus operators; can you explain how exactly it gets to bus operators, and if it's going through local authorities, for example, how you can be sure that it's protected—you know, that it's not getting absorbed into the revenue support grant or something like that; that it's actually going to its target audience directly?
We've created quite a sophisticated arrangement now with operators and local authorities to disperse that money, and there have been a series of contractual agreements put in place around that. We're just, actually, in the process of signing up to the latest version of that—the bus emergency scheme version 2—so, all operators and all local authorities will sign up to that, and that puts obligations on operators and local authorities in order to disperse the money, but also to evidence the way the money has been defrayed by operators and the evidence they have to provide back to authorities to confirm that. That money isn't provided within the block grant that goes to local authorities; it's a separate fund that's put on on top. So, the agreement that we have in place with local authorities, to be reinforced, if you like, by the BES 2 contract, I think gives us the protections that you're asking about.
That's what I was seeking. And of course, as it's needs based, presumably, it would be very responsive rather than big lump sums upfront.
That's right, yes.
I'll go onto the bus services support grant that you mentioned earlier, and, of course, the creation of the emergency scheme that you've just been talking about. Going forward, is there a line of sight here that suggests that these two streams might end up being merged? Because I appreciate that one of these is an emergency stream, but it comes with conditions that are to do with public service obligations. It just strikes me that that's a perfectly laudable aim, but to attach it to something that's intended to be short-term and emergency seems unlikely.
The legal framework that we have in place to provide that funding runs through until July 2022, so it is time limited because of the legal framework. I think the hope is that we don't have to continue paying the emergency funds at this kind of level for any longer than that. But you're quite right, it does raise questions about the nature of the BSSG. The history of the BSSG was that it was put in place years and years ago to protect operators from increases in fuel duty. It was a supplement that was paid to operators to reduce the impact of increases in fuel duty, as I understand it. But essentially, we're paying operators for the amount of fuel that they burn, and just as the Deputy Minister talked earlier about that potentially being not the right kind of incentive in the modern world, I suppose we need to think again about what the basis for the subsidy regime for buses is. So, one of the things that we will be working with operators and local authorities on is whether there is a successor regime to the BSSG that allows public authorities to be able to achieve the policy outcomes that they all want to see around integration and improved standards and all the rest of it, and how can we use the subsidy regime that we put in place more effectively to create that.
I think what you're successfully hitting upon here, Suzy, is the way that it is an intersection of two different systems; we have a legacy system around buses, both regulatory and funding, that is no longer fit for purpose, and, without intervention, would have collapsed in the face of COVID. We've had to step in to try and keep services afloat, and in doing that, we've had to innovate in the way that we've found ways to fund that, and the conditions we then applied to that, to try and get us into a different policy space, as well as dealing with the short-term problems of the crisis. It's our hope and intention, working in partnership, genuinely, with the industry, and with local government, that we are able to oscillate the system to a point where we get both our policy outcomes and we get a way that allows us to run in a way that makes sense for commercial operators. As we do that, the funding framework is changing and evolving as we're doing it. But when you do it in co-production, you can't start off with a particular firm end result in mind; you've got to move with the flow, if you like, and that's what we're doing in consultation with them. But I think it's definitely getting us to a different place from where we started off. So, whether the bus support grant, with its emphasis on fuel compensation, will survive that process is something we're working through.
Okay. I can see that, certainly from a policy progress point of view. I was going to have a go at you, actually, about the BSSG not having gone up over the last few years—it's been in place for a while. But then, if it's to compensate for rising fuel duty, then obviously we haven't had much of that, because of policies the other side of the Severn bridge. Moving on to—
And just briefly, as Simon pointed out earlier, it had absurd policy consequences—unintended consequences, probably—because there's an incentive on bus operators to run empty buses in order to qualify for extra BSSG. Now, that's clearly sub-optimal. So, I'm not sure we would want to repeat that.
No, and big buses running around empty when little buses were sat in garages was no good to anybody.
If I can move on to rail now, if the Chair will let me—and we may need to do this fairly swiftly—the Minister has been very candid that the final budget for rail operating costs isn't ready yet, because it's going to need extra funding. There's a combination of the COVID passenger decline, plus the costs of running what is a very expensive system—because it's old, just putting it simply. How are you going to identify what you'll need in this? Because it strikes me that, if we're just keeping what we've already got going, it's going to cost a small fortune. And what are you finding already that you think you might be able to make savings on—those unintended positive consequences that actually you were talking about as regards buses just a few moments ago?
If you can be brief on this, because we're pushed for time.
I'll let Simon answer.
It's a pretty complex mix of issues here. We've got costs, but we also have revenues that we need to work on. So, there's no point in us just thinking about the cost side of the equation; we also need to think about stimulating revenues as well. You talk about the old system that we have. One of the ironies is that the old, awful trains that we have are incredibly cheap to rent. So, there are some perverse incentives in the railway space as well. Ministers have asked TfW to look at the basis of the costs for the railway, but also what we can do to bring paying passengers back. There will be a number of areas to look at, because the railway is an incredibly complex system, as you can imagine, and there will be lots of different choices that will need to be considered.
I suppose the other point, though, that's worth making is that the issues that we're facing in Wales are exactly the same issues that are being faced in England and Scotland. We are in regular contact with colleagues and officials from the DfT and from the Scottish Government about this. In all likelihood, the Treasury is going to have to pay additional money for the railway in England, in the same way as it has done for buses in England. Therefore, we would expect a consequential for that, over the next year or so, as well.
Okay. Well, it's helpful to know that that's one source of income, because I think passenger-derived income is going to be depressed for a while yet.
Just two things very briefly. On this exercise that you've asked TfW to do to reduce baseline costs, quite frankly, I would have hoped that had been done before they were even considered to be running the show. Can you give us an indication of whether you think this is going to affect passengers' pockets? And it's a question I've got with the Burns proposals as well—that, despite a lot of subsidy perhaps going into the system, we want passengers to be able to afford to use whatever system—[Inaudible.]
We're actually out of time, really. If that can be addressed very briefly, but perhaps a bit more comprehensively in a note, that would be helpful.
I was just going to say that, hopefully, I'd answered some of that question in a previous answer I gave, that we need to look at both costs and revenues.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you. [Inaudible.]—Suzy. We've got 15 minutes left, and we've got three subject areas: two on transport and one on skills. So, if Members can take into account that we've got five minutes in total for each subject block, and if those answering the questions could just bear that in mind in terms of very pointed answers to the questions. So, Helen Mary Jones.
Thank you, Chair. I want to ask a bit about how the budget's supporting the decarbonisation of transport. And I suppose it comes back to a similar principle to the questions I asked the Minister earlier about the extent to which work around equalities is mainstreamed, or the extent to which it's supported by small pockets of the budget. And I wonder to what extent the Deputy Minister feels that this draft budget reflects the increasing prioritisation that we need to put into decarbonisation to match the scale of effort that's needed to address the climate emergency. We've just been discussing the issue of the way the bus subsidies work, which, if it was left as it is, and I'm sure it won't be, it would be heading in the opposite direction, because arguably it would be encouraging them to spend more to burn more fuel. So, does the budget reflect the priority on decarbonisation that I'm sure you'd want to give to transport policy?
Well, I think the approach we're taking, as Simon's just been outlining, both on rail and especially on bus, is as much about tackling inequalities as it is about tackling decarbonisation. In fact, they are both sides of the same coin in this, because we know that bus users, for example—around 80 per cent of them—don't have access to a car, and we know that disproportionately it'll affect women, younger people, people on lower incomes—there's a whole range of inequalities. So, I absolutely think—and this is the case we've been making within Government for why it's right to keep spending these very significant sums of money at a time of public finance crisis—it's as much about equalities as it is about decarbonisation in the short term. Now, clearly, putting us on a pathway that addresses decarbonisation in the medium to longer term also will allow us to improve social justice and inequalities, which is why I think this is an agenda that should have so much support and a greater profile, frankly.
That's a useful answer, Minister. To what extent do you feel that your draft budget, as it stands, is delivering on that? And how do you evaluate the effectiveness of the approaches that you take? I'm thinking not so much about the outputs, as in what is spent and what's invested, but how do you track that investment against the outcomes, the changes, that you want to deliver. It's a process question, I guess, more than a—.
It's a good process question, and I'm not sure we do it as well as we could do it, I think is the honest answer. So, let me give just a small example from active travel—and the same could be said of road schemes; we don't go back and check that the scheme's achieved what we thought it would set out to achieve. So, Suzy's questions earlier about WelTAG—a whole set of assumptions are made about whether a scheme is the right value scheme at the outset, and that is then rarely evaluated post scheme. So, I think there's a good challenge the committee could make to our processes on whether or not the intent and the outcome are aligned. So, on active travel, for example, we're not evaluating, we're not monitoring sufficiently robustly, we're not evaluating post scheme. So, there's a significant programme of reform we need to get us on to a better pathway and then we'll be able to properly answer your question on whether or not these things are aligned. Simon, I'm sure I'm not doing justice to all the processes that you're operating, but that's my take on it.
Well, I think there are a number of evaluations required. If the scheme is European funded, then we do have to go back and do quite a lot of that process of scheme analysis. But you're right, Minister, it's not as uniform as you might imagine.
I think that might be something that the committee, Chair, might want to reflect back, because, in the end, unless the resources that you're putting in are getting the outcomes—and outcomes that Plaid Cymru would certainly support—then there's a risk of more perverse incentives, isn't there? I think, Chair, I'll leave my questions there, because that general answer that the Deputy Minister has given kind of covers some of those specifics and we can maybe have a look at whether we need to pursue any of those specifics with him. But I think that general—. I find it helpful, to be honest, Deputy Minister, that you can see that that's an issue and that that's on your agenda. And that's something that—. I don't know, Chair, that may be something for our legacy report as a committee to raise with whoever is the next Welsh Government and the next Ministers responsible in terms of tracking that.
I think, just in terms of your legacy report, there's a whole set of implications to the Wales transport strategy and achieving modal shift that the committee will want to pursue, I'm sure.
That's helpful; we could pick up some points in our budget letter, following this session—[Inaudible.]—Helen Mary. Hefin David.
I have some questions about the governance and funding of Transport for Wales. Transport for Wales's role is growing, developing plans for the future, and the Minister's paper makes it clear that the organisation's full remit and budget for 2021 are still to be agreed. So, what needs still to be agreed? What needs to be confirmed? How much additional funding is likely to be required and will this be confirmed in changes to the final budget or a future supplementary budget?
Can I ask Simon to answer that?
Sure. Thank you. So, as we've talked about in committee before, we've got a period of huge change, particularly with the railway, and I think, as the budget was being put together, we still hadn't signed the contract to make changes. That was only signed right at the end of December and TfW begin to operate the services directly on 7 February, so there's quite a period of change and volatility at the moment. As a result of not having full access to all the information, there are still some risk elements in the budget, which we're finalising now. So, we're getting a clearer understanding of what the financial implications of directly operating the railway are as we get closer to operating it directly. So, that's part of the reason.
The other part—
Can I just stop you there a second, Simon? What do you mean by 'risk elements'?
So, there are commitments, for example, that the previous contractor made to deliver. So, I don't know, that might be the building of a station or the building of some kind of facility. And we would have had an idea of the overall cost of that, but the specifics of that—as we are moving from the client side to the delivery side, we're getting a clearer view of what those numbers might be. So, one example that we've been wrestling with over recent weeks is the way that they've paid for fuel. So, they hedged the cost of fuel, understandably—they bought it at a particular price and they de-risk that by buying a hedge on that, so we've had to get into the detail of the fuel hedging arrangements. That isn't something that we would normally have been bothered with. As a client, we would have left the supplier to sort that out.
Okay. You were going on to something else as well. You were going to say some other things. Do you want to say that or are you happy to move on?
I've lost my thread, so I'll pause there, if that's okay.
You lost your train of thought. [Laughter.] In November, the evidence we received from Transport for Wales indicated there'd been a period when it wasn't covered by a current remit letter, and that's the second period that we've been aware of as a committee. How many times do you think, or can you tell us, in total, since its establishment, has Transport for Wales been without a remit letter and for how long in each case?
I couldn't tell you off the top of my head how many times that's happened. I suppose the thrust of your question, though, is about what happened this year, and I don't think anybody would disagree that we've been faced with extraordinary circumstances, and the remit letter that we had in draft to issue to TfW in March of last year, which we'd spent the January/February time putting together—all of a sudden, by the time we should have issued it, it didn't mean anything any more, because COVID hit and the revenues disappeared. And then we were very quickly into the emergency management agreement. And then we were very quickly into the fact that the contract, as it stood, was unviable. So, trying to predict that in a remit letter in advance would simply not have been possible, and, frankly, there wasn't much point in us trying to creep along behind, writing remit letters for things that were changing really dramatically. There were live negotiations with the supplier on a daily basis, which was giving us new information and changing what the financial basis of the arrangement would be. So, it wouldn't have been sensible, frankly, to have the normal remit letter arrangement.
Could I just briefly add on that? Because when I was a member of the committee and previously there was a TfW failure of remit letter, I joined you in taking a dim view of that, but, if I can just say, having witnessed the way these things work over the last year in particular, the idea that TfW are off doing their own thing because they haven't got a letter is not quite how it has worked, and, in practice, TfW and Welsh Government officials and Ministers were in very regular contact to respond to these events and to make sure that TfW were fulfilling the wishes of Ministers and the Government, whether there was a letter in place or not.
So, what you're saying is that a remit letter works in normal times, when you can plan, but, when there's a crisis, remit letters don't function.
It's not worth the paper it's written on.
Okay. I think that's fair enough, unless any other Member wants to come in and challenge that. I'm willing to accept it.
You're not the only one who can do puns. [Laughter.]
I suppose the question, really, is wider than the past year—Hefin's question is really more in general, about the remit letter pre the pandemic as well.
I think the general point is an absolutely fair one—that you need to keep on us on the governance of it, because, as TfW grows in significance and in budget, the robustness of the governance is a very significant consideration that the committee needs to keep a careful watch on. From my perspective, I think the governance balance is the right one at the moment, but it's something that we need to keep a watchful eye on.
Okay. And, therefore, future remit letters—. Will—? Is there any purpose, any point, in having a remit letter for next year?
Well, there's been some discussion whether or not we should move to a term-of-office remit letter, which would give a greater range of resilience, I guess. But, as we've just seen in the last year, things can move so fast that a term-of-office letter wouldn't have been any better. I think we do need to keep having a remit letter, but I think there needs to be flexibility in the way that's interpreted.
Okay. I haven't got any more, Chair, on that, really. I think the answer's been pretty straight down the line there.
I think, on the remit letter, I understand that there are discussions between Government and Transport for Wales, but, of course, the remit letter helps us as a committee in our work. But, just to be clear, as it stands now, going forward, as far as you're concerned, there will always be a time when Transport for Wales is within the timescale of a remit letter. Have I made that—? There will always be a remit letter coming in a time period, going forward, is still your intention.
That's still the intention. We're drafting the remit letter for the next financial year at the moment. The issues will be nailing down what the budget is, because, as we've described, there's an unknown quantity about how COVID is going to affect passenger numbers.
Okay. Thank you. There was a bit of sound issue to start with, but I heard that, so, hopefully it's on the transcript appropriately. Vikki Howells for the last five minutes.
Thank you, Chair. I've got some questions around the draft budget investment in skills and employability. So, if we look at Communities for Work, for example, which I think is a fantastic initiative, there's a relatively small amount of additional funding there—£6 million in fact—in response to COVID, and the rationale—if you could just talk us through the rationale for increasing funding to that particular programme to that level.
Well, thanks, Vikki. And you're right, £6 million, in the context of the entire budget, doesn't sound very much; it's a 50 per cent uplift on the original Communities for Work Plus budget, though, so it's a really significant increase in funding for that particular programme. The rationale for supporting that programme relates to questions that have been asked earlier in the session. That programme really is of huge benefit to people who have low levels of skills, people from BAME communities and also disabled people. It's also a well-proven programme as well. So far, it's supported around about 20,000 people across Wales, and of those 20,000 people, more than 7,200 have entered employment and are finding their way out of poverty. So, it's a proven scheme, a really successful one, and it's targeting those individuals who we've already spoken about at length in this session.
Thank you. And if we look at apprenticeships, the procurement for that provision has been undertaken through the programme framework agreement. What was the rationale for choosing that and were other procurement options considered?
Yes. We examined alternatives, but the reason that that particular approach was followed was because a market exists. A market's been established, it exists, and the advice from legal services and corporate procurement services was that there was therefore a need to retender for the provision. I think that's correct, isn't it, Huw?
Yes, Minister, that's correct. Yes.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you. And moving on to apprenticeship provision itself, then. So, the 100,000 apprenticeship target has been met, so what level of apprenticeship provision does the Welsh Government wish to see being delivered during the next financial year off the back of that, and what would the affordability be?
I'll bring Huw in on the profile for 2021-2022, but I think it's important to say, as well, that further financial decisions on skills support are going to have to be made once we have a full understanding of the impact of COVID during the winter months. And so, we're looking at the moment at the scope to increase the budget for apprenticeship provision in light of recent challenges presented by coronavirus. But I'll bring in Huw on the actual figures.
Yes. I'm afraid I don't have figures that are up to date, but I have requested them from our statistical service so we can forward them to the committee afterwards. As you might imagine, the profile has been affected by the lockdowns, and so, we've seen the overall volume of apprentices reduce slightly. We're working with the sector on a range of measures to try to address that. And, as the Minister alluded to earlier, there is an employer-incentive scheme, which is being used to encourage the development of that work.
Thank you. And you alluded there, Minister, obviously, to the challenges of the COVID pandemic and how that's impacted funding. So, what mechanisms are in place, within the relevant Welsh Government departments, in order to understand and prioritise the additional skills and training funding that will be needed as a result of the pandemic?
Thanks, Vikki. I'll bring in Huw again on this question. We work across Government, looking at what opportunities there are, what challenges there are in terms of apprenticeship provision across all sectors—public, private, all forms of business and employment opportunities. And we also have very close working relationships with the sector to understand the pressures that are being faced by providers, and I'll bring in Huw, if I may.
Thank you, Minister. So, I think there are three things worthy of mention: the first is the continuing important role of regional skills partnerships in providing a forum for providers to meet with employers and other stakeholders, to make sure that there's a view about the medium and longer term development. To supplement that, we've instituted employment response groups that bring together employers and the services supporting displaced workers on a more regular basis so that we've got on-the-ground intelligence on a three-monthly basis about what's needed in particular localities, and we're able to get people to work together to respond to that. And the data that that group and the regional skills partnership use—this is the third point—is drawn from labour market intelligence, which gives us up-to-date views about what's happening with vacancies. And, as you might imagine, we're seeing particular occupations and sectors seeing growth, despite the recessionary impact. So, things like logistics, health and social care—very strong demand there, as you would expect; similarly in digital.
Thank you. And in terms of the regional skills partnerships there, Minister, there isn't going to be an increase in funding for them, and in your paper you say that, as a result of that, there won't be a fourth RSP for mid Wales. What does that mean for the development of regional development, and do you think that that decision constitutes value for money?
Thanks, Vikki. I should just probably say that the financial provision in the budget is for the three RSPs, but, I've got to be honest, we're not looking at a huge amount of additional resource that's going to be required for the fourth RSP. Correct me if I'm wrong, Dean, but we think we can probably find the required sums from within our own budget. We're looking at tens of thousands of pounds—it's not millions—to create that fourth RSP for mid Wales, and so my intention is to look at that very closely.
That's interesting. Thank you. And a final question from me, then. Just to ask about the rationale for transferring money from the work-based learning BEL to HEFCW each year to fund degree apprenticeships, rather than allocating the funding via the education MEG.
So, the policy for degree apprenticeships sits with Kirsty Williams, education Minister, but funding is supported from the work-based learning BEL, because these are, obviously, apprenticeships.
Okay. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. I'll come on to Helen Mary in a moment. Thank you, Minister. I noticed your paper did say that if there's no increase for RSPs there'll be no fourth RSP for mid Wales. You've clarified that, so that is helpful because the paper kind of indicated that there wouldn't be, but I can understand you were talking about the three RSPs and additional funding. Perhaps that—we'll include, perhaps, a note on that in our letter. But I think any additional information to let us know about what funding—what budget line—there is for the fourth RSP would be welcome.
We'll certainly do that, Chair.
Helen Mary Jones.
Thank you, Chair. I just want to take us back very briefly to the 100,000 apprenticeships target. Can I check—so that target's been met, but in the measuring of that, is that 100,000 apprenticeships started, or a 100,000 completed? Because, I think, in the current circumstances, we know there have been real challenges with workplaces being on furlough, apprentices being let go. I think it would help us to understand that a bit.
Correct me if I'm wrong, Huw, but it's apprenticeships started during this Senedd term. Obviously, when we started the Senedd term, there were a significant number of apprentices actually operating within their framework. So, if you were to add up those that were completed but started before the Senedd term, plus those that have started now, the figure would be, I imagine, even higher. Is that right, Huw?
Yes, that's correct, Minister.
Thanks, Chair. Minister, my question just briefly runs over what Helen Mary has just asked. The difficulty we sometimes face in apprenticeships, certainly now, is some companies, unfortunately, have either let apprentices go, some because quite simply and quite frankly they're cheaper to let go, which is extremely disappointing, and some companies have just gone under. My issue there is, obviously, apprentices are partly through their framework. Are there any discussions about moving them over to suitable companies who are, perhaps, doing better than others, and making sure that skill set that they will have learnt is continued?
That's exactly what we've been striving to achieve, Jack. As part of the COVID commitment, we announced £40 million to support people, and a significant proportion of that fund was utilised for those apprentices that you've identified, those who were part way through their framework, lost their opportunity of employment with their existing employer but were using that fund to find alternative places so that they could continue through to completion.
Do any other Members, then, have any final, short questions? No, any Ministers want to make any final comments at all?
Thank you, Chair. No, I'm content. Thank you.
No. Thank you. In that case, can I thank both Ministers, and officials supporting as well, for your attendance this morning? I appreciate it's a particularly busy time for you all, so thank you for your time and your paper in advance of the meeting as well—very much appreciated.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
And with that, I will, under item 5, Standing Order 17.42, bring forward the motion to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. So, I thank the Ministers—thank you very much—and officials.
If Members are content with that, we'll end our public session of the meeting.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:55.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:55.