Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu - Y Bumed Senedd
Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee - Fifth Senedd18/04/2018
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Bethan Sayed AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mick Antoniw AM|
|Neil Hamilton AM|
|Rhianon Passmore AM|
|Sian Gwenllian AM|
|Suzy Davies AM|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Garnett Compton||Rhaglen Cyfrifiad, y Swyddfa Ystadegau Gwladol|
|Census Programme, Office for National Statistics|
|Iain Bell||Dirprwy Ystadegydd Cenedlaethol a Chyfarwyddwr Cyffredinol ar gyfer Poblogaeth a Pholisi Cyhoeddus, y Swyddfa Ystadegau Gwladol|
|Deputy National Statistician and Director General for Population and Public Policy, Office for National Statistics|
|Michael Gubbins||Cadeirydd, Ffilm Cymru|
|Chair, Ffilm Cymru|
|Pauline Burt||Prif Weithredwr, Ffilm Cymru|
|Chief Executive, Ffilm Cymru|
|Phil George||Cadeirydd, Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru|
|Chair, Arts Council of Wales|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Lowri Harries||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.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:04.
The meeting began at 09:04.
Croeso i'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu. Eitem 1: cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau. A oes gan unrhyw Aelod rywbeth i'w ddatgan heddiw? Na. Dirprwyon ac ymddiheuriadau: mae Jenny Rathbone wedi rhoi ei ymddiheuriadau ac mae Jack Sargeant hefyd wedi ymddiheuro. Mae Suzy Davies yn ymddiheuro am ei bod hi'n mynd i fod yn hwyr, ac rwy'n credu hefyd Rhianon Passmore—mae hi ar ei ffordd.
Welcome to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee. Item 1: introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. Do any Members have anything to declare? No. Substitutions and apologies: Jenny Rathbone has apologised and Jack Sargeant has also apologised. Suzy Davies is apologising because she is going to be late, and also, I think, Rhianon Passmore—she's on her way.
Eitem 2. Rŷm ni'n symud ymlaen at y Swyddfa Ystadegau Gwladol a chyfrifiad 2021. Rydym yn croesawu Iain Bell, dirprwy ystadegydd cenedlaethol a chyfarwyddwr cyffredinol ar gyfer poblogaeth a pholisi cyhoeddus—teitl hir. Rwy'n synnu am y teitlau weithiau. Wedyn, Garnett Compton o raglen cyfrifiad y Swyddfa Ystadegau Gwladol. Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi am ddod. Yn wahanol i'r arfer, rydym ni wedi gofyn a ydych chi'n gallu rhoi rhyw fath o gyflwyniad byr am eich gwaith, jest i roi cyd-destun o'r hyn sydd yn digwydd yn eich cylch gwaith chi o ran y cyfrifad nesaf. Felly, os byddech chi'n hapus i wneud hynny, byddem ni'n ddiolchgar, ac wedyn down ni at gwestiynau gan Aelodau.
Item 2. We're moving on to the Office for National Statistics and the 2021 census. We welcome Iain Bell, deputy national statistician and director general for population and public policy—a long title. I'm surprised at the titles sometimes. And then, Garnett Compton from the census programme of the Office of National Statistics. Thank you very much for coming in today. In a change to the usual pattern, we're going to ask if you can present us with a brief presentation about your work, just to provide us with a context of what is happening in your remit in terms of the next census. If you'd be content to do that, we'd be very grateful, and then we'll go on to questions from Members.
Bore da. Unfortunately, despite having lived here for five years, my Welsh skills are not good, so I shall speak in English. As you recognised, I have a long job title. So, I'm Iain Bell, deputy national statistician for population and public policy, which gives me three main areas. Firstly, a set of public policy statistics, which cover a range of things, sometimes in England, sometimes in England and Wales and sometimes the whole UK. They cover migration, crime, health, social care and the inequalities agenda in the roundest sense, and also working across Government to join these statistics up. Secondly, I have a bunch of interviewers who are out in airports and also on doorsteps throughout the UK collecting the information that provides our statistics. Third is the 2021 census, the main purpose we're here today.
I'll just spend a couple of minutes outlining the three or four major things it takes for the delivery of the census, just to scene set, and then introduce Garnett, if that's okay. So, we're in 2018 and the census date for England and Wales and the rest of the UK is 21 March. The ONS has responsibilities to deliver the census for England and Wales, working in partnership. In order to get there, we undertake a range of activities. Firstly, we began in 2015 consulting on what the topics are that will be included and the result of that was published as a consultation report in 2016. We finalise the content of the census later this year. Secondly, we need to understand what's going to work and what's not in the different census years, and we undertook a large-scale census test in 2017. We then get a much larger dress rehearsal in 2019 to make sure everything's up and running, so that by the time we get to 2021, our fundamental success criteria is to engage the whole population of England and Wales and make everybody want to give us as much data as possible to inform policy and planning. So, right at the moment this year, our focus is on the content—what will the content of the census be and actually a real hard focus on how we design it to meet the needs of all the different populations across England and Wales and the many diverse needs to do that. Garnett here is one of my key players in the team, and I'll hand to Garnett to introduce himself.
Good morning. I'm Garnett Compton, I work on the census programme and I'm responsible for really understanding user needs and prioritising that back through the data collection activities, what we collect on the form and ensuring that it meets sufficient quality to deliver the wealth of information and the policy impacts that come from the use of the census data.
Diolch yn fawr iawn am esbonio'r hyn sydd yn digwydd. Siân Gwenllian sydd â'r cwestiynau cychwynnol. Diolch, Siân.
Thank you very much for explaining what's happening. Siân Gwenllian has the first questions. Thank you, Siân.
Bore da. Rydych chi wedi sôn ychydig bach yn fanna ynglyn â'r ymgysylltu a'r ymgynghori sydd wedi digwydd yn barod. A fedrwch chi amlinellu beth sydd wedi bod yn digwydd yng Nghymru ynghylch ymgynghori efo cymunedau a rhanddeiliaid?
Good morning. You've mentioned the engagement and consultation that's already taken place. Could you outline what's been happening specifically in Wales in terms of consultation with communities and stakeholders?
I think there are a number of different layers to this. First off, in 2015, when we undertook the consultation on the topics for England and Wales, we had roadshows, I believe, which went out across the country in order to engage widely. We also have some specific structures for recognising the needs of Welsh Government and Welsh users. At the top level, myself and the national statistician meet with Glyn Jones, the chief statistician for Wales, and also his counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland, every quarter in order to successfully steer the census to come together as a UK whole as well as to deliver the specific needs.
Within Wales you have a nice structure that actually doesn't exist very much elsewhere. There is a Welsh statistical liaison committee, which we liaise through in order to try to identify needs for the Welsh communities. And then, within that, we have a census group, which Garnett will explain a bit more, which we engage with for stakeholders across Wales, and that's both in terms of the content and actually recognising that Welsh geography is very different and the operations of how we run things in Wales are very different sometimes, and we need to make sure we can successfully run an operation throughout the whole country.
I think the other point I will mention at this stage is that it's predominantly an online census this time, and in order to deliver that successfully, we need to continually test how the questions work and the understanding. Part of what we've been doing throughout this is developing the online tools. But we're not just developing those to work in English and then translating into Welsh—we're actually out testing them after they've been translated to make sure the Welsh language users can actually give the same high-quality information as easily. But Garnett knows more. Indeed, he was here yesterday to engage with users in Wales and their needs from the outputs of the census with 30 stakeholders. He can—
Cyn i ni fynd i fanna, roeddwn i jest eisiau deall—. Mae'n swnio i mi fel bod yna lot o ymgynghori'n digwydd efo ystadegwyr ac efo lefelau Llywodraeth, ond a oes yna ddigon yn digwydd efo'r cymunedau? Nid jest cymunedau Cymraeg eu hiaith rydw i'n ei feddwl rŵan, ond ar draws Cymru. A oes yna ddigon o fewnbwn gan bobl yn y cymunedau ynglŷn â beth ddylai fod yn yr—? Neu a ydy o'n cael ei arwain gan yr ystadegau y mae'r Llywodraeth eisiau eu casglu? Mae'r ddau beth yn hollol wahanol, wrth gwrs.
Before we move on to that aspect of things, I just wanted to understand—. It appears to me that there's a great deal of consultation happening with statisticians and with levels within Government, but is there enough happening with communities? And not just Welsh-speaking communities, but across the board in Wales. Is there enough input from people within our communities on what should be included in the—? Or is it led by the statistics that the Government wants to gather? The two things are very different, of course.
We have a number of different layers, as Iain said, that we engage with. So, we have an advisory group that makes up various different sectors of the user population, if you like, which includes the commercial sector, the voluntary sector, the health sector, local government, central government. It helps us advise on a more strategic level where we need to do more. They then give us the additional contacts and steer on which of their communities in their areas that they understand and know and work with, to drive it out at a more local level, that we then will begin to engage with, particularly around trying to engage them with how we run this census: the promotional materials, how best they can understand and complete their census questionnaire, and understand the benefits.
But more on the operational rather than on the content. The content seems to me to be driven from the top.
As part of our consultation when we did the original consultation on topics, we went out and talked to as many stakeholders as we could find. We ran promotional events in Wales shortly after we launched the consultation and got users there from a wide variety of communities to understand and feed back their requirements. When we finished the consultation, we went back out, last summer I believe it was, again in Wales. We had an all-day event where we ran through the latest proposals, ensuring that we had reached a wide variety of groups.
Could I just come in? Because this is an important point here. The Office for National Statistics is set up to be independent and at arm's length from Government and my role is to make sure that we meet the needs of all users, whether they be central government, local government or the citizen, and to make sure that we do so. And therefore, our criteria—. We do not wait on the government of the day. What goes into the census is driven by user need, in the broadest sense—because it's fair to say nearly everybody wants to get into the census and if we put too much in the census, then nobody wants to fill it in, which kind of works against it. There's public acceptability, and then also our legal and perational considerations as well. But I just wanted to really reassure you that it is not here to serve governments of the day.
Fel rydych chi'n ei ddweud, mae'r cyfrifiad yn mynd i fod ar-lein y tro nesaf, ond, wrth gwrs, mae rhannau o Gymru yn mynd i gael problemau efo hynny oherwydd diffyg band eang digonol, neu broblemau technegol ynghylch y byd digidol. Mae hynny'n un her. Mae yna berygl hefyd na fyddwch chi ddim yn cyrraedd rhai grwpiau penodol mewn cymdeithas sydd ddim yn hyddysg mewn materion ar-lein—y boblogaeth hŷn, er enghraifft, neu grwpiau o bobl sydd efo bywydau reit chaotic a byddan nhw ddim eisiau, efallai, trafferthu efo hyn i gyd. Yr her ar-lein—sut ydych chi'n ymateb i hynny?
As you've said, the census will be online next time. Of course, parts of Wales will have problems with that because of problems with insufficient broadband and technical problems in digital terms more generally. That's one challenge. There's also a risk that you won't reach some specific groups within society who aren't well versed in digital issues—the older population, for example, or particular groups of people who may have chaotic lifestyles and they may not, actually, want to bother with all of this. So, the online challenge is going to be difficult—how will you respond to that?
There was an online channel available in 2011—about 17 per cent of the population utilised it. Our target this time is 75 per cent of the population completing online. To give you some reassurance, if you look at the charts, actually, the take-off in internet and mobile phone usage was almost immediately after the last census—that's when it really started to grow. We also liaise closely with counterparts across the world. New Zealand have just had their census, and 75 per cent is very achievable. But we do recognise the challenges, and that's why the aim is 75 per cent online. But does that mean we're stopping paper? No, of course not—the paper route will be available.
We also undertake large-scale testing to check out how this works and to make sure that the operation does work. There are two aspects. I mentioned earlier that we did a census test in 2017. There are two areas that I want to highlight out of that. There were a range of areas across the country selected. I'll mention the Isle of Wight first, which may surprise you, but that was where we tested our assisted digital offering for those whose digital skills may not be fully up to the standard to complete the online facility, having a facility whereby we offered them support in completing online. That was a very successful bit of the test, with many people utilising libraries and other facilities to do the test run.
Finally, the bit of the census test that was in Wales was in Montgomeryshire in the north of Powys—it was deliberately selected as being one of the areas. Part of the criteria that were used was looking for an area that, perhaps, had lower than average levels of broadband and internet connectivity, and Powys was there because it had both lower levels of broadband usage but also a higher proportion of Welsh language speakers, so they entered into the test as well. Everything we got through from the test indicated that our target of 75 per cent was reachable and doable, that the assisted digital offer was going to be very important alongside the paper offer for those over—. Even my own statistics show that the over-75s—only 40 per cent currently have used the internet in the past three months, so we know there's a challenge there in order to reach these. My job, fundamentally, is to reach the maximum amount of the population possible.
On the chaotic lives point, we have always had the task of this, but I think it's fair to say that this time, particularly with the growth of what we may call a sofa-surfing population, or others, means the challenges may well be greater, and it's one of the areas of design we're currently looking into quite closely to make sure we can capture those with chaotic lives as well. Is there anything you want to add, Garnett?
I was just going to say that a lot of the evidence that we got back from the test also showed that a lot of the elderly people were very keen to complete it online but had some struggle initially to get there. So, the assistance that we provided through the contact centre enabled them to easily do it online, where it was a simple, 'I'm not really sure where to click or where to put my access code for privacy reasons.' So, that initial reaction in understanding how those people react, and how they behave when they get the different materials inviting them to complete, is crucial, and a lot of the testing we're doing at the moment is trying to understand how best to support and get those people who want to complete online—to get them to do it as easily as possible.
For those who just want to do it on paper, how are they going to be able to access that? They'll have to make a request to have a paper version, will they?
Yes, you can make a request to have a paper version. We also will have a field force out and about, and they will have paper copies if people are requesting things. It's one of these things where many people can and will use online, but if we give out the paper too quickly, the cost of the census goes up hugely and it becomes a value-for-money trade-off.
A throi, yn olaf, ynglŷn â'r her o'i gyflwyno fo mewn dwy iaith yng Nghymru. Wrth gwrs, fe fydd modd i rywun lenwi'r ffurflen ar-lein neu ar bapur yn Gymraeg neu yn Saesneg. A ydy hynny'n codi heriau arbennig? Rydw i'n siŵr ei fod o.
And if I could just turn, finally, to the challenges of presenting the census bilingually in Wales. Of course, one will be able to fill in the form online or on paper, either in Welsh or in English. Does that pose particular challenges? I'm sure it does.
I think there are—. We've always had to deliver the census bilingually. I think the challenges we face—. I wouldn't say there are particular challenges that are new to this census, as we did have to do similar work in 2011. I think the big thing where—. Investing now to make sure it's successful is the key, for me. As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of things we can do to make it easier. One is to go beyond translation and that test people really understand what the question is getting at in both languages. And then the second bit for me is: the operation needs to be able to support, so say somebody does want to phone up and request a paper version, we will be actively recruiting Welsh language speakers into the contact centre, and, similarly, our social media platforms will have the facility to deal with enquiries both in English and Welsh. But at the moment, what we're trying to do is utilise the time now to plan, test and make sure that the challenges aren't so much challenges as just designed into the operation.
Absolutely, and a lot of the questionnaire development is done—. We start and we develop the questionnaire in Welsh. We don't translate the vast majority of the questionnaire, and I've got a user researcher in Swansea today testing Welsh versions of the online questionnaire, and understanding the flow and the language and how that works for Welsh speakers.
A ydych chi'n hapus y bydd gennych chi ddigon o staff ar gael ar gyfer y llinell gymorth, ond hefyd allan yn y maes, fel rydych chi'n dweud? A oes yna recriwtio o'r bobl berthnasol? Mae hynny'n mynd i fod—. Mae'r sgìl o siarad Cymraeg yn mynd i fod yn berthnasol iawn mewn rhai ardaloedd, wrth gwrs, onid ydy?
Are you content that you will have sufficient numbers of staff available for the helpline, but also out on the ground working, as you said? Are you recruiting the relevant people who have the necessary skills? The skill of being a Welsh speaker is going to be very pertinent in certain areas, of course, isn't it?
So, we're currently—. This year, we're currently letting our major contracts for our suppliers. So, what we've got is a mixture of in-house supply, and the in-house is very much on the technical, the digital offering and around the online questionnaire. What we're going out to suppliers for is a lot of the things that I think we're talking about here: the contact centre, which is where we'll do the front-line support, and also for recruitment of the field force. Written into all these contracts is the need to have sufficient numbers available in order to cope with both those who speak English and those who speak Welsh, and also, particularly in inner cities, a variety of other languages as well on that side. Currently, it's in the procurement stage, and the procurement is designed to meet these needs and have the flexibility to make sure we have the staff across the board with the necessary skills.
Jest un cwestiwn i orffen. Rydw i'n meddwl am fy hun, rŵan, yn mynd ar-lein i wneud yr arolwg ac yn dymuno ei wneud o'n Gymraeg, ac yn cychwyn ei wneud o—. Rydw i'n cymryd, wedyn, unwaith rydych chi i mewn yn y Gymraeg, rydych chi yn y Gymraeg. A oes yna ffordd i chi, felly, gyfeirio at y fersiwn Saesneg? Achos efallai y bydd yna rywun sy'n dysgu Cymraeg yn dymuno ei lenwi fo'n Gymraeg ac eisiau cyfeirio at y Saesneg. A ydy hynny—? Rydw i'n meddwl bod hynny'n bwysig, i gael y croesi drosodd yna'n digwydd yn hawdd.
Just one final question. I'm thinking of myself, now, going online to fill the census and wanting to do it in Welsh. I assume that once you're on the Welsh page, you're on the Welsh page. Is there then a way to refer to the English language version too? Because there may be a Welsh learner who may want to fill in the form in Welsh and want to refer to the English version to check certain things. I think that's important, to have that crossover and to make that easy for people.
Absolutely, and we are designing it as a toggle. It can switch back and forth at any point in the questionnaire. It's the same design we had for the 2011 census questionnaire as well.
Iawn. Ocê, diolch.
Fine. Okay, thank you.
Diolch. Mick Antoniw.
Thank you. Mick Antoniw.
Just a couple of questions on skills, on language and so on. But just a couple of preliminary things: what provision is there in respect of partially sighted and persons with literacy difficulties? Is there any special approach to that with regard to the census?
We haven't started yet working with those communities. We have what we call a community engagement programme that will go out and work with a lot of charities or sectors that support those special needs, and trying to understand what it is that would help them assist in completing the questionnaire. We will ramp that up as we go, and we're currently looking at things like: how does it work if you're partially sighted and how do you see that online? That will be part of our accessibility testing, and we also will look at things such as whether we need larger print questionnaires. So, if you're partially sighted and if you want to do it on paper, would a large-print questionnaire help?
Because there is also, isn't there, a significant number of people who have learning difficulties? Some of them speak Welsh, some of them speak English, but have difficulties with forms. We know this from the welfare system and so on, and it does seem that sometimes we're actually excluding a significant number of people from participating because of those—. You know, it's estimated at around 7 per cent of the population.
If we take a step back here. So, the census operates at a household level, and, therefore, within a household, if we take some of the examples—within a household one adult member can complete on behalf of other members of the family in order to ensure that inclusion as well. Because, fundamentally, my targets here are high—
Yes, exactly. And for it to be successful, in order to get the quality of population estimates we need to meet the needs of local users, it translates into a response rate to the census of over 94 per cent. Therefore, I cannot afford to have one missing group of that level. So, the range of things—starting at the top level—you have within homes, there is the one member of the family can complete on behalf of the whole family, but then alongside that we then will be working with the community groups to offer support that way for members who want to be represented through other channels. We will then have, for some people who may have difficulty with English, or difficulty for other reasons, or for learning difficulties—we will have contact centre availability for telephone capture of some forms as well. And so, what we're trying to do is design the broadest possible spread—
So that it's as inclusive as possible.
—to make it as inclusive as possible, because with the level of response we've got to hit in order to meet the user need, I can't afford to leave any group behind. I always sum up that the job of a census is to reflect the society we live in today, and that's both in terms of having everybody in there, the wide diversity of the population as well, and therefore it's got to be an inclusive experience for all.
Okay. Just getting on now into the aspects around the language questions, it is absolutely fascinating in terms of the importance of the data in terms of policy direction, but also understanding what the data is actually telling you. The issues that we're approaching within Wales with language and how people perceive language and how they identify themselves with language is a complex one, but it's one that other countries face as well. So, have you done anything internationally in terms of how other countries have looked at some of these issues? What have you learnt from that?
We engage frequently with our counterparts throughout the world, because censuses don't happen all the time in every country—they're either on a five or 10-year cycle—and therefore you need to learn closely from others around what works and what doesn't work. Garnett actually is frequently out and about, so I'll turn to him about this one.
Yes, so we learn quite a lot from some of the other census-taking countries, specifically around looking at how they collect and the testing that they do, particularly around language questions that you asked about. And we've learned some things like how you word things like main language is quite challenging, because everybody's got a slightly different perception around what it means, depending on, in particular, if you're multilingual and you may spend most of your days speaking English, but then when you go home in the evening you may speak French with your family, or Welsh with your family. So, some of that, and learning that—. So, we learn from some of the other countries that have some of those challenges, like Canada where it's multilingual, and New Zealand and Australia as well, trying to understand how they ask those questions and inform the work that we do. So, we're trying consistently to use, where we can, additional evidence.
Okay, that's helpful. In terms of the process and the testing as you develop the language questions, what have been the key issues that have arisen? You've identified them slightly now, but how do you evaluate it, then, when you come to your final recommendations in terms of the questions? What has been the outcome of the testing that you've had? What are the problems you've foreseen from the questions?
At a top level, we're recommending a very similar set of questions to what was used in 2011, and that's kind of for a number of different reasons. So, in Wales, that means that the first question will be around 'Do you speak, read or understand Welsh?' Then there will be a second question, which then feeds through into English and Welsh proficiency on that side.46
There are benefits in the stability of doing that, particularly for you at policy-making level for your 2050 target as a nation for 1 million Welsh speakers. 2011 is the baseline for that target, so if we change the questions, we may change your understanding of things. So, at a policy level, that degree of stability is important. We did test some other options out there, particularly on the second question about whether you speak English or Welsh as your main language. We tested splitting that, and stakeholders and others were cautioning us that this was getting confusing, particularly in multilingual households.
I notice the questions are 'can you' rather than 'do you', which puts an interesting analysis on the subjectivity of it. What does that actually mean? A lot of people can, but do they? And so on. It's quite important to know how many people can as opposed to—well, in addition to what the actual level is. For example, I understand the importance from 2011 to get some consistency and to be able to compare the trends and the developments, although the perception of it—. So, for example, in 2001, asking someone whether they speak Welsh or whether they can speak Welsh, there might be issues as to what they might say now, where there's a far greater focus on language, particularly between technical and colloquial use of language. But, for example, reading Welsh. I mean, for example, I'm learning Welsh. I can read Welsh, but that doesn't mean I can speak Welsh. What sort of issues have arisen in your testing of things like that?
This is where we do what we call cognitive testing, where we sit down and we'd start out maybe with a focus group of people to understand, 'If we use the words "can" and "do", what does it mean to you and how would you respond?', and then probe more into, 'How much do you use it?', trying to understand to get a better feel for that, to refine the words that we might use. We then put those words in front of—. We do cognitive interviewing where we sit and people speak as they answer the questionnaire as a whole, and they'll get to your question and they'll say, in response to 'can you', 'Well, I can speak it, but I'm not sure about reading it. I can only read the translations at the train station, for example. How would I best note that?' So, all of that sort of testing goes on until we get to a question that, at that detailed cognitive level, we are comfortable that the vast majority of people can understand and it's giving the information generally that we are looking for, and then we will put it out into a larger scale survey to understand that it works across a broader spectrum of the population.
Okay. Well, thank you for that. Can I ask you a little bit then about the—? The census is obviously solely in respect of Wales, but there are a large number of Welsh speakers—there's a lot of movement backwards and forwards; people will live in England for a period of time and move back to Wales and vice versa. There's no inclusion of Welsh speaking with regard to the English part of the census. In fact, as I understand it, the questionnaire with that bit will be blank. Why is that? Is that appropriate or is it something that's still under consideration?
We did review it for this census. I think there are a number of factors here. So, if I go back to my top-level criteria for inclusion, which are user need, not able to be met elsewhere, public acceptability and operational reasons, there were two things here with this one for asking the Welsh question in England. If we go to the operational and the practical, Garnett outlined helpfully there the process by which we undertake cognitive testing and test what's happening and what's going on. My top-level aim is to get an inclusive census. If people get confused or baffled halfway through, it doesn't help, and the cognitive testing we undertook of asking about Welsh skills in England—it's fair to say that an awful lot of the respondents were confused about why we were asking it and what the demand was. That being said, I recognise the need and I understand the need.
There are two things that we can do to meet the need through alternative means. The first of which is, there is something called the longitudinal study, which sits within this suite of census products. What happens is that, since 1981, a 1 per cent sample of the census has been taken and linked longitudinally. So, we now have 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 linked longitudinally for that 1 per cent sample. In 2007, it was done with the Welsh Language Board, where they looked and came up with an estimate of Welsh speaking in England, utilising the movements between census, which gave an estimate, at that time, of about 110,000 Welsh speakers in England. We can repeat that process because we know that that's there in order to meet the demand and the need, but also, though, there may be a desire for more up-to-date information. One of the things that this census will be looking at is—. The ONS now has more powers, under the Digital Economy Act 2017, to access the data held around Government in order to look at this. We're in discussions with the Welsh Government at the moment about utilising and undertaking a project to look at the movement, using census data linked in with other administrative data to get that movement, and to meet the needs you've identified. So, I think what we're saying is: we understand the need; we couldn't quite make it work in a census question in England, but we can make it work through other means. We can get the information you require through other means, and that's what we're going to actively be looking at now for how we do.
Yes. I'm not quite sure of the logic as to why it wouldn't work, or what the confusion is, but as I understand it, what you're saying is that just by the collection of data, there are other means of evaluating the information that would be useful to Welsh Government in terms of policy.
Okay. Because of time, I do want to move on a little bit. In terms of the census with regard to the concept of main language, which is a very pejorative term, we know that there will be people who regularly use Welsh, who use it in the home, or who use it mainly as their main language but will not put it down as their main language, for a whole variety of reasons. That was certainly the case. Perhaps it's a little bit less so now, but what problems have you identified with just that concept of main language as an issue, and how that impacts on the evaluation of the data?
That is a kind of challenging one, and some of the issues we've had are, we looked at main language and whether the language around that was right, and suitably gathered the information. It's worth reiterating here that the information really isn't about what your main language is. The information is really there to gather information around how well you speak the national language. So, in Wales, it is: how well do you speak English or Welsh in order to deliver services to those whose English or Welsh use isn't so good or is poorer? It's really aimed at getting at that, and those people who don't speak a national language, trying to understand what those main languages are, and where you might want to provide the most services. So, in England and Wales, there's something like 500,000 people who have recorded Polish as their main language. It's really trying to understand how well they speak English, and should we be providing more services in Polish, as an example.
So, some of the challenges around understanding that is that it is a self-response questionnaire, and people are left to self-identify, as they see fit, around their main language. But, generally, the research that we've done has shown that main language is the language that best kind of informs the respondent around how they should be responding. It enables them to gather the right information.
Could you just clarify—? This is a sort of new area for me. Could you just clarify? With the questions around main language, what is it you're actually seeking? Is it the usage element, or how people identify their language? Is it for the purpose of administration and the provision of services, whether it would be education or whatever? How do the two go? Because, on the one hand you can say, 'Well, you've got so many people saying, "This is my main language. This is what we need to actually provide in respect of those"', but then you have a whole section of people, in actual fact, whose usage of it is as equivalent, if not even more important than how they've identified it. So, for Government to actually utilise that data, having an understanding of where it's coming from, or what it actually means, is the issue. I think I'm perhaps just doing another version of the same question, but I didn't quite understand what it is, when you start out, looking at this. If you just clarify—. What is it precisely you are seeking to obtain from it?
I think there's a suite of questions here. The first question in Wales is about the understanding and proficiency with the Welsh language, then you go into the main language question about English and Welsh. So, question 1 is really there to meet the user need around actually how is Welsh speaking, how is the culture being reflected and how are you doing against your policy targets against getting Welsh fully embedded into it. But then there are a bunch of local needs that exist about service provision across health, education and care, and in order to understand these, there's a degree to which you need to understand the degree of proficiency in the main languages, in this case, both English and Welsh. So, what Garnett is really saying is the second part of the suite of questions around this, about main language, is really designed for that second need, which is about identifying those who may struggle and where local service provision may want to develop different linguistic options or different service delivery in order to meet the language needs of that community.
So, I think what we're saying is we recognise both needs, but that's why there's a suite of questions in order to do it. So, the full range of the user need exists in what's requested. We have a suite of questions to try to meet that, but, in summary, I think what we're saying on the main language point is—it's one of the bits Garnett alluded to earlier—it's a challenge throughout the world. We've tested it, this is the best we can find at the moment in order to do it.
I'm not underestimating the difficulties of it, and, of course, the one question that isn't there, I suppose, which, again, is quite pejorative itself, is on preferred language. Of course, that raises then a whole series of other questions, I suppose. Did you consider other alternatives to these choices? Were there other close alternatives that you looked at that were—?
We did look at a wider language matrix, as we call it, before the 2011 census, where we tried to gather information, particularly things like frequency of use, which help as a proxy for some of those issues as well in trying to get it to work around, and also things like multilanguages, so if you speak multilanguages. We really struggled to get it to work, and we've narrowed it down to—this is really what the user need was, and this was the best thing that met that.
But it's fair to say that there's still going to be a certain amount of confusion for people as to what 'main language' means, and that's just one of the things, I presume, you just have to build into your evaluation of the data, is it?
Particularly with the online, it's a lot easier for us to clarify, with help bubbles and things like that in order to do it. So, I would actually say, and not meaning to sound too defensive, I think the online option, in these types of cases, actually offers us a lot more than what we've had previously with paper, because nobody wants a census form with 20 pages of guidance that accompanies it on that side, whereas a quick click, which everybody is used to on the internet, in helping to do it, I think, is a real way that we need to design and build into this, to help make sure that, actually, it works as well as it possibly can do.
Iain makes a really good point there in the sense that the follow up to that is when we do all those individual conversations with people and they give us different things, 'Well, this is what I use in the home. I consider what I use in the home in the evening.' All those snippets of examples and feedback that we get are what drive and develop the guidance that we use, because it makes it more accessible to the people who most need it.
Can I just have a tiny question on your language issues? You're trying to find out what other people speak, as opposed to just Welsh and English—say, Hindi or Punjabi or whatever. Have you seen from the 2011 census how policy makers have used that to change how they are dealing with those groups already, because, obviously, if you're trying to find them in this census, what's changed from the last one to get to this point?
I don't know—
If that's not a question for you, then that's fine, but I just was interested.
Well, there are some really good examples. I don't know if you—. There has been lots in the press in the last six months about the need to teach recent immigrants the English language to better serve integration, and a lot of that debate and information that was used to inform that debate comes from these questions. Similarly, David Cameron announced a policy about three years ago around trying to improve English language skills in some of the different ethnic group communities, and a lot of that was developed as well, off some of these things.
The reason I paused was because many of the examples are local. So, often, the value of the census is with local provision of health skills, and what this census particularly allows for health boards, et cetera, is the ability to recognise, 'I've got a growing population in this group', 'I've got a growing population who'll have this language', and they'll change their information provision at a local level. I don't see it at the national level so much, but often I'll notice it suddenly when I'm out visiting and, say you're in a hospital, and you'll suddenly see that different hospitals have very different language provisions, and that's built around the use and the understanding of our data about their growing populations and the communities they serve.
Ocê. Diddorol. Diolch. Neil Hamilton.
Okay. Interesting. Thanks. Neil Hamilton.
Census data collection is a much more subtle process than superficially you might imagine. I think this morning's been a bit of a revelation to me and has made me think about all sorts of questions I hadn't previously considered.
I know that there has been a debate in the past about the value of a decennial census, and information is collected today in various ways on a more regular basis at a micro level, and I know that one of the options that you considered before embarking upon this exercise for 2021 was a greater use of the administrative data that is collected within government at various levels, in different ways at different times. I wonder, given the subjectivity of the questions and the answers in relation to the Welsh language that we've been exploring already with Mick Antoniw, and the difficulties of interpretation that come from that, to what extent a greater use of administrative data's going to assist us in refining the outcome for the purposes that you've been talking about.
We're still actively looking at how the census programme as a whole has three main elements to it. The first element is to deliver the 2021 census. The second is to undertake the research so that we can make recommendations to Government about the long-term future and whether we can meet the need more frequently in inter-census years, and we're actively pushing that. The third element is to reuse a lot of the IT to transform how we collect data more widely. So, the online questionnaire facilities we're building will be used in other surveys, not just the census.
So, going back to your question about administrative data versus census/survey data, there are strengths and limitations to both. By and large, administrative data is a by-product of the system that is used to collect it, and therefore it is really strong on the things that matter hugely to collecting or doing that transaction with government. So, if you pick HMRC at random, it will be really strong on the things that HMRC need to ask an individual. If you burden that system with a load of other questions that are perceived not to matter to it, then you don't get much in the way of quality response. That being said, for some of the core bits, the promise of administrative data is already huge. So, even within 2021, we will be supplementing the core census with some aspects from administrative data. Particularly, Valuation Office Agency data on number of rooms means we no longer have to collect that. They have it. Why aren't we just using it?
The second one is floor space, actually, from Valuation Office Agency. Many people live in one room, but it can be very big at the moment, and you're not getting to the real use of cramped living conditions. The third area is income. There has been a longstanding local need for fine-grained income estimates, and we've already announced we will be utilising HMRC and DWP data on income in order to meet that need. Previously we could never test it—it never tested well into the census for privacy concerns. But, longer term, we will be exploring and we will be reporting back. Every year we publish an annual assessment about our progress towards delivering an administrative data census, as we call it.
I suppose that one of the risks involved in the greater use of administrative data is the standardisation of questions because the data—. A particular area might be collected by different agencies for different purposes. But just to take the discrete subject of the Welsh language, because that's of particular interest to us, do you think that because this is a specific need that we have here for a specific purpose—you've already referred to it in your earlier evidence—that there is a value in doing a specific census upon this subject? It's a matter of vital interest to us in policy terms for different purposes at different levels of Government, and there may be a case perhaps for a more intensive form of analysis of this specific topic. I know that we now live in a much more multicultural society generally, and you've referred to the number of Polish speakers, for example, and we have significant ethnic minorities who pose similar data collection problems to us in terms of the subtleties of defining questions as we're dealing with in relation to the Welsh language. But just to stick to Welsh as opposed to all the other different languages that are currently spoken to a greater or lesser extent, both in England and in Wales, if we are to really get the information that we need, don't we need to separate out from within the wider exercise something to tell us what we really need to know?
So, there is a range of data sources as well as the census that currently collects Welsh language data. The labour force survey, which is our largest survey nationally, collects information on Welsh language usage. There is also a Welsh language usage survey, and also you've got your national survey for Wales as well. So, that gives us regular outputs but not necessarily down to the local level, which we need. And so, the real benefit of the census usually comes in at the local level on this, and I think the answer to your question—. I'm not going to be able to sit here and say definitively yea or nay there may be a need for this, but my suspicion is that there will be many things that are relatively easily done through the large administrative data sets, and then there may be some other things that may be less easy to get through administrative data. And it's then a case of looking across all the existing mechanisms and working out whether that's sufficient to meet user needs, or whether we still need to consider other options, as you outlined.
Yes. There's just one other question that I want to ask, going back to the issues that Mick Antoniw was exploring earlier on, and the international experience of data collection in this particular area as well. I think I detect a slight Canadian lilt in your voice. One of my grandmothers was born in New Brunswick, and New Brunswick is an English-speaking province but has a large significant French-speaking minority. Therefore, the same issues presumably arise in the Canadian census as we have, in areas like New Brunswick, which—. I don't know whether the Canadian Government is as interested in the data for the same reasons as we are in terms of the language—the French language in particular—but is the experience of communities like New Brunswick—? How are you using that in this context as well in terms of defining questions, and trying to remove the subjectivity of the responses so that the information you derive is as objective and useful as possible?
So, the Canadian census is a really good example, and we meet regularly with colleagues from Canada on the phone—it's a phone meeting—to pick up particular issues and then understand how that applies, and understand how that applies in Canada and which bits of those Canadian census bits are relevant here in the same sense. I can't remember a specific example of the Canadian census that has influenced where we are, but those are regular conversations that are ongoing, trying to share that experience and knowledge to develop the best questions. It also enables a better consistency in the comparability of data across countries as well.
Okay, thank you very much.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Rhianon Passmore sydd nesaf.
Thank you very much. Rhianon Passmore is next.
Thank you. It's been very interesting so far. Apologies for my train being delayed and for my late entrance.
In regard to the concern that there was at the last census in regard to the gathering process by Lockheed Martin, who are, I believe, dealers of arms and Trident manufacturers, has there been much discussion—this is my supplementary before my main body of questions, which is linked—about that in terms of how you follow through at this—. I think it was £0.5 billion, the last time, it cost us, for the census. Has there been much discussion about how that's going to take place at this point? And in regard to my line of questioning around ethnicity, we're at a very important political point. There's been a lot of concern raised about some of the Commonwealth issues and whether landing or boarding passes have been destroyed by the Prime Minister, I believe, today. So, has there been any discussion around the ethnicity questions, and, if so—and I'm sure there has—what, if any, concerns have you got in regard to how that could be utilised by Government perhaps?
So, there are two aspects to that. I'll take the second bit first because it's fundamental to it. We operate under the 1920 Census Act, which permits the collection of our data solely for research and statistical purposes. It cannot legally in any way be used for any operational matters whatsoever. So, it could not be used by any Government or any person to take a decision that affects an individual.
And in regard to—
And in regard to our—
Cambridge Anlaytica. There's a lot of public concern about that. So, are you doing anything to mitigate around that very important— . Because there's very little trust in Government in regard to data holding, and, of course, the past precedent in terms of who did that caused great concern? So, that's my question, which I'm sure you'll answer.
So, what we do is—. Access to data is strictly controlled through a mechanism known as the approved researcher scheme, and that gives you access into our microdata. It has to go through a set of criteria against a set of principles to ensure that these people are complying with how it's set out. It is something I will come back to you with a bit more detail on of exactly how it works. It's in another bit of the office that I'm not in. But, fundamentally, that approved researcher scheme is there to make sure that nobody could get there and get to the types of scenarios you're talking about.
So, in regard to safeguards, and, obviously, I'm aware that if you're in a process of tender for contracts around gathering and processing, my concern personally, as a citizen of this country, would be that my data would be held absolutely confidentially, and there would be a level of concern, personally speaking for myself, if I felt that an arms dealer was gathering that information. So, to answer my question: what safeguards have you put in place in terms of the gathering of information, and, in regard to the context of Cambridge Analytica, how can you guarantee that that information is therefore confidential and is for the purposes that you've already outlined?
So, there is a very different approach to the census data gathering operation this time compared to last time. So, last time, as you're alluding to, was virtually that we designed it and Lockheed Martin did the collection, the gathering and recruited the field staff et cetera. This time around, ONS internally are designing and building our own online questionnaire. We're designing and building our own processing system, which means that it is firmly within the Office for National Statistics rather than being sub-contracted out. The bits we're contracting out are how to run the contact centre, but they will be interfacing into our systems and actually ensuring it. So, I'm hoping that that first-level, fundamental difference will be a degree of reassurance to you. The second-level point of this is that it then comes into our system and, as we design and build the census, there then becomes a security point. And that's the bit that we're doing. How do we make sure that every system is fail-safe and that nobody can access into it? And as we're in the design and build phase—we're in the design phase at the moment and some build—I can assure you that fundamentally at the heart of every design is how do we design in that security by default bit of this.
Then, the third part of it is once the data is there and the processing, the fundamental part thereon is who gets access to it. Well, first off is we very quickly go into de-identification stage of this process, so that you cannot see the names and addresses, and very, very few members of staff ever see that. And, then, once it's processed securely through there, it's about who has access through the approved researcher route in the secure facilities round about it. And that's the bit on which I will come back to you with more details about how that works.
I think that would be very useful if you could, in terms of safeguards in regard to the current climate.
Sorry—you also asked about ethnicity.
Yes, I'm coming to that, but go on.
So, ethnicity is one of the topics still to be finalised, and the ethnicity question we've currently—there's strong user need, of which we're still assessing public acceptability of asking for four additional ethnicity categories, which are Roma, Somalian, Sikh, and Jewish communities, and that will come later this year.
Okay. So, in regard to when you'll come to that conclusion, what sort of timeline could you give us, in terms of whether those will be included, bearing in mind that Jedi knight, I think, was one of the potential ones from the data from last time?
I believe an important point about the move online, again, is actually—. The move online, the 'other' box, the Jedi knight, is just people using the 'other' box.
Yes, I understand. I'm being facetious. But in terms of those important areas of identification, it has caused concern.
Online we'll be able to make it easier for communities to identify themselves. So where, for example, you've got concentrations of ethnicities in one locality, we can trend, so that if people begin typing an ethnicity that is strongly recorded there, we can actually suggest automatically towards that—it's is the first point on that side. And, secondly, the timescale for this is the White Paper, which sets out the content and is due later on this year.
Okay, thank you. In regard, then, to the counter-argument, which some people are articulating—that they don't want to go down this route, because of previous political contexts, not necessarily in this country, around identification in these areas, and the usage, of politicians, not necessarily in this country, for ill use, how do you approach that as an organisation, bearing in mind that the ONS now has, from what you said earlier, complete and utter hold over what's being done to the data when it comes in to you?
Sorry—it's how we ensure that it's not misused?
So, I've set out—fundamentally, it's in ONS, it's in our estate, we have complete control about who has access to our systems. We have the approved researcher route, which is a route for any outside body, the data does not leave outside of these, and the data does not leave our estate for this. Therefore, I don't know how—. Sorry, I'm struggling to be any more definitive here.
No, that's fine. I understand that you are just collating that, and, in a sense, you can't answer that question. Okay.
Yes. And fundamentally it's—
You have control over what's done with that data.
We've got all the defences there, but what I'm saying is, people will—. It is not our position to judge the policies that people come out with, with the evidence. However, the evidence needs to be made there. What I'm fundamentally guaranteeing here is that the specifics of an individual's data being misused to target or undertake an intervention on that particular individual are outside of anything that could be done with the data.
Fine. And it would be unfair of me to ask if you have any comment on that, so I think I've finished my line of questioning, Chair.
Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Rhianon.
Mae jest gen i un cwestiwn i gloi, ac wedyn byddwn ni'n sgwennu atoch chi ar y gweddill, oherwydd diffyg amser. A fedrwch chi roi ateb bras i ni ynglŷn â chyfeiriadedd rhywiol a hunaniaeth rhywedd? A allwch chi roi diweddariad ar yr ystyriaethau o ran datblygu cwestiwn, neu gwestiynau posibl, ynghlwm â hyn? A hefyd, a yw'r ffaith bod hyn yn arolwg o gartrefi yn hytrach nag unigolion yn rhoi sialens i chi yn y maes yma yn benodol? Os gall hynny gael ei ateb, byddai hynny'n grêt.
Okay. Thank you very much, Rhianon.
I just have one question to end, and then we'll write to you with regard to the other questions, because of a lack of time. But could you give us a brief answer on sexual orientation and gender identity? Could you provide us with an update in terms of the consideration of developing a question, or potential questions, in relation to this? And also, does the fact that this is a survey of homes rather than individuals give you a challenge in this area specifically? If that could be answered, that would be great.
Sexual orientation: we tested it in the 2017 test—high levels of public acceptability. We know there are high levels of user need for it. The remaining issue was how we make it voluntary, through the inclusion of a 'prefer not to say' box, and we're currently just collating the research we have on that. The results will be finalised in the White Paper about where that's going. Gender identity: I want to be very clear, this is about asking gender in addition to sex, and then—[Inaudible.]—on that one. Again strong levels of public acceptability—in Wales, over 75 per cent of the population were strongly comfortable with it. The bit here is, because of other members—you alluded to other members of the household—if the question was in, we would only ask it of people aged 16 and over, because public acceptability was low for asking it of members of the household below age 16. The issue on this one is that we've got the user need, we've got the public acceptability, but it's how we design a question that works. Those of you who know the teenage population know that gender identity is very fluid and the definitions and how they identify themselves are changing rapidly. We've got a balance here between tick boxes that may look out of date quite quickly, and make us look quite old and staid, or having another box that can be right in and have whatever the equivalent of the Jedis is on this one. And that's what we're working through: how we actually do this and can we find a methodology that works for collecting this?
And then the final part of this—one last bit just quickly—was about with it being a household, if an individual wants a separate response and to provide data separately to us, they can do so and they will treat that record as being their master record.
They know that's an option, do they?
Just on the sex question—so, they already would have been asked their sex and then gender is different again.
Okay, fine. So, they'll know that that's separated clearly in the census.
Just to clarify, then: if you were self-identifying as transgender, there would be an ability to do so.
Diolch. Dyna'r unig gwestiynau sydd gyda ni ar hyn o bryd. Byddwn yn ysgrifennu atoch chi gyda'r cwestiynau atodol, os yw hynny'n iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi am ddod i mewn i roi gwybodaeth i ni. Roedd yn ddiddorol iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Byddwn ni'n cael seibiant o ddwy funud nawr.
Thank you. Those are the only questions that we have at the moment, but we will write to you with the supplementary questions, if that's all right. Thank you very much for coming in to give information to us. It was very interesting. Thank you very much.
We'll now have a short break of two minutes.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:06 a 10:13.
The meeting adjourned between 10:06 and 10:13.
Diolch a chroeso i eitem 3 ar yr agenda: cynyrchiadau ffilm a theledu mawr yng Nghymru—sesiwn dystiolaeth 1. Y sesiwn dystiolaeth gyntaf, felly rydych chi'n cael y fraint o fod yma ar flaen yr agenda ar y gwaith yma. Y tystion yma heddiw yw Pauline Burt, sef prif weithredwr Ffilm Cymru Wales; Michael Gubbins, cadeirydd Ffilm Cymru Wales; a Phil George, cadeirydd Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru. Jest i ddweud ar y cychwyn, rydym ni'n rhedeg bach yn hwyr o ran amser, felly os gallech chi fod yn ymwybodol o hynny yn eich atebion ac yn eich cwestiynau, Aelodau Cynulliad.
Rydw i'n mynd i gychwyn gyda chwestiynau a bydd Aelodau eraill yn dilyn. A allech chi jest roi eich barn chi ar yr hyn sydd yn digwydd ar hyn o bryd yng Nghymru o ran y sector ffilm? A yw'n ddigonol ar hyn o bryd? A oes digon yn digwydd? A yw cwmnïau Cymreig yn cael eu cefnogi'n ddigonol? Jest o ran rhoi rhyw fath o gyd-destun i ni, mwy na dim—bydd mwy o gwestiynau yn dod yn hwyrach yn y sesiwn.
Thank you and welcome back. We move to item 3 on our agenda: film and major television productions in Wales—evidence session No. 1. It's our first evidence session, so you have the privilege of being here at the top of our agenda in terms of this work. Our witnesses this morning are Pauline Burt, chief executive of Film Cymru Wales; Michael Gubbins, chair of Film Cymru Wales; and Phil George, chair of the Arts Council of Wales. Just to say at the outset that we are running a little late, so if you could be aware of that in responding and in asking questions, Members.
I'm going to kick off with questions and then other Members will follow. Could you could just give us your views on what's currently happening in Wales in terms of the film sector? Is it sufficient at the moment? Is there enough going on? Are Welsh companies being sufficiently supported? Just to give us some sort of context, more than anything—there will be some more detailed questions later in the session.
Sure. We've got a growing sector in Wales, I would say—hang on, I'm going to take that off so that I can hear myself properly. We've got a growing sector in Wales and I think you'll have seen from our evidence that Film Cymru is very much focused on the indigenous sectors. So, we look particularly at Welsh writers, directors and producers, and that includes the diaspora of Welsh talent that live outside of Wales as well as those in Wales. We receive anything up to 500 submissions or applications a year from that talent, so it's a very wide range of talent at different stages of their career. I would say that when we started in 2006, it was a very nascent sector. There were really no independent production companies that were making feature films consistently at £1 million or above, whereas now we have nine companies that really have quite significant slates that they're growing—companies like Severn Screen, Mad as Birds up in Flintshire, Joio did Bang recently, for example—and they're really quite well placed to grow. But there's certainly, I would say, more demand and a lot more potential to grow further within the indigenous sector, and then of course from Welsh Government's offer and perspective there's increasing amounts of inward investment as well and larger scale production.
I think we've seen the talent develop strongly from the ground up. That's what we like about the way Ffilm Cymru works, which is that it's a holistic approach and takes talent development along the pathway from quite early stages and then looks at diverse ways forward for it, including into games and other media outlets. I think we're all conscious of the fact that the very success of growing these companies, these nine that we've been hearing about, raises the question of the pathway for them then and making sure that we get more joined up with Government investment at media investment budget level and ensuring that kind of movement into a position where you are commercially independent, needing Government investment but recoupable Government investment, and weaning yourself off non-repayable work support. I think that pathway needs working.
I think it's worth pointing out what we've put together over the last 10 years is from an almost standing start to the point where we've got more than 60 films. What we've been doing in recent years that's so important is we've been redefining what we mean by film. I still think in people's heads there's a very old-fashioned notion of film as if it were still 35 mm and the noisy projectors in the background. This is not a dying business. It's also an international business where we've got a great track record now in terms of understanding and thinking about Welsh film. I've personally had consultancy work in more than 30 countries. There are international film festivals all the time and the reputation of Wales is of a dynamic place where things are moving, things are happening. It's seen as entrepreneurial and I think it's seen as a place where it will embrace the new opportunities that cross over between film and the new things around Amazon, the VOD stuff, around gaming, around all of these things. So, what we're doing here, I think, what we've managed to build from the bottom up, is an indigenous structure that is sustainable, dynamic, exiting and competitive in a global market.
Jest cwestiwn olaf gen i cyn symud ymlaen. Pan wnaethom ni gael gweithdy ar y mater yma yn ddiweddar, roedd lot o bobl yn dweud wrthym ni nad oedden nhw’n gwybod lle i fynd am unrhyw fath o gefnogaeth, bod e'n rhyw fath o minefield iddyn nhw os oedden nhw eisiau ceisio creu ffilm neu greu project allan o ffilm. Beth ydych chi'n ei ddweud wrth sylwad felly?
Just a final question from me before we move on. When we held a workshop on this issue recently, many people told us that they didn't know where to go to seek support, that it was something of a minefield for them if they did want to create a film or generate projects surrounding a film. How would you respond to such a comment?
I think that there are some issues around the branding of the Welsh offer, because we don't have a unified single place you can go, whereas Northern Ireland Screen is the place you go in Northern Ireland, and Creative Scotland, and it will be the Scottish screen unit, will be the place you go in Scotland.
I'm on the board, in fact, of Cine-Regio, the international European body, the 45 different funds. Similarly, with those different countries, they have single points of entry. In Wales, of course, you do have this separation of a Welsh Government offer and our own offer. That's unusual. So, for people to understand that, whether it's potential international partners or people on the ground getting into the sector, it is a different situation than what they see elsewhere, for sure.
As I said earlier, though, we do have quite a wide footprint ourselves in terms of the talent that we're working with in Wales. They would be familiar with our offer, and we work with them repeatedly over the years. So, many of the talent that we work with, and I'd say there's about 50 projects coming up on the development slate that we've worked with over last 11 years, these are companies and talent that we've worked with on several projects. Perhaps we've done training with them as well, company support work, helped them from an advisory capacity as well—perhaps helping them network with would-be financiers, sales agents, distributors, et cetera, on their projects, or to, with the Magnifier offer, look at other forms of intellectual property exploitation of their projects. So, I think we have quite a wide awareness of our offer. I think it's perhaps less clear because of changes that have happened with Welsh Government's offer because, of course, there was the Creative IP fund, then there was Pinewood and now it's in-house. That's quite a lot to navigate.
Unrhyw sylwadau eraill neu symud ymlaen?
Any further comments or shall we move on?
I think there is a broad understanding of the footprint and the range of opportunities through Ffilm Cymru, and I think it's this integration of the sector that is the problem. It goes to questions about skills and training opportunities and it goes to questions about growth and company development. But I think there's an understanding at the entry points; it's how you develop along the pathway.
Okay. Siân Gwenllian.
Diolch. Rydym ni'n mynd i edrych rŵan yn benodol ar rôl Llywodraeth Cymru. A ydych chi'n credu bod gan Lywodraeth Cymru weledigaeth glir o ran datblygu y byd ffilm a chynyrchiadau mawr? Os oes ganddyn nhw weledigaeth glir, a ydych chi yn meddwl bod y sector yn deall beth ydy'r weledigaeth ac a ydych chi'n cytuno efo'r weledigaeth? Pwy sy'n mynd i ddechrau?
Thank you. We're going to look now specifically at the role of Welsh Government. Do you feel that the Welsh Government has a clear vision in terms of developing the film and major production field? If they have a clear vision, do you think that the sector understands what that vision is and do you agree with that vision? Who wants to start?
Who wants to go first? [Laughter.]
You don't all have to answer every question, by the way.
I would say that the vision that Government has set out so far has been one that has stared from a position of growth and jobs, so they've looked at explicitly commercial projects, quite large-scale projects. They've got a particular leaning on television, not least because of the longevity of the run of production that you get around that and the opportunities to support a significant amount of crew and facilities around that. So, it's very much a spend-based offer. I think they have been clear and consistent about that.
I think what you're seeing at this point in time is a maturing of the indigenous sector on the ground and perhaps a bottleneck, if you like, on the level of support, as to how those indigenous companies are then able to grow because they are increasingly getting to a point where, in theory, they could access the media investment budget—the commercial money that Welsh Government has. We are on our second film at the moment, with them, that we're co-financing and we have a third one that we're expecting to co-fund with them within the next quarter. There are certainly several projects, I would say, maybe up to 10 projects on our slate at the moment, that we might expect to co-fund with that offer.
So, that's the state of evolution, if you like, as to how does that fund adapt to be able to support a growing sector on the ground that is looking for more. They've got bigger budgets, they've got more commercially viable projects. When they started, they didn't have that offer on the ground to work with. That strategy, I think, hasn't been communicated as yet, perhaps hasn't been worked through yet. Certainly, we've not been made aware of it.
I think there probably are conceptual differences here. So, I think that Welsh Government, as Pauline says, you work strongly with them but it still feels like a disjointed idea, where the conception of film you've got at one end and the conception of film at the other don't join up in a way that they clearly could. Our view is that you build bottom up, you build sustainable businesses, you build entrepreneurial businesses that can go out there and grow. The other is more of that top-down feel historically, that what we really need is the big names that we can parachute in; it's more of that trickle-down theory. To me there's no particular problem with that, it's just how you join these things up seems to me what the challenge we're all facing is. That's where I think the film industry and the nascent film industry that we have here needs to get more detail around what that is. But, I'd say that you must start with a strong bottom-up thing that it takes a long time to get together. You have experts in our field—we're the experts, I think, in terms of developing projects and developing those links with audiences, and developing in the ways that you need sustainable businesses to work these days. That fits in perfectly neatly with that idea of inward investment and spending at the top. It's just that that has never—to me, we've missed opportunities to make those things join up to create a much more coherent whole.
That's the point: it's a lack of sync between two legitimate models. Nobody's saying that one of these models is legitimate and one is not. There's an intervention that is top-down, which creates a lot of jobs, particularly in the craft sector, and that's a significant intervention, but the scale of the fund is one that needs to be harnessed also to indigenous development. We need to get this linkage between the economic intervention and the cultural and social story. That holism is part of the proposition—is central to the proposition—of Ffilm Cymru.
I want to make clear that we do not think it's just a cultural intervention; it is an economic intervention in its own terms. It leverages a great deal of partnership funding and it has very rigorous entrepreneurial standards. That's why we delegate to it, because it needs that entrepreneurial fund-raising freedom and the experience that they have, which does not reside inside the arts council, and that's why we delegate it to them. They are a resilient organisation in their economic ambition, but if you talk about the cultural mission that they have—their mission to develop indigenous story telling and indigenous creative talent—then that is not being properly joined up to the top-down model of the Welsh Government.
Efallai bod hynny'n awgrymu i fi fod angen i'r strategaeth yna fod yn gwbl glir a'r weledigaeth yn gwbl glir, ac efallai mai dyna ran o'r broblem wedyn, oherwydd os nad yw'n dod yn glir o'r top beth ydy'r nod, nid ydy'r gweithio efo'i gilydd ddim yn mynd i ddigwydd.
Jest o edrych ar ba mor effeithiol ydy strategaeth y Llywodraeth ar hyn o bryd, o ran annog cwmnïau cynhyrchu sydd wedi'u lleoli y tu allan i Gymru i ffilmio yng Nghymru, mae hynny i weld yn cael llwyddiant. Beth ydy'ch barn chi ynglŷn â hynny? Wedyn, yr ochr arall rydym ni'n sôn amdano fe, sef tyfu'r sector cynhenid, yn amlwg mae angen plethu'r ddau hefyd, ond jest i ganolbwyntio'n gyntaf ar y cwmnïau allanol a sut mae hynny'n gweithio—ydy o'n effeithiol? Dyna ydy'r strategaeth i'w gweld, felly pa mor effeithiol ydy'r strategaeth yna?
Perhaps that suggests to me that there is a need for the strategy to be completely clear and for that vision to be completely clear, and perhaps that is part of the problem then, because if it's not clear from the top what the aim is, the collaborative working is not going to happen.
Just in looking at how effective the Government's strategy is at the moment, in terms of encouraging production companies that are located outside Wales to shoot in Wales, it seems to be successful, but I'd just like to know what your views are on that. Then, the other side that we're talking about is growing the indigenous sector. Clearly, there is a need to bring them together, but just to concentrate first of all on the external companies and how that works—is it effective? That's the strategy seemingly, so how effective is that strategy?
I think, broadly speaking, they've had quite reasonable success in bringing inward investment to Wales and having a flow of opportunities for skills and employment. I think Bad Wolf is a good thing to have. They've got a significant pipeline and they are very experienced individuals, and I believe that they have a proper commitment to Wales, as you would expect with Julie Gardner being Welsh and at the top of that company. Wales Screen alliance as well, as a nascent—as yet, because it was only set up last year—skills body that Bad Wolf has a commitment to fund has opportunities to grow training opportunities, although it should be part of several providers, I think, for trainees to really grow the crew across Wales, not just in the Cardiff area.
I do think there are some limitations with the media investment budget in terms of inward investment or any co-investment, because it's one of only a handful of commercially geared funds that are from public money. So, it works on the basis of media economic investment principles in order to comply with state-aid rules. That means that you have public money behaving on commercial terms, in terms of its recoupment. That's quite difficult for other co-financiers of film and television, but more so for film, to work with. So, for example, if you are a public fund that wants to co-invest in a project, if another public fund wants, if you like, favourable recoupment terms, that might be a little bit difficult to live with, and I know that there are public funds that would find it difficult to co-invest on those terms.
Similarly, if you are an out-and-out commercial investor, if you go and work with another fund that is a public fund but wants to recoup on a similar basis to yourself, that can be challenging. So, it is certainly the case that there will be projects that wouldn't look at or consider a fund that works on the kind of terms—the kind of recoupment terms, if you like—that the media investment budget does operate on. Certainly, because I have been in the sector for 20-odd years, and I used to work for banks and insurance companies and private funds—over 200 films, and television and animation that I've worked on in the past—producers will come to me and will ask, sometimes, about the terms that are offered by that media investment budget, and I know that there are projects that have decided not to come to Wales because of the nature of that money. At the end of the day, the Government will make a decision as to—. If there's an allocation of funding, they want to see that money rotating and being made available for future projects, and they've made it available on a commercial basis, but it will limit the way that—. Some projects will not be able to come as a result of the way it operates.
Just very briefly on this very point, it's really not unusual at all to see productions co-financed by the Government of whichever particular country it is. In your opinion, are the MIB terms and conditions unusual, or are they fairly traditional but just not very attractive to some companies?
They are more commercially geared than most public funds that you will see around Europe.
Okay. Do you think they've been successful in getting the recoupment you would expect? I appreciate that the money on most productions comes in towards the end of the process, not the beginning.
Well, I think there are two things. One is: does it give you the full gamut of projects that might come to Wales? What I would say is you will get a restricted view of the projects that could come to Wales if you have a more commercially minded fund, because there will be co-investors who won't be able to live with the terms of that. In terms of their recoupment, I'm not privy to what their return rate is; they don't share that information. But I would say just generally, it takes a long time to get money back. You would expect it to be a good three years after a project has been delivered to then see money coming in.
I didn't quite understand what you meant when you talked about the nature of that money. Is it just that, basically, the terms are so uncompetitive and the demands for return are so great that it makes the whole project non-commercial? Can you just clarify that bit? I didn't quite understand what you were saying there.
It makes it harder to find co-investors that can work with that fund, and I'm not being particular to the media investment fund.
What is it about the fund that they can't work with? Is it the interest rate? Is it the recoupment?
It's the recoupment, really, and you're combining that with quite a heavy ask, so you've got a significant spend in the country, which most public funds around Europe will ask for—they're very used to seeing that—but you're combining that with a very commercially minded recoupment position for public money as well.
So, is it that they see the fund—that the public funds should be there as an inducement, rather than as a co-investor?
Yes. That's generally how public funds get used in film around Europe.
All right. I understand. Okay.
We'll come back to some of those questions, I'm sure, in more depth.
Roeddwn i jest eisiau gofyn ynglŷn â chynllun economaidd y Llywodraeth. Yn y gorffennol, mi oedd y diwydiannau creadigol yn cael sylw—fe rown ni o fel yna. Erbyn hyn, mae'r dull sectorau wedi mynd, i raddau. Beth ydy goblygiadau hynny i'r diwydiant yn gyffredinol, yn enwedig ffilm a chynyrchiadau teledu mawr?
I just wanted to ask about the Government's economic plan. In the past, the creative industries were given attention—we'll put it that way. By now, the sectoral approach has gone, to some extent. What are the implications of that for the industry in general, in particular film and major television productions?
Well, I think there's a broader view that can be taken of the creative industries in terms of job creation. I think that might be challenging for the way the media investment fund has been positioned—the kind of lesser emphasis on sectors. But we certainly see it as an opportunity, twofold, both as an expression, if you like—a cultural expression—of storytelling, wherever they are around all of Wales, and in both languages. And certainly, the projects and the talent that we work with are right across Wales. But also the employment opportunities can be thought of differently. So, there is a training programme, for example, that we were piloting last year—we've brought 30 trainees through so far—called Foot in the Door, that is looking, actually, less sectorally at the opportunities, and film is just a gateway into employability improvement. So, we are very specifically looking at individuals who are living in areas of economic deprivation. We're working in partnership with housing associations like Charter, or Grŵp Cynefin in north Wales, which cover all of Wales bar Merthyr at the moment, the partnerships that we have. And we are looking at transferable skills bases, so things like hair, make-up, costume, electricians, design, accountancy, administration—you can think of several positions there—and very much looking—and carpentry as well—looking at trainees who might work—yes, they might work on a film and then they might work on television and then they might work on a theatre production, but, equally—. There's a carpenter, for example, that we worked with on Apostle, and he goes in and out of being a painter and decorator, and that's fine. He works in and out of construction. So, there are ways of going beyond being very sector-specific, and that's what we've tended to do with our skills approach there and looking at employability.
So you've got no worries about the fact that the new economic strategy is taking us away from the sectors.
Well, I don't have an issue for us, because our funding is lottery money and, if you like, that's kind of an independent situation; we don't have any funding from Welsh Government. I do think that there are approaches that can be created that are less sector-specific. I would have thought that—. I can't speak for them, but I think that it's a more complex situation for the Welsh Government's economic department, which has been very sector-specific in its approach, as to how they would adapt that in the context of the media investment budget.
What we don't want, obviously, is a drift to what was the previous situation in the UK, where we saw a major absence of the creative industries from the Government's industrial matrix. A long period of campaigning to have creative industries centrally considered for their huge contribution to gross value added and employment, which is very significant, in Wales also has led now to a very central position in the industrial strategy on a UK scale, and it's important that as we get this non-sectoral approach, we sustain that attention to the creative industries.
I think a really important point is that it comes down to this conception about what the sector is as well. I think, when we talk about sectoral, I think some people's idea in their heads of what that sector is is just not right. What we talk about with Foot in the Door is that the creative industries now are—. In the depth that we are at within all kinds of social, cultural, commercial kinds of areas, the way that we need to join all those things up can work. So, if cross-sectoral is looked at in the right way, I think there are some really great opportunities about thinking less sectorally, but if you're thinking that—. If your conception of what the sector is is just some big-name inward investment somewhere, and that there's going to be that trickle-down approach, I think you might find that there are problems further down the line.
Ocê, diolch. Rhianon Passmore.
Okay, thank you. Rhianon Passmore.
Thank you. In regard to that more general point in terms of what the sector actively is doing, and your point, Phil, in regard to the creative industries' central position within Wales, do you feel that as the—? Perhaps you don't. Is there a main front door? You alluded to this earlier: is there a main port of call for film makers in Wales to actively come to produce their wares, that we all want to see?
Yes. I would say, for film makers in Wales, that we are the front door for that, because you're not seeing a significant number of producers in Wales who are working at the level that would allow them to fulfil the criteria of the media investment budget.
And in regard to the comment that was made about a strategic pathway, what is it that you would like to see Welsh Government do, bearing in mind their hold over this at this moment in time, to enhance your role and to enhance the budgets that you've just been alluding to?
I think that has to begin with dialogue. Actually, I think it's one of the areas where, as the chair, I have had some issues, which is that we are naturally collaborative. I mean, if you're in this business, your natural instinct is to be collaborative and to work with as many people as possible, given the fact that we are a relatively small fund that started down here. I feel that dialogue—. If we actually had the dialogue in the way we should have so that we're talking all of the time—we're having the same discussion at the same table on a more regular basis—I think, once you sit down and look at the landscape in Wales, we've got tonnes to look forward to. There's actually a very strong picture that, I think, if you could throw a kind of brand around that, could really work. But to me, this has to begin with some really sensible dialogue on a regular basis between what we do and the work that's going on elsewhere.
So, how would you respond to the fact that, in a sense, you've been charged with that dialogue and that is your role to be able to sponsor that?
Well, I would say you need quite a few people around the table, including Government, particularly when you look at the amount of money—they've got a £30 million fund, we've got a turnover of just less than £2 million a year. So, they absolutely—
And you're speaking for Ffilm Cymru Wales
Yes, indeed. So, I would say that we have repeatedly requested to be at that table with Welsh Government and I think Phil and the Arts Council's evidence alluded to the fact that it has been ad hoc gatherings—
So, you're looking for a systemic forum.
Yes, exactly. A much more strategic, joined-up and regular collaborative relationship with Government, and probably—
Are you doing enough?
Are you doing enough in your organisation to sponsor that conversation? And the same question to all of you.
Well, indeed. We have offered and not only welcomed, but actively pursued an exchange so that the media investment panel, the industry, the sector panel could have a regular presence attending our boards, so not only at a civil servant level, but at the strategic level where they're making these decisions, and for that to be a reciprocal arrangement. I have been invited to the media investment sector panel once in 11 years, before Michael was chair—
So, you'd like to see more of that interface on a systemic level so that you can effectively plan those conversations.
It's a transparent conversation. If you ask what we've done, one of the things we've done is to be completely open and transparent. It's absolutely clear what it is that we do. You can go anywhere and find these things out. I don't think that same level of transparency exists elsewhere. I still go to places and I find that things are happening that I simply wasn't aware of, and to me, this is not—
Are you alluding to—? To interrupt, if I may, through the Chair, are you alluding to the media investment panel? In particular, what is it that you are—? Because there are disparate organisations, sometimes it's very complex to ascertain who you're looking at to be able to say, 'These are the threads that need to be pulled together'. For the purpose of this committee, we need to be clear.
We have a very active and collaborative relationship with many film-related organisations, so whether that's with the British Film Institute, which we've co-funded 15 films with, as well as the delegated relationship, or BAFTA, we have a positive initial set of conversations—they are relatively new—with Wales Screen, the unions, Teledwyr Annibynnol Cymru, S4C and the BBC. These are regular conversations that we have.
And I know that you've got a very strong track record, so I don't need you to go into what's happened—I understand that. But, in terms of moving forward, for instance, with the media investment budget, some of the witness evidence that we had when we held conversations in a forum were really around how effective that was, and also in terms of the panel, how transparent that was, because there were clear voices saying, 'Well, actually, we are in the industry and we don't really know how this works'. Now, I struggle with that, because somewhere along the line is a miscommunication or a non-communication. So, okay, whose job is that? I suppose that is what I'm asking you. And would you identify with any of those concerns?
I'm sure you'll be pushing, as a committee, for greater transparency in all ways. In terms of your question about what we're doing, if I could answer it from an arts council point of view, in relation to the approach to dialogue, and then maybe some thoughts about what it would mean to have a more joined-up approach operationally, which I think you've seen in some of the evidence.
First of all, the approach to dialogue: we consistently seek to have close dialogue with the Welsh Government's creative industries division. For example, we sought a meeting and got a meeting with our previous Minister when Ken Skates was in position, with their team and with Ken present, and talked about the possibility of a memorandum of understanding between the arts council and the Welsh Government division—a 'concordat', as it was once described in the history of this long story. So, we seek that dialogue all the time; it's crucial. We seek it around music. We seek it around areas like literature and books development. So, a much closer dialogue is what we seek, and we actively pursue it, but I think there's a long way to go in securing it.
Secondly, in operational terms, I think the kind of suggestions you've seen from our different submissions go to questions of company development and to questions of training and skills. On company development, there's a question about whether the MIB needs to be deployed in different ways, whether it's overwhelming commercial imperative needs to be maybe partly broken up—
So, can I just ask about that specifically, because obviously we've spent a while discussing that? In terms of how, you mentioned that it was quite accessible compared to other European models in terms of that budget. So, in terms of that, how can we therefore make it more accessible in Wales, either in terms of tweaking where we are allowed to tweak in terms of regulation—? What can we do to that budget to make it far more productive and optimal for Wales? Because it's there, but obviously we could do more.
Well, if we were doing it strategically, you'd look at the different kinds of interventions that you need to develop the sector—
Are you saying it's not strategic at the moment?
I'm saying that there are elements of strategy that they have focused on around the growth and the spend, but there are other elements that you might want to focus on to build a sector. So, training would be one of those, because you'd want to build the capacity of the sector to actually be able to meet the need of this additional inward investment and growth on the ground. Company development: as you're seeing, that's not just about funding. We've put some funding into companies—a little under £0.5 million across the nine companies we've supported—but it's also looking at accelerators and how do you make companies better placed to be investor-ready, to diversify their business models. You know, you wouldn't really build a business just on film. You're looking at having a diversified IP-based business. So, how you are making sure that they have the right level of expertise, that they're very current in their industry practice and they're very connected—so, you would look at that. And you would look at, potentially, stranding that budget so that you are able to overcome what I described earlier as a bit of a bottleneck that we've got growth in indigenous sectors—
So, you—. Sorry to interject; I'm conscious, Chair, that we've got to move on. So, you believe that there are things that can be done to—
—make that more accessible. And, finally, could you give me your assessment of the Wales screen fund?
This is another one for you, I think.
The Wales screen fund?
Yes, that's my question—
Oh, the location. Yes. It's not a fund. Wales Screen is a service, so they have free locations and facilities—
I thought it was something new. Okay.
—which is similar to what's offered in lots of other places. I think what is new is Screen Alliance Wales, which is a private company affiliated with Bad Wolf, and they have a particular commitment to developing trainees, but they are new so, as I say, it's all sort be developed and a lot of people—they haven't communicated what that offer is yet, if you like.
Okay. And, finally, in just three short bullet points from anybody, what do you feel would enable an optimal and strategic pathway for film in Wales?
Well, a proper joined-up approach between the lottery offer and the offer within Government, and that needs absolutely to start with systematic and regular dialogue.
And I think that needs—. Also there needs to be a change, I think, of—. What I worry about is the attitude that 'We do the small cultural stuff and film is this big business over here.' Those of us who work in the business on an international level—that's not the way it works. These small businesses that actually get together, they work together, they build out into all kinds of new forms of IP, they work on an international basis. If you look at all those giant names that are making the films that you're seeing, they like us, and I think there's a feeling at the moment, there's a disconnect, with a feeling, 'We're doing the big boy stuff over here', and we're down here—even to the point where we're taking it right down to the, 'How do we get people on the ground to participate?' Our film, our Afan valley project, where we've gone off and we've reset our cinemas—you know, foot in the door, getting people involved—there's a level of engagement that brings people into a business, where small businesses are able to grow and we're able to develop their work on an international basis that then pushes them up the ladder. If you connect that with the inward investment view and those big fund views up there, you suddenly start seeing we've got the whole picture sorted. But, if you disconnect that, and you allow that psychological gap to still be there, you're missing the point and the opportunities that are huge in this sector.
Okay. Just to clarify, the Wales screen fund is a fund from Welsh Government to provide support for audiovisual projects in Wales. So, that's something we've had from evidence from Ken Skates in 2017. And since the introduction of it—the Wales screen fund—21 productions have been awarded a total of £9 million in funding. I just wanted to put that on the record, in case there was any discord.
Yes, it might be just a name issue in terms of they're not calling it—
Well, that's part of the problem, I guess.
There you go.
We have to move on. Suzy has a quick question.
Yes, okay. Thank you. You've answered some of the questions I was going to ask on training, so I'm going to take this opportunity to ask this. You mentioned earlier on—. I recognise the disconnect issue, but you mentioned earlier on that you're involved in two—and now three—productions with production companies who are also getting MIB funding. Can you tell us what that production company has told you about their experience with MIB? Because you have had, on those two occasions, some personal direct experience of working with the MIB. What's that been like?
It's a lot of work for companies, but they do understand that they've got kind of a dual responsibility, if you like, on their spend. They absolutely have needed both pots of money, if you like. It is at this point where lottery money is very specifically there not to be substitutional with commercial money, but quite often you'll get to a point in a project—and with companies developing generally—where the budgets are just bigger than they can fully commercially fund. So, that coalescence of both funds being in the mix is something you would expect as the sector's developing. They do have to keep completely on top of the fact that their spend doesn't drop, if you like. So, they're very rigorously audited, as you would expect. It's quite a complex process is my understanding of it. It takes quite a long time for them to go through it, and it's fairly administrative in its nature. I would say that that's a fundamental difference, if you like, in the way that the Government's offer is administrated, if you like, by civil servants within that context, and it has to go through a process of going backwards and forwards of being assessed. I'm not quite sure what they're going to do now that they don't have Pinewood, who they used as advisers, if you like, who would assess the commerciality of a project to make a recommendation to their panel. Their panel has industry expertise on that. But it takes—. It's quite a time-consuming process. That's a comment that we have heard back from producers that have experienced that. Again, it's that sort of navigation of the other commercial, the other funders in the project—just coming to a point of recognition of what the expectations, the recommendations, are of the MIB, and then trying to accommodate that and all the approvals that go with that.
And in coming to—. I think Mike's point is quite important because, obviously, some of your client base, if you like, will want to go through this process eventually. Were there any conversations between Ffilm Cymru and Pinewood, as the gatekeepers at that stage, about what would constitute good advice? And what kind of reception did you get when you offered ideas?
I would say we actually had quite a good relationship with Pinewood. We knew all the individuals there anyway, from previous lives and experience. We, right at the beginning and regularly thereafter, would talk about projects on our slate coming through, talent coming through, companies that we thought should be on their radar, bearing in mind that they were coming in as advisers to the Government without any on-the-ground experience of Wales. So, they've got a global perspective. They're seeing projects from all over the place, and we were able to talk to them about the talent and companies that were coming through that ought to be, as I say, on their radar. So, that was a very constructive conversation.
I would say that Pinewood was equally frustrated as the process went on that they—. There was a difficulty—and this comes back to my point about the commerciality and the money—to find those projects in that sort of sweet spot where they needed a sufficient amount of money that they couldn't just go to a bank, because banks do—. There are entertainment banks—I used to work for one of them—around the world that will do risk lending, gap lending. It's cheaper than the MIB offer and they're super savvy, they really know their stuff and they're quick. So, you go to a fund that has these kind of commercial terms when you need more lending, you need a bigger gap covered, than you could otherwise do with a bank. So, you can sort of see—. I don't want to get too technical on it, but you're reducing the number of projects that can kind of hit that sweet spot. So, they were equally frustrated. I think Welsh Government was frustrated that they didn't see more projects coming through that they could fund. But Pinewood would share that frustration as well that they couldn't find projects that met the criteria.
I quite like this word 'sweet spot'. Thank you.
Welsh Government has provided a certain amount of money for studios in Wales—£4 million for Bad Wolf, and Pinewood got a 15-year lease on a Government-owned warehouse in Cardiff, the terms of which have subsequently been renegotiated. But how—? What's your assessment of the value for money in the projects that the Welsh Government has supported with studios so far?
It's difficult to comment in detail because I don't have—the information is not in the public domain. But I would say that any sector—a serious offer from Government, you do need good facilities to come in. If you're going to attract significant-scale films of big budgets and, if you like, what they call precinct dramas—television that can stay in a place on the studio base and do long runs—then having good quality studios is essential, really. Then you've got to make sure you feed the pipeline and that you grow the sector at the same time. Having a training offer that runs—ideally, before you even put those studios and funds in place, that you're already ahead of the game in building the capacity is important. So, I do think that the training offer is somewhat lacking in that overall strategy.
The training offer.
Yes. If you're going to put in a big facility and try and grow your inward investment and grow your capacity, you want to make sure you're investing in training seriously from the earliest possible point. We haven't seen that kind of commitment in the strategy. So, we do have to see this as a holistic whole, but having a studio commitment makes total sense. You can see the pipeline that they are developing with Bad Wolf, that's good, but that in isolation is not enough, I would say.
And then film, in most people's minds, is Netflix or something like that, and budgets are colossal for those kinds of things. You're quite right, Michael, to make the point earlier on that 'film' is just a title for a massively diverse industry. The overwhelming majority of people employed in it work on much smaller projects, although studios naturally do have the capacity for big spin-offs in employment terms, creativity terms and so on, by virtue of the scale of the productions they bring. So, if you can attract them to a particular location, then a little money will go a very long way. That's what the Government is hoping for from these kinds of projects with Bad Wolf and Pinewood.
I think that's what Pauline's alluding to, is—. What you want if you're looking at the long-term value for money—because you can't judge value for money in the short term; this is a long-term commitment. The dream—again, it's a little bit of that trickle-down thing—is that you build a studio, big productions come in, lots of money comes in, it starts creating jobs. Those jobs—the training that you do in order to service that studio is going to be the basis for your indigenous independent industry, which will grow in all kinds of ways. So, that logic is there, but it does require that to be a big part of your initial strategy, and that's about training and that's about discussion with the independent sector. I feel like that's something we think could have been done better at that stage. It wasn't that strategic thinking that, again, just comes out of dialogue. It's just about talking to people who are actually providing these things on a regular basis, and I think you have opportunities.
It's also about IP creation at the end of the day, because you've been in a studio and it's just a warehouse at the end of the day. You've got to bring IP into it, haven't you, to develop it? Bad Wolf is one IP creator, and so what we're looking at is obviously multiple companies, multiple IP creators, and the writers and producers who we're working with. That's going to give you diversity of content and a very significant number of productions. As I say, we've done 64 with our relatively modest budget over the time that we've been going, which is 11 years now. So, that's about having an ecology and a diverse range of content producers out there.
You've referred to your modest budget and £2 million is peanuts in the context of a business like this. Welsh Government did fund you originally; it doesn't now. Why do you think they withdrew that funding? Can you explain to us what the thinking is?
That was with a previous Minister; Edwina Hart was in post at the time. There wasn't any discussion before it was taken, I know that much, because it was taken the week before I came back from maternity leave. That was an interesting come-back welcome present. It was core funding for us. It wasn't a huge amount of money in the great scheme of things, but essentially how they described it to us was centralising what resource they had into a single pot that was then going to be sector-facing, if you like, to production companies out there. They didn't single us out. They withdrew money from any of the kind of spokes that they had in that hub-and-spoke model at that time. The Welsh Music Foundation had their funding withdrawn and Creative Skillset. I guess they had to go one of two ways: either you have several spokes that you then set up, and they were looking at 13 sub-sectors, or you go the other way and you take it away, and that's what they did.
Our understanding was that it was, above all, because the Film Agency for Wales, as it was then, before Film Cymru Wales, was insufficiently focused on economic return, and that its blending of cultural, economic and social was not what was wanted in their funding.
Just to return to the order of funding, at that time arts council funding in 2010 was around £785,000 a year, and £168,000 came from Welsh Government.
Right. You said that it wasn't a large amount of money, and if you don't think that it's a large amount of money in a business that only turns over £2 million a year, then it's clearly—
No, no, it's important.
And it was significant because for us at the time it was 40 per cent of our core costs, so we had to completely reinvent our business.
When we look at budgets, I think that the—. We call our thing 'magnifier' actually—our approach to it—but we've got very good with the money that we have in creating value that brings in lots of other values. So, you're always going to reach—. Right now you're always reaching a capacity where the demand for what you do and the funds you've got is going to far outstrip what you've got here, but one of the things that I worry about, when we were talking earlier about perception, is this idea that we're the tiny little bit at the bottom and the interventions we can make with the money we've got can do quite amazing things with the influence of bringing in private sector money and working with partners and working internationally. So, we do amazing things with that money. I don't want to give the impressions that this is a tiny little cultural fund with small films here.
Well, it's leverage, isn't it? That's always how we use it. How can you do the most efficient intervention, very often early on in the process, that's going to give you the most amount of leverage? So, whether that's at the development phase of a project or as an early investor in a production, which we frequently are—
You're a catalyst that helps to create a chain reaction and then a thermonuclear explosion in financial terms.
Well, you know, it was £56 million for us of core funding.
I think £56 million of leveraged core funding is very impressive. We back it because we see the cultural, the economic and the social coming together. It is not a naive little cultural project; it's a serious matter.
Time's moving on, but can I—
Quickly, if you can.
I'll just ask a single question about international marketing. You've questioned whether this holistic offering could be more effectively and consistently communicated. Can you expand a bit on that?