In this section
Section highlightHouses into homes This report details findings to emerge from the evaluation during the first six months of delivery (April to September 2012).
Written Statement - Update on tobacco policy »Standardised packaging of tobacco products and Sub Committees on The Smoke-free Premises etc. (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.Learn more »
Living Longer: Ageing Well
The third phase of the Welsh Government’s pioneering Strategy for Older People in Wales has been launched.
- ‘Enterprise Troopers’ set to storm Wales’ primary schools
- “Wales is leading the way on Sustainable Procurement” – Jane Hutt
- Living Longer: Ageing Well
In this section
- Business and economy
- Children and young people
- Culture and sport
- Education and skills
- Environment and countryside
- Equality and diversity
- Health and social care
- Housing and community
- Improving public services
In this section
Section highlightAccess to information
The Welsh Government has followed the principles of openness in government for many years. Find out how you can make a freedom of information request or see requests that have already been made.
Sky lanterns: environmental and risk assessment »To establish an evidence base to help any future policy decisions on sky lanterns and helium balloons.Learn more »
- Higher Education (Wales) Bill: Technical consultation
- Renting Homes White Paper
- Continuity and Change - Refreshing the Relationship between Welsh Government and the Third Sector in Wales
- Strategic Environmental Assessment: Environmental Report, Rural Development Plan for Wales 2014-2020
- The draft School Governors’ Annual Reports (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2013
- The future of agricultural statistical data collection methods in Wales
Featured consultation »Implementing the Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011
25 days left
In this section
Section highlightFurther and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Bill 2013
Removes a number of technical restrictions and controls on colleges without changing the principal powers of colleges to provide further, higher and secondary education.
Legislative programme 2012 - 2013 »
Addressing the Assembly in the Senedd today, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, detailed the eight bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the second year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightCommunity Infrastructure Levy
Local authorities can charge a Community Infrastructure Levy on new developments to support the infrastructure needed.
2nd Supplementary Budget 2012-13 »
Proposes a number of changes to the 1st Supplementary Budget for 2012-13, which was published on 26 June 2012.Learn more »
Oral Statement - Your services, your say
Before the summer, I set out my vision for the public services. It was a simple message: we must work together for better, more effective services for the citizens of Wales. I also acknowledged that local authority services, from collecting our bins to educating our children, and lighting our streets to paying our benefits, are provided by a workforce of dedicated, proud people who are committed to delivering services for us all. That is why the theme of my summer tour around Wales, to meet them, was 'Your services, your say’. I wanted to know what front-line workers think about the services that they provide: what is wrong, what is right and how we can do it better. The impact of the UK coalition Government’s budget on Wales will not be good for Wales. Therefore, the issue is how we can work together for better, more effective services against such a financial background. That is why, today, I am announcing a review of local government services that will look specifically at how we should be delivering services in Wales that meet the needs of our citizens and meet the financial pressures that we face. I will return to that later.
Our efficiency and innovation programme, which Jane Hutt has just outlined, is a perfect example of how we are shaping and leading change through collaboration. It is only by working with the many organisations across the spectrum of the public service, as well as with our trade unions, that we will be able to respond effectively to the most challenging financial climate in many years. I have seen many examples of innovation and good practice over the past few months, and you have heard about some of the good examples that Jane Hutt has seen. I met lawyers from 16 local authorities who had come together to share expertise and to undertake legal work on specialist areas that they would previously have bought in. It is a simple idea that came from the practitioners themselves, but it developed into an initiative that will improve services and potentially save hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is a stunning success, where senior management encouraged, empowered and supported change. We need to see more of that and when we create something that works, we need to mirror it across Wales. I am frustrated that good practice is often not used as the basis for improving services and making efficiencies elsewhere. Local authorities have to consider whether they need to do something themselves, or whether a service would be better delivered in collaboration with their neighbours, with others at a regional level, or by a single national organisation.
I have seen the recent report on public services by SOLACE Wales, which suggested an approach to the provision of services through these different models of delivery. SOLACE Wales’s work fits very well with some of the messages that I heard during my visits and the discussions that I have had with local government leaders. The challenge is to understand which services fall into which category.
I believe that the public sector workforce has the talent and ambition to meet the challenges of change. I met many people during the course of my tour and was struck by the fact that they shared such a willingness to contribute and a drive to improve. I saw an abundance of evidence of workers putting forward ideas as to how they could make their services better, such as those in citizens advice bureaux, who were changing lives by helping people to claim the benefits to which they were entitled. In Powys, I heard how the library service has diversified to become a community hub by providing a broader range of services to citizens.
Good managers recognise enthusiasm and innovation and encourage creative thinking at all levels of their organisations. My challenge to the rest is to listen to those ideas and, where they will make a difference, put them in place. Management and workers need to engage more constructively through open and transparent communication. I found that where employees were engaged, individually and through their trade unions, innovative ideas had been developed and services were better as a result.
Many of the public sector workers I spoke to expressed concerns about the future and their jobs. The potential impact of the UK Government’s comprehensive spending review was a very real concern to them, and I understand that. I welcome the commitment by local authorities to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever they can, but they will not be able to do that without redesigning some of their services. Efficiency and driving down costs do not necessarily mean fewer staff; they can be about cash savings as well as better services. That was demonstrated by the recycling project in Bridgend. That service has been redesigned by the private sector and it was realising some real cash savings, as well as increasing the number of staff employed in the service. That has to be welcomed, but I would like to see that step change and innovation carried through by the public sector. I know that we have the talent to do that, but we need the commitment of public sector leaders to drive this change. I will show the leadership to make it happen, and will provide whatever support I can to those organisations that embrace the agenda for change.
My wish to see more and better collaboration among public services is well known. The power of working together was demonstrated to me on a number of visits, including a visit to the Vale’s Women’s Aid project. The partnership that had developed between the local authority, the courts service and the police had led to a highly valued and effective multi-agency approach to tackling domestic abuse. Not only were lives saved, but the long-term costs of dealing with the effects of abuse were drastically reduced.
In the Rhondda, the Communities First-led youth project that I visited showed how a strategic approach involving a range of agencies—such as local authorities, NHS trusts and the police—could have a positive impact on outcomes, saving time and resources across the board. I also saw evidence that public bodies working together, often in an informal way, can create a whole that is much more effective than the sum of the parts.
By the same token, I was given a strong message that fragmented services are difficult to access and are a strong disincentive to citizens. People should not be constrained by boundaries in accessing the services that they need, but I found that that was often the case. The sharing of services is happening in some areas, but in other areas, progress is slow. The pace needs to quicken if we are to provide improved services to our citizens and meet the huge financial challenges that face us.
While there are certain areas of good practice, not all the conclusions that I have drawn from my various meetings and discussions have been positive. I have seen that there are still many barriers to improvement. In some places, I have heard a good deal of talk about collaboration but have seen much less action. That was reflected by the frustration of workers, who were able to see the opportunities for improvement but were unable to do anything about them.
In some instances, even where there is clear evidence that a collaborative approach would save money and help to improve services, local authorities have failed to change the way in which they do business. In that regard, I was particularly disappointed with Conwy County Borough Council’s decision to reject a joint appointment with a neighbouring local authority, although the evidence indicated that as part of a wider service reconfiguration, it would lead to cost savings and service improvements. Local authorities must push this work forward now with more urgency than ever. Those who refuse to consider options for working together are backward looking and are failing their citizens.
I said earlier that I would be commissioning an independent study. That will aim to provide a clearer framework for the delivery of a range of services currently provided by each of the 22 local authorities. My review will be a short, independently chaired study to consider what should be delivered where. The work will be led by the local government centre and will involve representatives from service deliverers, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, the Welsh Local Government Association and trade unions. Those involved in that work will report to me around Christmas time.
The terms of reference for the review will be based on two very simple questions: will it reduce costs, and will it improve services? Councillor John Davies, the leader of the WLGA, applies those two tests in assessing the need for change, and he is absolutely right to do so. I do not want change for change’s sake, but I want us to have a clear model for local government services in Wales that will meet those principles. I hope that the review will provide us with some of the answers needed to secure the future of services for Welsh citizens and of jobs for Welsh public sector workers. To those workers, we owe a great deal. I wish I had the time to mention each of the projects that I have visited over the last few weeks. Each visit showed me clearly that we should be grateful to the people who deliver those services here in Wales. Whether as workers for local authorities or as volunteers, I thank each and every one of them for their ongoing commitment, energy and drive, and I commend their efforts to you all.
The times ahead will be tough, but I am confident that we can rely on the people who make up our services, and that, between us, we will be able to develop a fair, innovative and efficient solution for the future of public services in Wales.