Future Generations Bill for Wales: lead weight or water wings?

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We are regularly reminded of the challenges facing communities in Wales, such as fuel poverty, obesity and an ageing population. Add to this the projected reductions in funding for public services and it is not difficult to quickly find ourselves with that sinking feeling. I can also see that it is quite possible that many in the public sector do not view the Welsh Government’s proposal, to place another duty on all devolved public services in Wales, as a buoyancy aid. Another view would be that it is a bold move to provide us with water wings and give us the confidence to do business differently.

In its recent White Paper ‘Future Generations: better choices for a better future’, the Welsh Government set out how it intends to place a duty on public services in Wales, to make sustainable development the central organising principle. We recognise that the proposals will fundamentally challenge the way that the public sector plans, provides and accounts for the services provided to the citizens of Wales.

In response, we are committed to working with public bodies in Wales to develop an approach to assessing and reporting on the duty, which is both robust and proportionate. We see this as a key strand of the national conversation which the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty recently announced.

Over the coming months we aim to ensure that preparations for implementing the duty can be informed by our independent perspective. To that end, we are already engaged in the preparations for this duty, in a number of ways. I represent the Auditor General for Wales as an observer on the Future Generations Bill Reference and Advisory Group. We are actively engaging with a range of stakeholders in discussions and workshops to explore the implications of the proposals for accountability and transparency.

We are also seeking to share the independent insight that we gain from our audit work, across the public sector, by organising our own events and contributing to events organised by others.  On the 26th November, I ran a workshop at the conference of the Sustainable Development Coordinators Cymru. We are also joining with Peter Davies, Sustainable Futures Commissioner Wales, to hold two WAO shared learning seminars on the Future Generations Bill. These will be held on the 5th February (in Cardiff) and on the 13th February (in Llanrwst).

Another key feature of our work on the Future Generations Bill will be regular blogs and tweets – follow me @MikePalmerWAO

In the meantime I am off to test the water!

About the Author:

Following a career in local government and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Mike Palmer has worked for the Audit Commission and Wales Audit since 2000.

He has held various roles at the WAO managing performance audit – including being a Project Manager for the Auditor General report ‘Sustainable development and business decision making in the Welsh Assembly Government’.

Michael has recently been seconded to work across the Wales Audit Office to develop and manage the WAO’s response to the Future Generations Bill and the proposed duty to make sustainable development the central organising principle.

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