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The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
Questions to the Minister for Finance
EU Funding
 
13:30
Jenny RathboneBiography
1. What projections has the Welsh Government made about Wales’s future access to EU funding? OAQ(4)0427(FIN)
 
13:30
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance
Between 2014 and 2020, Wales has qualified for €2.4 billion from the European structural funds, with circa €2 billion allocated to west Wales and the Valleys and €400 million to east Wales.
 
13:31
Jenny RathboneBiography
What assessment has the Welsh Government made of the potential risks to the Welsh programme going ahead without delay, if the UK partnership agreement gets into difficulty or the English European programme falls foul of the European Commission?
 
13:31
Jane HuttBiography
I thank the Member for Cardiff Central for that question. Initial feedback from the European Commission is that the UK partnership agreement is much improved. There are some issues that remain over the England and UK chapters, and we are working not only with the UK Government, but with the Commission, through our working groups, to address the issues as well. So, we are hopeful for a speedy approval of programmes following the UK partnership agreement expected in September.
 
13:31
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
The Minister for Natural Resources and Food announced a food and processing package last week, which will be underpinned by money from the rural development fund, which is obviously European based. Is the Welsh Government putting in any of its own money to complement this European money, in order to develop the strategy to increase processing and food production here in Wales, or is it solely European money that is underpinning this programme?
 
13:32
Jane HuttBiography
The Minister did announce his ambitions and, indeed, they were widely welcomed in terms of those policies. The rural development programme will be widely consulted upon and we will play our part—indeed, as we have done—with partners to ensure that that is supported in due course.
 
13:32
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
Has any consideration been given to the possibilities of endeavouring to use the structural funds in order to promote the Welsh language and the economy in areas in south-west Wales?
 
13:32
Jane HuttBiography
I am sure that this will be not only possible, but welcomed in terms of the discussions that we have been holding and, indeed, in the spirit of the First Minister’s statement yesterday and the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport’s engagement in this.
 
13:33
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, one of the most attractive forms of EU funding that we could have access to is the Horizon 2020 programme. Given that this stream of funding requires higher education institutions to develop deep working partnerships with businesses across Europe, as well as other higher education institutions, would it be beneficial for us to have a business presence in Wales House in Brussels?
 
13:33
Jane HuttBiography
I did respond very positively to the report from the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee about building on the partnership at Wales House, and, indeed, I look forward to following on those discussions.
 
13:33
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call on the Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Peter Black, to ask question 2.
 
Tax-raising Powers
 
13:33
Peter BlackBiography
2. Will the Minister make a statement on the preparations she has in place for new tax raising powers coming to the Assembly as a result of the Wales Bill? OAQ(4)0413(FIN)
 
13:34
Jane HuttBiography
I have established a tax advisory group, a tax forum and a work programme, and indicated my intention to engage with the Finance Committee as soon as the Wales Bill reaches an appropriate stage.
 
13:34
Peter BlackBiography
You will be aware of the paper by Gerry Holtham, which was recently published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs and which talks about ways in which stamp duty and landfill duty could be collected by local authorities. Have you considered the contents of that paper and whether or not it is a practical way forward in terms of collecting these new taxes?
 
13:34
Jane HuttBiography
I wish to look at all opportunities and all avenues in terms of collecting these new taxes, and I am clearly interested in Gerry Holtham’s views.
 
13:34
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call Mike Hedges.
 
13:34
Mike HedgesBiography
Does the Minister agree—
 
13:34
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I am sorry; we have not had Peter Black’s second question. I beg your pardon.
 
13:34
Peter BlackBiography
Thank you for that answer, Minister. I accept that you are willing to take on board that particular paper. Given that Gerry Holtham has linked this taxation to the council tax benefit, would you consider looking at that in terms of reducing the cost to the Welsh Government of paying for those benefits, given the reforms that he suggests as to how we might better move forward in a more coherent way?
 
13:35
Jane HuttBiography
I think that the time and the opportunity for full consultation and discussion for this is ahead, as we see the Wales Bill now moving through from the Commons to the Lords. I look forward to this kind of engagement and discussion, and to looking at all the contributions that are made to it.
 
13:35
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call Mike Hedges.
 
13:35
Mike HedgesBiography
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Does the Minister agree that, for income tax powers to work, the lock-step has to be removed, and that it will be important to create a Welsh treasury and a methodology of setting a Welsh treasury management policy in order to make the devolution of tax-raising powers work?
 
13:35
Jane HuttBiography
Clearly, we accepted all of the cross-party Silk commission’s recommendations. It argued that there was a convincing case for Wales to be able to vary the different rates of income tax independently, and we have supported that recommendation. So, it is disappointing that we still have the lock-step in the Wales Bill, and, of course, we continue to urge the UK Government to reconsider this issue. It is vital, of course, as I said, and preparations are under way in terms of our Welsh treasury. The Silk commission also recommended that Welsh Government should establish that new Welsh treasury function to, of course, manage the new tax and borrowing powers for Wales. As to the functions and policies that I have already outlined to committee and to this Chamber, I will be glad, of course, to report on those in due course.
 
13:36
Paul DaviesBiography
Minister, the Silk commission also suggests that a new Welsh treasury should implement international best practice, which I am sure we all would agree with. Can you tell us, therefore, what analysis you have already made of international treasuries, and how has this work actually affected the implementation of a new Welsh treasury?
 
13:37
Jane HuttBiography
I am certainly very interested in the international experience and evidence. Obviously, I am very aware of the evidence that the Finance Committee has been taking. I am very interested in the work that has been done by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as far as this is concerned, and, in terms of what we need to deliver as regards our tax policy functions, I am looking specifically at that evidence, and, indeed, I will be extending my reach as far as that is concerned once we have Royal Assent for the Bill.
 
13:37
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Minister, forecasting is a key part of the preparation and operation of tax-varying powers. I believe that you have noted previously that the Office for Budget Responsibility will begin forecasting Welsh taxes this autumn, and that the first Welsh taxes, of course—stamp duty and landfill—could be devolved in 2018. However, business rates are likely to be devolved before then and will replace part of the block grant, of course. So, could you set out whether tax forecasting will include forecasts of business rates income, so that we can understand its effects on the block grant?
 
13:38
Jane HuttBiography
We certainly look forward to the start of the process, with the OBR, in the autumn. Clearly, the first real move in terms of the full devolution on domestic rates will take place next April. I certainly would want to report back to you in terms of opportunities for forecasting, and to widen that out to what the Assembly and, particularly, the Finance Committee would be seeking in terms of that forecasting. Of course, part of the Treasury function will be revenue forecasting—the production of forecasts for each devolved and assigned revenue stream.
 
The Block Grant Settlement
 
13:38
Leighton AndrewsBiography
3. Will the Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government’s block grant settlement from the UK Government? OAQ(4)0419(FIN)
 
13:38
Jane HuttBiography
The cumulative impact of the UK Government’s budget cuts is that, by 2015-16, our budget will be 10% lower in real terms than it was in 2010-11.
 
13:39
Leighton AndrewsBiography
I think that the Minister expressed very clearly the impact of UK Government cuts on our budget. Does she agree with me that, last week, the Secretary of State for Wales had the opportunity to demonstrate that he was standing up for Wales, when, in fact, what he did was develop a disgraceful and offensive attack on a constituent of my colleague, the Member for Pontypridd, a former army veteran, who has served this country with valour? Does she agree that what we need is a Secretary of State who is prepared to stand up for Wales, not to attack people who have defended our country?
 
13:39
Jane HuttBiography
I thank the Member for Rhondda for that question. Of course, the Secretary of State for Wales last week was faced with the consequences of a decision that he made, as part of the Government that introduced the iniquitous bedroom tax, which we wish to abolish.
 
13:39
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Alun Ffred Jones.
 
13:40
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
Thank you very much. Is it the intention of the Labour Party, should it form the UK Government in 2015, to increase expenditure on public services?
 
13:40
Jane HuttBiography
We await the opportunities in terms of the manifestos, which I know will be forthcoming from the Labour Party in due course.
 
13:40
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
I am not exactly sure what the response was. [Laughter]. I am sure that reform of the Barnett formula would be one way of protecting Wales, or partially at least, from the cuts that have taken place. During the last Labour United Kingdom Government, there were no revisions to the Barnett formula. Why was that?
 
13:40
Jane HuttBiography
Of course, the opportunity and the need to reform the Barnett formula has been made very clear by this Welsh Labour Government consistently. Indeed, that was well informed by the Holtham commission and by the Silk commission. Of course, these are issues that we hope will be taken forward by all political parties in terms of the way forward.
 
13:41
Aled RobertsBiography
Minister, in June 2013, your supplementary budget talked about spending £ 36.6 million on the deprivation grant. However, by the time of the second supplementary budget in February, only £ 33.8 million was to be spent, with £ 2.9 million placed in reserves. Did you consider extending the provision for the deprivation grant in making these changes?
 
13:41
Jane HuttBiography
Clearly, we have come to a view on how we spend the pupil deprivation grant as a direct result of our budget agreement with the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
 
Legal Fees
 
13:42
Antoinette SandbachBiography
4. Will the Minister outline the Welsh Government spend on legal fees during the Fourth Assembly? OAQ(4)0414(FIN)
 
13:42
Jane HuttBiography
Our approximate spend in relation to legal fees, inclusive of VAT and disbursements, for the period 1 May 2011 to 13 June 2014 was £7.7 million.
 
13:42
Antoinette SandbachBiography
Minister, thank you for your response. Are you able to tell me how that bill is split between the cost of the internal Welsh Government-run legal team and external legal advice?
 
13:42
Jane HuttBiography
It is important that there is external legal advice with regard to specific expertise or capacity that we require. In terms of that advice, we ensure that it enables us to fulfil our legislative and administrative responsibilities. It is an appropriate use of the resource. I am certainly prepared to write to the Member with that specific detail.
 
The Framework for National Statistics
 
13:43
Yr Arglwydd / Lord Elis-ThomasBiography
5. When did the Minister meet with UK Government Ministers regarding changes to the framework for national statistics? OAQ(4)0424(FIN)
 
13:43
Jane HuttBiography
The code of practice for official statistics was published by the UK Statistics Authority in 2009. There are no current plans to revise it.
 
13:43
Yr Arglwydd / Lord Elis-ThomasBiography
I thank the Minister for that information. Would she agree that the language use survey currently being undertaken by the Government as part of the national survey for Wales is a far firmer foundation for gaining an understanding of the condition and nature of bilingualism in Wales than the census statistics, which are often used and which are far less reliable? Can she ensure from now on that the Welsh Government will use the language use survey thoroughly as the basis for policy, rather than the misleading use made of the census results?
 
13:44
Jane HuttBiography
I would agree with that. I think that the language use survey is exactly an example of how we should build on the official statistics. This has formed part of our consultation on official statistics, which is to ensure that we have statistics that are fundamental to our needs, decision making, resource allocation and planning across Wales. I welcome those views because they strengthen the impact of the Welsh language survey.
 
13:44
William GrahamBiography
Minister, will you join me in paying tribute to the work of the Office for National Statistics, which has been integral to the employment opportunities in Newport and the surrounding areas for the last 40 years? It consistently achieves its aims and is widely respected for informing debate and improving decision making through high-quality and easy-to-use statistics and analysis on the UK’s economy.
 
13:45
Jane HuttBiography
I not only want to join William Graham in paying tribute to the Office of National Statistics, but I have enjoyed many engagements at that office and have met with staff. The chief statistician engages regularly with us in terms of roles and responsibilities. I also recognise how important the ONS is to us because of its independence. The statistics that it produces are free from ministerial influence with a strong code of practice, which is key to the business of Government.
 
Priorities for European Funding Programme
 
13:45
Keith DaviesBiography
6. Will the Minister make a statement on her priorities for European funding programmes in Wales? OAQ(4)0426(FIN)
 
13:46
Jane HuttBiography
I want Wales to deliver, in partnership, EU funding programmes that help drive the EU’s 2020 goals and the Welsh Government’s programme for government on growth, jobs and tackling poverty.
 
13:46
Keith DaviesBiography
Over the last few years, it is clear to me that more emphasis has been placed on ERDF, ESF and INTERREG, but do you agree that we should give more publicity to the other funding programmes, such as Erasmus+, in order to ensure that we in Wales attract more additional funding?
 
13:46
Jane HuttBiography
Clearly, we have more opportunity in terms of Erasmus+—and I thank Keith Davies for that question—because we can attract more than our per-head share of other EU funding programmes. Of course, there is a boost to Erasmus+. I know that Ken Skates is working closely with his contacts and the Wales advisory group to the national agencies is advising on how we can ensure that there is better uptake of the funds.
 
13:47
Byron DaviesBiography
Minister, you fail to mention one of your key priorities for European funding programmes, namely value for money. Given past criticism by the European Union, the Wales Audit Office and the Welsh Conservatives, I am quite surprised. Could you outline how much of a return you expect from every £1 invested through a European funding programme and, more importantly, how will you monitor this expected return on future programmes?
 
13:47
Jane HuttBiography
Clearly, value for money is key in terms of our expectation of the outcomes from investment in European structural funds. I was responding to a direct question from Keith Davies about other funding streams, such as Erasmus+, which of course enable us to see beyond structural funds in terms of opportunities. In terms of south-west Wales—just one part of Wales—EU projects have already created some 7,000 jobs and 2,250 businesses; they have helped almost 20,000 people into work, over 14,600 into further learning and 53,700 to gain qualifications. I believe that that is value for money.
 
Canolfan Cywain
 
13:48
Suzy DaviesBiography
7. What actions has the Welsh Government taken following the Wales Audit Office report on Canolfan Cywain which highlighted flaws in grant management? OAQ(4)0422(FIN)
 
13:48
Jane HuttBiography
Welsh Government has implemented a range of measures that have improved grant management and sharing of information. These have included improved training for officials and guidance and development of systems, which enable sharing of data both within the Welsh Government and with external partners.
 
13:49
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you, Minister, for that encouraging answer. It is with some disappointment that I report that I am yet to receive details of the financial assessment underpinning Welsh Government support for Pinewood Studios from your Cabinet colleague. I would like to be certain that my support is not misplaced and that the assumptions made in proceeding with that investment bear scrutiny. Have any of the actions that you have just described formed any of your own work in developing the cost-benefit analysis for the Pinewood Studios investment project?
 
13:49
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Suzy Davies, for that wider question, which is directed to me in terms of the opportunities that we have to deliver on the initiatives. On those initiatives that we have implemented, it does mean that risks and concerns are shared internally between divisions and departments and externally with other funding streams in Wales. It is very important that we look to not only our due diligence system, which we have developed, but the good governance group and that, of course, links to all of those external funding organisations.
 
13:50
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call opposition spokesperson, Paul Davies.
 
13:50
Paul DaviesBiography
Minister, the Wales Audit Office report into Canolfan Cywain is not the first report to highlight serious flaws in grants management. Indeed, poor grants management has been noted in a number of reports, including that on the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association, of course. In light of the numerous reports, can you confirm for the record that the Welsh Government has finally got a grip on grants management? Can you confirm that we will not see another audit office report criticising the Welsh Government’s handling of grants management?
 
13:50
Jane HuttBiography
I think that, if you look at the Wales Audit Office report, and if you look at European funding and the implementation of 2007-13 programmes, for example, the report recognises that systems to support project development, selection and financial management have improved significantly since previous programmes. Poor performance is an exception rather than a norm. However, it is quite clear that I am committed to this and that I am delivering—I know that the Permanent Secretary and officials have been scrutinised on this—on our new grants management regime.
 
13:51
Paul DaviesBiography
Minister, I hope that the processes have improved. This time last year, the Public Accounts Committee published a report on grants management in Wales, and you accepted all 18 recommendations. Given that it has been 12 months since then, can you tell us how many of those recommendations have been implemented?
 
13:51
Jane HuttBiography
We have implemented those recommendations, and I would be very glad to give a statement to the Assembly on the delivery of those recommendations.
 
Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme 2014-2020
 
13:51
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
8. Will the Minister make a statement on the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme 2014-2020? OAQ(4)0421(FIN)
 
13:52
Jane HuttBiography
On 5 June, I launched a public consultation on a draft Ireland Wales co-operation programme 2014-20.
 
13:52
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I have a copy of the consultation document in front of me; it is surprising, perhaps, that it makes no mention of Holyhead as the main link with Ireland. There was great disappointment recently that Holyhead was not designated a core port in the European transport routes for the coming decades. Dublin is a core port, and there has been a suggestion that we could benefit from that, because of the failure to ensure that core status for the port of Holyhead. What efforts will you make, as a Government, to ensure that the greatest benefits come to Wales and to the port of Holyhead due to the success of Ireland in ensuring status there?
 
13:53
Jane HuttBiography
I want to assure the Member that there is a huge opportunity here with this programme for Holyhead. If you look at the programme, it is worth around €90 million; it is a significant increase on the 2007-13 programme, which was worth €70 million. It is about encouraging stakeholders across our maritime border. Clearly, very strong engagement is already taking place between the Welsh and Irish Governments, but you will now have the opportunity, as will all of those in Anglesey, to submit consultation responses by 31 July.
 
13:53
Antoinette SandbachBiography
Minister, I appreciate that the consultation is still ongoing, but I would hope that, following the conclusion of the consultation, you will ensure that key performance indicators are included in your consultation response. There are a lot of projects proposed around climate change, and if those projects receive grants, I hope that you will ensure that you have recourse to claw back that grant if project objectives are not met.
 
13:54
Jane HuttBiography
Clearly, as a European Union-funded programme, they would not be able to progress without those key performance indicators. If you look at the new programme, it is going to be more tightly defined and more strategically focused, with a smaller number of priorities. Outcomes will, therefore, be very clear and transparent. However, the three priority axes focus on innovation, climate change, adaptation and utilisation of cultural and natural heritage and resources. It is very important that, this afternoon, I draw attention to the importance of this programme and the consultation.
 
Additional Resources
 
13:54
Darren MillarBiography
9. Will the Minister make a statement on the allocation of additional resources which have arisen as a result of the UK budget? OAQ(4)0412(FIN)
 
13:55
Jane HuttBiography
The additional resources from the March budget are minimal and are offset by the additional pressures of at least £70 million to fund public sector pensions.
 
13:55
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you for that answer, Minister. You will be aware that the Chancellor announced in the UK budget a fund for the restoration of cathedrals in England and that, as a result of that, the Barnett consequential to Wales is an additional £1.5 million. That sort of sum would go a long way to ensuring that cathedrals in Wales are able to continue to attract the very large numbers of visitors that they receive each and every year and ensure that Wales is on the international map as far as faith tourism is concerned. There is a faith tourism action plan that the Welsh Government has delivered. Will you now put the money aside to ensure that there is a similar fund for the support of cathedrals in Wales?
 
13:55
Jane HuttBiography
Of course, we have, as you say, a very strong faith tourism strategy led by the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, and a very supportive Minister for Culture and Sport as well. Therefore, I have no doubt that the support for cathedrals, as well, of course, as many other church and faith buildings across Wales, will be considered. However, I have to say, Darren Millar, that this is all about priorities, is it not? This is about tough choices and priorities in terms of where we invest our money when we have, as I said in answer to a question earlier on, a 10% real cut in our budget by UK Government since 2010.
 
13:56
Simon ThomasBiography
Thank goodness that the church is disestablished in Wales, I say. In discussing the changes to the block grant that comes to Wales, one of the changes for next year, of course, will be a reduction in the block grant because of the transfer of business rates. This is an additional change. What steps will you take, therefore, to prepare for that process, and particularly to collaborate with local authorities in Wales to ensure that we have a package of business rates that will be an addition to the economy rather than a disbenefit to the block grant?
 
13:57
Jane HuttBiography
These are very important issues, which we have, of course, started to engage with in terms of discussions with the Treasury. I also want to be very clear, transparent and open in engaging with the Chamber, and with the Finance Committee particularly, about the challenges in terms of prospects and also in terms of policy on non-domestic rates. That is for the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport in terms of her consultations.
 
Wales Bill
 
13:57
Mick AntoniwBiography
10. Will the Minister provide an update on discussions she has had with the UK Government regarding the progress of the Wales Bill? OAQ(4)0418(FIN)
 
13:58
Jane HuttBiography
I am in regular contact with UK Government Ministers to discuss the important financial reforms being taken forward by the Wales Bill.
 
13:58
Mick AntoniwBiography
Thank you for that answer. There is much support across Wales for reform of stamp duty. What initial discussions have you had with house builders, developers and the CBI on the reforms that they would wish to see and that would benefit Welsh citizens and the economy?
 
13:58
Jane HuttBiography
These are new opportunities—I thank Mick Antoniw for this question—and we have had a wide range of discussions regarding the replacement of stamp duty land tax. They began last year and, of course, we engaged with not only CBI Wales and house builders, but also those in the social housing sector, the legal profession and related businesses. We have interesting ideas coming forward. One example is support for abolishing the slab element of the current tax regime. We have to look at the risks as well as the opportunities. Shortly, as the Bill progresses through to Royal Assent, this would be a real opportunity in terms of consultation, which will be widely shared.
 
13:59
Paul DaviesBiography
Minister, in response to Peter Black’s earlier question, you confirmed that you are looking at all options about how taxes will be collected in Wales following the implementation of the Wales Bill. Can you give us some timescales as to when you will be in a position to update us on this matter?
 
13:59
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I think that, as I responded to the Finance Committee—Paul Davies is, of course, a member of that committee—it is at the Second Reading in the House of Lords that it is appropriate to think that a Bill is making its way through to Royal Assent. That is the stage at which I feel that I can come back to you and then engage fully in discussions in terms of those options in particular.
 
13:59
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Minister, what type of borrowing will the Welsh Government need to seek if planned improvements to the M4 get the go-ahead? I will take the opportunity to plug the sensible blue route again, if I may.
 
14:00
Jane HuttBiography
I think that the borrowing powers that we have secured are very important. Of course, those borrowing powers that are coming forward in terms of the Wales Bill, and as they progress through scrutiny and progress through to Royal Assent in the Houses of Parliament, do give us a real opportunity. What I would say in terms of borrowing powers, Lindsay Whittle, is that this is about how we can finance our infrastructure. They are not borrowing powers for borrowing powers’ sake; they are about borrowing powers to finance our infrastructure. You know what our Wales infrastructure investment plan priorities are. I will be reporting next week on those.
 
The National Procurement Service
 
14:00
William PowellBiography
11. Will the Minister make a statement on the National Procurement Service? OAQ(4)0428(FIN)
 
14:00
Jane HuttBiography
The national procurement service plays a key role in my Wales procurement policy statement and will deliver £25 million of annual savings, once it is fully operational, for the Welsh public sector, applying a principle of buying once for Wales.
 
14:01
William PowellBiography
I would like to thank the Minister very much for that response. Given the times of fiscal stringency in which we live, and the need to secure value for money for the Welsh pound, will you please outline what specific measures will be put in place to ensure that the service is monitored so that it does, in fact, deliver an efficient procurement service for the whole Welsh public sector?
 
14:01
Jane HuttBiography
That is a very important point. I thank William Powell for that question. Of course, we have 73 Welsh public sector organisations signed up to this. They have given a five-year commitment to use those contracts and frameworks. Critically important, of course, is the governance of the national procurement service in terms of ensuring that we can deliver this in terms of our objectives. In terms of the governance, it is very important that we now have a new independent chair, and also that that governance is quite clear in terms of delivery and outcomes.
 
14:02
Christine ChapmanBiography
From my discussions with small and medium-sized enterprises in my constituency, I know that they still face difficulties when they try to access public procurement contracts. They may not have the necessary soft skills, contacts or free time to apply for these opportunities, which can lead to small local businesses losing out to larger national companies. How can the Welsh Government make sure that Welsh SMEs can fully participate in the public procurement process, and what appropriate support does it make available?
 
14:02
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Christine Chapman for that question because this is why we need a Wales procurement policy statement, and why we need that adoption. Just in terms of access for small and medium-sized enterprises, if you look at the volume of sub ‘Official Journal of the European Union’ contracts advertised on Sell2Wales, you will see that those lower contracts are continuing to increase, and are now standing at 81%. Those are vital opportunities for smaller local suppliers.
 
14:03
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Yesterday, we learned, sadly, of the potential £2.5 billion funding gap for the Welsh NHS by 2025-26. The national procurement service will, it is claimed, save public bodies in Wales some £25 million per year. What role does the Minister believe that the national procurement service can play to tackle the shortfall, while identifying any potential efficiencies and waste?
 
14:03
Jane HuttBiography
It is clearly important in terms of the £25 million annual savings for the Welsh public sector from the national procurement service. It is clearly important as well in terms of the continuum of opportunity for procurement, not only saving money to reinvest, but also to meet the needs and to ensure that there are procurement opportunities for local suppliers.
 
14:04
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call Rhun ap Iorwerth. I see that you do not wish to speak.
 
The Needs of Children
 
14:04
Julie MorganBiography
12. What consideration has the Minister given to the needs of children in delivering the Finance portfolio? OAQ(4)0425(FIN)
 
14:04
Jane HuttBiography
We are committed to meeting our obligations under the UNCRC and, in the context of the budget for 2014-15, we considered children’s rights as part of the work that we have done to consider the impact of our budgets on different age groups.
 
14:04
Julie MorganBiography
Bearing in mind that the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 requires Ministers to take into account children’s rights in every decision that they make, could you give us some examples of specific decisions that you have made that have made a positive and practical difference to children’s lives?
 
14:05
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Julie Morgan for that question. Also, I was very pleased to sit in on the short debate last week, when Julie Morgan expressed the innovation that has come about as a result of devolution. I think that some of the examples that were given resonated with all of us who were there. One of the best examples of investment is extending the financing for the Flying Start programme. Of course, that is the early years programme that reaches children under the age of four in our most disadvantaged communities. That means that the programme is benefiting from a £279 million expansion between 2012 and 2016, and will benefit nearly 36,000 children in two years’ time. Also, it is very important that we look at ways in which we are engaging children, and we are publishing a leaflet alongside the budget that informs people how we are developing our spending plans. At a school in Stacey Road in Cardiff on Thursday this week, I am discussing issues with the school council, to share information with it and learn from it about budget setting.
 
14:06
Suzy DaviesBiography
On the point of the UNCRC and the budget, in preparing future budgets, Minister, and their impact assessments and reports in particular, will you specifically reference in each budget line the implications for the UNCRC obligations, as well as for older people, now that the due regard principle has been introduced via the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014?
 
14:06
Jane HuttBiography
Certainly, that is something that we would seek to do, in terms of our commitment, building on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the experience of that. However, I still feel that we have further to go in terms of engagement. This is about engagement, as well as delivering on expectations. It is about engaging with older people, as well as with children and young people, as I will be doing tomorrow.
 
Marine Centre Wales
 
14:07
William PowellBiography
13. Will the Minister make a statement on the £1m EU structural fund boost for Marine Centre Wales? OAQ(4)0429(FIN)
 
14:07
Jane HuttBiography
Additional EU funds for the sustainable expansion of the applied coastal and marine sectors will enable this university business partnership to explore the opportunity for offshore renewables in the Anglesey Crown Estate marine energy demonstration zone.
 
14:07
William PowellBiography
In your statement last week, indeed you did highlight that the money will support the mapping of Anglesey’s demonstration zones for tidal stream devices. Will you please outline whether the funds could also be used to assist with the mapping of any future demonstration zones, should such zones be established, or whether a separate application and business case would need to be supplied?
 
14:08
Jane HuttBiography
Well, of course, this is a partnership between Bangor, Aberystwyth and Swansea universities. They are already benefiting from nearly £13 million in EU funds. This is very much about how that partnership moves forward—it is the HEIs and businesses working together. However, it is also about testing things out, which we and they will do, in terms of the Anglesey Crown Estate marine energy centre, and seeing then how we can apply that in the rest of Wales. So, I see it as a demonstration zone.
 
14:08
Mark IsherwoodBiography
As the father of a Bangor University graduate and undergraduate, I welcome the European Investment Bank funding that has been received for the university in general and for Marine Centre Wales in Menai Bridge. How will you ensure that this delivers the wider community benefit approach that is now being embraced very much by Holyhead Town Council and by Ynys Môn County Council?
 
14:09
Jane HuttBiography
I would hope that both of those authorities would attend a workshop that is being held by SEACAMS with SMEs. It is engaging with offshore survey companies, looking at collaborative projects in relation to how we can take this demonstration zone modelling work forward. Clearly, this is an opportunity, and I will make contact now, following this question, with those authorities regarding that workshop.
 
The Public Procurement Process
 
14:09
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
14. Will the Minister make a statement on the public procurement process in Wales? OAQ(4)0416(FIN)
 
14:09
Jane HuttBiography
As outlined in my oral statement on 11 March, the Wales procurement policy statement has been widely adopted, resulting in positive impacts on the Welsh economy and communities, simpler processes and more open and accessible contract opportunities.
 
14:09
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Earlier this year, you announced news that Welsh companies are now winning 75% of major construction contracts through Sell2Wales, up from 30%, which is commendable. SMEs are the backbone of our economy, and they must stand a chance of winning through in the local tendering process. However, some local authorities have their own preferred contractors. What steps are you taking to ensure that your principles of strategic, professionally resourced, community benefits, open and simplified procurement, together with effective, robust governance, are applied across all public bodies in Wales?
 
14:10
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I am certainly very closely monitoring the adoption of the Wales procurement policy statement. As I said, there is widespread adoption, but also, of course, I would expect to be told, as I am, of any questions or doubts as to whether that adoption is in full. I think that the best way, which is how we have taken this forward, is to undertake procurement fitness checks. We have undertaken those in all 22 of our local authorities. We now have final reports and action plans to plot the way forward in terms of addressing issues and developing their procurement practices. This is the way in which we are very closely checking up on how our procurement policies are being delivered.
 
14:11
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Question 15, OAQ(4)0420(FIN), has been withdrawn, so, thank you, Minister.
 
Questions to the Minister for Local Government and Government Business
Senior Officer Remuneration
 
14:11
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
1. Will the Minister make a statement on senior officer remuneration in local government? OAQ(4)0432(LG)
 
14:11
Lesley GriffithsBiographyThe Minister for Local Government and Government Business
The Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013, the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (Wales) Regulations 2006 and my guidance on local authority pay policy statements ensure that decisions relating to the remuneration of senior officers in local government are open and transparent.
 
14:11
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
Minister, you have been very clear in your statements that there is a need for the pay of senior officers in local authorities to be referred to an independent remuneration board. What do you therefore make of Caerphilly County Borough Council’s decision to advertise for a new chief executive and increase the salary by £11,000 per annum?
 
14:12
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I met the new leader of Caerphilly council yesterday, and I understand that the independent remuneration panel is considering the issue, but has not yet reached a decision as to whether or not it needs to intervene.
 
14:12
William GrahamBiography
Clearly, we welcome the provisions of that Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act, particularly that chief officer pay has to be agreed by a resolution of the full council. Presumably, Minister, it will still have to happen, even when the new post is offered. Can you confirm that, because, after all, the independent remuneration panel has still to give a view?
 
14:12
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, that is the case.
 
14:12
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson, Peter Black.
 
14:13
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, clearly, as you have said, the independent remuneration panel still has to give a view. Why is it that an authority can go ahead with an advertisement for a post at an increased salary before that view has been received? Surely, that makes the whole point of the independent remuneration panel completely pointless.
 
14:13
Lesley GriffithsBiography
No, I do not agree with that, and you know that I have said before that I do not think it would be appropriate for me to seek to set the pay of senior staff in authorities. I think that what we have done is to ensure that the decisions are far more open and transparent.
 
14:13
Peter BlackBiography
Well, it is certainly open and transparent as to what is happening Caerphilly. However, do you not agree, Minister, that if an authority is going to increase the salary of a temporary post in such a way and by such a substantial sum, it should be required to get the independent remuneration panel’s agreement before it goes ahead and does that? It is not a question of you setting the salary, but of you making sure that there is proper scrutiny of that salary by the independent panel before the advertisement goes out.
 
14:13
Lesley GriffithsBiography
As I say, I think that the guidance that I have issued and the legislation that we have brought forward ensure that these decisions are far more open and transparent than previously.
 
Collaboration between Local Authorities
 
14:14
Darren MillarBiography
2. Will the Minister make a statement on collaboration between local authorities? OAQ(4)0424(LG)
 
14:14
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Collaboration still has a place in the delivery and improvement of public services in Wales. The Welsh Government has a comprehensive programme supporting and encouraging collaboration between local authorities and with public service partners to deliver effective use of increasingly scarce resources.
 
14:14
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you very much for that response, Minister. You and I both agree that there needs to be more collaboration in Wales. Given that the Nuffield Trust produced its report yesterday and suggested that there needed to be much better integration of health and social care, what action are you taking, with your partners in local government, to ensure that local authorities across Wales take this issue sufficiently seriously to ensure that there is much closer working with the national health service in order to minimise the cost to taxpayers?
 
14:15
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Clearly, local authorities and the health service work side by side on these issues. You will be aware of the intermediate care fund, which we brought forward as part of the budget agreement this year. I had an update only yesterday regarding that. It is showing really good examples of how we need to have that further collaboration and how that collaboration is working.
 
14:15
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Rhodri Glyn Thomas.
 
14:15
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
Minister, the Williams commission report takes a very different tack on collaboration between various local authorities; Williams talks about amalgamation. If the ultimate intention is to amalgamate, what should local authorities do in the interim? It is possible that their collaboration plans may actually militate against plans that will come to fruition later on to combine them.
 
14:16
Lesley GriffithsBiography
In the interim, they should continue to collaborate. I have made it very clear that, while we are waiting for the response on the Williams commission, they should continue to look to collaborate. I hear what you are saying completely, and, certainly, that has been raised with me. As the Welsh Government brings forward its response to the commission’s report before the summer and we have a map to work on, I think that that will help local authorities.
 
14:16
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
So, if local authorities at present collaborate on various projects with a range of other local authorities, and that collaboration is according to a different pattern to the pattern of amalgamation that could come in later on, you are encouraging them to continue with that collaboration in the meantime, until a clear statement comes from Welsh Government about the amalgamation of local authorities in Wales.
 
14:16
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I am.
 
Youth Offending
 
14:17
Gwyn R. PriceBiography
3. What is the Welsh Government doing to help prevent youth offending in Wales? OAQ(4)0428(LG)
 
14:17
Lesley GriffithsBiography
We are committed to reducing the number of young people in the youth justice system and to helping them stop reoffending, working in partnership with the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and other key partners in Wales to maximise the impact.
 
14:17
Gwyn R. PriceBiography
Thank you for that answer. As with many aspects of life, prevention is often better than cure. What is the Welsh Government doing to support the youth from falling into the trap of substance misuse, which can lead to offending behaviour in the future?
 
14:17
Lesley GriffithsBiography
We continue to invest over £2 million a year in the all-Wales school liaison core programme. You will be aware of that programme, which is jointly funded by the four police and crime commissioners. It is delivered in 98% of schools now across Wales. It provides substance misuse education to children and young people at all key stages of the curriculum. In addition, there is a further £2.75 million of the substance misuse action fund that is specifically ring-fenced for children and young people’s services. That helps them access a range of education, preventative and treatment services right across Wales.
 
14:18
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the opposition spokesperson, Mark Isherwood.
 
14:18
Mark IsherwoodBiography
The Communities and Culture Committee report in the last Assembly on the youth justice estate indicated a high prevalence of speech and language problems among young people in the youth justice system in Wales; I think it was over 70%. Given that, overall, new entrants to the youth justice system are falling because of positive early interventions and diversions, but reoffending is not falling within a particular group, generally of young people will complex needs, how are you as the Welsh Government seeking to address that?
 
14:18
Lesley GriffithsBiography
We seek to address it in several ways. I just recently visited the young offender institute in Parc prison and also the one in Hindley, and this was something that was raised with me. It is very important that we target that group of people who are reoffending, because, as you say, they often have complex needs. Speech and language provision is absolutely vital for that group when people have those difficulties. Neither place raised with me that there were concerns about the provision at the current time.
 
14:19
Mark IsherwoodBiography
The youth justice board has told me that north Wales, although they are doing some work in Gwynedd and Ynys Môn, is falling behind in terms of restorative justice for young offenders. The report I referred to earlier on the youth justice estate recommended that north Wales should have a secure children’s home, replicating the model established in Neath. What consideration, given the passage of time since that report, is the Welsh Government giving to these actions in the region in which we both live?
 
14:19
Lesley GriffithsBiography
That is something that we are looking at. I have visited Hillside secure children’s home and have seen the excellent work that is undertaken there. These are discussions that I have, obviously, with the UK Government also.
 
14:20
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
Minister, there is an identified problem with repeat offending by the young people who have committed the most serious crimes, so what is the Welsh Government doing specifically to tackle reoffending by this small group of young people who are the most challenging and often the most vulnerable, and how do you measure success?
 
14:20
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Well, success would be a drop in the number of people who are reoffending, but, sadly, we have seen a slight increase in the number of young people reoffending. We have seen a significant fall in the number of people entering the justice system for the first time. So, I think it is important that we concentrate on that group of people. You may be aware that we are having a new joint Welsh Government/youth justice board strategy, which is the outcome of the Green Paper consultation. I will be launching that next month with Lord McNally. I think that just continues the positive joint working that we have had between the youth justice board and the Welsh Government since we launched our first strategy, which was back in 2004, I think. When you see some of the young people who are in this cycle of reoffending, you realise that you must do absolutely everything you can to help them.
 
14:21
Aled RobertsBiography
Minister, many of those who responded to the Green Paper consultation on preventing crime among youth believe that too many programmes for children aged 16 to 17 were based on their age rather than their needs. You said around a fortnight ago that you will not introduce a youth justice Bill during this Assembly, so what steps will you take to tackle that criticism, bearing in mind that you have said that some £49 million is still available for local partnerships?
 
14:21
Lesley GriffithsBiography
You will have heard my previous answer to Jocelyn Davies, in which I spoke about the new strategy that we are launching, which follows the Green Paper consultation to which you referred. We also have the youth crime prevention fund, which supports projects across Wales. That is absolutely aimed at diverting young people away from crime and anti-social behaviour. We have 55 such projects across Wales.
 
In relation to your question regarding age not need, it is very important that we look at that. You are right, we have decided not to proceed with the Bill in this Assembly term, but that will create an opportunity whereby we can reflect and align our future plans with the wider consideration of the Williams commission and also look at what services we have right across Wales.
 
14:22
Christine ChapmanBiography
Minister, figures suggest that 65% of boys with convicted fathers will themselves go on to offend. How can the Welsh Government engage with the children of prisoners to make sure that they are not at risk of becoming young offenders themselves?
 
14:23
Lesley GriffithsBiography
You raise a very important point. When I was at Parc prison, I also visited the Invisible Walls project, which you are probably aware of. I saw two young prisoners who were there bathing their babies. I think it is really important that they understand the cycle of reoffending that is out there within families. When I spoke to both of them, I heard that both of their fathers had also been in prison. So, it is really important that we do this early work. The Invisible Walls project in Bridgend is an absolutely fantastic project.
 
Rural Public Services
 
14:23
William PowellBiography
4. Will the Minister make a statement on rural public services in Mid and West Wales? OAQ(4)0438(LG)
 
14:23
Lesley GriffithsBiography
The delivery of public services in mid and west Wales is the responsibility of a number of public bodies. I expect those services to be delivered to a high standard. Where they are not I, or my ministerial colleagues, take appropriate action.
 
14:23
William PowellBiography
Minister, I would like to thank you very much for that response. As you may well be aware, in recent weeks, there has been significant disquiet following the change of domiciliary care providers in Powys, following a retendering exercise. I have been dealing with the fall-out of this both as a ward councillor and as a regional Assembly Member. Concerns have been voiced from every corner of the county about the disruption caused to service users, the lack of continuity in care, and staff being bussed in from as far afield as Portsmouth and Birmingham to fill in staffing gaps. Minister, in the context of this difficulty, will you consider working with your colleague, the Deputy Minister for Social Services, to strengthen the guidance given to local authorities so as to avoid this kind of disruption in the future, which affects our most elderly and vulnerable citizens?
 
14:24
Lesley GriffithsBiography
As a councillor yourself, I would think that you would have far more sway. You are responsible for the decisions of Powys County Council and I would think you would have far more sway than I would. However, this is certainly an issue that has been raised with me previously, and the Minister for Health and Social Services and I have discussed it and written to the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire regarding this issue.
 
14:25
Russell GeorgeBiography
I listened carefully to your previous answers, Minister, and I was very pleased to hear your first answer to the Member regarding your responsibility for the performance of local authorities. Given that Powys County Council is accountable for the performance of its service contractors, which has caused a failure in the authority’s duty of care, would the Minister be prepared to initiate an external audit investigation of its adult services provision and procurement processes, so that we can get to the bottom of why this chaotic incident took place?
 
14:25
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Well, that is another Powys county councillor asking me a question about the provision of services that he is responsible for. As I said, the Minister for Health and Social Services and I have had a discussion about this; we have written to the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, who raised this issue. It is something that we will have a look at. However, Powys County Council is responsible for the provision of domiciliary care services to its local electorate, of which you are a member.
 
14:26
Simon ThomasBiography
I am not a county councillor in Powys. I am a former councillor in Ceredigion, and I gave up that post once I was elected to any kind of parliament. What is important in this context, Minister, is the link between social services and the health service, particularly in rural areas. We have hundreds of people outside today protesting about health services once again. They are from Pembrokeshire. You have established, with the agreement of Plaid Cymru, the intermediate care fund. When you announced this intermediate care fund about a month ago there were not many details as to what is happening in rural Wales. However, you just said five minutes ago that you have more information in light of a meeting that was held yesterday. So, I would like to know whether there are any further details as to how this fund will work in rural areas, supporting the work of merging local authorities, social services and the health service for the benefit of the public.
 
14:27
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I would be very happy to write to the Member with those specific points.
 
System Gabinet
 
14:27
Leighton AndrewsBiography
5. Will the Minister make a statement on the cabinet system in local government? OAQ(4)0430(LG)
 
14:27
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Thank you. Executive arrangements, also known as the cabinet system, have been operating in Wales since 2002. I have commissioned an evaluation, which should report to me in the autumn, to see whether any reforms are desirable as we head towards a new period for local government in Wales.
 
14:27
Leighton AndrewsBiography
Minister, you will know that I have said in the past that not only is this a difficult time for people to be councillors, given the nature of the service cuts they have to address in Wales, but also, it seems to me, one of the missing elements of the Williams commission report was that it did not really give a reason or a rationale as to why people might want to serve in local government. Do you agree that strengthening the role of backbench councillors might be an important route to that, and will you consider undertaking a review of the cabinet system?
 
14:28
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I think it is important that backbench councillors feel very involved, and I think this is where scrutiny plays such a vital role in local government. As I said, I have commissioned an evaluation of the cabinet system, which is going to report to me in the autumn. Certainly, after that, I can look at a way forward. The role of non-executive councillors and the provisions of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 were intended to assist them in their work by strengthening that scrutiny. Backbench councillors I have spoken to feel that that is certainly the case.
 
14:29
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Minister, I am sure you would agree that the importance of a robust ministerial code in the Welsh Government is paramount to ensuring that public faith in the Government is maintained. However, there is not an equivalent for local authority cabinets or executive boards. Will the Minister consider assessing whether there is a need for such an equivalent or an appraisal system to be introduced by the Welsh Government for local authorities? After all, you can have scenarios where 10 out of, say, 59 councillors are cabinet members, leaving 49 backbenchers, yet all the power, responsibility and democratic accountability fall within that. Really, some appraisal or ministerial code would be quite a good move forward, I believe.
 
14:29
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I will consider that.
 
14:29
Lindsay WhittleBiography
This is intended to be a neutral question—I am frightened to ask it now—and not a criticism of the system. You mentioned that it is now 10 years since the then local government committee discussed the cabinet system in any detail. Do you have evidence that the system has achieved what the committee described then as increased engagement with the public and more transparent, efficient and accountable decision making? You mentioned that you have commissioned a review; I trust that the Welsh Local Government Association is fully involved in that. I do not call them ‘backbench councillors’; I prefer to call them ‘front-line councillors’, which I think is more important.
 
14:30
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I think ‘front-line councillors’ is a nice expression. I do think that it has been successful in some parts. What it has done, if you like, is bring the leadership and decision making into the public eye. I do not think that it was before; I think it was more opaque than it is now. It is certainly very popular with local government; councillors certainly seem to like it. What it was introduced for was to increase transparency and efficiency of decision making and I think that it has done that.
 
14:31
Christine ChapmanBiography
Minister, back in March, I raised the disappointing figures that just 19% of Welsh council cabinet positions are held by women. With the latest round of annual general meetings, the situation has improved slightly and now 20% of cabinet posts are held by women. If change continues at this rate, we will only achieve gender balance in 2044. I am sure that you agree with me that we cannot wait this long, so what work can the Welsh Government do to make sure that women occupy the posts that, under the cabinet system, are responsible for so much in the decision-making process?
 
14:31
Lesley GriffithsBiography
The Member will be aware of the recent report called ‘On Balance’, which is about increasing diversity in local government. I gave my personal commitment that this report would not gather dust on the shelf. While we are undergoing changes for the next local government elections, I have made it very clear that I expect to see much more diversity being introduced, where possible, in cabinets as well.
 
Grant Funding
 
14:32
Russell GeorgeBiography
6. How does the Welsh Government ensure effective use of grant funding by local authorities? OAQ(4)0431(LG)
 
14:32
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Each grant that the Welsh Government issues is accompanied by terms and conditions and is monitored by the relevant department and Minister. It is the responsibility of each local authority to ensure that it uses grant funding effectively, according to the terms set out in the grant offer.
 
14:32
Russell GeorgeBiography
Thank you for your answer, Minister. Budgets for local authorities are, of course, under pressure over the next few years due to reductions in their block grants. Local authorities that are about to embark on the next budget planning round want as much flexibility as possible to allocate resources across departments; however, I am sure they would prefer a model of central funding that is as unrestrictive as possible so that they can prioritise accordingly. Therefore, what examination have you undertaken of central grant funding to effectively deliver services? Are they delivering value for money or are there more effective, innovative ways of allocating central government resources?
 
14:33
Lesley GriffithsBiography
One thing that I undertook recently is the funding flexibility review. Certainly, when I came into portfolio 15 months ago, one of the things that I did was unhypothecate most of the specific grants within my portfolio. I have encouraged local government to engage with my ministerial colleagues to see whether any of my colleagues can unhypothecate some of the specific grants too, and that work is still ongoing. I am also looking at the possibility of any specific grant under a certain threshold being automatically unhypothecated, because, obviously, a lot of this funding is then used in bureaucracy.
 
14:34
Mick AntoniwBiography
I am very pleased, in terms of grant funding, of course, with the ‘Vibrant and Viable Places’ award of £6 million to Rhondda Cynon Taf, of which a substantial amount will be spent in my constituency on very important projects with important social objectives. How will you be evaluating the success of the use of this money in terms of achieving those social objectives?
 
14:34
Lesley GriffithsBiography
That will be an issue for my colleague Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, who, as you say, has recently awarded the ‘Vibrant and Viable Places’ funding—over £100 million over the next three years for targeted regeneration investment. I know that Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council has received just under £6 million under this framework.
 
Joint Working between Public Services in Wales
 
14:34
David ReesBiography
7. What is the Welsh Government doing to promote and support joint working between public services in Wales? OAQ(4)0429(LG)
 
14:35
Lesley GriffithsBiography
The Welsh Government has a comprehensive programme to promote and support joint working between public services in Wales, and has set a clear direction for collaboration. Collaboration is not an end in itself, but a means of supporting the integration of services that are tailored to the needs of individuals, families and communities. It is vital that we maintain momentum in our work, to improve public services for the benefit of the people of Wales.
 
14:35
David ReesBiography
Thank you for that answer, Minister. There are many projects across Wales that I believe would benefit from partnership working, as they face up to the challenge of the austerity measures that are coming down from Westminster. One such scheme could actually be the closed-circuit television schemes and services that we are seeing many authorities, including my own, looking at cutting, which will impact on community safety across our areas. This, to me, is a perfect example of something to which we can take a collaborative approach. You mentioned collaboration, and I appreciate that very much, but what actions are you taking to encourage that collaboration, so that they can actually deliver and produce solutions to the many challenges that they face as a consequence of the cuts that are coming down?
 
14:36
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I have regular discussions with local government, and also with the police and crime commissioners. You mentioned CCTV, and that is one area where there could be partnership working. I recently met with Tony Porter, who is the recently appointed Surveillance Camera Commissioner for England and Wales. One of his roles is to provide guidance and advice on the deployment of CCTV schemes, and also to facilitate the sharing of good practice, and I have asked him to have discussions with the WLGA in this area. However, I think that it is one area where we could see better partnership between PCCs and local government.
 
14:36
Byron DaviesBiography
Minister, although a dry subject, public sector property asset management is incredibly important, especially in times of tight financial budgets. For example, a recent study here in the capital city, namely the Canton pilot, which was undertaken by the local service board, found 74 properties—29, admittedly, within the third sector—in one council ward. So, there is huge scope for rationalisation, I would argue. Will you outline what you are doing to ensure that public services utilise spare capacity within nearby public sector assets, before commissioning new leases or, indeed, new builds?
 
14:37
Lesley GriffithsBiography
A dry subject, but a very important subject. You will be aware of the national asset management working group that the Welsh Government has, and I have certainly encouraged local government to work together regarding assets. Fleet management is a classic example, and, certainly, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council has managed huge savings by realigning its fleet and has tried to get other local authorities involved. I think that it is seven local authorities that have now come together to look at their fleet, and I have given them some funding to help them in this, because I do think that there are huge, significant savings to be made in relation to assets.
 
14:38
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
In a report released in January appertaining to the financial challenges facing local government in Wales, the Auditor General for Wales states that there are unreasonable expectations about the advantages of collaboration. Do you agree with the auditor general?
 
14:38
Lesley GriffithsBiography
As I said, collaboration is not an end in itself, but I do think that it is a means of supporting the integration of services. My predecessor set up the regional collaboration fund, and, certainly, we have seen significant strides in the services that have been put together by the RCF. One of the things about collaboration is that it is about thinking of innovative ways, and, sometimes, I think that, because local government was afraid to fail, it sometimes, perhaps, did not think of ways that were innovative enough. So, I hope that I have encouraged that to happen. However, it is not an end in itself.
 
Domestic Abuse
 
14:39
Julie MorganBiography
8. What plans does the Minister have to ensure that all agencies are involved in the prevention of domestic abuse? OAQ(4)0435(LG)
 
14:39
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Key public service organisations have developed, or reviewed, their workplace polices on domestic abuse, violence against women, and sexual violence, demonstrating the commitment across the Welsh public sector. A national training framework is being developed, to provide consistent training for all public sector and specialist service-provider professionals.
 
14:39
Julie MorganBiography
I thank the Minister for that response. In view of the fact that, on average, a domestic abuse victim suffers abuse 35 times before reporting it to the police—which is a staggering number—how can she ensure that agencies, such as schools and employers, which are not in the front line like social services or the police, recognise the key signs of domestic abuse?
 
14:39
Lesley GriffithsBiography
That is a very stark figure and another figure that I learnt was that the majority of abusive relationships can last five years. That is the average length of such a relationship. So, I think those two figures together are very stark. You will be aware that I will be introducing legislation in the Assembly at the end of this month. Alongside that we are developing the national training framework, which I referred to in my opening answer to you. That will ensure the availability of quality and consistent training, raise awareness, change attitudes and improve the nature and quality of support provided to victims. I will be providing detail of the framework, Presiding Officer, in draft guidance at the introduction of the Bill.
 
14:40
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Minister, in your statement on 26 November last year, you stated that work-based policies on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence implemented in public service organisations would be evaluated to ensure that they comply with best practice and monitored to see how they are promoted within these organisations. Will the Minister advise the Assembly today on what progress has been made in this regard?
 
14:41
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I am pleased to report that all 41 public sector organisations in Wales have now implemented or reviewed their work-based policies on domestic violence, violence against women and sexual violence, and they are now in place. This includes the Welsh Government. We are reviewing the policies to ensure that they comply with best practice guidance and we are monitoring how they are promoted within their organisations, because there is no point just having a policy. It is really important that public sector employees know about that policy. I am sorry, I should have said that 42 public organisations are involved; the Wales probation service is also included.
 
14:41
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
Minister, you mentioned your legislation that we will see soon. Will that Bill address gender-based violence and sexual assault, as outlined in ‘The Right to be Safe’ strategy launched in 2010, which, of course, recognised it as a serious violation of human rights and a major obstacle to gender equality?
 
14:42
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, the Bill will address that. It is gender-specific and recognises the problem of violence perpetrated as a result of values, beliefs or customs relating to gender.
 
14:42
Jenny RathboneBiography
My recent casework has included the problems of a disabled woman who was subjected to violence in her own home as a result of the behaviour of drug addicts who wanted to get hold of her money. Sadly, the police public protection records have failed to accurately capture the extent and seriousness of the incidents. I wonder whether you would commend the work of Safer Wales, which, in contrast to the police, acted very promptly and effectively, got the services that this woman needed to get her supported and safeguarded and has now referred the case to a multi-agency risk assessment conference.
 
14:43
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I certainly would commend Safer Wales. I am very pleased to hear that those services were there. I think it shows that the importance of local services in supporting victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence cannot be underestimated. I think that that is so important. The Welsh Government provides funding—I think that it is just over £0.25 million to Safer Wales for the Cardiff Women’s Safety Unit. It is really important that all services, wherever they are in Wales, are of a very high quality and standard, which ensures that victims receive the very best support, regardless of where they live. It is really important that we have that parity of services. I should say that I have protected and increased the budget for the delivery of services to victims in line with bringing the Bill forward, even though my budget has, obviously, decreased. I have increased the budget in relation to these services.
 
Community Safety
 
14:44
William GrahamBiography
9. Will the Minister make a statement on community safety in Mid and West Wales? OAQ(4)0439(LG)
 
14:44
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Chapter 7 of the programme for government outlines our commitment to making communities safer across Wales. The achievement of one of our top ‘five for a fairer future’ priorities, recruiting an extra 500 community support officers across Wales, is already improving community safety.
 
14:44
William GrahamBiography
Minister, I would like to thank you very much for that answer. I have recently received information from across the Mid and West Wales region—from Llanelli to Newtown—regarding concerns that Dyfed-Powys Police may be intending to terminate the services of the popular Bobby Van scheme, which visits the homes of those who have been victims of crime, fitting locks, door chains and other security measures so as to bear down on crime and the fear of crime for those who have already been victims of it. My understanding from speaking to an officer at the police headquarters this morning is that it is not to be terminated but is due to be reviewed as part of a re-tendering process. In that context, Minister, would you join me in calling on Dyfed-Powys Police to ensure that the function of this valuable service is not diluted as part of the re-tendering process because of the benefits that it brings to the victims of crime? We have heard some harrowing examples from outside that police area earlier during this question time.
 
14:45
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Obviously this is an operational matter for the chief constable in collaboration with his police and crime commissioner.
 
14:45
Keith DaviesBiography
Carmarthenshire County Council has decided, from 1 July, to have a licensing scheme for all private rented properties in the Tyisha area of Llanelli. This builds upon the current scheme in place in the area on selected places rented out by the county. Does the Minister agree with me that this will reduce anti-social behaviour in the area and will secure community safety?
 
14:46
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I am sure that it will bring real benefits to the local community and will help to address anti-social behaviour. I know that this is something that my colleague, Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Housing and Regeneration, has also expressed a view on, and I am aware of the work being undertaken by the Station Road forum.
 
14:46
Paul DaviesBiography
Minister, last month, you gave a statement on community safety, which, among other things, outlined the work that the Welsh Government is doing in relation to domestic abuse and sexual violence, youth justice and reoffending. While I acknowledge that there is some good work being done in these areas, can you tell us how the Welsh Government is rural-proofing its policies in these areas so that the needs of people living in places like Pembrokeshire are being fully considered when constructing Welsh Government policy?
 
14:46
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Obviously, that is something that we take into consideration and, certainly, during my discussions last week with the police and crime commissioners, it was something that was raised with me—not by your commissioner, but by the north Wales police and crime commissioner. He has set up a specific rural team there, and I know that that has gone down very well with the farmers.
 
Council Tax Support
 
14:47
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
10. Will the Minister provide an update on council tax support? OAQ(4)0434(LG)
 
14:47
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I issued a written statement on 5 June confirming that the Welsh Government will continue to protect vulnerable and low-income households by maintaining entitlements to council tax support for at least a further two years.
 
14:47
Rhun ap Iorwerth