Robust Assembly scrutiny highlights need for further examination of Welsh Government figures
The Welsh Government has been forced to delay bringing forward a Financial Resolution, the mechanism by which the Government receives approval from the Assembly for spending as part of a new law, until it has published revised proposed costs for its Bill to improve Addition Learning Needs (ALN) in Wales.
Significant differences in the figures associated with disagreements and appeals as part of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill have been identified.
The Minister wrote to the Chair of the Finance Committee on 25 May, indicating that the estimated overall cost of the Bill is expected to change from a saving of £4.8 million to a cost of £8.2 million over a four-year period.
The Committee first questioned the Bill’s financial implications in a meeting with Alun Davies AM, the Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language, in February.
In March, the Welsh Government undertook a review of its proposed costs, but didn’t inform the Committee of its findings until the day after the Committee’s reporting deadline in late May.
The Committee wrote to the Minister asking him to delay bringing forward a Financial Resolution, until revised financial information is published and scrutinised.
“This is the first time the Government has postponed moving a Financial Resolution related to one of its own bills as a result of pressure from the Assembly, which is an important step,” said Simon Thomas AM.
“What this shows is the value of thorough, objective scrutiny through the committee process.
“During evidence the Minister told us the figures published with the Bill were robust and that we could depend upon them.
“But the revised figures published by the Welsh Government have changed considerably and demonstrate that further scrutiny is required.
“Without the work undertaken by Assembly committees and the evidence gathered through consultation with stakeholders, the Welsh Government would have been left with a multimillion pounds hole in its finances.
“We are disappointed we were not informed of the revised figures until after the publication of our report, but agree with the Minister’s decision to delay bringing forward a financial resolution until the new costings have been considered in more detail.”
The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Bill was debated and voted on at Stage 1 of the Assembly’s law-making process during Plenary on Tuesday 6 June.