There are two stories in the news today. which causes one to pause and think about the impact of the Welsh Government and the need to shake things up.
The first relates to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015, which was hailed as landmark legislation at the time, but whose impact is still questionable. Certainly, when it was going through the Assembly and subsequently, there were a number of us questioning whether it had any teeth? Was it just posturing about the environment or would it really change the way the public sector does its business?
The one thing we can say for the Act is that it has generated vast amounts of paperwork, meetings and partnerships, but little as yet in terms of action, or even action plans. It emphasis on the sustainability of communities was viewed as an especially important measure, in that it appears to give local people an additional weapon in their fight against bureaucracy and governmental diktat. Unfortunately, that hope has evaporated as well.
As the BBC report, a landmark attempt to use the Future Generations Act for the first time to challenge a school closure has fallen at the first hurdle:
The Well-being of Future Generations Act, which came into force three years ago, says all public organisations must carry out “sustainable development”.
It lists several “well-being goals” for public bodies, including “attractive, viable, safe and well-connected communities”.
Lawyers acting for parents unhappy at Neath Port Talbot’s decision to close Cymer Afan Comprehensive tried to use the act as a means of getting the decision reviewed, because of the potential impact on the community of losing its school.
But the case was dismissed in March by High Court judge Mrs Justice Lambert, who said the act could not trigger a judicial review.
She said: “I do not find it arguable that the 2015 act does more than prescribe a high-level target duty which is deliberately vague, general and aspirational and which applies to a class rather than individuals.
“As such, judicial review is not the appropriate means of enforcing such duties.”
So is the Act worth the paper it is written on? So far the signs are not good.
The second news story is also on the BBC and illustrates the impotence of the Welsh Government in delivering any of its economic objectives. They quote research by Loughborough University, which was commissioned for the End Child Poverty Network, a coalition of organisations which includes Children in Wales, Oxfam Cymru, Barnardo’s Cymru and Save The Children.
They say that Wales was the only UK nation to see a rise in child poverty last year, with nearly three in 10 children in poverty in 2017-18, a rise of 1%. It showed 29.3% of Welsh children were living in poverty in 2017/18.
The Welsh Government, which has a now unreachable (and some would say an initially impossible) target of eliminating child poverty by 2020, blame the UK Government, and in particular their welfare reforms.
There is no doubt that these policies had a negative impact, but why is it that other parts of the UK, including areas as equally deprived s Wales, did not see the same increase in child poverty?
The report does not mention the other failed policies of the Welsh Government, namely that of using European funds to raise Welsh GDP, when in fact GDP has stagnated. Clearly, something is awry in Cathays Park and an urgent root and branch review is needed to address these failings.
Devolution was meant to put us in control of our own destiny. So far the Welsh Government has not made a very good job of exercising that responsibility.