The scrutiny process for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill

The scrutiny process for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill is now well underway with evidence being presented to the Environment and Sustainability Committee. It has been a long journey since the proposal for legislation was included in the Programme of Government for this administration, with discussion papers, consultation events, White Papers, National Conversations, changes of Bill name, Reference group sessions, 2 changes of Department and  4 different lead Ministers.

After all of this it is worth reminding ourselves as to why this legislation is needed – put simply the current duty on Government to promote sustainable development as set out in the Government of Wales Act, is not working well enough to meet the challenges we face. The independent effectiveness reviews, the WAO study and my independent commentaries on the Government’s annual report have all been consistent in their criticism of the ability of the current governance system to meet the scale of intergenerational challenges we face.

The new legislation intends to address this by putting in place a framework for the whole of the devolved public sector, which will improve our governance and enable better decision making for the long term. The legislation is not a silver bullet but it can provide a common vision, language and purpose for the public sector through:

-        Setting long term goals underpinned by measures of progress

-        A set of common governance principles for the operation of the sector

-        A structure for local delivery through Public Service Boards

-        Requirements for reporting and transparency

-        An independent Commissioner to support and hold the public bodies to account

Of course the Bill is not perfect as currently drafted and we are all focused on areas where we feel it can be improved, but as we move through the scrutiny process let’s not get into a downward spiral of criticism of a proposed legislation that our international partners view as being leading practice. It is not often Wales gets an invite to present to the UN High Level Political Forum on the basis of proposed legislation! http://www.cynnalcymru.com/news/return-un-high-level-political-forum-sustainable-development 

We also need to be careful that the Bill scrutiny process itself does not reflect the same silo approach that has damaged our ability to deliver our current sustainable development duty. Although the Bill is now again led by the Natural Resources Minister, this Bill sets a framework for how the public sector does business, which  has been reflected in the interdepartmental collaboration in development.

Above all we need to ensure the legislation is not just a top down process that prescribes what should be done but instead enables people to take ownership and facilitates community led action. This is why the national conversation on the Wales we Want (www.thewaleswewant.org.uk)   and the voluntary commitment to the Sustainable Development Charter (www.sd-charter.net)  are important initiatives in creating a shared vision and common purpose.

My submission to the Scrutiny Committee can be found at http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/documents/s30074/WFG%2060%20Commissioner%20for%20Sustainable%20Futures.pdf

 

Pathfinder Programme

A Welsh Government funded programme to support communities to take action on climate change.

Community Energy Wales

Bringing together communities acting on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Support For Sustainable Living

A scheme designed to bring about long-term changes in behaviour and lifestyle to help reduce Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions and help organisations and communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.