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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 23 February, 2015 

Report of the Leader

The Well Being of Future Generations Bill

 

Purpose of the Report

1. To provide Cabinet with an update on the Council's progress to ensure compliance with the Well Being of Future Generations Bill expected to be passed in the Summer of 2015.

Recommendations

1. That Cabinet notes the implications of the Bill and the work being taken forward by the Council as "early adopters" of the Bill through the Sustainable Development Working Group and in conjunction with the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA).

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. To ensure that Members are aware of the progress made to comply with the Bill and its objectives and to enable the Council to prepare for the forthcoming legislation which will require that sustainable development is the central organising principle of the Council.

 

 

Background

2. In 2012 there was a consultation on the White Paper proposals for legislation which places sustainable development at the heart of the Welsh Government and organisations delivering public services in Wales.

 

3. On the 16th July 2013 the First Minister updated the 2011-16 Legislative Programme and this included the Welsh Government’s commitment to legislate to make sustainable development the central organising principle of the devolved public service in Wales and to create an independent body to provide advice, guidance and expertise.

 

4. On the 7th July 2014 the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, laid before the National Assembly for Wales the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill.  This  proposed legislation is intended to ensure that sustainable development is at the centre of the strategic decision making process for Welsh Government and public bodies in Wales.

 

5. The Vale of Glamorgan Council is an "early adopter" of the Well-being of Future Generations Bill. Welsh Government is funding support for the 10 early adopter authorities through the WLGA to ensure that authorities are prepared for the Bill and compliant with its objectives.

Relevant Issues and Options

6. The general purpose of the Bill is 'to ensure that the governance arrangements of public bodies for improving the well-being of Wales take the needs of future generations into account'. The aim is for public bodies to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of Wales in accordance with sustainable development principles. 

 

7. Attached as Appendix A is a timetable for when the requirements of the Bill will take effect including publication of objectives for public bodies, establishing of public services boards and the reports of the Commissioner.

 

8. The proposed legislation is broad in its scope and will have significant implications for the Council and how it works. Detailed below are key points within the proposed legislation and some of the work that will help the Council to prepare for when the legislation comes in to effect.

 

9. The Bill sets out six well-being goals against which public bodies must set and publish well-being objectives that are designed to maximise its contribution to the achievement of the well-being goals. The Well-being goals are:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language

10. Sustainability is at the forefront of the Bill and it seeks to ensure that the long term effects of current decision making are considered at all times. It will, if passed, formalise partnerships across the public sector to ensure a joined up approach to delivery and planning. In applying the sustainable development principle the Bill requires that public bodies take into account:

  • The importance of balancing short term needs with the need to safeguard the ability to meet long term needs
  • The benefits of taking an integrated approach by considering how: an objective may impact upon each of the well-being goals and the social, economic and environmental aspects and; the impact of the body’s objectives on each other and upon other public bodies’ objectives.
  • The importance of involving those with an interest in the objectives, seeking views and taking them into account
  • How collaborating with any other person could assist the body to meet its objectives, or assist another body to meet its objectives.
  • How deploying resources to prevent problems occurring or getting worse may contribute to meeting the body’s objective, or another body’s objectives

11. The Act will establish the post of a Future Generations Commissioner for Wales who will be appointed by Welsh Ministers. The duties of the Commissioner will be to promote the sustainable development principle and to monitor and assess the extent to which well-being objectives set by the public bodies are being met. 

 

12. The Commissioner’s functions will also include:

  • Providing advice and assistance to public bodies and public services boards in the preparation and development of their plans and to the achievement of the well-being goals.
  • Encouraging best practice amongst public bodies in taking steps to meet their well-being objectives.
  • Encouraging collaboration between public bodies.
  • Promoting awareness amongst public bodies of the need to take steps to meet their well-being objectives in accordance with the sustainable development principle.

13. There must be a Public Services Board for each local authority area in Wales. The board will include the Local Authority, Local Health Board, the Welsh Fire and Rescue Authority and Natural Resources Wales as statutory members. In addition the board must invite (‘invited participants’) the Welsh Ministers, the Chief Constable of the police force in that area, the Police and Crime Commissioner, a person required to provide probation services in relation to the Local Authority area and a body representing voluntary organisations in the area.  Other relevant organisations can also be invited to join the board. 

 

14. The aim of the Public Services Board will be to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of its area in accordance with the sustainable development principle. Each board is required to publish an assessment of the state of the economic, social and environmental well-being in its area prior to the production of a local well-being plan.  This is similar to current arrangements for Local Service Boards and the existing practice of undertaking needs assessments and producing a Single Integrated Plan but will be a statutory requirement. 

 

15. The Public Services Board must also review and amend its local well-being plan and produce annual progress reports.

 

16. In May 2014 the Council applied to become an 'early adopter' of the Bill and to access support provided by the WLGA. This application was successful and as a result the Council has been engaged with the Bill for some time. An outline of this engagement and support is provided below.

 

17. The Council will work with other 'early adopter' Councils to prepare for the forthcoming legislation.   The support from the WLGA is intended to help Councils to take some initial steps to meet the requirements of the proposed legislation and to develop new ways of working. As an early adopter there will also be an opportunity to help shape guidance to support the implementation of the legislation. 

 

18. The support structure for the early adopters began last year when the Council took part in the completion of a diagnostic self-assessment using an online tool. The self-assessment was based around the ten key building blocks of the Bill and asked respondents to assess their organisation's current compliance against the key requirements of the Bill. 10 senior members of staff gave a response for the Vale.

 

19. Phase 2 of this process involved a strategic workshop facilitated by consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) which took place at the end of the November 2014. The results of the self-assessment were fed back to the group and the areas of achievement and concern were raised. A discussion followed and there was a generally positive attitude that the Council was as a whole well placed to comply with the Bill and had embraced the ethos of Sustainable Development to a large extent.

 

20. In December following the completion of the strategic workshops and the collation of the suggestions for further support, the WLGA circulated information (Appendix B)  on the structure of the next phase. This will include an audit and reporting event for officers in February and members training in March. The online tools to add support will be improved and a condensed version of the Bill will also be produced.

 

21. During this next phase there is a further resource from PWC for the Council to use for bespoke training and consultancy before the end of the financial year. Conversations are currently taking place with PWC to confirm the detail of this support. The support will focus on how the Bill aligns with the Council's Reshaping Services Strategy and assist in taking the strategy forward. It will be delivered in facilitated sessions with relevant Council officers in March.

 

22. As stated previously the Bill is planned to be passed in its current form in the summer. No major amendments are expected; however, the language used within it is expected to be clarified to ensure its success.

 

23. As part of the consultation period the Wales Audit Office raised concerns regarding the regulation and auditing of progress against the Bill. A policy note was developed in November with Welsh Government to clarify the issue. The note states that once the Bill is passed, the Auditor General would examine ‘how seriously the public sector is taking sustainable development’ and to ensure the Council ‘has organised itself to have robust mechanisms and procedures in place and whether these are actually being used’ to set well-being objectives and achieve them. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

24. Activities outlined in this report will be met through existing resource in the Local Service Board and through the Sustainable Development Working Group.  The LSB Development Grant will continue for 2015/16 but at a reduced rate from £50,000 to £30,400. The WLGA support for early adopters of the legislation is due to end in March 2015.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

25. Sustainability is an essential tenet of the Bill and it seeks to improve long term planning and thinking. The Bill further seeks to improve sustainable governance across the public sector in Wales and promote the agenda of prevention, collaboration, integration and involvement.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

26. There are no direct legal implications arising from this report

 

27. The Commissioner for Future Generations will be established to monitor progress against the Bill and will work with the Wales Audit Office to highlight non-compliance.

Crime and Disorder Implications

28. A cohesive community is one of the goals and objectives set out in the Bill.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

29. The Bill puts both cohesive communities and a thriving Welsh language at the centre of its goals.

Corporate/Service Objectives

30. The Bill will put Local Service Boards on a statutory footing as Public Service Boards ensuring that they continue to deliver as well as obligating engagement from partners.

 

31. The Bill also underpins the objectives of the Council's Reshaping Services Strategy. It is also in line with the objective CL8 in the Corporate Plan 2013-17 that the Council will 'Promote sustainable development ensuring that sustainability factors are taken into account in decision making and that the Council complies with forthcoming legislation on sustainable development.' 

Policy Framework and Budget

32. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

33. Not applicable

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

34. Corporate Resources

Background Papers

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill

 

 

Contact Officer

Huw Isaac (Head of Performance and Development) - 01446 709760

 

 

Officers Consulted

Sustainable Development Working Group

Irene Thornton - Senior Lawyer

 

 

Responsible Officer:

Huw Isaac

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