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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources): 26 June 2012

 

Report of the Corporate Management Team

 

Proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill - Consultation Response

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To seek Scrutiny Committee views on the draft response to the Welsh Government consultation on the proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill.

Recommendation

1.             That Scrutiny Committee consider the draft response to Welsh Government and make recommendations to the Cabinet meeting on 9 July 2012.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             That the Council submits a formal response to the Welsh Government consultation which closes on the 18th July 2012.

Background

2.             On the 9th May 2012 Welsh Government issued consultation on proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill.  The consultation document (Appendix A) sets out their proposals to develop and strengthen the approach to sustainable development in Wales. 

3.             The definition used by Welsh Government is that sustainable development means enhancing the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of people and communities, achieving a better quality of life for our own and future generations in ways which;

·         promote social justice and equality of opportunity; and

·         enhance the natural and cultural environment and respect its limits - using only our fair share of the earth's resources and sustaining our cultural legacy.

Sustainable development is the process by which we reach the goal of sustainability.

 

4.             Welsh Government are proposing a sustainable development duty that:

·         applies to higher level decisions adopted by organisations delivering public services to guide the way they work

·         ensures that those decisions have to be informed by key sustainable development factors

·         requires organisations to report on how they have complied with the duty through their existing annual reporting.

5.             They are seeking views on:

·         their approach to a sustainable development duty that applies to organisations delivering public services;

·         their approach to the role and functions of a new independent sustainable development body;

·         the barriers to taking more long-term, joined-up decisions, and how to remove them;

·         evidence on promoting sustainable development;

·         reviewing existing legal duties and simplifying them in the proposed Sustainable Development Bill;

·         the advantages and disadvantages of defining “sustainable development” in law.

6.             This consultation will inform the development of detailed proposals that will be included in a White Paper consultation on the Sustainable Development Bill. The plan is to launch the second consultation in Autumn 2012.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             The draft consultation response (Appendix B) welcomes the proposals from Welsh Government to introduce legislation to strengthen the approach to sustainable development in Wales but also outlines some reservations. 

8.             The proposals relate specifically to the commitments in the Programme for Government to:

·         Legislate to make sustainable development the central organising principle of the Welsh Government and public bodies in Wales.

·         Create an independent sustainable development body for Wales.

9.             Sustainable development as the central organising principle refers to the way that organisations should make decisions and implement policies and programmes.  It is proposed that organisations should use sustainable development thinking to inform their decisions, so that these decisions are considered through the 'lens' of sustainable development.

10.        The preferred approach to a statutory duty is to focus on the higher level decisions that have the greatest influence over organisational behaviour, requiring that these decisions are informed in some way by sustainable development factors.  Organisations will be allowed the discretion and flexibility needed to respond positively to the duty, in a way that meets the needs of the people and communities they serve.  The duty will also ensure that organisations are transparent and open about how these decisions have been informed by sustainable development factors.

11.        Higher level decisions means decisions that are adopted by an organisation with the intent that they should influence the way an organisation delivers services, allocates resources, procures services, provides financial assistance and manages its estate.  These are considered to be:

·         longer term strategies adopted to guide an organisation's behaviour for a period of more than one year

·         annual plans  - such as annual operational plans

·         general or subject-specific policies that govern how an organisation is to deliver its services or use public money or which govern others to deliver services on its behalf.

12.        The proposals also include the creation of a new sustainable development body and a scrutiny function in relation to sustainable development for the Auditor General for Wales.

13.        The Council is a signatory of the Welsh Government Sustainable Development Charter and has already undertaken a great deal of work across all Directorates to promote sustainable development and embed it in our working practices. It is recognised that more needs to be done to embed sustainable development across the Council and the proposed statutory duty has the potential to strengthen work in this area.  However there are some reservations about the creation of the new body, the implications of the proposed role for the Auditor General for Wales and that innovation may be stifled and replaced with a compliance culture.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

14.        The implications are unquantifiable at this stage, but the Sustainable Development duty will be central to the management of resources.  The fact that legislation is being introduced will inevitably result in some cases in additional costs if decisions are legally questioned.    

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        This consultation will inform the development of detailed proposals that will be included in a White Paper consultation on the Sustainable Development Bill to be launched in autumn 2012.

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.        Sustainable development means enhancing the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of people and communities, promoting social justice and equality of opportunity.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.        Sustainable development means enhancing the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of people and communities, promoting social justice and equality of opportunity.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.        Sustainable development has links to all corporate objectives, but particularly to community leadership and corporate resources. The Council's eight Improvement Objectives all contribute to promoting sustainable development.

Policy Framework and Budget

19.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.        The Council's Sustainable Development Working Group have been consulted on the proposals.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

21.        Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

 

Contact Officer

Huw Isaac - Head of Performance and Development

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Sustainable Development Working Group

 

Responsible Officer:

John Maitland Evans - Chief Executive

 

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