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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) 8 February 2013

 

Report of the Managing Director

 

Welsh Government White Paper: A Sustainable Wales - Better Choices for a Better Future

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To seek Scrutiny Committee views on the draft response to the Welsh Government White Paper and 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 25 February 2013.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             That the Council submits a formal response to the Welsh Government consultation which closes on 4 March 2013.

Background

2.             The Welsh Government has previously consulted on the proposal to legislate for sustainable development through a discussion paper published in November 2011 and consultation on initial proposals for the Sustainable Development Bill in May 2012.  The Council has previously responded positively to the proposals to strengthen legislation around sustainable development but with 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.

Relevant Issues and Options

3.             The Welsh Government is committed to further strengthening sustainable development's place in the Welsh constitution by bringing forward legislation to embed sustainable development as the central organising principle of the wider public service in Wales.  The White Paper (Appendix A) sets out the proposed way in which the legislation will deliver this. 

4.             The Welsh Government's definition of sustainable development is:

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.

 

5.             The fundamental elements on which the Welsh Government is proposing to bring forward legislation to strengthen the governance framework for sustainable development are:

·         A new duty - a stronger duty that requires specified public service organisations to embed sustainable development as their central organising principle

·         Support - establishing an independent body on a statutory basis to support organisations to embed sustainable development and join up in working towards the improved wellbeing of Wales

·         Implementation - through a range of actions which both strengthen the governance for sustainable development and support the change to deliver the outcomes needed; and

·         Accountability  - reporting and scrutiny arrangements to ensure that sustainable development is fully embedded within organisations

6.             The organisations to which it is proposed that the duty will apply have been selected on the basis that their remit or functions have the greatest impact on the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of Wales, and those who have strategic policy and corporate planning functions. This includes local authorities, Fire and Rescue authorities, NHS Trusts and Town and Community Councils.

7.             There is a phased implementation plan which is detailed on page 19 of the White Paper.  Within the Implementation Plan it is proposed that in 2015 a number of all-Wales organisations become subject to the duty and the new Sustainable Development Body is established; from 2016 local authorities will be subject to the duty, along with a number of public service providers; and from 2017 Town and Community Councils will be subject to the duty.

8.             Welsh Government is particularly seeking responses to five questions:

·         What are your views on the proposals for a new duty to embed sustainable development as the central organising principle of selected organisations in Wales? (Chapter 2)

·         What are your views on the proposals for an independent sustainable development body? (Chapter 3)

·         What are your views on the proposed phasing and implementation of the duty, including the timing of the establishment of the independent sustainable development body? (Chapter 4)

·         What are your views on the proposals to improve the accountability framework for sustainable development in Wales?  (Chapter 5)

·         Do you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed, for example with regards the implementation of the proposals?

 

9.             These questions have been addressed in the Council's draft response, which is attached as Appendix B.  The views of the Committee are sought. 

10.        The Council is a signatory to the Welsh Government's 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. 

11.        Membership and terms of reference for the Council's Sustainable Development Working Group have recently been reviewed to ensure there is appropriate representation across the Council and that the group focuses on key strategic issues.  CMT have agreed that the key areas of focus will be carbon management, climate change, Green Dragon, the Travel Plan, and preparing for forthcoming legislation on sustainable development. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

12.        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.    Care needs to be taken in the establishment of governance, reporting and scrutiny arrangements to ensure that they are at an appropriate level as all this will have a cost. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

13.        The White Paper details proposals for making sustainable development the central organising principle of public services in Wales.  It is proposed that this will be the framework through which the public service can deliver a better future for Wales and how it can secure long term economic, social and environmental wellbeing.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

14.        This White Paper sets out the Welsh Government's proposals to bring forward legislation to make sustainable development the central organising principle of Welsh Government and Welsh public sector organisations and to create an independent sustainable development body for Wales.

Crime and Disorder Implications

15.        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)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

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

Policy Framework and Budget

18.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.        The proposals impact on all areas of the Council.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

20.        Corporate Resources

Background Papers

Council's response to proposals for a Sustainable Development Bill (Welsh Government) July 2012

Contact Officer:

Huw Isaac - Head of Performance and Development

Officers Consulted

Legal Services

Corporate Management Team

Sustainable Development Working Group

Responsible Officer:

Siân Davies - Managing Director

 

 

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