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5 things to look out for in the Senedd - 16 July 2018

The Welsh Government's legislative programme, local government reform, and the introduction of an Autism Bill

Carwyn Jones to make statement on legislative programme

It’s the last week before AMs break up for the summer recess, which means we could be set for the usual glut of last-minute announcements as the Welsh Government looks to squeeze in any remaining business. Tuesday’s plenary proceedings include a statement from the First Minister on the legislative programme for 2018-19, setting out the bills his government will be bringing forward in the year ahead. Expect legislation to ban smacking after the publication of social research on parents’ attitudes towards the punishment of children. The government has also recently announced its intent to legislate on the use of wild animals in circuses. Bills announced last year that will establish a new childcare funding framework and ban additional fees charged by letting agents remain in their early stages and will continue their passage through the Assembly in 2018-19.

A revised approach to local government reform

Another piece of legislation announced last year was a bill to reform local government in Wales. However, the Welsh Government’s approach to reforming councils has drawn criticism from across the sector and opposition AMs, and last month the local government secretary, Alun Davies, backtracked on plans to force mergers upon local authorities. This week, Mr Davies will make a statement to plenary setting out the next steps in local government reform, having discussed the need for collaboration with authorities on the way forward. There is agreement in the sector that the current structure of 22 councils is unsustainable, but the shape of reform is not yet clear.

Tory leadership hopeful to introduce a bill of his own

On Wednesday, Welsh Conservative AM Paul Davies, who is vying for the party’s leadership in the Senedd, will introduce his proposed Autism Bill. Mr Davies’ bill aims to strengthen the Welsh Government’s actions to support people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and has received backing from AMs across the Siambr. The Welsh Government’s position has been that legislation is not needed given existing ASD provisions, but last year Labour backbenchers backed the bill in a vote in the Senedd.

Statement on that latest Tawel Fan report

A statement from the health secretary, Vaughan Gething, was added to Tuesday’s plenary agenda following the publication of Donna Ockenden’s critical review of governance arrangements at Betsi Cadwaladr health board. The review follows Prof Ockenden’s 2015 report on the treatment of patients at the Tawel Fan mental health ward at Denbighshire’s Glan Clwyd Hospital. A report commissioned by the health board, published in May, was criticised by families of former patients on the ward after it concluded that there was no institutional abuse at the hospital.

Government set for more criticism over response to reports

After widespread criticism over the Welsh Government’s response the Children’s Committee’s report on young people’s mental health, expect similar themes to emerge in a debate on the Equality Committee’s report on tackling poverty. AMs from all parties have regularly criticised the increased use of the ‘accept in principle’ response by the government, which is used for 15 of the 23 recommendations in the response to the report. The government also rejected the report’s first recommendation to publish a clear tackling poverty strategy.

Photo: Carwyn Jones will make a statement on his government's legislative programme on Tuesday. (Credit: Welsh Government via Flickr)

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