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The Programme for Government

Liz Smith looks over the Welsh Government's plans for the next 5 years.

The Welsh Government has published its Programme for Government, which is usually a detailed list of legislation it plans to enact over the next five years. Opposition parties heavily criticised it for being ‘light’ on the detail, given that it is only 16 pages long. For reference, the Fourth Assembly’s Programme for Government was 42 pages long, but as they say, size isn’t everything.

Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood has criticised it for being more about the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’. This is quite a fair criticism, as it doesn’t specify exactly how their promises will be enacted, i.e. through regulations, new legislation or simply policy changes. The Fourth Assembly’s, by contrast, lists the names of Bills that were planned to be taken forward within each department. Whilst not all of these were passed as initially drafted, many were consolidated and delivered in one form or another.

The purpose of this document seems to be more in the way of amalgamating the Welsh Labour manifesto with the agreements they have subsequently made with Plaid Cymru in their one-off ‘Compact to Move Wales Forward’ and with Cabinet Secretary for Education (Kirsty Williams), in a less one-off ‘Progressive Agreement’.

Following their agreement with Plaid Cymru, the following has duly been promised:

  • 100,000 all-age apprenticeships
  • 30 hours free childcare for 3-4 year olds, 48 weeks of the year
  • A New Treatment Fund
  • Plans to increase the numbers of GPs, nurses and other healthcare professionals
  • A National Infrastructure Commission and a Wales Development Bank

With Kirsty Williams in the Cabinet, several Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges are also in the Programme:

  • A 200,000 affordable homes target
  • A new ‘Rent to Own’ housing model
  • To improve mental health treatment, including prevention and de-escalation, with more access to talking therapies, alongside “work to ensure that mental health discrimination is ended”
  • To extend the Nurse Staffing Levels Act to more healthcare settings
  • To “reduce infant class sizes”

Other key pledges from the election that are in the Programme include:

  • More than double the capital people can keep when entering residential care to £50,000
  • Repeal sections of the UK Government’s Trades Union legislation in devolved areas
  • Legislate for a new system of Additional Learning Needs support, including a new all-age autism service for Wales
  • Establish a Ministerial Taskforce for the Valleys
  • Safeguard social housing in rural communities by ending Right to Buy and continuing to support the work of Rural Housing Enablers
  • Invest an additional £100 million to drive up school standards
  • An SME tax cut by reducing business rates for 70,000 companies

Other significant promises include:

  • Provide funding to put in place a floor for future local government settlements
  • Work with local government to review council tax to make it fairer so that people with low and moderately valued properties pay less than they do now
  • Explore options to end land-banking
  • Retain the Intermediate Care Fund
  • Work towards one million people speaking the Welsh language by 2050
  • Extend the Pupil Deprivation Grant
  • End the defence of “reasonable punishment” in court, amounting to a ‘smacking ban’ for children
  • Carry forward our work on financial inclusion, including support for advice services and credit unions
  • Build on provisions of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Act
  • Consult further on the specific recommendations of the Hazelkorn review, including the funding and governance arrangements for further and higher education. This goes alongside ‘exploring’ expanding the remit of Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to include colleges and not just universities
  • Offer the “best package of student support available in the UK” based on the recommendations of the Diamond Review (published next week) with a view to early implementation where appropriate, and without negative effect on the higher education budget.
  • Pilot a Better Jobs Closer to Home project, designed to create employment and training hubs in areas of high economic deprivation.
  • Invest nearly £2bn in new and refurbished schools and college buildings by 2024
  • Support the development of renewable energy schemes and “continue” opposition to fracking
  • Maintain free access to museums
  • Work with lottery distributors to investigate the creation of a large scale sustainability fund for voluntary organisations to grow and succeed
  • Support votes at 16 and look at how digital technology can enhance voter participation.
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