Welsh Government in world first – Greening the dragon

June 14, 2016

welsh flag

The Welsh Wellbeing for Future Generation Act received royal assent in April 2015. The Act is an innovative piece of legislation that has the potential to lead the country, and the world, towards a sustainable future. The Act responds to issues of climate change, poverty, health, inequality and jobs and growth. It legislates on working differently and working together.

The act encourages public bodies to consider the needs of the present population are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

  1. The Act focuses on 43 public bodies including local authorities, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the NHS. Each of these public bodies must set up its own targets and work towards achieving all seven wellbeing goals established by the legislation, which are designed to make Wales more prosperous, resilient, equal, cohesive, globally responsible and with a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language

Each Local Authority in Wales has the duty to work together with other public bodies, such as the Natural Resources Body, the Welsh Fire and Rescue Authority and the Local Health Board to form a Public Services Board. Each board must prepare and publish a shared plan for action (a “Local Well-Being Plan”) setting out its local objectives and the steps it proposes to take to meet them. Public Services boards must invite external participants including Welsh Ministers, the Police Constable and at least one body representing voluntary organisations. A Future Generation Commissioner will oversee the whole process by advising, researching and making recommendations with the help of the Welsh Auditor-General.

The legislation focuses on the causes of problems to prevent them occurring. Public bodies need to work following the five sustainable development principles: long term, prevention, integration, collaboration and involvement. Of all the organisations involved, local authorities have made the greatest efforts to date to understand the Act’s implications. Some of them believe that the new legislation only requires small changes to goals that are already in place while others think that the Act is a complete game changer.

Swansea Council, for instance, has already a sustainable development unit looking forward to the next 25 years. The Act, however, has made them realise that the senior management team was not engaged enough in sustainability. Therefore it created a future generation board to sit directly below the executive board to realise wellbeing goals (The Environmentalist, April 2016).

With the aim to engage senior management with sustainability issues, Vale of Glamorgan has included reference to the goals into their corporate plan to 2020. That made a real difference to the strategic approach to sustainability within the council.

The Act’s aim is to put sustainability at the centre of everything the public sector does. This may help the new Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe – who is tasked with achieving many of these goals and assisting in the drive to a safer, future proofed and healthier Wales.

The legislation is well designed and ambitious. It offers the opportunity to completely restructure public bodies and connects them together to establish collaborations within the territory. It establishes a framework for local authorities to implement sustainable development for the wellbeing of future generations. Its intents are laudable, the outcomes are at the moment unknown and we will have to wait and see if the aim to guarantee a fairer future is achieved. So watch this space.    

What do you think?  Will the Act bring about change or is it too ambitious?

Arianna Sdei