The most interesting appointment in Carwyn Jones’s first Cabinet, announced at 4pm today, is his Campaign Manager Leighton Andrews at Education. This must surely reflect the First Minister’s eye catching commitment during the leadership campaign to increase education spending year-on-year by one per cent above whatever increase there is to the Welsh block grant.
At a time when overall spending cuts are in the offing this will be a tough call for the government, and what if there is no increase, or even a decrease to the block? The First Minister evidently has more confidence in Leighton Andrews as an operator to fight this corner than the more emollient Jane Hutt who moves back to the Business and portfolio she held in the 2003-07 Assembly, though significantly with responsibility for the Budget.
Feisty Edwina Hart remains at health, but if Leighton Andrews is to be successful then it is difficult to see how health can avoid taking a hit. The Health and Social Services budget is by some measure the largest and has consistently risen over the past decade at rates well above inflation. In the same period education spending has consistently fallen in relative terms. As the IWA has argued (in the latest Agenda editorial): “The time has come to alter this balance. It is a tough call, but it is time for rigorous controls of health spending to allow education to catch up.” Carwyn Jones appears to agree.
An interesting appointment is that of Newport East AM John Griffiths, the former Minister for Skills, as Counsel General, taking over Carwyn’s old job. Maybe now, with the accent on moving to a referendum on greater law making powers and the clearing of the lines of demarcation between Whitehall and Cardiff Bay, Carwyn thinks the job does not need a big hitter equivalent to himself.
Carwyn supporter Jane Davidson stays on at Environment, despite the fact that she has announced she will not be standing for election in 2011. That reflects the powerful profile she has achieved in the job, but also is a foretaste of the difficulties Carwyn may have in finding people of both calibre and experience to form his Cabinet after May 2011
Carl Sargeant, another Carwyn loyalist, gets promotion from Business Manager and Whip to the chunkier job of Social Justice and Local Government. It also gives north Wales a boost in representation.
The junior ministerial appointments are interesting. Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, yet another Carwyn loyalist, takes over from John Griffiths at Skills but with, significantly responsibility for Science added. That marks a shift. Previously Rhodri Morgan described himself as the Government’s Science Minister. This change marks a welcome acknowledgement that if Wales is to become the ‘Clever Country’ that all Ministers regularly make speeches about, then science has to feature more prominently.
There’s only one change to the Plaid Cymru portfolio allocation. As a Deputy Minister Jocelyn Davies has had Regeneration added to her Housing responsibility. This is logical but its an important upgrade. The previous Minister for Regeneration, deputising to Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, was none other than Leighton Andrews.
Finally, Huw Lewis will be disappointed not to get into the Cabinet. He is Deputy Minister for Children. This is the Carwyn show alright.
The full line up is as follows:
Carwyn Jones – First Minister
Ieuan Wyn Jones – Deputy First Minister, Economy and Transport
Jane Hutt – Business and Budget
Edwina Hart – Health and Social Services
Jane Davidson – Environment, Sustainability and Housing
Leighton Andrews – Education, Children and Lifelong learning
Carl Sargeant – Social Justice and Local Government
Elin Jones – Rural Affairs
Alun Ffred Jones – Culture
John Griffiths – Counsel General and Leader of the Legislative Programme
Lesley Griffiths – Skills, Innovation and Science
Jocelyn Davies – Housing and Regeneration
Gwenda Thomas – Social Services
Huw Lewis – Children
Chief Whip – Janice Gregory