Performance, not powers

Initial findings from the IWA Constitutional Convention show performance is a higher priority than powers, but energy policy could offer potential.

The IWA Constitutional Convention ran over eight weeks earlier this year, and looked at a range of themes including the economy, the welfare system and the future of the UK. While we’re still working on our final report, some of our initial findings prove interesting.

The emerging theme of the IWA Convention’s economy phase revealed concerns over existing Welsh Government policies rather than a general clamour for extra powers.

Some of the highest rated ideas shared in the debate called for measures to address the skills young people need to acquire to cope in the future jobs market; or more efforts to take advantage of tourism as a signpost to a better quality of life.

An area of support for enhanced powers did emerge over a target for 100% ‘consumption’ from Wales-based renewable energy sources by 2030, with a massive increase in research, development and business support in the nascent but essential ‘smart grid’ and ‘smart storage’ sectors.

Energy efficiency was also identified as ‘a huge employment creator as well as the cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions’. In addition community energy ‘needs to have far greater support through the planning sector’, according to a popular ‘idea’. In a snapshot poll, some 77% said it is in Wales’ interests to have the power to approve energy projects of up to 350 megawatts in line with recommendations by the Silk Commission for Wales. Contributors included former environment minister Jane Davidson who tweeted #IWAConvention saying she had been arguing for energy powers for Wales for years. “The current system doesn’t work. Wales has a huge natural energy resource.”

One contributor to the debate said: “Emulate the ambition of Denmark and Scotland: As much electricity as Wales uses by 2020 (100% renewable electricity); as much heat and electricity as Wales uses by 2030 (100% renewable heat) and as much transport, heat and electricity – all from renewables sources – as Wales uses by 2040. “For this to happen we need very strong leadership from Welsh Government and all powers over energy. Both of these are currently lacking.”

Another said: “Is it possible that a coalition of Education, SME’s and Government support in Wales could be marshalled behind a single sector? That’s a powerful idea.”

A lively debate concerned what children should learn at school with a warning that 47% of all US jobs were at risk of computerisation. Is Wales prepared for this radical change in employment or unemployment?

“I now employ a ‘google’ workforce, they don’t know everything but they can find it out. Cultivating ambition and a readiness to learn and do well are vital. Young people who are enthusiastic, interested and engaged are infinitely more employable”, said one contributor.

Meanwhile the TUC argued that more employers need to invest in ‘meaningful skills development’. “Many of the jobs ‘which have not yet been created’ are likely to be in high volume, low value areas of employment unless many more employers decide it’s in their interest to invest more.”

In many cases, especially around the economy, there was criticism about particular policies or lack of action rather than a feeling around particular powers. In the cases that devolution of further powers were supported on a series of snapshot polls, a common reason was to increase the accountability of the Welsh Government. Increased accountability was a common call by those who took part in the debate, and there was support for easier availability of economic figures in Wales to enable the public to be able to measure how well policies are working in Wales.

What our initial findings are showing is that the debate is less about powers – with the exception of energy – and more about performance and policy.

6 thoughts on “Performance, not powers

  1. In the current political climate much is said about the absence of a clear unifying ‘big idea’ to galvanise the electorate. An energy self sufficient Wales could be that ‘big idea’. However, we are looking at a technical planning and delivery cycle that exceeds a number of electoral cycles……so don’t hold your breath.

  2. Reading my current “Welsh Agenda” I was disappointed to find that “growth” was assumed witout question to refer to conventional concepts of economic growth. In particular there was no reference to the work of the New Economics Foundation on well being indicators. Instead of trying to pursue conventional definitions of economic growth why can’t Wales challenge these and open up some discussion about how we might achieve a level of well being which compares favourably in terms of quality of life with unhesitatingly accepted orthodoxies ? This could also bring the “sustainability” mantra into economic reality. There is someting tragicomic to see a small, poor country like Wales striving to add its ha’porth to continued “growth” in the context of finite planetary resources.

  3. Now there is a SURPRISE. The people I meet and know quite well,(but not part of civil society)have never mentioned ‘more powers’,however great concern expressed about public services in general,so why is there all this FUSS!!. There is a push (Nats and fellow travellers) towards greater powers and ultimate separation from UK,and pull of the rest of us to go along with what the talkers,i.e (civil society)really want in future years. If wealth and economic activity was dictated by amount of ‘useless’,but ‘crowd sourced’ discussiions about non events we would be in happy land.

  4. “What our initial findings are showing is that the debate is less about powers – with the exception of energy – and more about performance and policy.”

    This, if followed up, would appear to put the IWA on a collision course with the Wales political class who have demonstrated since 1999 that they want ever more power without accountability!

    As for renewable energy – I am still waiting for some explanation where the multi-billion pound subsidies required to make it possible are going to come from? The WG can barely pay its unsustainable public sector wage bill let alone find capital or revenue to prop-up unsustainable renewable projects. Or is this seen as another way to keep milking the English taxpayers in the hope they don’t notice?

  5. On energy: how long can we allow Wales to keep the lights on in London and elsewhere? Wales exports vast amounts of energy – renewable as well as other sources – so the last thing we need is to produce more. We just have to ensure that we have the powers over its use and development, so that we can ensured that it is used to assist our internal economy.

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