Inconsistent leadership and slow culture change are failing the aspirations of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, five years since it was introduced.
A report by the Senedd’s Public Accounts Committee calls on Welsh Government, public bodies, the Future Generations Commissioner, Senedd and Auditor General for Wales to work better to promote the aims of the Act.
The report - Delivering for Future Generations: The story so far - published on 17 March 2021, looks at the barriers of implementing the Act and offers constructive recommendations. This is the first time that a Senedd Committee has conducted comprehensive scrutiny across the various bodies responsible, with a total of 97 organisations contributing to the inquiry.
The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is an ambitious and aspirational piece of legislation - the first of its kind in the world. It requires government and certain public bodies in Wales to consider the long-term impact of their decisions, to work together on sustainable development which will prevent problems for future generations.
The Committee’s report sets recommendations for all bodies responsible for implementing the Act, and they are urged to accept the recommendations in the constructive spirit in which they were intended.
The Committee also learnt how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of working together and across policy areas to the fore. Whilst long-term planning had proven very difficult over these past 12 months, the Committee hopes that the collaborative approach in the immediate response to the crisis will be carried forward in COVID recovery plans.
Chair of the Senedd’s Public Accounts Committee, Nick Ramsay MS said:
“The Act has faced scepticism in the past about whether it was possible to implement sustainable development via legislation. It is clear now that scepticism is no longer good enough and we as a Senedd, and as a country, have a collective responsibility to reshape public services for the better.
“This is why we set about doing this inquiry with a constructive underlying ethos: how can we make this Act work? The recommendations are mainly directed at the Welsh Government, but also public bodies, the Future Generations Commissioner, the Auditor General for Wales and for the Senedd itself. We urge those bodies to receive the recommendations in the constructive spirit with which they were made.
“When I compare where we are now, with when we started planning this inquiry around a year ago, I am struck by just how relevant this body of work has become. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has put our public services under great strain, and at times, the pressure to deal with the here and now has made planning for the future near impossible. But we have also seen positives, when the collaborative principles of the Act became more relevant than ever. We hope that the gains made during these challenging times are not lost and we’d like to see the principles of the Future Generations Act embedded in plans for recovery.
“The fact that 97 organisations came forward to give evidence is in itself a display of support for Well-being of Future Generations Act’s success. When it was introduced in 2015, the Act was a ground-breaking piece of legislation. It is inspirational and aspirational in its intentions but, ultimately, making it work depends on everyone. We must all do better.”
The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government and it is scheduled for a debate in the Senedd on Wednesday 24 March.