Local Government and Public Services

Nov 29, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues | 0 comments

Plenary 29/11/2017

14:42
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Spoken Contribution – 14:42 Watch this contribution on Senedd TV

Diolch, Llywydd. I’d like to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to his new role.

Alun Davies AM

Alun Davies AM

Title: Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services Party: Welsh Labour

[Inaudible.]

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

So, welcome. [Laughter.] It’s a bit of a reconfigured—[Interruption.] Sorry. It’s a bit of a reconfigured department that you’ll be running, in that you have the local government responsibilities that Mark Drakeford used to hold and also the communities portfolio, which has come from a different department. So, it may take us all a little while to get used to what is, essentially, a new portfolio. So, my first question is: how do you think this new department will better deliver on local government and public service issues in Wales?

Alun Davies AM

Alun Davies AM

Title: Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services Party: Welsh Labour

Can I say how grateful I am to the Member for his very kind remarks—an example to all Members, I would say? Presiding Officer, the portfolio I now have brings together a number of functions, as has been outlined by the Member. I hope that by bringing together a responsibility for both local government and the delivery of public services across the country we will be able to pursue a programme to sustain and support excellence in all of our public services, protecting and defending the people who deliver them and ensuring that the people that all of us serve, on all sides of the Chamber, have the best possible public services that we can deliver.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

You also bring with you from your previous role the job of delivering the programme of the Valleys taskforce, which we’ve been hearing about at some length today. I think it’s interesting that we have been talking about this a lot because it’s possibly a subject that—over the last 18 months, we probably haven’t heard enough about the mechanics of how it will work. So, I think we do need to look at it. One aspect that I’m interested in is the retraining issue. We live, these days, in a fairly fluid labour market. If people leave their jobs for whatever reason, they may quickly need to retrain for another sector or work, and so skills is a key issue, as you’ve acknowledged in the past. How will the Valleys taskforce improve retraining and upskillng, and what sort of interaction will you have here with the skills Minister, Eluned Morgan?

Alun Davies AM

Alun Davies AM

Title: Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services Party: Welsh Labour

The former Minister for skills, who is now leader of the house, was and remains a member of the taskforce, and, at our taskforce meeting tomorrow in Pontypool, we will be inviting the new skills Minister to join the taskforce as well. So, we will have structural links across all of those departments. I do wholly agree with the Member’s analysis on the need for skills. I’m a member of the ministerial employability group, and we will be ensuring that exactly the programme that is being developed at the moment will meet the objectives that have been outlined by the Member.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks for that response. I hope that there will be a joined-up approach to this very important issue. Now, an awful lot of young people these days go to university or college, as I’m sure you’re aware. But this may not be the best route for everyone, and, indeed, a significant number of young people may not want to go to college and might prefer exclusively on-the-job training. Does this approach form part of your thinking in relation to the Valleys taskforce and the other relevant parts of your portfolio?

Alun Davies AM

Alun Davies AM

Title: Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services Party: Welsh Labour

Yes. One of the most important pieces of work that has been driven by the former Minister for skills and now leader of the house, who is in her place today, has been to drive forward an employability programme and an all-age apprenticeship programme that will deliver skills for the twenty-first century, skills that will be required in the future and may not be available in the workforce of today. That will continue to be as important in the Valleys as it is elsewhere. How we deliver that programme in the Valleys, of course, may well be different, depending on local circumstances. In answer to the questions from the Plaid Cymru spokesperson this afternoon, I tried to outline that we do have a number of different targets that will drive forward the creation of 7,000 new jobs in the Valleys. They will be jobs that will require skill levels that, perhaps, we don’t have in the population at the moment, and we will be ensuring that we’re able to deliver exactly those skills for the future.