The National Assembly For Wales


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Public Accounts Committee – work for the Autumn Term 2014

The Public Accounts Committee has so far had a busy Autumn term with a number of important scrutiny sessions already having taken place.

These include scrutiny of the accounts of the Welsh Government, the National Assembly for Wales and some independent commissioners that have an important role in holding the Welsh Government to account.

The Committee’s scrutiny of accounts is a new and important piece of work for the PAC, and members are looking to find out how value for money is being achieved, and ensure appropriate governance arrangements are in place. The Committee was essentially asking who watches the watchdogs?

Evidence sessions on the scrutiny of accounts began on Monday 22 September, when the Committee took evidence on the Welsh Government’s accounts from its Permanent Secretary, Sir Derek Jones.


The sessions continued on Tuesday 23 September with evidence from the National Assembly for Wales’s Commission

After carefully scrutinising the Government and legislature, on Tuesday 7 October and Monday 13 October the Committee turned its attention to scrutinising the accounts of Wales’s independent Commissioners, this included evidence sessions with:

Committee Chair, Darren Millar AM, said:

“The Public Accounts Committee’s scrutiny of accounts unearthed a number of issues for us to consider further. We have passed on some questions to the Finance Committee to consider in its scrutiny of the 2015-16 Budget, and we will want to hear from the Welsh Government on the concerns over governance that arose”.

The term continues to look busy for the Committee. On Tuesday 21 October the Committee’s 2013-14 Annual Report, the first of its kind, was debated by Assembly Members in the Siambr. The report was published in August 2014 and provides a good snapshot of the breadth of subjects and variety of issues the Committee considers. You can watch Members discussing the Committee’s Annual Report on Senedd TV.

The Committee will publish its report on Senior Management Pay on Tuesday 4 November. The inquiry was started by the Committee to consider value for

money aspects of the pay of senior managers in the public sector. While the Committee did not consider the salaries of individuals, it wanted to ensure there was adequate accountability and transparency for pay arrangements. During the inquiry the Committee held a number of evidence sessions with senior managers in various public sector organisations. The report will summarise the evidence the Committee heard, and set out the Committee’s views and recommendations to the Welsh Government.

The Committee will next meet on Tuesday 4 November, when the Committee will continue to look at governance arrangements in Health Boards. This follows the Committee’s report on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which was laid in December 2013.

If you would like to book a seat to view any Committee meeting, contact the Booking Team on 0845 010 5500 or You can also watch the Committee’s meetings through the Assembly’s broadcasting channel Senedd.TV

If you’d like to keep up to date with this Committee’s work, why not follow its progress on its Twitter feed? Follow @SeneddPAC for all the latest information.

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Social media and digital engagement event 25 September 2014

By Julian Price, National Assembly for Wales Social Media Manager.

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On Thursday 25 September, we invited a couple of speakers to come and talk to Assembly staff about social media and digital engagement. It was the first time we’ve had this kind of event here at the Assembly, and it focussed heavily on social media during the day.

Three speakers with very different approaches to social media were invited to speak at the event: Wynne Keenan who is External Marketing and Digital Communications Manager at the DVLA; Dr Tom Crick who is a senior lecturer in Computing Science at Cardiff Met University; and Emma Meese, Media and Training Development Manager at Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism.

The afternoon session was originally put together as an event for internal staff, as an opportunity to learn more about the application of social media and to share best practice. Several external organisations became aware of the event and asked if they could attend. In the end, we welcomed colleagues from Cyfle, CIPR Cymru, Dyfed-Powys Police, NHS Wales, Wales Audit Office and the Welsh Government to join in our discussions.

Wynne provided a great insight to the digital revolution that is taking place at the DVLA. Some key metrics included that DVLA has nearly 5,000 employees, manages 175 million transactions a year, and answers 25 million calls annually. In comparison with the private sector, its revenue now exceeds Tesco Online and is not far behind Amazon (£3.2bn and £3.3bn respectively).

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DVLA have done a lot of work internally to digitally engage. This has been achieved through the use of blogs, webchats, and with social networking site Yammer. Externally, blogs, Twitter and Youtube are a key driver for pushing out content and educating about the taxation laws in the UK.

The DVLA has removed the restriction on staff using social media at the organisation in an effort to increase advocacy.

Wynne explained that his department will work with various business areas in the organisation to show how social media can help them, and to demonstrate a clear business benefit. He suggested finding a sponsor, and grabbing every opportunity to talk about your work.

Dr Tom Crick spoke about the digital landscape and how people are now connecting. He suggested you should not tweet/post anything that you wouldn’t shout out loud in a room. He believed social media should be local, natural, and a priority. He explained how social media has destroyed barriers that previously stopped people communicating with organisations, and he encouraged more people in the room to blog about their experiences and passion.

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However, he qualified this use of blogging and social media with the question: what is your motivation for doing it?

He moved on to discuss everyone having a digital agenda and about how to engage with citizens. He noted how there was a generational shift in expectations of digital communication, and organisations need to adapt to this.

Emma Meese was the last speaker of the day. She currently works for Cardiff University but has previously worked with BBC Wales and BBC Radio Wales. Emma was able to illustrate everyday application of social media and shared some success stories.

Emma explained that social media is your shop window to the world, therefore you need to know your message and more importantly know your audience. She pointed out that your Twitter bio is searchable and so it is important to structure this correctly, using every word to full advantage. Inserting a link to your website or blog is good practice, and if you’re bilingual, adding in a word in your other tongue, to show that you can communicate in different languages.

Emma used an analogy of standing in a queue with strangers to encourage engagement. In simple terms, would you talk just about yourself to someone if you were queuing next to them? Probably not, as the other person would switch off. You’d engage in a conversation, asking as well as telling.

Like Dr Crick, Emma highlighted that everyone or every organisation should have a goal on social media.

Goal > Target > Success

Think about using someone else’s voice i.e. retweeting of others. This follows on from the previous presentations of encouraging advocacy.

As a practical tip, Emma also suggested scaling back the number of Facebook pages an organisation may have, making your refined online presence busier with content.

It was a great event and we are deeply grateful to our guest speakers who covered a wide range of content within the digital landscape.

It was pleasing to see many external organisations attend the seminar and talk so positively about the event on Twitter. We hope this will be the first of many social media events at the National Assembly for Wales – details of the next one will be posted soon.

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Health and Social Care Committee – work for the autumn term 2014

The Health and Social Care Committee is having a busy term this autumn with a number of important projects underway. These include work on new psychoactive substances (known as legal highs); the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010; and follow-up inquiries on areas of health and social care that affect the people of Wales.

The Committee’s consultation on new psychoactive substances (legal highs) closed last week. This important issue has been widely reported in the media over recent months, and the inquiry has sought the thoughts and opinions of the people of Wales. To inform the inquiry, the Committee visited parts of north and south Wales to talk to both former users and service providers on the impact and effect of these substances.



The Committee’s Chair, David Rees AM, said: “It has been of great benefit to us as a Committee to have this opportunity to speak with people who work on the front-line, and who are familiar with the issues surrounding the use of these substances. We are now looking forward to hearing more evidence on this important issue in November before bringing forward recommendations in the new year”.

The Committee will be taking oral (or spoken) evidence on Thursday 6 November and Wednesday 12 November, and the issues raised during the course of the inquiry will be put to the Minister for Health and Social Services on Wednesday 26 November. More information about how to watch the Committee’s meetings is included below.

More information on the inquiry into new psychoactive substances (“legal highs”)

The Committee published its report on its inquiry into progress made to date on implementing the Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan on 16 October. During the inquiry the Committee held focus groups with cancer patients and others with direct experience of cancer services in Wales. The report summarises the evidence the Committee heard, and set out its findings and recommendations to the Welsh Government. The report has been published on the Committee’s webpage, and anyone interested in finding out more can also follow the inquiry’s Storify.


More information on the inquiry into progress made to date on implementing the Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan

The Committee is committed to following up on the recommendations that it makes following its inquiries to see what developments and progress have been made. This term the Committee has held a scrutiny session with the Minister for Health and Social Services and the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Wales to follow up on its inquiry on the contribution of community pharmacy to health services. The Committee reported on its original inquiry in May 2012, and now intends to write to the Minister with further recommendations.

More information on the follow-up inquiry on the contribution of community pharmacy to health services

The Committee will also be following up its inquiry into still births in Wales. The Committee reported on this one day inquiry in February 2013, and recently wrote to the Minister for Health and Social Services to request a progress update. The Minister’s response states that, despite the progress made on the engagement of clinical staff, further work remains to be done to fully implement all the Committee’s recommendations. The Committee will soon be writing to everyone that gave evidence in the original inquiry.

The Committee will also be holding a number of scrutiny sessions over this term, including a session with the Chief Medical Officer on Wednesday 22 October, and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales on 26 November. It will also be receiving a briefing on the implementation of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 on 20 November.

If you would like to book a seat to view any Committee meeting, contact the Booking Team on 0845 010 5500 / 01492 523 200 or You can also watch the Committee’s meetings through the Assembly’s broadcasting channel

If you’d like to keep up to date with this Committee’s work, why not follow its progress on its Twitter feed? Follow @SeneddHealth for all the latest information.

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The Assembly at GovCamp Cymru

On Saturday 25 September, Helia Phoenix (Web Editor) and Kevin Davies (Outreach Manager) went to the Parade in Roath for Wales’s first GovCamp (GovCamp Cymru). By way of explanation, GovCamp is a gathering of people who work in the public sector to ‘discuss, create and innovate – looking at how technology, new thinking and public services can improve society’. A large remit for a day-long event.

GovCamp is also what’s described as an ‘unconference’ – which means there’s no agenda set beforehand, and no keynote speakers – people turn up and pitch what they’d like to talk about for a session, and then the sessions are assigned to different rooms, and you can go from room to room taking part in whatever sessions take your fancy.

Although the terminology used around ‘unconferences’ might put you off and make you think it’s very web based / nerdy / tech focused, actually the conversations are about very broad topics (on Saturday, they covered things like engagement, scrutiny, use of language (Welsh and plain), education, etc).

In the morning, we attended a session on ‘online democracy’ which was run by Dave McKenna, a Scrutiny Manager for Swansea Council. In Dave’s words, the session was about ‘the minutes, agendas, reports etc etc that local, devolved and national government make available through their websites. The idea was simply to start a conversation about how this stuff could be improved, who uses it, what they want and so on’.

Dave wrote up his notes about the session and came up with ‘Seven questions for government’ (but obviously they all apply to work we do at the Assembly as well).

The second session Helia went to was about ‘March Madness’, which was about budgeting and better planning of spending throughout the financial year. Helia wrote something on that session for the Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Team’s blog about the day:

If you work in a busy, high-tempo team like I do, you’re often very busy ‘doing the job’. Budgeting for the year ahead should be one of the main focuses of your work, and you should revisit that plan throughout the year, making amendments to it as you go along. But some people don’t manage it as well as they might be able to. The session was attended by individuals from local authorities and housing associations, and we discussed how money is extremely tight in the public sector at the moment, so it’s more important than ever to be pragmatic with your budgeting. The group shared some best-practice examples of how you could manage your budget.

There were two great examples that I came away with; one very simple, that anyone could achieve in their own team, and one a lot more elaborate that would require the support of your senior management.

1 – the simple solution. This came from Torfaen Council. Throughout the course of the year, this team operate by spending on business critical things, but they’ll also make a list of things they’d do if they come in with any cash at the end of the year (so upgrading their technology, perhaps buying new software, etc). Then, in February, if they find themselves with an underspend, they can use the money in that way. So they still fit into the ‘March Madness’ spending pattern, but they do it in a structured way that ensures they are using their money in the best way they can.

2 – the complex solution. Monmouth Council has a central pot of money that is used as an innovation fund. Departments that manage to save money and have an underspend at the end of the year put the money into that pot. Half is used for paying off debts, but the other half is made available for departments to pitch for. They put in ideas of projects that they wanted to run, and senior management would decide how the money was given out for those projects. This rewarded departments for good financial management, and also permitted them some freedom to try different ways of delivering their services that they might not otherwise have been able to try.

You might not be likely to persuade anyone in your organisation to do Solution 2, but Solution 1 is a really easy way of structuring spending so money is being used in the best possible way, and it’s really very easy to do. Anyone can do it.

After lunch Helia held a session posing the question ‘what’s the point of websites?’. This was a slight continuation on the session on online democracy that happened in the morning: when you’ve got a website that’s just about informing the public, do you even need a website? Can you just make do with using Facebook to communicate with your readers and then some kind of online document store (maybe like Google Documents, which is basically just an online document library)? Lots of interesting points were raised from attendees, who were from housing associations, local councils, GDS in London and also from the corporate communications team at the Welsh Government. The notes from the session are available here.

That session over ran considerably, but we did catch the last minutes of a group of people talking about the possibility of setting up an organisation like GDS in Wales. Notes from that session here

Overall, it was great to meet so many people who work in public engagement in some form (many were actually from England and had come over to see how things were done in Wales). It was also great to share best practice and see examples of work in other places that we could borrow from in improving things here.

If you’re interested you can see a full list of all the sessions that were held here on Google Docs.


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Visit from the Scottish Parliament

Ty Hywel

Back in June the Scottish Parliament’s Gaelic development officers, Mark and Alasdair, came on a two day visit to learn about the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff.

By Alasdair MacCaluim

During our visit we wanted to find out about education, social media, community outreach, translation and the place of the Welsh language at the Assembly.


Our visit started in Tŷ Hywel with Mari Wyn Gooberman, Head of Education. There is a very special room in this building called Siambr Hywel. This was the Assembly’s main debating chamber from 1999 until 2006 when Plenary meetings and committees of the Assembly moved to their new home in the Senedd building next door.

When the Assembly Members (AMs) moved out of Siambr Hywel, the youth of Wales moved in. It is now the base for educational visits, giving young people the opportunity to sit in a real debating chamber in a real legislature where they can use voting buttons and microphones just like the AMs themselves.

The team work in both languages, delivering sessions both to Welsh and English schools. Like the Scottish Parliament, education sessions are offered in schools throughout Wales as well as at the Assembly.


Languages and Powers

As part of our trip, we met with many people connected with promoting the Welsh language at the Assembly. We had a meeting with Mair Parry Jones, Head of Translation and Interpretation and Sarah Dafydd, Official Languages Scheme Manager.

We learnt that the National Assembly has been very much involved in developing machine translation for Welsh. With this, basic translation is done by computer. The Assembly’s translation team then proofs and corrects the draft to create a finished document. This is a very large, important and innovative project.

The Languages Scheme is underpinned by a philosophy that each member of staff has a part to play in the development of Welsh – even if they don’t speak any – or much – of the language.

Here is a short extract from the scheme’s statement of ambition:

“Everyone has a right to interact with the Assembly in the official language of their choice. Where there are barriers to this, we will work to remove them so that the Assembly demonstrates a continuous drive towards becoming a truly bilingual institution where Welsh his used and heard”.

As part of the scheme, all staff have been undertaking Welsh language awareness training.

The whole scheme can be read here.

At the end of our first day, we had the opportunity to attend a team meeting of the Assembly’s Communications Team. This was very interesting as we learnt about the new taxation powers which the National Assembly is to receive through the Wales Bill 2014.


Building, Plenary and Committees

On the last day of our visit we were given a tour of the Senedd building by Richard from the Front of House Team, and were given the opportunity to enter the Chamber itself and visit the translation booth. We also saw the committee rooms and the public café and learned that some scenes from Dr Who and Sherlock had been filmed in the Senedd!

Later we were able to see the Chamber in action during First Minister’s Questions when we saw the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones AM (Labour) answer questions from the opposition parties. Some questions were in English and others in Welsh.

As with the Scottish Parliament, committees play a key role in Assembly business, working closely with the Education and Outreach teams to consult with the public on enquires, including collecting the views of children and young people.

We saw some of the videos that the outreach team had made for committee enquiries and we then visited the web and social media team for more information about the National Assembly’s online presence.

The Assembly, like the Scottish Parliament, has a YouTube channel with many videos, not only about Assembly business but also to promote engagement.  It also has a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook and all posts are bilingual.

The Welsh Assembly – like the Scottish Parliament – celebrates its 15th birthday this year and a series of videos have been made called 15 years in 15 seconds!


Even though we only had two days to learn about 15 years of devolution in Wales, we amassed a great deal of information and a great number of ideas which should be useful to our work in Scotland.

Diolch yn fawr Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru!
Alasdair’s original blog posts in Gaelic can be read here:


All photos by Mark and Alasdair

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Health and Social Care Committee – visits and focus group discussions for the inquiry into new psychoactive substances.

On Thursday 2 October, Members of the Health and Social Care Committee divided in order to hold two simultaneous visits in north and south Wales. The purpose of the visits was to discuss the Committee’s inquiry into new psychoactive substances (also known as ‘legal highs’) with service users and service providers.

Darren Millar AM, Janet Finch-Saunders AM and the Chair of the Committee, David Rees AM, travelled to Wrexham.

The day started with a visit to the LOTS (Life on the street) project, which is a project established by the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW). Members spoke with people who have been affected by new psychoactive substances, talking about the impact their use has had on them, how easy they are to obtain, and the ways in which the Welsh Government and others could help tackle the problem.

After visiting the LOTS project, Members met with staff at Dan 24/7, Wales’ publicly funded drug and alcohol helpline. Discussions were held about the number and type of calls the helpline takes every day, and the way the helpline is currently being promoted to the people of Wales.

The last discussion of the day took place at Glyndwr University. Here, Members met with focus groups of front line staff from the NHS, the police force, charities and various other organisations currently dealing with the impact of new psychoactive substances. These discussions lasted an hour and were followed by Assembly Members feeding back the main points from their tables for all attendees to hear.



The main points for discussion at the focus group discussions included:

  • Is the availability and capacity of services to provide support to users of new psychoactive substances adequate, and how could these services be improved?
  • What different factors and approaches need to be considered when dealing with the use of new psychoactive substances in the rural / urban setting?
  • Is the level of coordination, both within Wales and between the Welsh and UK Governments in tackling the issue of the use of new psychoactive substances sufficient, and what needs to be done to improve these partnerships?
  • What different levers should be utilised in order to tackle new psychoactive substances, for example legislation, enforcement activity (trading standards) etc.?

In south Wales John Griffiths AM, Kirsty Williams AM, Lynne Neagle AM, Gwyn Price AM and Lindsay Whittle AM visited Drugaid Cymru in Caerphilly to discuss issues around new psychoactive substances with staff and service users. Later, Members visited a group of young people who have been involved in a filming project – called Choices – through the Fixers and Forsythia Youth Project in Merthyr Tydfil. This film explores the effects of using new psychoactive substances on young people and their families; you can watch it here:

As was the case in Wrexham, the day in Merthyr ended with focus group discussions. You can see pictures from the Merthyr focus groups here:


You can watch video clips from Assembly Members and event attendees here:


The Committee has extended the deadline for the submission of written evidence until Friday 17 October 2014. For more information about how to submit evidence please visit our website:

The Committee will now take oral evidence from various organisations and individuals as well as the Minister for Health and Social Care in the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. These sessions are due to take place on 6, 12 and 26 November. You can watch the sessions on or you can reserve a space in the public gallery by contacting the Assembly’s booking line. The Committee will then consider its findings and write a report, which will include recommendations to the Welsh Government.

Once the report is published you will be able to view it here:

You can keep up to date with the Committee’s inquiry by following @seneddhealth on twitter or visiting the inquiry’s Storify page. Both will provide regular updates on progress.

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Making the planning system fit for the 21st Century?


The National Assembly for Wales’s Environment and Sustainability Committee is asking for the views of the public on the Planning (Wales) Bill.

Alun Ffred Jones AM, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, explains:

Planning really is one of those issues that touch every aspect of our life, from things as close to home as house prices and the length of our daily commute to national issues such tackling climate change.

It’s easy to see why the issues that the planning process deals with are often hotly debated. Just think about the debates we’ve had about the location of wind farms or new housing developments. Of course, when we start to talk about the technical process of planning, and a law on planning, some people start to lose interest. However, getting this right is really important as it is these processes (and the laws that establish them) that provide us with the tools to democratically balance the competing demands that are being placed on our communities, towns, cities and countryside.

The Welsh Government has been working on how it believes these processes can be improved in Wales, and it has presented the changes it would like to make in a proposed draft law – the Planning (Wales) Bill.
As a National Assembly, we must now look at this Bill to see if it should become law, and to make sure that if it is to become law it is made to the highest standards.

For the full explanation of our work on this Bill, you’ll need to take a look at the Assembly’s website, but to summarise; this Bill proposes changes to the law in order to:

  • move some of the bigger planning decisions (such as larger scale energy projects) away from your county councillors; to be considered instead by Welsh Ministers in Cardiff.
  • allow councils to work together to tackle larger, cross boundary issues (such as economic development along the A55 Corridor or housing supply in the Cardiff commuter) by producing Strategic Development Plans;
  • improve the efficiency of the planning system including the appeal process;
  • make it easier for citizens to influence the future of their communities, through the introduction of statutory pre-application consultation for significant planning applications; and
  • make changes in relation to applications to register town and village greens.

How do we go about considering this Bill?

We will do this by asking experts and interested people and organisations to send us their views on the Bill. We will then call some of these people and organisations in to give evidence to the Committee I Chair, the Environment and Sustainability Committee. We’ll weigh-up this evidence and report to the Assembly as a whole on whether or not we think this proposed law is worth making and we’ll also make some recommendations on areas of the Bill that need to be improved. This stage of our work will begin in October2014 and will end in early February 2015.

Assuming this Bill continues on its journey, we now turn our attention to the fine detail of the Bill. Both the Committee and then the Assembly as a whole will look at every line of the Bill and, where an Assembly Member thinks the Bill needs to be improved, they can propose changes. These proposed changes are called amendments. Amendments are discussed and then voted on. If they are supported, then the Bill will be updated to reflect these changes. These stages of our consideration will begin in February 2015 and run to early May 2015.

Finally, the Bill with any changes that have been made to it by our consideration is voted on. If the Assembly agrees that it should be made into a law – known as an Act – it is sent to Her Majesty the Queen for her approval. Once Her Majesty approves the Bill it becomes an Act – a law – and the changes it has sought to make will be made. This will happen during the summer of 2015.

If you’d like more information on the process, please go to our webpages which explains it in more detail.

How you can get involved

If you’re interested in following the Bill’s progress through the Assembly…

…you’ll find the Bill and all of its supporting documents are available on our website. You can also find links to all the meetings at which the Bill is considered.
We will be providing regular updates through Twitter. Follow @SeneddEnv for the latest news.

If you want to get more involved…

…you can respond to the Committee’s consultation that will be running from 10 October to 7 November 2014. Details of the consultation will be available from our consultations webpage from 10 October.
Alternatively, get in touch with one, or more, of your local Assembly Members to discuss the Bill and any changes you might want see. Do this at an early stage. For this Bill, I’d recommend speaking to them before Christmas. The amending stages I mentioned above begin in the New Year and will run until early May.

A note on the information we’re looking for

Remember that this is a Bill about the processes by which planning decisions will be made, so we are looking for views on the proposed changes to the process – not the issues they are designed to tackle e.g. we’d like to know what you think about decisions being taken by Welsh Ministers instead of Councillors in certain circumstances, rather than individual planning cases or your views on Welsh Government policies e.g. on the location of wind farms.


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