A year after Labour took control of the ministerial levers of power in Wales, first minister Carwyn Jones has today issued the very first annual report.
Just over a year after Labour took sole control of the ministerial levers of power in Wales, and on the back of a clear pledge to make “delivery” the keyword of his government, first minister Carwyn Jones yesterday issued the very first annual report – and called for increased powers for Cardiff Bay.
In presenting the 666-page document to members of the assembly, Jones said:
“The report puts transparency and accountability at the heart of what we do as a government.
“This is because the people of Wales should know what their government is doing on their behalf. It is also a self-discipline which helps focus Welsh government and our partners on delivery.
“It is a mark of our commitment to deliver.”
The first minister went on to give assembly members a thematic, tour de force of the government’s key achievements over the past year and the challenges that lie ahead.
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Declaring that jobs were the key priority, he pointed to the establishment in April of Jobs Growth Wales aimed at creating 4,000 jobs a year for young people throughout Wales.
Turning to Cardiff Bay’s efforts to boost capital spending to support Welsh business, he pointed to the Welsh Economic Growth Fund, which has so far committed over £30 million, levering in, as a result, £91 million of capital investment. He pointed also to the £100 million Life Science Fund as well as the Infrastructure Investment Plan published just last week.
However, in a barbed comment aimed squarely at Whitehall he noted:
“Our scope for action would be much greater if the UK government accepted the case for the Welsh government to have the power to borrow for capital investment within defined limits.”
Education and Skills
The first minister went on to argue that getting the long term fundamentals right in the Welsh economy meant “raising our education and skills levels and making places in Wales highly attractive for business and highly-skilled people.”
Whilst pointing to the rapid increase since 1999 of the proportion of working age adults with a level 2 qualification or above having “risen faster in Wales than in any other country in the UK” he warned that “we were starting from a low base and are still behind in England and Scotland.”
Outlining how the government were seeking to achieve fundamental change, Jones spoke of ministers “driving forward” their School Improvement Action Plan and the National Literacy Plan as well as fulfilling a pledge to increase spending on Welsh schools by at least 1% above the UK government’s block grant. He went on to pledge that ministers would be giving “close attention” over the next year to those young people not in education, employment or training.
Turning his attention to public services, Jones told assembly members that his government was “transforming” them to “respond to rising expectations, while also coping with financial constraints”.
On healthcare he cited improvements in the “rapid diagnosis and treatment of strokes” as well as a continued fall in hospital acquired infections. Hailing significant progress on waiting times he pointed to a 68% cut in the number of people waiting over 36 weeks compared with March 2011.
Talking of the government’s “fight to give every child the best start in life”, he told assembly members that by 2013-14 there will be statutory Integrated Family Support Services providing a service across Wales and that ministers will shortly be publishing a Tackling Poverty Action Plan.
He said also that the government was “ahead of schedule” on its commitment to recruit 500 police community support officers and that all will be recruited, trained and deployed by September 2013.
Recognising the challenges ahead the first minister concluded:
“In all areas, we are working to build confidence in Wales’s future, because confidence in so many ways is the key to success for us as individuals, communities and as a country. But if we are to move forward we also need realism about the challenges we face, what more needs to be done and how long action needs to be sustained if we are to achieve success.
“This annual report contributes hard evidence to help inform mature discussion and debate on the key issues, so that we can build the wider shared understandings necessary for us to achieve our best as a country. I commend it to you.”