15/01/2014 The Wales Report


Huw Edwards returns with the Wales Report. As local authorities across Wales face unprecedented cuts to their budgets - what does the future hold for public services in Wales?

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Tonight on the Wales report. Local authorities are trying to balance


the books. Budgets are being cut but should the the biggest count be in


the number of we'll shall councils? The clean-up continues after the


storms that batter the Welsh coastline but who will be picking up


the Bill and Sir Martin Evans says it is time to promote more interest


in science. Stay with us for the Wales Report. Good evening, welcome


back to the Wales Report, where we consider issues that affect the


people of Wales and question some of those making the decisions. On


tonight's programme: Welsh local authorities are facing record budget


cuts. They're counting the cash available for services such as


refuse collections, libraries, and leisure centres. They're trying to


balance their books but some possible answers are service cuts,


job losses and a possible rise in council tax. A commission appointed


by the Welsh Government on the future delivery of public services


is about to report its findings. And the question is now being asked


openly, instead of focusing on the budgets on 22 individual councils -


should we be talking about a radical reshaping of Welsh local government?


Helen Callaghan reports. Communities in uproar have become a


common sight, as people battle to save the services they cherish from


council cuts. But in an effort to minimise public


anger, and get them onside, local authorities have been reaching out


to people, through public consultation on an unprecedented


scale. Good evening. I'm the Chief Executive fted Council. The


residents of Monmouthshire have been invited here to this school to share


their views with Council bosses about proposed cuts to services,


deliver them differently and put up council tax. We are here today with


some proposals we want to discuss with you. However we still have a


big journey yet. They want the public to steer them in the right


direction. Are you prepared to go even higher on a council tax rise,


or do you want us to look for more cuts to balance the budget? But what


one person feels is important, another does not. And agreement is


extremely hard to achieve. We all should be helping each other, not


one certain section should be cut. There are going to be cuts, clearly.


What are some of the openingses? Are there any real options? But there is


one harsh truth that everyone in this room understands. Monmouthshire


county council has it make more than ?20 million worth of savings over


the next four years and the council is not alone.


Wales '22 local authorities are embroiled in a number crunching


nightmare. It's estimated that selectively they'll be faced with a


short fall of nearly 460 million and that 20,000 council jobs will go in


Wales in the next five years. I witnessed the gloomy realities


confronting councils first hand when we filmed councillors and officials


debating Monmouthshire's proposed spending plans We still have a gap


of over ?1 million. It is disappointing after so much


consultation and scrutiny and work by officers that we still have a


budget funding gap at this stage, only weeks before we have to


announce what our final budget proposals are. Monmouthshire and the


other local authorities across Wales have until early March to get their


spending plans for the next financial year signed off. The Wales


Report has been speaking to all of our councils to get a better idea of


which services are under threat. Across Wales, councils are


predicting a collective cut of ?30 million to social care budge etsds.


19 day centres may close. 35 public libraries could shut. . Some areas


may see a 2,000% increase to fees for leisure services. This is just a


small fraction of what we can expect to be hit. With some communities


also facing council tax hikes of up to 5%.


Local Government finances and those behind the book-balancing are under


the spotlight, like never before and council leaders, like Peter Fox are


feeling the strain. It really hurts when you have been


working hard for your communities and you have to try to deliver the


tough messages about how you are going to have to change things,


which may affect some people. I hope people understand that what we are


trying to do, is find the very best way forward in their interests.


But the impending assault on services, has sparked fierce attacks


against local councils. CHANTS OF SHAME ON YOU And there are calls for


a radical overhaul of how many there are. Last Government a commission


was set up to review the way devolved public services are run and


it suggest improvements. Its findings are due to be published


later this month and it is widely believed it'll recommend radically


reducing the number of local authorities we have here in Wales.


For now, most council bosses are keeping their thoughts on this


controversial issue private. But some did take to the Wales Report


anonymously. Three council leaders told me they support a reduction of


the 22 local authorities we now have. But four are against it.


The Welsh Government has ruled out reorganisation, before the #2 2016


Assembly elections. Bsh 2016. But while any shake-up could be some


years away, there are calls for decisions to be made quickly. If


there is going to be a reorganisation and it is put off


into the future, leaving councils then to languish on death row for


the next five or six years would be a huge problem. So if they are going


to do t I think the feeling across local government, is to get on with


it. And talk of reorganisation is seen by some as badly-timed and


inappropriate. It is not the panacea to the probss that local authorities


are facing in Wales. -- to the problems. We must not take our eye


off the ball. We need to preserve and keep pushing forward and


preserve in good, high-quality services. I don't want a distraction


from that. It's estimated that reorganisation would cost ?200


million and lead to 15,000 council job losses. While that would be a


tortuous process, some feel it could be a force for good. Michael Tricky


is Director of Wales Public Services, #20e 25, an independent


think-tank based at Cardiff Business School, conducting research into the


long-term future of public service delivery. A lot of this depends on


how you approach T if you approach it neglectively and defensively,


what you will get is negative and defensive results. But I think that


- I sense across local Government in Wales and elsewhere, that there is a


real sense of the challenge, the scale of the challenge ahead, the


scale of change that they need and perhaps the sense of the opportunity


that local Government and organisations, a fresh start, fresh


beginnings, working towards new horizons, that could be very


stimulating and exciting. REPORTER: So, by working with the community --


So by working with the community heapfully this is a which to


sustain... But here at this public meeting, people aren't working about


reorganisations and whether there are too many councils, they are


concerned about council tax and the fate of services they depend on


Everyone pays council tax. If they start charging for the library,


youngsters will not use T they'll not have that access. It is a scary


situation. Everyone has financial difficulties at home and are worried


about jobs and different things. But while communities have come out in


force to fight for their local services, it is unclear whether they


would take to the streets if it was their entire council facing


extinction. Well that was Helen Callaghan


reporting. Joining me is Jeff Jones, former leader of Bridgend council


and now a leader government consultant. This Williams


commission, what are you expecting? We are expecting they will redues


the number of authorities be down to about is 1 is the rumour T could be


less or slightly more. -- down to about 11 is the rumour. What do you


think? I would go smaller. The production of the prop is the easy


bit. The bit we should be discussing is what we expect the new local


Government sows tomb to deliver and what is the ideal type of authority


to deliver that system. We are not debating this. That's the danger.


The previous Tory organisations were driven by the Conservatives on


political expediency. They wanted to destroy Labour local government in


Wales, they weren't interested in what happened afterwards because


they haven't got a big political hold. The big time this time is we


have an Assembly controlled by the Labour Party and a local Government


controlled by the Labour Party. So there is real politics in this. It


isn't just staff who will lose their jobs at the WLGA. It is councillors


who will lose their position. We have the politics to look at and the


costs. There will be huge costs upfront. Even if, in the long-term


there are savings, those savings might not come about until year, 6 -


year 6 or 7. From day #1, if you have 11 authorities, then 11 senior


management teams will go and they'll in the go without a load of money to


compensate the fact of losing their jobs. You mention the Labour


dimension which is central to some of this. Is the political will


there, from the First Minister and colleagues to drive through this


kind of radical change? They make the rhetoric. They have all said


nobody supports the present structure. But the contributors was


entirely right. The worst thing to happen is on Monday is for everyone


to say - thank you, Sir Paul and the commission, we'll look at it and


next year we are still looking at T the result will be a disaster for


the local Government. They are getting on with the cuts. The morale


will go right to the floor. What worries me is that delivery goes out


the window. What is forego then about is the actual person who needs


the service. -- forgotten about. We are all aware of those Deaners,


ultimately, though, Jeff, are you of the view that the present system of


22 authorities in he Wales is not fit for purpose. It doesn't make


sense in this post-devolution age? It has never made sense. This is a


big step we need to discuss and talk about and not be carried away next


week by a report that has been held up. We could produce it. This


morning I wrote down my idea of Wales, four or five authorities, I


did it in five seconds. It is easy. The hard bit is the politics and


implementation of what comes out. In five years are we going to see a


different structure of local government in Wales? Possibly if the


politicians in the Bay have the will. Their past record suggests


they push things over, or to use another Welsh phrase, they try to


kick for touch rather than score the try. In this one the ball is in


their hands. Do they wanted to do it? If they do, they have to say


within a short period - we are implementing the Williams'


commission, we are going to find the money for it and set up elections


for the shadow authorities as soon as possible, otherwise as Steve


Thomas says - authorities on death row will not deliver the services


all of us want. Jeff, good of you to come in. And local authority budgets


have come under even greater pressure in the past month, as


councils assess the cost of storm damage caused by the high tides and


gale-force winds that have battered the Welsh coastline. This winter has


seen some of the worst weather Wales has suffered in over 20 years -


storms have caused millions of pounds worth of damage. Some roads


in Pembrokeshire were damaged, including the route along Amroth


seafront, which was partially washed away. Aberystwyth was perhaps the


worst- hit area, with extensive damage to the famous Victorian


seafront and promendade. With current cost estimates rising to


millions, the question is where the money is going to come from.


Ceredigion Council's Deputy Leader, Ray Quant, had this plea for the


Welsh Government. What we will actually be looking for now is


support from the Welsh Government for the actual rest tors of putting


it back to where it was but in actual fact what we should be


looking for, at this moment in time, is not necessary just to have


restoration but to be making improvements. The Welsh Secretary,


David Jones, has said that we're unlikely to see any additional funds


from the Treasury, or from the EU, to help with clean-up costs. And the


Chair of the Assembly's Environment and Sustainability Committee, Lord


Elis Thomas, is calling for a more coherent approach to managing the


coastline. Part of the review now, a stat statutory be be responsibility


for Natural Resources Wales and for Welsh Government to deliver, that


review must look at the whole area in the round. Afterall we are a


country with massive coastline. If we look at the risk threat to our


population, about 225,000 of the residents of Wales are at some sort


of risk, one way or another, through flooding. And, therefore, this must


be a priority for any government. O Joining me now is the Minister for


Natural Resources, Labour's Alun Davies. Thank you for coming in.


Have you worked out where the money is coming from to help people who


have suffered so much damage? At the moment we are looking at assessing


what the damage is. We know there is superficial damage. We know there is


damage that is to be cleared up and cleaned up and that work is ongoing,


but then there is the more substantial structural damage we


need to look at, damage to the infrastructure. At the moment we are


assessing where we are with different local authorities. We have


spoken to all the local authorities dealing with these issues, and we


will be in a position in the next week or so, to take decisions on


those matters, where we need to make short-term investment and where we


need to make repairs and then, where we need to focus hard on the long


term. So where Ceredigion are saying - we are looking to the Welsh


Government for help, you will be providing that. I met Ceredigion


when I was there after the storms. Our officials have been working


together since then and we are putting to the an assessment of with


Ceredigion is and we will then be looking at how we provide the


support. I think they did a marvellous job of responding to this


and the council there have worked extremely hard in responding to what


was an extraordinary emergency on that weekend. What we have got to do


now, is to ensure we work together to rebuild the Prom, to clear up the


damage that has been done immediately, but we also need to


look at the long term. One of the conversations I had with Ceredigion


was about long-term sea defences for Aberystwyth and the town itself.


What you have done there is underline the scale of the ambition,


but that does have bidgetry implications as well. When you are


look ing looking at sea defences and looking at responding to the


challenge of climate change, that's a lot of money. It is. I'm wondering


again is the Welsh Government in a position to do that? Your own


department has its own share of budget cuts, ?20 million-plus, so


you will not be able to foot this bill. I'm proect itting the flood


defences of my budget. I'm looking at protecting nearly one quarter of


a billion pounds of investment in Wales during the lifetime of this


Assembly term and we'll continue with that investment. I want to look


at how we can bring in new investment. We are talking to the UK


Government on a regular basis, most days at the moment, about how we can


work together on this. We are also looking towards Europe to see if we


can put together an application for additional support, through European


funding streams. How hopeful are you there? We are putting together that


at the moment and we are looking at the assessments of where we are,


what the total dimensions of the damage has been and what structural


repairs we will need it make. When we understand all of that, we will


be in a better position to make a fuller statement on it. I will do


so. But, also, I have asked for a review of the coastal defences of


Wales in tow tality following the storms in December -- in totality. I


want to understand where our weaknesses are and where we need it


make emergency repairs and where we need to make more investment for the


future. I will pick up on that for a second. I was surprised to he soot


Welsh Secretary, David Jones, saying that no official request foreextra


funding help had come to his department from you -- no official


request for extra funding. Was that true? I was surprised to


see the Welsh Secretary saying that. I would be surprise surprised, I


would want to see him talking about how we can work together to help.


Have you asked him? We are not yet in the position to make that formal


bit d bid if you like. We are talking to them every day. We are


talking to departments in London. We have a good relationship with the UK


Government. I don't understand why the Secretary of State doesn't


understand or appreciate that. But he is right to say that know formal


bid has gone in But the context and conversations are taking place.


That's really important. We have a relationship with DEFRA in London


where we talk most day abouts how we deal with the different situations.


When would you be in a position to put a bid in? I would expect to be


able to look at the dimensions of the problems we are facing this week


and respond to it next week. Co-ordinating the approach. Lord el


WLord Elis Thomas making it's point it needs to be more coherent, if you


look at the Welsh coastline and the increasing problems with climate


change, do you agree with him or do you think there should be one body


responsible for managing the approach to koeslines? Agree with


him we have seen a change in patterns, as a direct be consequence


of climate change and we need to adapt to an action plan in Wales


which takes into account the change in weather patterns aes a result of


climate change. I agree with that. We do have adaptation plans in


place. One of the purposes of the review that NRW are carrying out for


me at the moment is tolike at o how strong those processes, those


systems are. -- to to look at how strong. If we need to strengthen


them, we will do so. At the moment we have a number of bodies


responsible for defences in different places, mainly NRW in


local government but obviously to product infrastructure in companies


such as the railways. We need to look at how all that is working. At


the moment for many parts of our coast, we are quite well-protected


but we need to lack at where we are vulnerable. We need to search out


for weaknesses and identify those weaknesses and then we need to


identify how we will ensure that coastal communities across the bhoel


face of Wales are protected. -- whole face. I do not want to walk


along and through a community like I did last week in Aberystwyth and see


the damage done to a major settlement along our coastline.


Everybody living in near our coast deserves and needs protection. This


Government will not let them down. Wales's disappointing performance,


to put it mildly, in the latest international education rankings -


known as PISA - has been the subject of much concern over recent weeks,


with standards slipping across the board. The worst showing was in


science. Wales dropped 6 places and one of our most distinguished


scientists is now calling for more to be done to promote interest in


science in school and beyond. Sir Martin Evans, who won the Nobel


Prize in 2007 for his pioneering work on stem-cell research, says


that people should be far more aware of the great work being done in


Wales. I have been interested in science


throughout my life. I have been fortunate enough to be able to carry


out a scientific career and that has been my life.


I do think that scienceville a fundamental importance to everyone.


It is a base skill these days. You know, in the last century, I


suppose, well certainly over our lifetimes, there have been amazing


discoveries in biology, in medicine, astronomy, and of course, huge


technological developments, all of which are based on physical


understanding. I think they would be terribly undersold if we don't give


people the opportunity to understand what it is all about. I think we


should teach scientific understanding, so anybody in society


can have an idea of what it is all about. Part of that is understanding


how science answers questions. How we can use experiments to test


different hypothesis. Different ways of looking at it. Is this one right


other that one right? We don't know, we will find out. I think that's so


different from just emotional imagination. But imagination is


hugely important. Many people don't realise that


emergency emergenciation, lateral thinking, looking atp things from a


different way, is essential for scientific advance. The essence of


being a human, is being able to be there to interact, to imagine, and


of course, scientificically, it is the imagination that's allowed all


the advances. I don't want to see that stamped out from any child at


all. In Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government is very concerned, quite


rightly, with the levels of numeracy and literacy coming out of our


schools, therefore, they are lacking at changing the curriculum,


particularly at Key Stage 2, that's the upper stage of the primary


school, to really concentrate on English and maths, basically. That's


fine. But, at that stage, too, there was a continuation going on of


starting people on science. It's been very good. And it would be a


disaster for us, if that were dropped. If you drop t you will then


drop a whole segment of our education and you will be putting


people in a position where they may find it more difficult to pick it


up. Science is a way of thinking. A very useful way of thinking to look


at and understand problems and to understand where we are. I think it


should be everybody's privilege to be able to understand where they are


in the world. Plenty of food for thout for Sir


Martin Essex. Joining me is Wendy Sadler, directedor of Science Made


Simple, an initiative to encourage schoolchildren to participate in


science and Professor Karen Holford, the Pro Vice Chancellor of Cardiff


University college of physical science. Why are we not engaging


children? Science is something children are curious about.


Something seems to happen between primary and secondary school which


makes them switch off. We are putting demands on teachers and they


are not getting time to explore perhaps the fun and practical side


of science. When we go into schools we take lots of experiments and take


perhaps things that children are already excited about, music, and


medicine. Teachers are saying they don't get time. They don't get time


or not allowed to? I think it is because they are trying to get


through so many things that are not tested there is not the free reign.


Perhaps some of it comes down to teachers not having confidence in


science. We know there is a problem with recruiting teachers,


particularly with a physical science background. To my find, if a student


doesn't see a teacher passionate about the subject talking, then


they'll lose that love. I think a teacher can only teach effectively


if they love the subject. Universities are all Ben couraging


enthusiasm and interest and passion. So, would it be fair for me to say


to you, are our universities turning out graduates who have that


necessary enthusiasm that they can pass on to pupils Absolutely.


Science is perceived as being a hard subject. I think that's one of the


things we have to dispel that myth, about it being a hard subject. It is


hard to subject any subject at university but it is possible and


you know people should rise to the challenge. Viewers will be struck


that I'm interviewing two women about science. But, I think it is


fair to say, there has been a kind of gender perception problem about


science in the past as well, which is in many cases, it has been seen


as something of interest to men, mostly. Again, what is being done to


challenge those perceptions A lot of good work being done, organisations


like Women in Science and Engineers and Engineering Scheme for Wales and


others are doing good work. One of the things from my point of view is


reaching the parents. Parents, believe it or not, have a huge


influence on their children and children do go to parents for


advice. If a parent is a little nervous about their daughter


becoming an engineer, as my parents were, you know, that daughter is


going to have to fight hard to find out the information and it is always


going to be a challenge. I think parents have a huge part to play.


Also, society has a huge part to play in saying - this is a role


model, a woman who is a successful engineer, scientist, and is enjoying


her job. We were talking about the PISA results which clearly in school


terms have are been disappointing and science saw the biggest drop of


all. Yes, people will accept there is curriculum and time pressure, but


there must be a question as well about the quality of teaching in


some of our schools where science is concerned, do we acknowledge that? I


think it is not necessarily only that. There are many schemes that we


have looked at across the UK that aren't being matched in Wales,


particularly for teachers who have to teach physics but don't have have


a background in physics. The Institute Institute of Physics has


done work in England and ask the land but not matched yet in Wales.


There is a question about the support teachers get. I don't think


they are given time to follow their skills. You won't find a teacher who


is in it for a ride. They want to do their job well. They need support.


Final point. Sir Martin clearly is a global star, someone who has


achieved remarkable things and the Nobel Prize recognise that is but he


makes the point, modestlily, about people in Wales not being awhich are


of the work that has been done -- modestly, about people in Wales not


being aware of the work he has done. I bet people in Wales don't know


about the work he has done. What can we do to market that? We need to be


bolder and more confident in promoting ourselves. In the past we


have thought - people should know this. But they don't. We have to


shout about our successes. Yesterday the top UK 100 scientists pass


published. We have two from Cardiff University. And 40 of them were


women. Great news on which to end on. Thank


you both for coming in. Thank you very much.


That's it for this week's programme. We will be back next Wednesday. In


the meantime you can get in touch with us by e-mail: And we are on


Twitter: Thank you for watching and good




Huw Edwards returns with the Wales Report. As local authorities across Wales face unprecedented cuts to their budgets - what does the future hold for public services in Wales? And Nobel prize-winning scientist Sir Martin Evans outlines the importance of the sciences to Welsh schoolchildren.

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