Financing the Future – Changes to the way money is raised and spent in Wales

Simon Thomas AC/AMHow can we ensure the Welsh public sector is equipped with the right financial skills? Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Assembly’s Finance Committee, recently spoke at the Wales Audit Office ‘Finance for the Future’ event.

In the ever changing landscape of finance in Wales, it has never been more important to have home grown, talented professionals working collaboratively to effectively scrutinise spending in Wales.

On 1 November I was invited to speak at Finance for the Future 2016, by the Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas. This conference saw the launch of an innovative new scheme to increase skills of the public sector in the field of finance with the aim of providing sustainable public services for the future.

More photos from Finance for the Future 2016 are available on Facebook

I spoke at the conference in my role as Chair of the Finance Committee at the National Assembly for Wales. The Finance Committee is a cross party Committee which is primarily responsible for reporting on spending by the Welsh Government Ministers. We are also responsible for the oversight of the Wales Audit Office and the Auditor General, it was the previous Finance Committee that approved the funding for widening the Financial Trainee Scheme launched at the conference on 1 November 2016.

My speech in full is available to read here:

When talking to the trainees I was keen to stress the changes to fiscal devolution as we enter an important period in Welsh devolution, with the introduction of the first taxes to Wales in 800 years, the role of the Finance Committee in ensuring effective scrutiny and instilling public confidence is even more important. I explained how, as a Committee, we are currently scrutinising the ‘Land Transaction Tax and Anti Avoidance of Devolved Taxes Bill’ which will replace Stamp Duty Land Tax and we are expecting the ‘Landfill Disposal Tax Bill’ shortly.

These two taxes combined with the devolution of a portion of income tax will enable the Welsh Government to raise approximately £3 billion, making a more direct relationship between money raised and spent in Wales.  This change in fiscal power is driving my desire to see us nurture home grown talent to an even greater extent.

During my speech I talked about new obligations surrounding the ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act’. The last Assembly saw the introduction of the Act which aims to make public bodies listed in the Act, such as Health Boards and Local Authorities, think more about:

  • planning for the long-term,
  • working better with people and communities,
  • looking to prevent problems

As the Auditor General has such a key role in the implementation of this Act, I felt it was important to explain the process to the trainees. The Auditor General is required to report on how public bodies have applied the sustainable development principle in the way they set their objectives and the steps they take to meet those objectives. He is required to deliver this report to the National Assembly for Wales at least once in every five year electoral cycle.

With the progression of devolution in Wales, the introduction of the ‘Well-Being of Future Generations Act’ and the ‘Environment Act (Wales) 2016’ the importance of effective scrutiny by talented, home grown professionals can not be underestimated. That is why I am grateful to the Auditor General for not only for inviting me to speak at the conference of financial trainees, but for ensuring the development and progression of this scheme.

You can find out more about the the Assembly’s Finance Committee by visiting assembly.wales/seneddfinance. You can also follow the committee on Twitter – @SeneddFinance.

The Wales Audit Office supports the Welsh Auditor General as the public sector watchdog for Wales. Their aim is to ensure that the people of Wales know whether public money is being managed wisely and that public bodies in Wales understand how to improve outcomes. Find out more about their work at www.wao.gov.uk

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