Tag: Business

Enterprise, Innovation and Skills Committee: One year in – Stakeholder event

A year after its first stakeholder event in July 2016, the Economy Infrastructure and Skills (EIS) Committee invited a wide range of stakeholders back to reflect on the highlights of the year and to consider the Committee’s emerging priorities for next year.

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What happened?

On 19 July 2017, Members of the committee and stakeholders discussed how the committee has delivered its work programme and what we can do to drive things forward, in particular:

  • What were the highlights of the Committee’s first year? And what could the Committee have done better?
  • What the key trends or events over the next 12-18 months?
  • Is the timing right and is anything missing in the Committee’s initial thinking about future work?

Key themes emerging from much of the discussions were the impact of Brexit and the importance of the Welsh Government’s forthcoming economic strategy.

Thanks for the participants

Russell George AM, chair of the EIS Committee, thanked contributors for sharing their expertise. He said:

“A year after we first invited a range of stakeholders to inform us about what we should do as a committee, we wanted to hear what they thought of what we have done. And to see what they thought of some of our emerging ideas for the coming year.

”After today’s discussions, I believe that we are on the right track to develop a work programme which incorporates the views of stakeholders from across the three main strands of our remit – the economy, infrastructure and skills.”

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What happens next?

The clerking team will use the ideas and comments from stakeholders to inform a paper for the Committee to consider in September setting out priorities and inquiries for the coming year.

Opening up the Assembly….

In September, it will be twenty years since the people of Wales voted, by a small majority, to have their own National Assembly. It’s the only political institution the people of Wales have voted to have. Since it came into being in 1999, the Assembly has grown in power and responsibility. Six year ago, the people of Wales voted overwhelmingly to trust the Assembly with the power to make laws in Wales.

But how aware are people of the work done by the National Assembly as an institution, and its individual members as AMs? We know that sometimes people confuse the legislature, the National Assembly, with the executive, the Welsh Government. Late last year the Presiding Officer established a small group to look at how the Assembly can deliver engaging and accessible news and information about its work. That’s a big task, particularly at a time when news organisations are under increasing pressure and are focussing less on coverage of politics.

Our task force includes people with expertise in the media, open democracy projects like My Society, forward-thinking public institutions that have put digital communications at their heart, and specialists in digital learning and political communication. We’ve been asked to look at how best to increase levels of public understanding and engagement with audiences currently disengaged with politics and Welsh affairs.

The taskforce is considering how best to ensure that:

  • users of Assembly services, like the website, or Senedd TV, the live and recorded searchable ‘feed’ of Assembly proceedings, or the printed Record of Proceedings can more easily navigate around them, take and use data from them, adapt video and other content for their own purposes, and generally give a better user experience;
  • online services, including social media, can help the Assembly meet the needs of different audiences and customers;
  • how the Assembly’s committees communicate the work they are doing.

Interest in issues addressed by the Assembly, from health to housing, education to the environment, is high – but the Assembly doesn’t necessarily present itself in way that allows people to find things out simply and accessibly. Too often the Assembly seems institutional in its presentation, rather than being issue-led. People care about issues more these days than they care about institutions.

There may be other things which the Assembly needs to do to ensure it is communicating effectively with the people of Wales. People are now consuming information and news about politics in different and innovative ways, mainly through digital platforms. Most people now get their news online and increasingly from mobile, more and more frequently via news feeds such as Facebook’s. Young people overwhelmingly get their news in mobile form, often through social media such as Snapchat. How can the Assembly serve up its news in more digestible form using these platforms – or allow others to do this?

All media organisations are under pressure, and one of the newspapers previously covering the Assembly with a dedicated reporter has now cut that post. Most people will get their television and radio news from UK channels which rarely cover Wales and often rarely explain where policies in Wales differ from those in England, except in passing. The London newspapers, widely read in Wales, rarely mention Welsh politics or the Assembly. Does the Assembly, therefore, need to provide its own digital news platform with a small team of journalists providing news about the stories that are coming out of the Assembly? Such a platform could also provide material for the scores of local and hyperlocal news publications around Wales. This would not be a ‘government’ mouthpiece – quite the opposite. It would be the platform for what is happening in the place where the Welsh Government is scrutinised – the National Assembly – and headed by an impartial editor.

The Senedd’s physical design was intended to be symbolic of its role as a transparent public space for the people of Wales. It’s one of the most visited buildings in Wales, with more than 80,000 visitors every year. How can that visitor experience be improved, and how can people keep in touch with what is happening in the Assembly after their visit? Thousands of school students visit the Assembly every year: how should the Assembly link up with students, teachers and schools, possibly making use of the Welsh Government’s hugely successful Hwb+ bilingual learning platform hosting 580,000 teachers and learners? That’s something we’re asking the National Digital Learning Council to look at.

There are lots of ways the National Assembly seeks to read the pulse of the people of Wales – crowdsourcing responses to Brexit and other issues, polling people on inquiries and receiving thousands of responses. The taskforce’s work will complement this, seeking to ensure the Assembly behaves as an innovative democratic forum.

At the end of the day – it’s your Assembly. We want to hear your views on how the Assembly can best communicate with the people of Wales. Email us on digisenedd@assembly.wales with your views. We want to hear from you – after all, it’s a big year for the Assembly. In May, the Assembly celebrates its 18th birthday. That’s a milestone in any life.

Leighton Andrews is chairing the Presiding Officer’s Digital News Taskforce.

Member Bills: How would you change the law?

There are two draws I’m particularly looking forward to at the moment: the first Member Bill ballot of the Fifth Assembly, and the 2019 Rugby World Cup draw. Before joining the National Assembly for Wales, I worked in Japan for two years, so I can confidently predict that the World Cup is going to be amazing.

Anyway- back to Member Bills. Most laws in Wales are proposed by the Welsh Government. But if an individual Member wins the Member Bill ballot (it’s a kind of raffle draw), they get an opportunity to introduce their own proposed law.

Anyone can suggest an idea to an Assembly Member about a proposal for a law. You have 5 Assembly Members: do you know who they are? Find out more about your Assembly Members.

The Assembly Member who wins the ballot will then be able to call for other Members to support their idea, through a vote. If their idea is supported, the Ballot winner will have 13 months in which to develop their proposed law, and present it to the Assembly for scrutiny and amendment.

During this process, the Ballot winner will normally be supported by a small team of people- including me- to develop their proposed law. We help to provide procedural, research and legal advice.

On 25 January 2017, we’ll find out which Member will be drawn in the ballot and have the opportunity to propose a new law, which could affect the lives of millions of people across Wales. Find out more about Member Bills.

By Tom Jackson, Clerk, Scrutiny Support Team

More consistency and transparency needed – Welsh Businesses give their views on Business Rates in Wales

The Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee spends a lot of time talking to people in the world of Welsh business. Business rates is one of the issues that arises frequently and provokes strong reactions.

It was also an issue that cropped up heavily in our summer consultation when we asked people what work the Committee should be prioritising. For that reason, the Committee decided to hold an early one-day session looking at business rates in Wales. The event was held on 5 October, just days after details of a revaluation of business rates in Wales was published.

A Business breakfast to hear views from across Wales

The Committee invited a cross section of business representatives to a breakfast event at the World of Boats in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday to hear their views on the subject.

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To ensure we got the full picture from businesses Wales-wide, we filmed interviews with businesses across the country, so that we could show attendees a short video, summarising some of the key issues to help stimulate discussion.

Businesses spoke about the difficulties they experienced and suggested ways to improve the system for SMEs. Here’s some of the issues raised in the video:

It would have helped if we’d had that little bit of relief especially in the six months when we weren’t trading, so there was no money coming in only money going out and yet we had to still pay business rates…

Katia Fatiadou, Quantum Coffee Roasters Ltd, Cardiff Bay

When we pay business rates we don’t get anything back in return, absolutely nothing…so business rates are a cost to the businesses and there’s no return whatsoever.

Robert Griffiths, Ruggers Carpets, Merthyr Tydfil

A successful business rates policy would be based on a calculation of the company’s financial and profitability rather than the rateable value of the premises that they’re currently working out of or the premises that they potentially want to move in to.

Joshua Weaver, We are Promotional Products, Welshpool

At the event the biggest discussion points were how rates are calculated, what the money is spent on, whether and how rates could be reduced to promote economic development, as well as specific issues relating to the cost of investment in equipment (e.g. by major industries like steelworks), high street vs. out of town retail, and how holiday rental cottages should be assessed.

What happened after breakfast?

Later that morning, the committee held a formal meeting in the Senedd, taking evidence firstly from a panel of experts, and then from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford, who is responsible for business rates in Wales. The session, which can be seen on Senedd.tv highlighted the need for greater consistency and transparency when it comes to business rates, a better appeals system, and clarity on any changes that may happen in the future.

Members made a number of references to what they had heard, from businesses at the breakfast event and from the video interviews, during the Ministerial scrutiny session.

Next steps

At the breakfast session, some participants indicated they might have further information they wished to share with the committee. They have been invited to share that in writing.

Once the Committee has considered any additional information, it will discuss its conclusions before writing to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, with recommendations for improving the current regime.

Keep in touch

Members of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee

The Committee was established to hold the Welsh Government to account on issues such as economic development; transport; infrastructure; employment; skills; and research and development, including technology and science.

Keep up with the work of the Committee by following us on Twitter @SeneddEIS.

Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee – Stakeholder Introduction Event

The newly formed Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee of the National Assembly for Wales recently welcomed stakeholders to Cardiff to participate in an introduction event.

The purpose of the event was to give stakeholders the opportunity to meet new Members of the Committee and to speak to them about their priorities and aspirations for the Committee.

Individuals from organisations such as Careers Wales, Federation of Small Businesses, Arriva Trains Wales, Network Rail and Colegau Cymru arrived at the Senedd to view the Committee’s meeting first of all. This was an opportunity to see the Committee Members question the new Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates AM and to listen to his priorities and the content of his portfolio.

Following the Committee Meeting, stakeholders and Committee Members met at the Urdd Centre, where an event under a ‘speed-networking’ format took place.

Everyone were allocated to a table with people from different sectors and Assembly Members from the Committee.

There were discussions during the event around different aspects of the Committees remit.

They discussed that the Committee needed to look into various options for taking forward changes to business rates and also need to consider city regions, their purpose and what levers will they be given to succeed.

Discussions around transport included looking into the Government’s preparations for the next Welsh Rail Franchise and considering what improvements have been made to integrated public transport.

When discussing skills questions were raised around whether Wales is training the right people for the right skills. There was also a discussion around the Welsh Government’s budget reduction to Careers Wales and the impact of this on their role and remit.

The Committee will now take into consideration the points raised during the event in order to inform and shape their work for the next five years.

If you’d like further information about the Committee, or would like to keep up to date with their work, you can visit the Committee’s webpage.

You can also follow the Committee on twitter @SeneddEIS

#AskFirstMin – The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister wants to hear from you

#AskFirstMin – Have your question answered by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones

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The Committee wants to hear from organisations, businesses and from you – more details on how to take part online below.

The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister is meeting in Swansea on October 16 at 10.30 at the National Waterfront Museum. The main topic will be ‘Wales in the Wider World’. Here’s a flavour of the main drivers for discussion:

What is the Welsh Government’s overall strategy for marketing and promoting Wales to the world? What is the Welsh brand? How well are Welsh attractions promoted to tourists? Does the Welsh Government do enough to draw in investors?
Does the Welsh Government do a good job of making Wales seem appealing to tourists from the UK and abroad?  Is Welsh culture visible enough outside of Wales? What markets or products should be prioritised?

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A full agenda will be posted on the Committee’s web page when confirmed. 

The majority of Committees meet weekly to scrutinise the Welsh Government in detail but The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister focuses on broad topics relating to any central strategic vision of the Welsh Government’s programme.

How do I take part online?

You can submit your question, observation or comment to the Committee on the topic of ‘Wales in the Wider World’ any way you like:

Twitter On Twitter – Follow @AssemblyWales on Twitter and reply to any tweets relating to this topic or use the hashtag #AskFirstMin. Also feel free to Direct Message us if you’d like it to be confidential.
 Facebook On Facebook – Like the Assembly’s Facebook Page and leave a comment on a relevant status. If you can’t see a relevant status then leave a comment on the page with the hashtag #AskFirstMin.
 Email E-Mail – You can send your views by e-mail to: FM.Scrutiny@Assembly.Wales
 Youtube On YouTube – Why not film yourself asking your question and then send us the link through any of the channels above?
 Instagram On Instagram – If you can express your views in a creative visual way we’d love to see it. Tag our Senedd Instagram account within your picture or just use the hashtag #AskFirstMin. Alternatively you can leave a comment on any one of our Instagram posts again with the hashtag #AskFirstMin.
 Wordpress Comments – Leave a comment on this blog post right now!

What happens next?

We will collate the responses and hand them over to the Committee’s Chair – David Melding AM. The Chair will then incorporate them into the line of questioning for the First Minister, Carwyn Jones. You can come and watch the meeting in person, online on Senedd.TV or read the transcript. We’ll let you know if your question was answered. The meeting will take place on 16 October, 10.30 in Swansea at the National Waterfront Museum.

We look forward to hearing your views!

 “You can see the extraordinary beauty, the wonderful people and great hospitality, so I’d encourage everybody in the States to come and visit Wales.”
– President Barack Obama

Explore the topic – ‘Wales in the Wider World’

This may seem like a complex topic but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look at the big picture. We want to hear out of the box ideas, comments from different perspectives and from different walks of life. Continue reading “#AskFirstMin – The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister wants to hear from you”

Co-investment and mobilising a productive and skilled workforce in Wales

April 2015 saw the Welsh Government begin to implement its framework for co-investment in skills. This framework changes the way in which training, skills and apprenticeships are funded in Wales.

The new approach to investing in skills means that the total cost of training, in cash terms, is shared between two or more people. For businesses or individuals who employ apprentices or offer work-based training, the change means that they must increase their financial contributions to meet the cost of skills training in their workforce.

William Graham AM, Chair of the Enterprise and Business Committee

Expecting to be fully implemented by 2017, the Enterprise and Business Committee wanted to find out how this would impact Welsh businesses and training providers. Would the new framework help meet the Welsh Government’s aim of “ensuring that Wales develops a competitive edge in mobilising a productive and skilled workforce”?

The Committee held business breakfasts, in both North and South Wales to explore these issues further. The first meeting took place in Brains Brewery, Cardiff with a variety of representatives from the academic, business and training sectors.

Gwawr Thomas, Creative Skillset Cymru talks about taking part in the event and explains the importance of co-investment in skills within the creative industries:

Participants discussed the need to consider the different levels of financial support available to a variety of businesses who may be operating on different scales. Increased investment from employers may mean that those businesses then select candidates who have experience – which could see them neglect young candidates which would see the policy work against the Welsh Government’s aim.

Dylan's, Menai Bridge - Anglesey
Dylan’s, Menai Bridge – Anglesey

The second breakfast meeting took place in Dylan’s Restaurant, Anglesey with local training providers and business representatives. Iwan Thomas, the Regional Skills and Employment Lead for the North Wales Economic Ambition Board was one of the invited guests.

One of the key messages he wanted to get across was for the Welsh Government to consider a regional approach to co-investment, and how they should be taking the change forward:

Having held both business breakfasts, the Enterprise and Business Committee sent a letter of recommendations to the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James AM to consider in relation to the policy change. You can read the letter of recommendations here: http://bit.ly/1fzxrp1