What does the Well-being of Future Generations Act mean for Welsh towns?

December 5, 2017

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By Rebekah Menzies, Policy and Development Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 provides exciting opportunities, as well as significant challenges, for Wales. A world-leading approach to sustainable development, the Act places a statutory duty on public bodies to work better with people, communities and each other over the long-term to improve social, economic, environmental, and cultural wellbeing right across Wales – in rural areas, villages, towns and cities.

At the Carnegie UK Trust we are interested in towns. Millions of people across the UK and Ireland live in towns – they are critical to the wellbeing of many. However as my colleague Lauren Pennycook recently blogged about, towns are often ‘on the outskirts’ of many public policy discussions.

Over the summer of 2017, we convened roundtable discussions in two Welsh towns – Merthyr Tydfil and Llandudno Junction – in partnership with WCVA, to bring together key towns stakeholders to discuss the challenges and opportunities for Welsh towns. Our new report sets out the key themes that emerged from our discussions, and provides recommendations for Welsh and local government, the business and voluntary sectors, and individuals and communities with an interest in the wellbeing of their towns.

The Well-being of Future Generations legislation was a focus of both discussion. While the Act was seen as an exciting opportunity  for Welsh towns and the local people who live and work there, participants also reflected on the very real challenges provided by the Act.

Culture change within public bodies in Wales was seen as crucial to the success of the Well-being of Future Generations legislation. Under the Act, public bodies are required to use the ‘five ways of working,’ which include common themes apparent across other public service reform agendas, including thinking long-term and taking a preventative approach. These require a shift away from traditional behaviours and assumptions that are deeply entrenched in our public bodies.

Change requires strong leadership. The Future Generations commissioner has recognised this stating, “Delivering the Act is a challenge that will require the strongest leadership to make the most of the opportunities for change it offers.” There is an opportunity for Welsh Government, working with the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner, to lead by example and model the behaviours and culture change required by the Act, and ultimately achieve improved wellbeing outcomes for individuals and communities across Wales.

The importance of working across sectors for the success of towns in Wales was another focus of discussions. Participants stressed the need for public, voluntary and private sectors to work together – with local communities – to make towns in Wales a success. Cross-sectoral working is a key part of the Well-being of Future Generations legislation, encouraged by two of the ‘five ways of working’: Collaboration (with any other person (or different parts of the public body itself) that could help the body to meet its well-being objectives); and involvement (involving people with an interest in achieving the well-being goals, and ensuring that those people reflect the diversity of the area which the body serves).

Despite the challenges presented by the Well-being of Future Generations legislation, participants at our roundtable discussions were clear that Wales was ready to tackle these head on. There is a real opportunity afforded by the Act to make a difference to the wellbeing of local places and local people in Wales.

Our new report ‘Supporting local places and local people: Opportunities and challenges for Welsh towns’ is also available here in Welsh.