Our best bits of 2016

December 20th 2016

Victoria Winckler reflects on some of the highlights of the last 12 months.

Bron Afon mother & child 800

 

The last twelve months as Director of the Bevan Foundation have, once again, proved interesting.  There’s been the ever-present challenge of keeping going on a shoe-string (our income is just £150,000 – all generated by our own efforts). And there’ve also been extraordinary real-world events, from the EU referendum result to the US presidential election to Theresa May becoming PM.  With every prospect of further big challenges ahead, new ways of making Wales fair, prosperous and sustainable are needed now more than ever.

We’re proud to have made such a valuable contribution to public policy and debate over the year – so here are my top five highlights.

1. Goodbye Communities First?

Our online article about the positives and negatives of Communities First was a runaway success. It was the most popular page on our website after our home page. It also generated a lot of press, broadcast media and social media interest.

We now know that ‘resilient communities’ are the next big thing.  It remains to be seen if this idea will be more carefully thought-through than Communities First was.  Incidentally, we’re looking for sponsorship to undertake some work on ‘resilient communities’ so please get in touch if you can help. 

2. Prosperity without Poverty

Not quite the most popular web page of the year but no less important was our report with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on effective ways of cutting poverty.  This was the result of four years of evidence reviews, modelling, thinking and policy development. The report provides the first comprehensive, evidence-based blue-print for action ever produced. Crucially, it offered something more than the UK report ‘with a Welsh accent’ and included specific proposals such as a new-style Enterprise Zone for Wales’ most deprived areas.

The recommendations were welcomed by Government and opposition alike – the challenge now is to persuade government, public bodies and businesses to deliver it on the ground.

3. Wales after Brexit

The Bevan Foundation team was not especially surprised by the result of the EU referendum. This was perhaps because we don’t sit in the Cardiff bubble and because I for one spend a lot of time on public transport – the typical bus user is most definitely in favour of leaving! In the aftermath of the result, it felt like many of our leaders (of all kinds) were running round like headless chickens.

Our short paper, Wales after Brexit  attempted to set the agenda as Wales faced a seismic shift in the rules governing its economy, society and environment. The challenges are about much, much more than the loss of a few million pounds of EU money. They are about how to manage potentially the biggest economic restructuring Wales has ever experienced and how to address deep social and cultural divisions.

It clearly had resonance because it was number 2 in our website charts.

4. Making Wales a Living Wage Nation

Hands up, the voluntary Living Wage is not a new idea. But it’s a damn good one, and one which has had relatively little impact in Wales. We used funding from several sources including the Coalfield Regeneration Trust to put together action plans to increase take-up of the Living Wage. These covered Wales, Cardiff Capital Region and Merthyr Tydfil respectively. Our findings generated a lot of interest and we’re already beginning to see results. Eighty four employers now accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.

5. New Taxes for a Better Wales

We seriously got into taxes in 2016 with the launch of our recommendations for eight new taxes that the National Assembly for Wales could introduce under its Wales Act (2014) powers. To be honest, promoting the idea that the Assembly could and indeed should grasp and use its new powers was as important as the specific taxes we recommended.  We were pleased that the Plaid manifesto included the proposal for a tax to encourage innovation and r&d. We hope that the Welsh Government will take forward at least one new tax once Land Transaction Tax and Landfill Disposals Tax have bedded in.

And if all this wasn’t enough for a team of four – myself and Nisreen Mansour plus part-time admin support – there was also:

  • our recommendations on the scope to devolve social security benefits for working age people to Wales
  • our call for action in anticipation of devolving Attendance Allowance
  • our recommendations on the priorities of the new Assembly committees

We could not do this without the support of the hundreds of individuals and organisations who subscribe.  They help us to undertake work that charitable trusts and foundations are not able or willing to fund. They also ensure we continue to be independent of government. You can find out more about the benefits of a subscription here

Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation. 

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