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Devolution’s long journey

May 1st 2019

On the 20th anniversary of devolution, Victoria Winckler looks at how the Bevan Foundation has contributed to devolution’s long journey and invites you to join with us for devolution’s next phase.

Image National Assembly for Wales CC Licence

May marks 20 years since the National Assembly for Wales came into being.  The first elections were held on May 6th,  new Assembly members were sworn in a few days later, and the state opening of the Assembly occurred at the end of the month.

Has devolution made a difference?

Over the last 20 years, Welsh public policy has become increasingly distinctive from that in the rest of the UK.

In the early years, there was very little policy development capacity in Wales at all. There were only half the number of officials in Cathays Park then as there are today, and most of them had administrative rather than policy roles.  It was not uncommon for Welsh policy documents of the late 1990s and early 2000s to be a crude rehash of a parallel document for England, despite the mantra that policies were ‘made-in-Wales’.

Since then, the Assembly has acquired some new responsibilities as well as gaining powers to make laws and raise taxes, and to organise its own elections.

Now, it is easy to point to policies that are making a real difference to people’s lives.  Things like the reduction in the number of plastic carrier bags used; the increase in waste recycling rates; the adoption of presumed consent for organ donation; free NHS prescriptions and student loans that allow young adults to be independent of their parents, to name but a few.

The maturing of devolution is due in part to the contribution of the Bevan Foundation

Think-tanks are a vital part of our democratic system. They add to the diversity of policy ideas, supplementing and challenging received wisdom, hold governments to account and create space for debate.  Becoming operational in 2002, the Bevan Foundation has been part of the devolution journey.

The Bevan Foundation has challenged the Welsh Government many times

We have challenged the Welsh Government many times, sometimes to the chagrin of politicians and officials.  We’ve quoted the Welsh Government’s own statistics to ask why they are not doing more to solve poverty and regenerate the valleys – prompting the 2012-16 Tackling Poverty Action Plan and the Heads of the Valleys Programme of the mid-2000s.

The Bevan Foundation has set the agenda and introduced new ideas

We don’t follow the herd, and bring issues – sometimes unpopular ones – to the fore. Here’s a few examples:

  • We opened up discussion about legislative powers ahead of the 2011 referendum – and now they’re part of the Assembly’s daily business.
  • We began the debate about new, devolved taxes. At the time, AMs asked in the Senedd if it was true that they had this power! Now plans are underway to introduce several new levies.
  • We argued that things could be done in Wales and locally to boost take up of the real Living Wage. And now the number of employers accredited by the Living Wage Foundation has trebled.
  • And we’ve kicked off serious consideration of devolving elements of migration policy to the Assembly – watch this space.

The Bevan Foundation has enabled debate

Through our events and publications, we’ve enabled a wide spectrum of people to share and test out ideas. Our annual lectures and after-plenary debates a decade ago led the way on topics such as human rights, vaccinations, austerity and politics in a digital age – to name but a few. All are still hot topics. More recently, we’ve shared ideas about the new working class, affordable social rents and new ways of reducing inequalities in health.  Again, hot topics.

Our contribution to devolution relies on our supporters

We cannot do this without the generous support of hundreds of people across Wales. They allow us to speak out, without fear or favour. They help us to be creative and innovative in finding solutions. And they enables us to be respected across the political spectrum for our independence.

But we need more supporters to make a difference in the next twenty years of devolution. Without you, we will not be here.

We would love to welcome you – and your colleagues, friends and families – to join our growing community – you can do it here.

Victoria Winckler is director of the Bevan Foundation. Find out more about what do here, and join with us here.

 

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