Headlines: December 2nd, 2004

Plans for reform of the remaining Quangos operating in Wales have been announced by the Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan. The proposals come after an in-depth review of the role and function of the bodies as part of wider public service reforms.In the summer Mr. Morgan announced that three of the largest Quangos – the Welsh Development Agency, Wales Tourist Board and ELWA- would be brought into government to improve both democratic accountability and the way services are delivered. The new announcement covers the reform programme for the remaining third of what he called ‘the Quango state.’

Because consideration has been given to the various structures and functions within the organisations they are being dealt with in a number of ways. The decisions reached include no changes to the statutory functions or structure of the Countryside Council of Wales, but the implementation of the Tir Gofal scheme will transfer to the Assembly Government, to provide farmers and landowners with access to agri-environment schemes through a single source. No changes are being proposed to the structure of the Environment Agency Wales, but the statutory guidance in this area will be updated and reinforced.

The Welsh Language Board will cease to be a Quango and its staff and functions will transfer to the Government. The President and Director General of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales and the President and Librarian of the National Library of Wales will join a new Culture Board, which will also include representatives of local government.

No significant changes are proposed to the structure of the National Library of Wales or the National Museum and Gallery of Wales. However, their relationship with the Welsh Assembly Government will be strengthened to ensure a more coherent approach in this area. The Sports Council for Wales will continue to distribute grant aid and lottery funding but, as with the Arts Council, strategy, policy and planning will be integrated with the Government agendas.

Health Professions Wales will be wound up and its functions transferred to other bodies and the Wales Centre for Health will be set up as an independent source of advice. The Assembly Government is to ask for proposals for integration between the NHS Trusts and Local Health Boards where there would be benefits to patients. No changes will be made to the structure of the Care Council for Wales.

The changes are expected to take place by 2007. Resources released following integration will be used for front-line services. Steps will be taken to ensure that all the staff involved get adequate information about changes and there will be further consultations on areas including advice for staff, protection of employment rights and continued workplace flexibility.