Headlines: March 1st, 2010

Public services across Wales have been uged to meet the ‘exceptional challenges’ posed by the current economic climate. The Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said better services would have to be delivered with no increase in spending but without all-round cuts.

Service providers including local authorities, NHS boards, police representatives, staff from government departments, third sector organisations and trade unions met in Cardiff where Mr. Jones said similar ‘summits’ would take place every four to six months. The idea is to build on the ‘Team Wales’ approach, which organised a series of similar meetings to help the country through the recession.

Mr. Jones said past experience showed what happened when financial pressures were translated into all-round cuts in services and front-line jobs and with those in greatest need often taking the biggest hit. “That is unacceptable. As a nation, we have to do everything we can to narrow the equality gap, not widen it,” he said. He hoped the meeting would establish shared commitment to building ways to pool effort and creativity, and added: “Building this response is everyone’s responsibility.”

Business and Budget Minister Jane Hutt said Wales was facing increasingly tight budgets and the challenge for services was to become more efficient and more innovative. She told the meeting, “We are beginning to see just what we can achieve if we start from the needs of the citizen. Efficient services across the public sector are nearly always better services.” Meanwhile, Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, said it was critical to have a sound relationship between the Assembly Government and local councils.