Must do better

Back in February Sophie Howe and her team at Future Generations Commission published a hard-hitting report into how public funds are spent in Wales. How does that affect construction?

This was the headline in late February:

“An urgent shake-up of the way £6 billion of public funds is spent in Wales is needed, according to the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.”

The argument put forward by Sophie Howe and her team was this: money spent by public services on new building projects, goods and services is often not being used in the interests of future generations, and Welsh Government is failing to show clear, joined–up leadership on spending.

If you’ve not read the report and the press statement then do so – it is well argued and much of the points made have an impact upon how construction projects are procured and delivered. Indeed, some of the problems highlighted are already known about and at CEWales we are part of a wider industry group seeking to remedy the issues Sophie Howe has mentioned.

One factor is that despite The Well-being of Future Generations Wales Act putting an obligation on Welsh public bodies, to make decisions today that don’t harm the abilities of future generations to meet their needs, these bodies – including Welsh Government lack the resources, expertise and personnel to enact the right policies.

That is a major barrier to delivering on Active Travel – hence why CEWales hopes to bridge that gap via training, guidance and facilitating a network of likeminded individuals.

This lack of support breeds a lack of confidence and hence perhaps a reliance on old ways of thinking. That reticence is why we still see buildings that cry out for innovation, stymied by short term concerns about costs and not long-term vision about outcome. There might be other factors involved, but this lack of resource and expertise is one reason why the projects to decarbonise schools and colleges are not moving at pace and why the construction sector reports ‘old new schools’ are often requested.

What’s needed is for the industry to challenge the brief given to by local authorities. This is something CEWales will be backing – otherwise as a nation we will not gain the benefits we need as a society, such as protecting the environment now and for the future, promoting Welsh language and culture as well as helping children live healthy lifestyles.  

More needs to be done by Welsh Government and public bodies to show how spending creates larger outcomes – from local jobs, skills and training opportunities, to supporting social enterprises and Welsh suppliers.  This is something we are supporting.

Right now we are part of the Construction Industry Forum working to resolve many of the issues the FGC has highlighted and we are doing that work at the centre of Government. But we also are wholly aligned with Sophie Howe’s team and applaud the work of The Commissioner.