Welsh Government’s ‘Valleys Taskforce’ – has it made a difference?
Nearly four years ago, the Welsh Government established a taskforce to "direct and lead the regeneration and sustainable growth of the Valleys". Today the National Assembly for Wales' Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee is launching an inquiry to find out if the Taskforce has made a difference to the lives of people living in valleys communities.
A number of concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of the Taskforce. The Committee is focusing on areas including:
- the extent to which the Taskforce is benefitting valleys communities
- whether the Taskforce has targeted areas where help is most needed
- how the Taskforce's work should be taken forward after it disbands in March 2021
The Welsh Government set out priorities for the Taskforce, looking at employment, training, support for businesses, support from public services, health inequalities, public transport, education outcomes, natural resources and heritage, town centres and tourism.
In employment for example, the Taskforce set a target of helping 7000 people into fair work. The Committee will be looking at this to assess if the Taskforce is on track to achieve its goals by the time it disbands in March 2021.
Russell George AM, Chair of the National Assembly's Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee said:
"In 2016 the Welsh Government set out very ambitious goals and a wide remit for the Valleys Taskforce and since then we have heard warm words about its work. We have also heard criticisms that the Taskforce needs more resources and a clearer focus.
"Our job as Assembly Members now is to work out if these warm words from the Welsh Government have translated into actual improvements for people living in the valleys.
"The Taskforce set out to improve employment prospects and training, tackle health inequalities, improve public transport and housing and upgrade town centres. We will now be holding the Taskforce and the Welsh Government to account to see if things have changed.
"The Taskforce is scheduled to disband in 2021 and what we want to know is if it will leave behind a positive legacy for local people."
Helen Cunningham from think tank, the Bevan Foundation added:
"The valleys taskforce represents a crucial recognition by the Welsh Government of the need for dedicated action and resourcing for the south Wales valleys. We've previously outlined some of our concerns about the extent to which it addresses the underlying challenges and targets its efforts towards the places that require them the most. I think that now is a good time to examine its impact and where it goes next."
Chwarae Teg, a charity that works to increase gender equality in the Welsh economy, undertook analysis of the Valleys Taskforce. They highlighted a number of positive elements of the Taskforce's work, but concluded that it had been a 'missed opportunity' to maximise the benefit of the Taskforce for women.
Natasha Davies, Policy and Research Lead at Chwarae Teg said:
"The work of the Valleys taskforce has the potential to play a crucial role in tackling the causes of gender inequality. Women continue to dominate in low paid, part-time work, take shorter, more frequent journeys on public transport, are less likely to set up their own business and are more reliant on public services. With areas of the valleys having a gender pay gap as high as 25%, it's clear that this inequality needs to be addressed.
"Delivering better outcomes for women in the Valleys will require different interventions. It's therefore critical that this inquiry consider how programmes to improve employment, transport and public services in the Valleys are delivering for whole communities and whether solutions are responsive to the needs of women, and are designed and delivered with women's different experiences and challenges in mind."