Y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus a Gweinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus

Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Mabon ap Gwynfor AS
Mark Isherwood AS Cadeirydd
Mike Hedges AS
Natasha Asghar AS
Rhianon Passmore AS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Adrian Crompton Auditor General for Wales, Audit Wales
Auditor General for Wales, Audit Wales
Dr Andrew Goodall Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Matthew Mortlock Archwilio Cymru
Audit Wales
Peter Kennedy Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Sally-Ann Efstathiou Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Tim Moss Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Fay Bowen Clerc
Katie Wyatt Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Lisa Hatcher Ysgrifenyddiaeth
Owain Davies Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:19.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:19.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau a dirprwyon
1. Introductions, apologies and substitutions

Bore da. Croeso. Good morning and welcome to this meeting of the Senedd, Welsh Parliament's Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee. I'm delighted to welcome a delegation from the Public Accounts Committee of St Helena, who are currently in the UK on a study visit and are observing today's meeting. Apologies to them that I and some of my colleagues can't be physically present, but fortunately some Members of the Senedd are present to meet you, hopefully, later and host you at lunch time.

So, no apologies for absence, I understand, have been received. Do Members have any declarations of registrable interests they wish to declare not already declared on the public record? No. Okay. Thank you.

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

Our first item is papers to note, and the initial paper to note is a letter from the director-general of the climate change and rural affairs group regarding Wizz Air at Cardiff Airport. He's written to the committee regarding the decision by Wizz Air to close its base at Cardiff Airport from the end of January 2023. Given this committee's ongoing interest in Cardiff Airport, Members may wish to consider the impact of this decision. Members will note that the director-general will write to the committee again once a better understanding of the implications is known.

Members will also be aware that the airport's accounts for 2021-22 were made available on the Companies House website on 18 January, having been signed off by the airport board and external auditors on 4 October 2022. Some Members have expressed an interest in scrutinising these accounts. The committee previously agreed to revisit its work on the airport on an annualised basis, with consideration next scheduled for the end of June this year. In light of recent developments relating to Cardiff Airport, Members may wish to bring forward this work. So, I invite Members to discuss the letter, if you have any comments, questions or observations, and I invite your views on whether you wish to revisit scrutiny of Cardiff Airport earlier than initially planned. So, Members, any comments? Natasha.

[Inaudible.]—that they've sent us. I appreciate, obviously, it's very new news in the eyes of everyone, but I would humbly suggest that the committee does go back and revisit this, because there is a very interesting sentence in the letter we received, which states:

'The Airport executive and board...are starting to work through the implications of Wizz Air’s withdrawal.'

So, it would be interesting to know what exactly their plans are now to make up for that loss that we've now had to incur by Wizz Air leaving Cardiff Airport. So, I would like to know what their up-and-coming plan is, because, obviously, it is taxpayers' money that's going into this. So, if we can look into it, what's going to be happening, what their key performance indicators are, going forward, it would be really appreciated.

Okay, and, presumably, therefore, you indicate you're supportive of bringing the date forward.

Unusually, Natasha and I are disagreeing on this. I don't want to bring the date forward. I think there are an awful lot of things that could happen in the airport industry and in holiday flights and such, low-cost flights. We've seen what's happened to Flybe. I would be amazed if one or more other low-cost airlines do not cease trading between now and June, and I think there'll be a whole range of changes taking place. I think that we need it to shake out between now and June. People have come out of COVID, they've got used to all their COVID support, how many of them are going to survive, where they're going to be going from. I think that we're better off waiting until June, which is only four months away, in order to address it. An awful lot, I think, is going to happen in the airline industry between now and then.

Okay, those are two views. I don't know, Rhianon, if you have a view on this.

Yes, I do, Chair. I think, equally, both of those viewpoints could be valid. I'd be interested, I think, more in waiting, towards Mike, in terms of finding out what is going to happen with air sector support from the UK, because this is not just affecting us, as everybody knows. What I do want is a sort of hybrid, if not one of the other suggestions, in the sense that we need to have our eye very, very closely attached to this and a lens to this. So, I'm stuck in between wanting to wait in terms of what is going to happen. I totally agree with Mike in terms of the real pressures that are on those who are using our airports, and also wanting to keep a lens on it. So, I'm in between, but what I do want is to make sure that we are actually keeping our eye very, very firmly on this. I do think it's a huge matter for us and it's one that we have every interest in as the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee.


Thank you. I don't suppose Mabon's—. No. Obviously, our role, as you all know very well, is not to consider the merits or otherwise of the policy decision behind this; it's to look at this from the perspective of our role in terms of effective and efficient use and administration of public resource. We've heard three different versions there, in a way, and all slightly different from each other. Can I just ask the Clerk, Fay, had Members agreed to bring it forward, what timings were you considering?

I can't hear anything.

I think we'd be looking around Easter time at the earliest, given the considerable workload of the committee at the moment. The work plan is full up until that point. So, whether or not you'd want to do it around that time or wait until June would be a matter for you to decide on.

I think we're looking at Easter time at the earliest.

Right. From what Members have heard, we have a choice: Easter time or back to June. Rhianon.

I'd be content to wait until June only if we have an opportunity to get another update from Welsh Government in terms of what the situation is now in terms of its volatility. What I'm slightly concerned about is we can meet and then something again will happen, but it's also then how we make ourselves aware as to what is actually happening.

I suggest we do that, but obviously keep a watching brief. Should we need to add this as an agenda item—

Chair, I'm happy to wait until June in that case, purely because, if the difference is just two months and one of those months we're going to be off anyway, it's absolutely fine for us to take that extra time. I completely agree with what you and Rhianon have both said. If anything exceptional happens between that time and now, I'm absolutely more than happy to have an emergency meeting for it, but, otherwise, we can at least give them six months to pull a plan together and then present it to us.

Chair, can I just caveat what I'm saying? I think we also need to have an update around about that time as to what is happening. I don't want a black hole until June—that's what I'm saying.

Yes. Perhaps, then, we could have an update before the Easter period. Hopefully, by which time, we'll have received further correspondence from the Welsh Government, responding to this also, and there may have been further market developments, who knows. Thank you.

3. Cynllunio Gweithlu Llywodraeth Cymru: Sesiwn dystiolaeth (rhan 1)
3. Welsh Government Workforce Planning: Evidence session (part 1)

Okay, well, that brings us to the end of consideration of Cardiff Airport and takes us to our item 3, the Welsh Government workforce planning evidence session, which we're splitting into two parts. We'll be starting with the initial session now. I welcome the Permanent Secretary, Dr Andrew Goodall, and his officials to the meeting. I'd be grateful if you could state your names and roles for the record.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Bore da. Andrew Goodall ydw i, Ysgrifennydd Parhaol Llywodraeth Cymru.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. I'm Andrew Goodall, the Welsh Government's Permanent Secretary.

Good morning. Bore da. Tim Moss, chief operating officer and director general.

Bore da. Peter Kennedy, cyfarwyddwr adnoddau dynol. 

Good morning. Peter Kennedy, human resources director.

Peter Kennedy, HR director.

Bore da. Sally-Ann Efstathiou, deputy director for HR.

Thank you very much indeed for that, and also thanks for being with us today. As you would expect, we have a number of questions. I once again ask both members of the committee and you as witnesses to be succinct so that we can cover the wide range of issues this topic has generated. We'll be taking a comfort break at around half past 10 before then continuing with our final questions. I will open the questions as per convention as Chair by asking you to what extent you believe that the staff cost budget is driven by need, rather than political imperatives to contain running costs and staff numbers.


Diolch, Cadeirydd. Just briefly as I comment, I'm aware, Chair, that this is my first opportunity since I attended last time, so if I could just confirm for the record, but I know you're aware of it, that we were able to sign off the Welsh Government's annual accounts. That was the matter under consideration in our last meeting, and it's just my first chance to register that with you in line with the timetable that we had agreed. Secondly, if I could just also say that the timing of the Audit Wales report was really helpful to us, just as reflections and recommendations, not least that we were coming out of the pandemic experience and seeking to be less reactive and get ourselves back into some longer-term thinking as well. 

Our staff costs budget comprises many different elements and factors, some of which are outside of our hands, some of which are choices—the number of staff that we have, our grade mix, pay awards, any increases in pension or national insurance contributions. There's progression for staff and there's also the way in which we may alter some of our staff patterns, with staff joining the organisation for functions, or, actually, us deciding those functions are elsewhere. The budget is driven by a range of things. Of course it's driven by need. That need can be reactive because things simply arise. We saw that, of course, in the pandemic very significantly, but more recently we'll have seen it in terms of things like the Ukraine response, where we needed to respond.

There is a need driven by requirements that are set for the organisation, and they are absolutely a translation of programme for government expectations. I have a responsibility to lead the response of the organisation to those, although the programme for government is something to be delivered over a five-year period, so there is an aspect of how we would interpret the staff needs based on the delivery timetables in place. 

There are also core Welsh Government responsibilities. I'm still struck, even in my new role more so with a helicopter view of the organisation, about just the range of responsibilities that we have. If you think about functions that we have like CAFCASS, the family justice service, or Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Care Inspectorate Wales, there are statutory responsibilities associated with some of our areas. And then also our staff costs budget does need to be driven by the discipline of managing budgets, and certainly coming in to speak to the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee here today, recognising that when budgets are set, we do have responsibilities to live within our means and make judgments in line with that. 

From a corporate perspective and also in support of the group arrangements that we have in place, of course there are choices that we need to make at different times to try to balance the workload of the organisation, but I hope that during this evidence session we'll be able to describe, perhaps, some of the longer-term approaches that we're taking, including our opportunity to work differently to achieve outcomes for citizens in Wales, but also, I hope, to underpin and support our staff with the variety of objectives that are set for them as well. 

Thank you. I took that to mean that there are a number of responsibilities that must be undertaken, but nonetheless you operate within finite budget resources that you have to satisfy, and therefore that need has to be qualified by that in terms of wider provision, numbers of staff and roles undertaken. Developing that context, there seems to be a pattern of grade enrichment. Why has there been an increase in the proportion of staff in more senior grades since 2009-10, and how does the Welsh Government ensure that jobs are correctly graded to achieve value for money in that context? 

Chair, I may bring in Tim on this just to allow some comment on this, but in general terms, I would say that we see a trend across the civil service over time that will mean that some of the administrative duties that traditionally would have taken place may have been converted in different ways. All of us have had the advantages of technology and working differently along the way. Certainly, we have needed to identify some need for changes. Again, I have spoken to the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee over the last 12 months about some of the structural changes that we put in place in the organisation. And that, actually, did include, for example, a decision that we took about the introduction of a director general chief operating officer role. During the pandemic, again, with some agreement, we needed to take a different approach around some of our senior leadership approaches in the organisation. There were absolutely some areas that required us to work in a really different manner. I don't think that this was necessarily unique to us in Welsh Government, and we see that kind of trend more generally. But it may be worth Tim just coming in perhaps to speak about the way in which we try to make sure that that is a consistent approach, and that we do allow some of the comparisons and use the mechanisms in place that are used right across the civil service. So, Tim, to you.


Thank you, Andrew. Thank you, Chair. Just to follow on from what Andrew was saying, I think that, if you look over that period of time, there have been significant shifts across the whole of the civil service, especially as more and more of our processes are online, there's more self-service, there's more automation, and you've seen a shift generally in the workforce from less of some of the more administrative grades up to more senior policy roles. I think that that's a trend that's happened right the way across the civil service—it's certainly happened in the previous organisations that I've been involved in as well. So, I think that there's a general trend, reflecting, I think, the workforce more generally within the UK.

In terms of the latter part of my question, how you ensure that jobs are correctly graded, what job evaluation processes or equivalent do you operate to ensure that?

We have a well-established system, known as the job evaluation for senior posts system, which again is used across the civil service and many other areas, to ensure that, whenever there is a role that needs to be evaluated, there are standard criteria that it's evaluated against. And so, this is an industry standard process that we go through. There's a policy whereby any role that hasn't been evaluated, I think, for five years, when it comes up again, it's automatically re-evaluated, as well as any new roles that are created, to ensure that we have that consistency and fits within the structures that we have in the organisation.

Thank you. Can you confirm—and if you can, please do—whether UK Government departments have the same system of incremental progression as the Welsh Government, allowing staff to progress to the top of the salary band in equal steps, subject to satisfactory performance? If not, is this leading to any divergence between Welsh Government salary rates and civil service averages, and to what effect?

Chair, if Tim could perhaps steer us into that, and then, at a technical level, Peter Kennedy may be able to just help out, with his director of workforce responsibility. Thank you.

Thank you, Andrew. I think that what you'll see across the civil service is a range of pay and progression systems that exist, right the way across. Certainly, my experience of being in three separate organisations, across the civil service, would confirm that. I think that what's certainly happened in Welsh Government, and also work that I was involved in both at Companies House and the Intellectual Property Office, is around the whole area of how do we ensure that the pay system is fair, and especially issues around equal pay, about having shorter pay spans and clearer progression steps that exist within that. And it's under that sort of aim to ensure that we have a fair and equitable pay system that many organisations in the civil service have tried to shorten their pay bands. Obviously, where there are other parts of the civil service that may have much longer pay bands, then, obviously, that can lead to differences in the rate at which staff can progress through those grades and get to the top of the bands. So, there will be differences that occur, but I think that the underlying principle behind it is how do you ensure that you have a pay system that is fair and equitable for everybody, and minimises issues around gender pay gap and unfair pay systems. So, there are differences, but I think that there is good reason, and it links to the aims of what we're trying to do to ensure fairness.

Chair, a factor would be, of course, the extent to which we retain our staff, the way in which people make choices about joining the organisation, and the length of time that people will actually spend in Welsh Government, which may be different from other UK departments, where people can choose to move across offices that are in the same vicinity. I just wonder whether Peter may be able to help with some of that understanding.

Can I just clarify, when you use the term 'the civil service', are you referring to the UK civil service or the part of the UK civil service that works in Welsh Government? And in that context, notwithstanding the explanation provided so far, is there any pattern of divergence between Welsh Government salary rates and UK civil service averages?


Peter can explain that. We of course are the UK civil service, but we work in the Welsh Government organisationally. But, yes, we would distinguish that from the rest of the civil service and, Pete, you may just be able to help to further explain that. Thank you.

I'll certainly try. Chair, Tim mentioned two organisations that he's worked for previously, prior to coming to Welsh Government. If you look at the whole of the UK civil service, there are some very, very large departments—the Department for Work and Pensions, for example—and then some smaller departments and a variation across quite a broad church, if you like. The Welsh Government executive function, so the officials, the civil service, would fall into the smaller size of organisation. There's quite a lot of commonality across those pay ranges. Whereas Tim described organisations have done quite a lot to drive down the length of pay scales, some of the larger departments in the UK Government still have very, very long pay scales, which cause them a bit of a problem. The costs associated with addressing those long pay scales are quite considerable. It's easier for a smaller organisation to deal with that.

So, I'd argue that there's quite a lot of commonality across organisations that we might compare and contrast with in size—the Scottish Government, I think, is a reasonable example, probably our closest comparator—and there's quite a lot of alignment with not just pay arrangements but quite a few of the policies and approach we take to managing the workforce, with the Scottish Government. So, it's such a large and complex entity as a UK civil service. There is variation, but there is quite a lot of commonality as well and, certainly, where we are trying to source specialist skills, there is a bit of competition.

Whitehall, the UK civil service, do find that it causes a lot of movement between departments, because to get a significant pay rise without a promotion, an individual would need to move from department to department, which causes quite a lot of churn within the UK civil service, certainly around the London area, where, as I'm sure the committee will appreciate, there's a high concentration of civil service departments and jobs. So, it's a difficult answer to give you, to say that there isn't a divergence, because there is, but that divergence is more around the larger departments, I would argue, than organisations we're more closely aligned to. I hope that gives a flavour. But it is a very complex space, the whole UK civil service pay arrangements, and there's not a one-size-fits-all.

My final question in this section before I move on to a colleague: what evidence, if any, exists that committee could consider to look at whether comparable jobs operating within the Welsh Government to those operating with the UK Government, based on evaluations of job factors, particularly responsibility levels, are equivalent, and to what extent there might be divergence, if any?

Just to give a general comment, Chair, and maybe we could think about how we could give some description to the committee on the job evaluation mechanism, because that is something that provides that consistency that you're looking for. Because we have staff who will stay with us for longer in our organisation, and they will work their way through progression, you may see some difference in some of those salary levels, because staff are tending to stay. On the other hand, when we look at our senior civil service salaries and compare and contrast them, they will tend to be lower when we're looking at the way in which other departments organise themselves.

I think there are a couple of things on what you're saying, again, to show why, working on a range of Government functions rather than departmental functions, we are affected. We tend to end up with responsibilities that work—. If I could just give a hypothetical example: if there are 100 activities to do, we may find that a UK Government department may have 10 people who are undertaking those activities. In the Welsh Government, we may have the same 100 activities to undertake but we'll tend to have one. So, we find quite a breadth of responsibilities in the way that our own senior civil servants and other grades of staff are having to step into broader conversations that occur, particularly in their interaction with other departments. And it's true even when you take a look at the number of directors general, for example, within our organisation in contrast to other departments. We actually have a lower number, whether you're comparing with Scottish Government or with other departments like the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for example, or even the Department of Health and Social Care. So, there's something about the way in which we organise ourselves and perhaps less on very specific and concentrated issues, and more with a breadth of understanding, as well. But, certainly, we have to demonstrate that we take a consistent approach to salaries and, obviously, in the senior civil service side, a lot of those arrangements are overseen by Cabinet Office, whether it's judgments on pay awards and on the schemes that apply. So, of course, there is a particular focus on that. So, perhaps a summary of some kind, Chair, just to describe the technicalities—that might just help, as a note of understanding for the committee.


Thank you, Chair. I think, just to add to what Andrew has said, in addition to standard processes like the job evaluation for senior posts system, we're also involved in a number of professions across Whitehall across the UK Government, whether it be the finance profession or the statistical profession—to give just two examples. So, there is also that commonality in terms of how the professions approach different roles and different grades, which ensures some of that commonality and to ensure that particular roles and grades are of a similar or of an equivalent, as well. 

Okay, thank you. Rhianon Passmore will now take up the questions.

Thank you very much, Chair. I've unmuted myself at the same time as you. Turning to glass ceiling and gender pay gaps and other issues with gaps and other issues in that regard, I'm feeling slightly encouraged, reading through this, that the general trends are definitely moving in the right direction with regard to the need to reflect the general population—71 per cent of internal promotions of women, up 29 per cent; 56 per cent of external appointments in the senior civil service; 50 per cent of overall promotion to the section civil service is women; the percentage of staff with a disability has risen by 5.9 per cent; and the percentage of ethnic minority staff has risen. But, obviously, we can't be complacent, and we don't intend to be. My question, really, then is: how is the Welsh Government intending to meet its external recruitment, specifically around disabled and ethnic minority staff, who haven't had that same incremental rise? I don't know who wants to go first.

Thank you. I'll go first, and thank you for just recognising some of those changes that we have seen. But I also completely accept your description that this should not at all be about complacency. There is so much more progress to make, and if I could just split it into areas that I'm happier with and some areas that we need some revised focus on, certainly, I agree on the gender composition. I think there is genuine progress on that. There are around an extra 50 additional female SCS members, as we've ended up with colleagues leaving their roles and with some of the expansion of roles as well. As you highlight, we can absolutely show that we are in line with our targets for achieving more than 50 per cent on the recruitment processes that are taking place as well. And, in fact, if you go back to 2018, the proportion of senior civil service staff was only 38 per cent female at that time. It has gone up to 46 per cent, which does give me some confidence about us moving to that 50 per cent level. Actually, at all of our other grades, bar SCS, we are achieving that 50 per cent target, including some of the senior grades below the senior civil service. But, I think I said this at one of our previous committee meetings, actually, as a visible sign of changes as well, I'm really pleased that 50 per cent of the director generals in Welsh Government are female as well, which, obviously, is really important to make sure that we have that representation at the highest level as well, including around the board table too.

We are seeing progress on our numbers, as in improvements, in respect of our approach to disabled people in the organisation and also for ethnic minority groups as well, but that has not been happening at the same pace. I think we can be satisfied that, on the internal promotion side, definitely, those targets are working for us. But I think the diversity of the organisation can only really change, of course, if we have colleagues who are joining us from outside of the organisation and, over the last couple of years, and even at the moment, in respect of budget, there is some control around external recruitment, which we hope that we can continue to allow for. But if we don't have new entry points into the organisation, you're only moving existing colleagues around the organisation.

But if I could say, again from a visible perspective, because I think this is important, I've been really pleased, however, to see an increase in senior civil service members who are from an ethnic minority background. So, that is again visible in the organisation. And I think it's really important to recognise that colleagues like Sue Tranka, who's joined us in the chief nursing officer role, and Jas Pal Badyal who's just been appointed as the chief scientific adviser, are, again, very visible leaders from an ethnic minority background, showing, I think, that some of our processes are working, about fairness within the organisation, which, I think, is the underlying principle as well. 


Absolutely. So, to just interject, then, in terms of the practical steps that we are taking to achieve our targets for external recruitment, yes, I agree with everything you've just said in that regard. So, what, practicably, is happening to be able to improve external recruitment in those two areas that I've mentioned?

Well, I think one very visible example will be about how, alongside the targets that we're setting, the anti-racist Wales plan sets some very clear leadership recruitment targets for the Welsh Government itself. And that's important for me to ensure that we are an exemplar in that process and that [Inaudible.] change. I don't know, Sally-Ann, whether you just want to talk us through some of the practical steps, from a HR perspective, that we're introducing in the organisation that introduce that fairness. 

Yes, certainly. So, Andrew talked about the focus initially being on the promotion and development of our own staff. What that's given us is an opportunity to look at the kinds of things that work and how we can remove barriers. So, one of the most positive things that we've done, particularly for disabled colleagues, has been around our recruitment adjustment process. So, most civil service organisations, and lots of organisations, have a recruitment adjustment process and over the last 12 months, we've really enhanced that. So, that's very much linked to the social model of disability and is candidate-led. So, what that means is it's very much around what the individual needs in terms of removing barriers. And we've got 150 colleagues in the organisation now who have passports. What that's enabled us to do is to learn lessons from that to apply to our external recruitment. So, it's still early days, but that's certainly one area that we will be looking to build on to use it, but we will accelerate that even more so through the next year.

We have undertaken outreach for all of our recruitment campaigns. That's usually a standard part of our recruitment, but, again, we've really refocused. So, we've worked with a community mentor and we've sought advice from other organisations, and really built on our outreach approach. So, certainly for our apprenticeship scheme—

Can I just interrupt you, Sally-Ann, if that's okay? I know the Chair wants to move on, but very, very briefly, when you say community outreach—because, obviously, this starts at source, in terms of recruitment, in terms of this particular questioning—we are outreaching into our local schools in Cardiff. In particular, I'm thinking of some of the schools—particularly one that I did my teacher training in—where there's a vast amount of people who would be very interested in a position within the Senedd and Welsh Government and the Commission, but it wouldn't be agenda. So, I'm hoping that that's going to happen. I'm going to move on. I don't know if anybody wants to come in on those points, but I'm going to move on.

In terms of when we expect—this is the biggie, the big question: when do we expect to achieve gender parity in the senior civil service as a whole?

As I outlined in the first question, I think, if you look at the grades we have, and our pipeline for leadership, you can see that all of the elements are in place there on the internal promotion. I think we can also see confidence on that. The shift from 38 per cent to 46 per cent shows that there is progress. I think calling out the final moment when it happens is really difficult for us to do, partly because it will depend on who's leaving which posts in the organisation, firstly. Equally, it will also depend on some of those external mechanisms that we've put in place as well. I feel very close, and I would really hope that, over this next couple of years in particular, we would see ourselves going over that threshold, but I sort of feel that I'm slightly dependent on the colleagues who will look for other progression and other career opportunities as well. But, yes, we're very focused on it, and like I said, I'm really pleased that the DG composition is 50:50, because I think that's a really important statement. 

And I think it's very encouraging; thank you. I'm going to move on. In terms of the external recruitment process from outside the civil service for permanent staff—which was frozen for, at the time, possible reasons that we don't really need to go into now—in terms of what the implications of this approach have been, in terms of the autonomy of groups to be able to backfill specialist roles, particularly in IT, and to have that ability to not go with a begging bowl, what is the situation here in terms of where we move forward?

Well, I think we're trying to make sure that we have the right balance of the corporate accountability, because I have to come in here leading the Welsh Government, and making sure that we manage within our budgets, have controls in place, show that the governance is available, but, also, to make sure that our structures feel that they are able to focus on the things that they need as well. So, there are examples in the organisation where, despite the overall approach—. We won't go into detail, but the need for us to redeploy staff under the pandemic was just really the controlling aspect. It wasn't really a budgetary issue; it was the need to make sure that we could target people to the responsibilities and the duties that need to be carried out.

We have got some particular areas that operate in a more unique set of circumstances, including our regulators, because they will be going out to a market, for example, for social workers, which is not going to work from an internal civil service perspective. They are professional roles and areas that come out. So, Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Cymru, Health Inspectorate Wales, Care Inspectorate Wales—all of them have the flexibility to go externally for their roles, and that works alongside their budget responsibilities. We're just trying to make sure that we can now have a bit more confidence around delegation within the organisation, and part of that is to make sure that there is a real clarity about the workforce budgets that are in place and the decisions that people can make locally. But of course, there's lots of choice for people to do things within the groups, but we need to make sure that that all adds together on behalf of the whole organisation—that we actually have a plan that works, as well. So, we have had external adverts for groups at this stage. At some point, I would be hoping that we could really have that established so that it is leaders down the organisation, rather than at the board level, where we are making those controls, and there are some examples that would give us confidence about that as well.


Finally, in regard to what you see as a healthy level of turnover, what's your comment around that, and how does Welsh Government intend to change its approach around external recruitment for posts below the senior civil service?

There are a couple of changes that are being led, including that the senior civil service is overseen by UK civil service, and they make some decisions on external, but I wonder, on the turnover aspect—. It's probably worth Peter and Sally-Ann giving you a professional perspective on that, about what feels normal and when we would be worried or want to take further actions. Peter, first.

Thanks. So, what is normal turnover? Average turnover in the UK is around 15 per cent. It varies, literally, month by month, and some sectors have got massive turnover. I'm thinking of retail in particular at the moment: 50 or 60 per cent. Nursing homes, just to take it more into the Government-type sector, probably run at about 80 or 90 per cent turnover. Government-type roles generally tend to be on the lower end, between 1 and 5 per cent, and we're running at the moment at around about 5 per cent. And that's varied. It's decreased since last year and the year before was a little bit less as well—probably predictable, considering what we went through with the pandemic.

So, the CIPD, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the professional body for human resources, they believe, or they suggest, that a high level of turnover would be 12 per cent or greater. So, some of those sectors, clearly, have got problems, and they're well rehearsed in the press, aren't they? I don't think our turnover is a problem for us. Organisations need a level of turnover to refresh skills and capabilities on a regular basis. If we were running at 10 or 15 or 20 per cent, then I would be concerned, and I think the Permanent Secretary and the senior team would be concerned, but it feels acceptable. It feels within the right level of tolerance. The turnover rate itself—. I mean, I can go into a bit more detail and Sally-Ann can if needs be, but—

I don't think the Chair will allow that to happen. I think the point that wasn't addressed—. There are a couple of points that I wanted to but can't go into, Chair, so if we can write and ask those, that would be fantastic. Thank you very much, Peter. Thank you.

Okay, thank you. There are no further comments on this. I invite Natasha Asghar to take up the questions, please.

Thank you so much, Chair. Good morning, everyone. It's lovely to see you. I'm going to be asking you some questions about staff resourcing. I know my colleague, Rhianon Passmore, asked you a number of questions, but I'm going to try and delve in a little bit deeper with you all, if that's okay.

Obviously, with regard to everything you said about improving diversity and having more inclusion—that's music to my ears; it's the ultimate dream for all of us, I know. And I am really, really impressed, because I feel, having read the report, your intentions are genuinely there to see some improvement. But I just wanted to ask you some questions. I know you mentioned some of the plans that you have in place to have those improvements, which you've mentioned, about the recruitment adjustment process and the promotion and development of your staff, which is absolutely fantastic, but I wanted to know: do you have any annual targets in place that will actually show that these things are working?


Yes, it may be worth coming to some elements around our workforce strategy, but the specifics that I was describing there on gender, on diversity more broadly, have been the need to move from the intentions, as you describe, to something that can be tracked and monitored, so that we are able to describe the progress internally in the organisation, which is as important as it is to describe the progress that we're making to external stakeholders as well.

When we produce our workforce strategy, and we look to translate that into what it means on an annual basis—so, that is work that's in train this year—I would expect that we will need to make sure that those measures and outcomes are clear, because I do think that the way in which we've approached those diversity targets has demonstrated that you just need to know that you are on the right path and journey and that, also, you can put in the respective interventions. So, of course, there are general data and measures that tell us about the organisation. We use the staff survey, on the one hand, we know our sickness and absence rate, and we can track the turnover. But, I think we need to allow them to be more of an annual dashboard within the organisation.

Understood. Dr Goodall—and I'm more than happy to put this question to the other members here on the panel today—what number is the dream number where you can actually turn around and say, 'We've achieved success in this area'?

For the organisation?

For the organisation, yes, you can go for the organisation, or departmentally. It's entirely up to you. We often get percentages thrown at us and we often get thrown different facts and figures, but is there a magic number for you in this?

I don't think there's a magic number in the sense that there's a range of different areas. So, for example, I don't think that we could just simply set ourselves a workforce number for the organisation, because we are continuing to need to adapt our functions and responsibilities as we look forward as an organisation. And whilst there'll always be events, we just need to always look to balance the right number of staff and shape of the organisation. I think, on turnover, as Pete was saying, we can probably allow ourselves to say that the range feels as though if it was tripping between 5 and 10 per cent, we'd probably feel that we were starting to get a bit more concerned, but I think, for the next two or three years, we probably do need to see a turnover rate that's over 5 per cent if we're to get some of the external recruitment that's going to change the shape and diversity of the organisation.

I think, on sickness and absence, there's a danger of defending that the rates are reasonably consistent with how they've shown over the years, but I do worry about some of the underlying issues. So, I think you do need to get beneath some of the data and target things like the level of anxiety and mental health issues that are being expressed in the organisation. Whilst some of that might be from a pandemic context, I just think there's something about how our organisation represents society more generally, where many organisations are seeing that trend. So, I think we'd need to get the dashboard together, perhaps, to show that there is a more sophisticated approach to how we would allow that to work through. But, certainly, you can't suddenly change and transform an organisation overnight. 

Genuinely for me, though, one of the things that I do want to address on behalf of the organisation, because I feel that it's tied to the pandemic but something bigger, will be, over the next three to five years, the feedback we get from our staff on their resilience and well-being. It just feels as though it is in a better place and has been improving. And I think we do have some data that's helpful on that, around the staff survey in particular, which takes place every two years. 

Okay. Fantastic. Are there any particular skills—? We often talk about them, but are there any particular skills that you find are in short supply at the moment, and are there any short-term plans to address those gaps, going forward?

Tim, do you want to just give some reflection on skills? I do think a lot of the skills that have been necessary for us over the last two years, like the way in which we collaborate and reach out about resilience generally, I think we've been having to live and breathe those particular perspectives. But, there are some shortfalls of skills, definitely, that we experience. I think we have plans in place to try to mitigate some of that, but it tends to operate around some of the more specialist and technical areas in the organisation. But, Tim, did you just want to give a bit of an overview there? Thank you.

Yes, thank you, Andrew. To give you a really clear example, certainly in the digital skills space, which sits in my area, I'm working with our chief digital and data officer to understand the skill mix we've got, but also importantly what we need going forward and to have a clear strategy around what we need to do. As everyone knows, the marketplace for digital skills is incredibly competitive at the moment and very hot, and so we need to review what we need as an organisation, but also the way we recruit and reach out to that marketplace. So, that's certainly an area where we want to recruit and are doing so, and trying a number of things to hopefully ensure that we get the skills we need in the organisation, and I think there are a number of areas, especially in some of the specialist areas, where we look at how we attract the right people into the organisation.


Fantastic. Thank you so much for that. And are there any particular groups that are still subject to headcount controls within the civil service, and, if so, how will the headcount limits be set and managed going forward as well?

I just wonder, Peter, if you wanted to just describe that approach to our headcounts and some of the recent processes that we've put in place. Thank you.

Yes, thanks. So, we've moved away from headcounts to more of a focus on the overall budget. The Permanent Secretary has launched some work just after he joined on creating a delegation accountability framework, and we're just finalising that across the groups at the moment. So, the focus that we had on headcounts has certainly shifted to budget rather than headcount. Clearly we need to keep an eye on how the workforce is changing and reshaping all the time, but even through the time of headcount controls, there were parts of the organisation that weren't—. The committee may well be aware that there were organisations within the organisation, like the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Cymru, Care Inspectorate Wales, et cetera, that were free from the headcount controls and there was more of a focus on budgets. So, there's a big shift away from it.

The Permanent Secretary is working with the senior team at the moment just to finally land exactly how that looks; not how it's going to operate—we're clear on that—but that final baselining before we actually press the button on it. It's taken a little bit longer than certainly the Permanent Secretary had hoped. There's a bunch of reasons for that. It has been a busy time. I won't go into the detail of the pressures we've been under; I think the committee are well aware of those. But I think that's where we are and certainly we're hoping to finally land that very, very soon.

And if I could just give an example of why I think that's important because, of course, we still need to track the workforce numbers and the headcount, but I have been trying to allow an understanding of the importance of just managing, to make other decisions within the budgets. But I go back to the decision that was taken just three or four years or so ago, about investing in our digital and ICT services within the organisation, and repatriating a spend that was through contractors outside the organisation, allowing us to have our own staff approach. That meant that if we were to be challenged, we described the organisation as growing by 40 to 50 people. So, on a headcount basis, we may be criticised for it, whereas actually, from a budget perspective, it meant that we were able to demonstrate that we could make £4.9 million-worth of savings by actually investing in that internal infrastructure, and obviously making ourselves more resilient about that kind of digital outlook as well. So, that's just to give you a flavour of why I've been wanting to make sure that there's more of an understanding around the better use of our budgets, rather than just over-focusing too much just on the headcount and tracking the workforce numbers only.

Absolutely. Thank you so much. I know Rhianon Passmore's raised her hand; please, Chair, if you want to give Rhianon a chance to jump in, that's fine.

Very briefly in that regard, in terms of the areas that we were discussing previously in that regard, how much do you think of an issue has there been in terms of buying in external consultants because of a lack of an ability to externally recruit?

Yes, I mean it will be a factor for us and a number of organisations. On the one hand, and this will still be the case for us, there are absolutely appropriate moments for the use of contractors: they are a flexible resource, it happens within budget arrangements and we're able to target that, particularly when it's about short-term needs and requirements. Something like digital and our ICT infrastructure, for me, works in a really different way because there'll always be a need for us to have that available, but it is a difficult market to participate in and I think we have to show what our own offer is to staff who want to come and work for the organisation in that way. 

I think there are other examples where, I think, if we take those invest-to-save principles and, again, use public money better, but there are probably some other examples where we can make some choices like that: in areas like our legal services, for example, and maybe they'll tend to be a bit more around our specialist services as well. But, certainly, it's not a problem for some of our general use. But I've been trying to allow people to understand that we can make some different choices within the organisation and if we go back to the starting point for some of our discussion here, there is a value-for-money aspect about the way in which we organise ourselves as an organisation. If we can show that we are using public money better, it's about demonstrating that it's the same criteria that we set for other organisations in Wales as well.

Thanks, Rhianon. There is one final question that I have. It's very much a personal/professional one when it comes to it. Obviously, I am a huge believer in diversity, but I'm equally a believer in meritocracy as well, and the question was raised to me by a number of constituents in my region of South Wales East. They do see the news, they do see the headlines, and when diverse members are joining the Senedd at various levels and positions, it's always great to see, but there has been a question raised that, on certain occasions, individuals have been hired in civil service roles and they don't hail from Wales, they don't come from Wales. So, the question was put to me, and I'm going to put it to you, that many people are hired—. Obviously, ability, I'm sure, is going to be paramount when it comes to selecting the candidate appropriate for the role, but is that the sole definition, the diversity angle held, when it comes to hiring a good member of staff, or are a lot more factors looked into? Because the question is raised that a lot of people that are ticking the diversity boxes aren't actually hailing from Wales.


The focus for me is about fairness, and then it's about a fair process that allows the right outcome for the particular role and appointment. And having been involved in some of these mechanisms myself, certainly for the more senior side of things, I can absolutely say about the calibre of colleagues being appointed to roles that they're discharging. My interests are colleagues who bring with them a skill set and experience that helps us in our Welsh Government outlook, but also understand what we are trying to achieve in the organisation. We have a role of supporting Ministers, of course, in what they're looking to discharge, but we also have a role that is about making a difference to the people of Wales, and so, the fairness aspect is definitely about making sure that we're able to appoint good-quality candidates kind of right through. So, to give you that reassurance, they are checks that happen.

There are a number of processes in place, certainly for the more senior levels of the organisation, because it's not just only about an interview process. There are stakeholder panels, there are staff panels, so there are lots of different ways of triangulating about who is the right person as well. But Sally-Ann, just to comment on the fairness aspect, do you just want to comment on how we ensure that through the recruitment process itself we do deliver on what the Member was just asking about? Thank you.

Of course. Just to build on what Andrew said, our appointment will always be on merit. That's the basis of the civil service commission principles. But I think what's key here is—it links to what we were talking about earlier—just reducing any barriers to colleagues applying. So, it will always be on merit, and as Andrew said, there will always be a range of assessments, so one of the areas of work that we're looking at is how we reduce any barriers for people applying within those assessments, so that's a piece of work that we've got under way. But it's a combination, as Andrew said, of all of those things.

Some of the broader areas that we're looking at to introduce: so, we've introduced things like name-free recruitment, which is part of our commitment as part of the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan'. At the moment, that's across most of our schemes, but from later on this year, when we have our new system, that will mean for every recruitment, so that'll be for promotion, internal and external recruitment. So, we're always looking at ways of ensuring that we build that aspect of removing barriers into our recruitment, but notwithstanding the need to ensure that it is on merit.

And maybe, Chair, just—. So that it's not just about what we say, it may just be helpful to refer to the civil service commissioner approach, which happens on an annual basis. We work with them because they oversee the senior civil service appointments within Welsh Government. They categorise all of the departments and organisations across the UK. I'm really pleased to say that we're in the top category, so we are good. That's about a third of the civil service departments across here. And that means that they are checking in on a range of different things that ensure that fairness and consistency and the appointments on merit. But it also means that they are happy to work with us, with a bit of flexibility, about some of our approaches. So, there are a couple of pilot areas that they've asked us to lead, that possibly will feed back some good practice for the rest of the civil service as well. But I just thought, to give you that external context of how we are understood to be delivering in a civil service context. Thank you.

Thanks, Dr Goodall. Do you feel that the Welsh Government has seen a return to high levels of internal churn since the internal competition resumed after the pandemic? And if so, what is it you think is the impact on staff and the delivery of work?

If I could start it off, and perhaps I can come to Tim to help out with this. I mean, clearly, the pandemic experience was an extraordinary impact on us. I've had the chance to say so recently, and if I could just acknowledge how proud I am of the response of the civil service, and clearly, we have a responsibility to ensure that the civil service is able to recover itself. I'm not sure what a normal outlook looks like necessarily on the back of this experience, but there's definitely a need for us to allow for a normal approach to career progression, a normal approach to learning and development situations. But, Tim, do you just want to give your perspective? I know, coming in from outside as well, you probably have a more unique experience as well. Thank you.


Thank you, Andrew. Yes, I think, coming into the organisation, obviously, it's been through quite a significant period through the pandemic, and we're coming out from that. One of the things that has been really good to see is the approach that's been taken to look at the processes around things like internal promotion and progression and the whole recruitment process, both internally and externally. So, certainly, coming in from outside, I have a high degree of confidence in terms of the approach that's been taken to looking at this. Certainly, it also links into the work that Andrew's been leading on, the delegation framework, so that each group and each area really is understanding the roles that they've got, but also is then using that as the baseline in terms of future workforce planning and the roles that we've got. As I said, we're looking at developing all those processes and procedures going forward.

Excellent. Thank you so much.  I want to ask you a little bit about TDAs, so temporary duties allowances. What's the progress on reducing the use of TDAs now, going forward, in line with the new policy restricting their use, agreed with the trade unions in 2022?

It's quite a technical area for us, but I'm really pleased to say that there is good progress. We've managed to shift across our systems, and I think get this in good order. But Sally-Ann, do you just want to comment on, perhaps, some of the numbers and the way in which we've altered things over the last 12 months in particular? Thank you.

Of course. I think Members wouldn't be surprised that, obviously, during the pandemic, we needed to use all of our flexibility to the maximum effect, and, of course, TDAs were a crucial part of that. I think, over the last year, we've really focused on this area. Some of this was tied to our promotion arrangements. So, colleagues who were on TDA were actively encouraged to apply, or TDAs ended. So, in line with the policy, they are only temporary and can only ever be temporary. There isn't any opportunity to convert somebody who's on a temporary opportunity to a permanent promotion. Our permanent promotions are always through a fair and open process.

We have seen quite a drastic reduction in our reliance on temporary promotion allowance and TDA, obviously aligned to that work. Pre pandemic, we were running at just over 800 TDAs at any one time. We did peak at a higher level than that during the pandemic, but, in terms of our TPA arrangements, we currently have about 450 in the organisation, which feels like a much more realistic use of the TPA arrangements. So, just to be clear that we were very clear that we would get this to more standard, static-type numbers, but it's not to say that we would ever get rid of TPAs, because they do provide a really important developmental aspect in the organisation. But that work that we've done with our trade unions and with our staff networks has led to us being able to get to a more manageable number.

Sally-Ann, can I just ask you a sub-question? You said that pre pandemic you had 800 and you said you peaked during COVID, what was that peak figure, please?

At peak figure, it was about 1,100. So, obviously, we moved colleagues around, there were opportunities to develop in different areas, and we needed people for short-term projects or pieces of work. So, it was quite natural and to be expected, and I think many organisations, including Government departments, found themselves in a very similar position at that time. But we've worked really hard to, obviously, bring that back down, as we've started to recover from the pandemic. So, we're at a far more manageable number that we would expect at this moment in time.

Of course. Out of curiosity, I just wanted to know: what were the areas that had the main number or most focus of TDAs?

It would be really difficult to give you that analysis. So, I would imagine most teams across the organisation will use TPA as a mechanism. It really, at its basis, is around development opportunities, but also an element of short-term resourcing. So, TPAs are a tool used across all teams.

I think it goes back a little bit to your earlier question about how we use measures, and, to underpin what Sally-Ann has said, I think this is a tool in the tool bag. It's important that we know to use it. We know that getting to over 1,000 would be too high, although it would have been under exceptional circumstances. So, I think what we need to understand is what feels like the more normal level, which would feel like it should be somewhere between about 400 and 500.

Just to give some obvious examples as well, we're covering from people who will leave the organisation to TPAs for some exceptional issues that are being introduced—so, if you look at our Ukraine response, we had to introduce a number of areas very significantly there. Just standard things—maternity leave will occur, we'll plan for it, it just gives other opportunities, because you're only backfilling potentially for nine months or 12 months or so after somebody's set aside their role within the organisation. So, there is a positive use of this, but I was really pleased to actually see the progress we've been able to do to get to a more normal band and a more normal level.


Thank you so much, Dr Goodall. Chair, I see Rhianon's hand up, do you want to—?

In that regard—this is a very interesting area; I know the trade unions are involved as well—and talking about a normal level, obviously, this is a tool in the toolkit. How is it being monitored centrally, Dr Goodall, because, obviously, it can be used for many different reasons, as an incentivisation tool as well? How do we know when it gets back to a more normal level at this committee? Because, quite frankly, in terms of having a formal temporary contract, that is much more preferable in terms of these nebulous—. You know what I'm trying to say.

As I said, I think they have a purpose, but the purpose shouldn't be taken advantage of on this. I think that there are a range of different ways in which we'll know about it. First of all, I can say that, given the change that we've had, we've got very little evidence of people stepping outside those arrangements—perhaps some very small numbers in some exceptional areas, and there will always of course be exceptions. We do monitor it. So, Sally-Ann, there is a monitoring process in place, isn't there, that allows us to understand any TDAs that are outside of policy. It's why I know, coming in today, that we've got very small numbers indeed. Honestly, we would know very quickly as well, because it's just a regular item of concern, which has underpinned these actions with our trade union colleagues in social partnership. So, I think that regular contact that we have, both formally and also informally in the organisation, will give us that intelligence. But, Sally-Ann, there is a monitoring regime in place, where, even if groups and teams are making their own delegated decisions, we still have a chance to understand if that's a problem at the corporate level.

Yes. Shall I just give a little bit on that? So, every group has a HR business partner who works with them on their resourcing needs, including their TPAs, so it's monitored within group and then we review that at a central level. As Andrew said, at the moment, we don't have any of the new arrangements that are outside of policy. The idea is that TPAs are for a maximum of a year with potential, in exceptional circumstances, to extend to six months. But there isn't a TPA that's out of policy. We do still have a small number of TDAs at more senior level that we're moving through the policy. So, we've applied a TPA process across most grades, and we're now moving through the final number of TDAs at the more senior grades, but they're a really, really small number and that's something that the remuneration committee will be working with us on.

Thank you so much for that. I just wanted to ask you a couple more questions, if that's okay, before I move on to my next area of questioning. I'd just like to know what further actions since our previous meeting—in fact, since your response to the Public Accounts Committee, which we talked about, on the strengthening of controls over secondments, agency staff and also TDAs—. Have you done any internal work or any internal audits since the auditor general's report?

Yes. So, hopefully, we've just been outlining some of the progress that we've made and, rather than just describe actions that are in place, actually described the outcomes that we've achieved as well with those changes to the TPA arrangements as well. Yes, we've been able to tighten up the secondment arrangements across the organisation. We still have 125 secondments; we've got about another 65 loans in the organisation. We actually have colleagues from Welsh Government who are going in the other direction and we've needed to tighten up the documentation around those arrangements to be clear and make sure that some of the corporate documentations in place have more clarity on our outward secondment mechanisms and are still able to use some of our internal audit mechanisms to track that progress within the organisation as well.

Also, we've needed to focus on our contractor arrangements. The thing that I'm interested in there is to understand, again, what is the right level for our use of external contractors, as I was just describing, because the danger when we focus on them is we sort of almost start by thinking it's a bad thing, and some of these arrangements give us very significant capacity in trying to manage the transition of arrangements. I'm mindful of areas like the Welsh European Funding Office, where we know that there will be timetables in place where functions will disappear, and we are using some contractual arrangements there with some flexibility so that they can actually manage the ongoing duties and responsibilities, including the follow-through audits from the European community. So, yes, we're able to track it, we can report on some of those actions and, yes, we use some of the internal audit mechanisms to make sure that there is corporate progress as well.

Thank you so much, Dr Goodall. Has the Welsh Government at all considered creating any permanent group staff positions who can be redeployed to priority projects as required, if indeed it is required in future?

Sally-Ann, do you want to comment on that, on our approach? I think the pandemic probably showed that we've been able to be much more agile maybe than even we would have expected as an organisation, but there are still practical mechanisms that are in place, I have to say more through group levels, and we can target some choices, where some teams may be struggling and we need to do something quite uniquely. But, Sally-Ann, do you just want to outline some of those arrangements?


Yes, of course. So, as Andrew said, we worked really flexibly during the pandemic, and there's a model there that we can use for the future. So, the first port of call would always be at group level, for groups to flexibly deploy their resources, and all groups use that as a way of dealing with priorities that arise or where they need to bolster a particular area. We have shown great flexibility, particularly around things like the pandemic, Ukraine, responding to the cost of living. It will really depend on the nature of the response that's needed, which is why we haven't gone down the route of a central deployment pool, but we have a range of mechanisms. So, we have a formal deployment policy if we needed to, which is in place and agreed with our trade union colleagues. So, they offer a robust set of interventions, but also ensure that we continue to operate in a fair, open and transparent way. So, we would very much use that internal mechanism again, if we needed to do that, but it really does depend on the nature of the work that we need to provide, but we've certainly got those tools in place, and some groups themselves do have a small pool of people that they earmark for these types of instances. So, it's a mix of local flexibility and, then, when we need to work together corporately as an organisation, we've got the tools that we're able to deploy to move people to areas of need. 

And Tim, do you want to just talk about the priority resource panel approach? Because I think that's where we bring these things together at the corporate level, when groups simply need a different level of support. 

Yes, thank you, Andrew. I think, if you look back at some of the challenges that the Welsh Government has faced, in terms of where it's needed to move resource around, it would be nice to have a dedicated pool of resource that you could just suddenly move somewhere, but actually it's about having the structures in place and assessing the key strategic risks and how you might respond to those, because they will require different needs at different times and different skill sets, and so I think it's really understanding it. And certainly one of the things the priority resourcing panel, which I'm now chairing—. We're looking at what are those strategic workforce risks, where are the areas where we've got some challenges around, and then thinking what is the best way corporately that we'll need to do to resource those things. So, I think it's more about having the structures in place and that co-ordinated approach to be able to respond to these demands as they arise. Because we also know, for some of these, you don't know how long the resource is going to be required for. If you look at what we've had to do on Ukraine or cost of living or some of the other things, it's about making sure that you're strategically looking at this at a senior level and moving resource around where appropriate. 

Great. Thank you so much, Tim. You've nicely led me in to my next set of questions, actually. I was going to ask you: where are some of the greatest pressures and main gaps that you're currently seeing right now, particularly when it comes to the impact of staff and pressures? We all know Brexit's had an impact on everyone, COVID's had an impact on everyone, and what do you feel has been the impact of these and such measures—not just that, but the measures that have taken place after that—on services and projects here?

So, if I just comment generally, and, Tim, you might naturally want to manoeuvre into this area. I do think that the pandemic to the EU exit experience has been difficult for the organisation. We have obviously had to recruit—[Inaudible.] 

No, we've lost the sound. 

Dr Goodall. Dr Goodall, can you hear me? I think he can't hear me either. 

No. Chair, can you hear us? 

Nobody on the call can hear us. 


I think, Natasha, if you can step in to temporary chair the meeting, so we can adjourn the meeting. 

And how do you want me to do that? 

Just announce an adjournment.  

[Inaudible.]—I think maybe earlier you were highlighting some pinch-points that I would see around any legislative capacity around the digital side. They probably feel amongst the trickiest. 

Yes, certainly. I think there's a range of challenges we face. We mentioned some in terms of how we responded to the needs around Ukraine, and obviously that will change over time as well, the cost of living, and, as Andrew mentioned earlier, there are resourcing challenges around, actually, things like the end of the EU funding and actually how we've managed that transition, actually both in terms of maintaining the roles that we need for a number of years to come, but also looking to transition people. On the legislative programme that we've got coming up, we're all aware of the debate that's gone on essentially around some of the leftover things from Brexit, the retained EU law work and what that may mean in the future. So, there are a number of strategic resourcing risks that we need to monitor closely and look at what is required over time, and especially the type of skills required, through the journey of these pieces of work. So, that's just a flavour of some of the things that we're facing, as well as then, in the organisation, things like the digital skills that Andrew's just mentioned, in terms of how we support that in the organisation, going forward.  


Thank you so much, Tim. Chair, I just wanted to bring something to your attention, and everybody else who's on the call today. We actually lost complete sound during Dr Goodall's answer to my question, so we were trying to regain some sort of sound here in the actual room itself. 

We're going to have to adjourn the meeting, I think, and reconvene when we've sorted these issues out. I'm going to adjourn this part of the meeting and put it into private session while we try to communicate with the team.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:31 a 10:49.

The meeting adjourned between 10:31 and 10:49.

4. Cynllunio Gweithlu Llywodraeth Cymru: Sesiwn dystiolaeth (rhan 2)
4. Welsh Government Workforce Planning: Evidence session (part 2)

Croeso. Welcome back, everyone, to the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee Senedd meeting for the second part of our evidence session with Welsh Government officials on the issue of Welsh Government workforce planning. So, can I invite Natasha Asghar to complete her questioning from the previous session? 

Thank you so much, Chair, and I appreciate everybody here today for being so understanding about the issues we had previously. A final question from myself is: what is the current outlook now, going forward, in relation to staffing resources that are going to be needed to obviously manage the impact of not just Brexit, but COVID as well, and how can we ensure that everything is going to be managed safely, as well? 

So, I think, as I've been describing, a lot of our current approach is to just try to revert to normal aspects. We've been in a very responsive and reactive way. I think that chance to raise our heads to look at the long-term future is really important. I have tried, over the last 12 months, working with colleagues, to show that there's a different conversation going on in the organisation about how we support our workforce and do things differently. We've done a lot of that through Welsh Government 2025. That's our overarching programme to say to the organisation that we can make decisions to change things. We, obviously, through some of the mechanisms we've been describing, need to keep an eye on some of the areas of concern in the organisation—so, where individual teams are struggling, where we need to target additional resources, for example. A public inquiry approach recently has required us to recognise that we've needed to put a team in place just simply to oversee that kind of process.

There will inevitably be some areas that are tied into an ongoing outlook around the retained EU law mechanisms, and how we align the responsibilities in Welsh Government with the new duties as well. And that isn't just about legislative or legal resources; that's actually about the policy focus in the organisation as well. I'm just hoping for a balance between large groups, because some of these groups have over 1,000 staff in their arrangements and can make their own choices, and then our responsibility corporately is to bring in the support when it's really needed, including how we balance some of the workload and priorities in the organisation. 


Thank you so much, Dr Goodall. Thank you so much, Chair. I'm done. 

Thank you very much indeed. In that case, can I invite Mike Hedges to take up questions? 

I want to talk about staff welfare and the staff survey. You had a staff survey in autumn 2021, which we've seen. How did the 2022 results differ from it? 

So, just my opening view is that I think we were, to some extent, surprised that, even during the pandemic response, there was a high level of response for the organisation in our staff survey. I think the factor there was that staff knew that they'd done something exceptional to support the outlook for Wales, and the kind of nature of the decisions that were taken, and there was a very clear common purpose. I think that really helped the motivation of the civil service alongside, of course, how other public services responded. So, our 2022 survey was coming out of the pandemic maybe with a slightly different response. 

I think, in overall terms, I would say our results have stood up. There's been some reduction for us on a range of different areas. We typically remain higher than the civil service more generally, I have to say, on many of the measures, although there are some clear areas for us to progress. I do think that we've made a lot of progress on our staff survey results, particularly over the last four, five years or so. So, I can see how we've not really dropped from those levels. I'm interested as well that, if we go back to eight or 10 years ago, I think there are some genuine areas that, despite a reduction recently, are still quite significantly ahead of where we were eight or 10 years ago, and I hope we can maintain that progress.

But I do think there are some difficult and salutary messages in what the staff survey results are telling us. I could highlight those if the Member is interested, just to give a bit of a flavour. As I said earlier in our session, clearly, there is something about resilience and well-being within the organisation. It's done some very exceptional things, but people need to know that the organisation is going to change some of its ways of working, and I've tried to make sure that we lead on those areas. I think there are some traditional areas that are difficult for us, where people are still wanting to know their career approach and where they're going to be supported for their own development. I think that's quite difficult as well, and I think, generally, to probably have confidence in our leadership. Whilst our figures are still a lot higher than they were over recent years, there are a couple of areas saying that people are going to be really testing us on whether we can effectively deliver change in the organisation, again, in these rather unique set of circumstances from there.

But if I can give you a positive highlight for me, I remember when I came in, eight or nine years ago, and when our scores around our digital infrastructure were very low, I think even down in the 30 per cents, and we invested a lot. We worked through the pandemic on that, and it's actually one of our highest results now, with over 90 per cent feedback from within the organisation. I'm using that at the moment as an example to say that when there is a problem, we can do something about it, we can communicate it to our staff, and then hopefully that gives confidence about our approach to some of the other measures as well.   

Can you correlate those areas where you've had a poor response in terms of the staff survey, where people tend to be unhappy or indicate they're not happy, with staff turnover? Are the unhappy areas the areas where you're having the biggest turnover, and are the happy areas the areas you're having the lowest turnover? 

Yes, I think it's really important to use the staff survey not in isolation from other measures, and I think that they do demonstrate that they fit with other areas, including sickness and absence, for example, when you track it through. I think, when you look at the aggregate figures for the organisation—of course, we need to do that, and we compare ourselves with others in the civil service—it's really more interesting to drop down into the levels below. So, we do it through groups, we do it through teams, because there is quite a lot of variation under the surface, and some of that variation is within individual teams and structures. Some of it is actually across different grades. So, progression for senior civil service, for example, is seen more positively at the moment than some of our lower grades. Balancing an acceptable workload is a more difficult result for the senior civil service than it is for some of our more junior staff within the organisation. So, I think you're right—you don't just leave it at the high level; you go exploring with the data to do something more significant.


Thank you for that. I now want to explore the sickness and absence area. You know what sickness and absence is, but these high-level numbers, going back to what you just said, give you data but not necessarily information. That's how I would describe it. If you exclude people who are long-term sick, people who have degenerative diseases, people who have got cancer, who will tend to be off a lot if not continually, if you exclude those, what do the staff absences look like? And has working from home helped? If somebody living in Barry, for example, coming in to Cardiff, if they've got a broken leg, then coming in becomes very difficult and they may well wait for it to recover a lot more. But, working from home, where they can lie down on a settee and work, means that they don't necessarily have to be sick for that period of time. Have you seen any benefits of homeworking in reducing absences?

Well, we have a formal policy on homeworking. We are a hybrid organisation and we've got smart-working principles, signed up to with the trade unions, and I agree with you that it gives some flexibility. Again, we need to make sure that isn't taken advantage of. Before I hand over to Peter, who I think can give you some of the individual detail that you're looking for, I think it's worth saying that, even over the last six to 12 months, we have still seen sickness and absence rates still affected because of COVID in the organisation, because it's still been around and about in communities, not to the same level, but I think there are definitely some different trends there. I'm worried still about the number of staff who are reporting anxiety—exploring those mental health issues. Not all of those may be in a work context, because, obviously, colleagues go through different areas. But, Peter, do you want to just fill in some of the detail around how we use the sickness and absence data and what the trends are? Thank you.

Yes, of course. So, interestingly—I think interestingly, anyway—we saw sickness absence drop off remarkably at the outset of the pandemic, and I believe it's partly for the reasons that the Member mentioned earlier. It's become easier to balance work and life, regardless of whether you're unwell or not. It had become a lot easier. Over time, that's created a bit of a problem, though, in terms of losing the bookend of the day, i.e. the start and the end, and the blurring of work and life, and that has had an impact on some of our stats. Sorry, I'll just make a very short reference back to the staff survey: we noticed our engagement score go up considerably during the pandemic. Staff felt far more engaged by the ability to use these sort of platforms to get out messages and have discussions with the senior leadership team. So, I certainly saw that as a benefit.

Andrew, you've touched on the increases in incidence of mental health. We saw sickness absence drop off quite markedly; it's going back up again. We're back at the pre-pandemic levels. Mental health and anxiety and musculoskeletal are still at the higher end of the areas of concerns for us—not that much different to most organisations, certainly in the nature of this organisation. We're focusing on a monthly basis down at group level, through the HR business partners Sally-Ann mentioned earlier, with teams to get underneath the reasons for sickness absence. We've had a big focus, a big push, on the well-being and support element right from the start of the pandemic, and that continued through, with the aim to do everything we can to get people back into work safely. And the point about balancing being unwell and still being accessible can be a positive, but we mustn't take advantage of that. We've got a responsibility to make sure that how people are working and where they're working is both safe and secure. We have seen those peaks. The point that Andrew made about the high level of COVID-related absence and, certainly over the last few months, many of us, myself included, have been hit by the viruses that have been around, and that's taken its toll on the organisation, but we're not unique in that respect. So, I'll stop there, unless there's anything else.


I'll just make a comment here. I had a very nasty cold over Christmas and the first week we came back, which I had great difficulty in getting rid of. If I had been doing a job that involved me doing lots of travel and lots of difficult things, I may well have been on the sick, but because my job is fairly sedentary, I wasn't on the sick. Do you see any difference between those people whose jobs are non-sedentary, who, if they're not well, they can't work, but who can quite happily work, like I can now, when I've got a sedentary job?

Yes, I think that is definitely a factor. I've seen it in colleagues joining on particular calls. I'm aware of some examples that fit with your initial example where people who would have not had the flexibility to come into an office environment, but they've been able to use the flexibility we have around hybrid working, definitely, as well. I think people were doing it for the right reasons because they can maintain it if it's really important. There's just a line to, hopefully, make sure that we're not taking advantage of that situation with our own staff.

Thank you very much. If I can move on to strategic workforce planning. Can you give an update on developing the workforce strategy and initial action plan, and when will it be published?

Okay, thank you. Tim, would you like to just lead on this item? I think it ties in very well with Welsh Government 2025 where we locate the workforce strategy. Thank you.

Certainly, Andrew. Yes, as Andrew’s mentioned, this is very much part of the wider programme we're calling 'Welsh Government 2025', which is really about setting forward our plans over the next three years to change and improve the organisation, and that's based around five work streams, of which the first is around workforce strategy, but there are so many interconnected issues. So, the other work streams are about our workplace strategy, our digital, data, and technology strategy, one around continuous improvement and also recognising the role that we play as part of one Welsh public service and the wider public sector in terms of the things that we need to deliver for the people of Wales. So, we've made some good progress. Andrew led a huge engagement exercise with staff through 2022, and then when I joined in September, I led this particular programme as senior responsible office. Just last week, 25 January, we published internally—it's an internal document—to all our staff, the delivery plan for Welsh Government 2025, which included the actions that we're taking in all of those work streams, setting some ambition for where we want to get to, but also what are the key next steps that we're looking to do.

So, for example, on the workforce strategy that you referred to, central to this is the values and behaviours framework that we launched just at the start of the year, as well. And then, very much, it's around how we're developing the right culture and ethos for the organisation. It encompasses all the work we're doing on the anti-racism Wales action plan, as well as then the skills and capability and resourcing elements that link into work that we're currently doing, but also work that we need to do in the future around the capabilities within groups and teams for the future, and also understanding some of those longer term trends about where we need to go.

So, it's a comprehensive programme, but, as I said, the workforce links into those other things. So, some of the skills that we're going to need from a leadership perspective, around one Welsh public service, will lead into the skills and development element of the workforce strategy. There will be different skills for the digital and data element of it, and also things like our workplace strategy, in terms of how that feeds into our ambitions around net zero, but also how we use our workplaces in a different way now that we're in the hybrid environment. So, I'll stop at that point. There are lots more we could go into, but hopefully, that gives you a flavour of where we're at now in terms of the workforce strategy, but also how it links into that wider strategic agenda.

Can I talk about key, long-term skills deficits? I know there's an ICT shortage, generally. I know about ICT, so I'll concentrate on that. Do you have problems with skills deficit within ICT, of actually recruiting people who are qualified in ICT? Or do you follow what I call 'the traditional civil service approach' of taking generalists and telling them that they can do ICT?

Do you want to carry on? Thank you.

Yes, happy to. I think, in the area that you've just alluded to, this digital, data and technology space, this is about having people with the right skills to do the role. And what I also know from my past experience is that these skills are constantly changing as technology is changing. So, there's an element of how we maintain the development of our current staff with some of these skills to ensure that they're kept up to date, and, also, develop the skills that are needed in the future, but, at the same time, also making sure that we're bringing in the right skills to the organisation where we need them. And that's a mixture, as we said. There is sometimes an opportunity to use contractors for certain short-term specialist skills, but also, it's how we then develop the skills of our permanent workforce to meet the needs of the organisation. And it is a difficult area. It's one we highlighted earlier, where we're looking at both how we recruit people into this marketplace—there are different ways of doing that—and how we ensure that we're as attractive an employer as we can be for what is a very competitive marketplace at the moment in that area. So, it's a combination of developing our own, but also bringing in the skills as well. 


ICT contractors can be incredibly expensive. How do you balance that—bringing people in at £500 a day, £1,000 a day, which are pretty standard rates for ICT contractors—against, actually, full-time recruitment?

I think—. Sorry, Andrew, do you want to—

No, that's okay. Carry on, Tim. 

I think that's an absolutely key point. What we want to do is have a really good internal workforce of permanent members of staff with the skills that we need for the future. There is a role to use contractors—and, yes, they do cost more—but the main purpose of that would be short-term gaps where you've got urgent needs that you need to fill, or it's a skill set that you don't need long term. So, certainly, the clear strategy is to have permanent members of our staff with the right skills that we need to deliver the digital programme that we've got, and then we can supplement with contractors where we need to to ensure that we can deliver the outcomes that are required. 

This is for Andrew Goodall, and he's probably going to consider this to be an unfair question, because he may say that it goes back before his time. But, should the Welsh Government not previously have had a formalised workforce strategy?

Well, my view on this one is—to give a reassurance to the committee—there are a range of areas over the years that have been absolutely in the space of developing the workforce for the future. And, I know, even in my time here—. I was here when the previous Permanent Secretary introduced the futureproofing approach to the organisation, and that was about a set of workforce expectations and skills for the organisation. I come from an NHS background, where we, obviously, would have workforce plans in the context of our annual plans and our strategic plans, and all those types of areas, and I think the label may mislead what the organisation does have in place. Welsh Government has an extraordinary range of policies in place on the HR side. It has social partnership mechanisms in place. It understands its skills. We've had a learning and development framework in place for four years, or so. 

But, I think, definitely, the opportunity to talk about an organisation for three, five or 10 years' time—that probably has been missing a little bit, and maybe that is the chance to do something a little different, including some of the reflections that Audit Wales have given us as well. So, I sort of feel that there's a danger of feeling that we didn't have a workforce focus in the organisation, and, in my nine years now, there's been a lot of focus on workforce and development, corporately, and at a group level. And I don't think we've ever had a document that we can wave around that has that kind of label of strategy on the front of it, and, hopefully, that's something that we'll put right over the next six months or so. 

Just carrying on from that, when you were in the health board, health boards had doctors, they had nurses, they had physiotherapists, they had people specialised and skilled. I would guess that, when you were in the health board, you had very few people, if any, who had a degree in philosophy, politics and economics, who were generalists. Now, the civil service has always had these generalists, who know very little about anything, but are seen as very clever and they can do anything, apart from accountancy and law, which is where you've always wanted qualified people. Are we moving away to more people coming in with, as I would say, the health service model, and these are people who know about this subject, and that's what we want, rather than, 'These are very clever individuals, they can do anything'? 

So, I can give you a view that I think that you need both, and I think both work in different circumstances. If I think about the generalist skills of the civil service and the breadth of experience that we had in the organisation, I think that really genuinely helped our resilience and our response during the pandemic response. But, what we obviously needed to do in the pandemic was to be able to access the specialist skills in a different way, and, I think, one of our ways of working in Wales was the way in which we reached out and used some of the broader sectors. And Tim was rehearsing there about the one Welsh public service approach and principles as well. I think that there are definitely areas where we need to be clearer about the specialist need, including in some of our legal areas, including, maybe, policy individuals who've got more expertise in the legal arena as well. But I do think that part of our offer to staff in the organisation is still about career progression and support as well.

In the health service, as well, there were generalists as well as there were specialists. I guess I was one of those generalists who, particularly through the management lens, was able to move my career from an operational perspective into a leadership perspective as well. I think just getting the right balance between the two areas, I've seen the advantages of both, and hopefully within Welsh Government 2025, we can call out, certainly, the areas where we need to allow more of a specialist development of our careers to progress.


Thank you. Finally, from me: how, overall, is the delegation and accountability framework working so far?

It was really important to me, when I was speaking in the organisation, to understand what leaders at all levels were asking for—

Sorry, I've jumped ahead of myself. I've lost where I should have been, sorry. Please ignore that. My pages got stuck together.

What alternative delivery mechanisms or other opportunities to work differently are realistically available to the Welsh Government to manage staff requirements and running costs?

Okay. Tim, do you want to pick that question up as well? I think it still ties back into the workforce planning approach and Welsh Government 2025.

I'm happy to, Andrew. I think this is an area we want to certainly keep under continual review. One of the work strands within Welsh Government 2025 is around continuous improvement, and looking at the way that we operate and the things that we do, and saying, 'Are there better ways of doing things?' and building on some of the experiences of the past. So, the point that Andrew made earlier around what we've done in terms of ICT delivery over a period where that was an outsourced service, that we've then brought skills and expertise in house, and come up with a different delivery model, which has also brought savings and a better service to the organisation. We've done similar things looking at some of our legal skills; where, maybe in the past, we have used external legal firms, we're looking at the resource that we will need to have internally to provide both a better service, and, hopefully, also save money. Part of that programme will be reviewing other areas of the way that we operate, to say, 'Okay, are there different ways of achieving the outcomes that actually will bring benefits, both in terms of skills for staff but also cost savings for the future that we're looking at?' So, I think this is something that absolutely is at the heart of the Welsh Government 2025 programme, and that we want to keep under constant review.

Finally, from me—a real 'finally', this time. You've created organisations such as the Centre for Digital Public Services, which is arm's length, or semi arm's length—why? And why would it work better outside Government than inside Government?

I think there are examples where, from an expert perspective and also flexibility, those sorts of things can work more, often when they are closer to the delivery model. We have a number of examples that fit into this space. There are the Transport for Wales arrangements. We have the Welsh Revenue Authority, which works within the Welsh Government structure but kind of slightly to the side on it as well. And I think we do need to consider the best way of working on things, as part of the Welsh Government 2025 approach, and I just think it's genuinely to ask questions after our pandemic experience, where I think Welsh Government altered its approach. What are the functions and responsibilities of Welsh Government? It's kind of beyond just the ministerial support, but what is our visibility alongside other public services in Wales?

I think there may be some examples where the central model works best, and it can be accommodated in the civil service, but I do think that there are some examples where making it work outside the organisation with some independence, for all of the right reasons, works as well. When we are making decisions on these, we do look at what the benefits and disadvantages of those are. There's a governance set of questions around it, as well. Even in the health sector, there were two organisations that were created in my time there—one focused on digital and one focused on workforce, because we felt we needed to lever that intention to have more of a national approach on those areas, and it was really important to support. I think you can't just assume it's one or the other all of the time; you have to make sure that there is a proper case and understanding of it to take place.

Thank you. I'll be talking about my view on the digital set-up later on this month, where I have serious concerns. But I think the idea—. You believe that some things are done best by being done centrally, and some by having an external organisation; have you got a sort of score chart, which perhaps you could send us, where you could actually see how you work out which works best?

Yes. As part of the process for establishing external bodies, it's not just a policy declaration, there's a process we work through within the organisation. We take advice from the governance centre, our centre of excellence within the organisation. There are a series of questions and criteria that need to be met. And obviously we're aware that this is about using public money effectively, and one of the balance decisions you need to make here is that some of the overhead mechanisms for some of these organisations, is that going to be the appropriate use. So, making sure that you get to the outcomes. But, yes, we do have criteria. I could, again, to help the committee, just give some examples of some of the criteria that are used when the governance centre helps us to assess that along the way, and then ultimately Ministers will make decisions on the back of that advice that emerges from the civil service, of course.


And I think we just received an offer from Dr Goodall for some examples. Would you welcome those?

Thank you. In that case, can I invite Rhianon Passmore to come back in with some further questions from her?

Thank you so much, Rhianon. I promise I won't take up too much time. Just a few little sub-questions—well, actually, one and a half questions that I have relating to what Mike has just asked. I'd just like to ask the panel, in relation to the work plan 2025, are you on track to meet the targets that you set for yourselves?

Thank you, Andrew. We just launched the delivery plan last week, which details the key things that we'll be doing over the next three to six months and also the ambition for the future. What we're looking to do is then—it's an interim plan and we'll then look to go back out to staff in three months' time and show them exactly what we have achieved, but also what the next steps are that we're looking to do. So, it's at that very early stage in terms of publishing the plan, but we delivered that on time, and then a number of those things are in train. So, that will tie into some of the work we alluded to earlier around our recruitment system, our promotion and progression systems, and a number of things. So, on track at the moment, but it's early days, and we'll certainly be updating staff in, probably, three months' time.

Great. And the second sub-question—well, the second part is basically something relating to strategic work planning, as well as something I touched upon earlier, which was the deployment of staff. So, I just wanted to know, and the main substance of the question is: in relation to substantial changes to the staffing profile of the groups compared with the April 2022 position in the reports, where are we now?

Well, first of all, the change of structures was an early signal to the organisation around changes that we could make and have led us into the engagement and conversation about Welsh Government 2025. I was really pleased—I know it was early days when I was reporting in on those structural change to the committee, but they have settled in really well. They were deliberately established to provide more balance about how civil servants supported Ministers. I think that has happened in practice. We also wanted to make sure, however, that the structures didn't suddenly distract the organisation because there's such a lot expected of us, and there has been an opportunity for us to change some of the arrangements in there.

I was really mindful that, for example, the establishment of the director general for climate change, that was a significant change in the light of the programme for government changes as well. But, I think that things feel as though they are in quite a resilient way on the structures at this stage. It's more about ensuring those structures get to the outcomes and deliver the programme for government as expected. But, as an early sign, even on the programme for government side, I think we've been able to demonstrate progress to Ministers on a number of difficult areas. So, I guess if that challenge is, 'Are we pushing over the line the things expected for citizens?', I think the group structures have been able to do that. The bit I worry about is that, if we're not careful, the structures just become change for change's sake. So, I'm really mindful to keep an overview of those types of areas, and Tim is discharging that in a programme way through Welsh Government 2025.

Thank you. You've already responded to the question in terms of progress on the delegation accountability framework, but as a committee, we'd want that update before the formal review at the end of the year.

I'm just going to go back slightly, if I may. You mentioned earlier, Dr Goodall, that you needed to centre around areas of greatest risk, and you mentioned in particular new duties, retained EU law. We haven't really focused on that in today's session, in terms of these being a risk issue. How much of a risk issue are these in terms of the basket of workforce risk? What most impacts on staffing this issue and delivery?

I think there are two mechanisms that we have to focus on here. One is that, clearly, post EU exit, Welsh Government has an additional range of responsibilities that it's now discharging, so that obviously has a staff resource impact, some of which may need to be discharged by new staff, some of which may need us to shift the attention within the organisation to deliver it.

The second issue is the way in which we need to understand how some of the legislative requirements will land through and then the Counsel General has spoken about this with his own statements in Plenary. I attended committee alongside him, talking about some of the approaches that we were taking on legislation more generally. And I think, whilst we've improved some of our legal resilience and outlook, that's not to say it's perfect. I think this remains quite an unknown issue of concern for the organisation. UK Government—


Yes, so, in terms of risk, to be brief, where would it be on that scale?

I think there is a high risk of the translation of this about the way in which it will impact on our legal capacity, but also our policy work, and the danger that it will interfere with some of the expectations on programme for government delivery as well. I think we just have to assess that on behalf of Ministers. I think we need to work through some of those choices as necessary. But a lot of it will need to come from an understanding and a liaison with UK Government officials. So, I was in an inter-ministerial committee yesterday that was led and chaired by the Counsel General, where this was a matter of concern that was discussed, about what is the scale and significance of this, particularly as it goes through its passing arrangements over in the House of Lords and in the House of Commons as well. So, I think, there absolutely is a risk that we need to pay very close attention to at the moment.

Okay, thank you for that, and I think it was important to go there. 

In regard to what we've just said and in regard to what Tim Moss has just touched upon in terms of having a group within to be able to nurture and progress staff, in terms of new initiatives and develop those staff to retain them, we've highlighted the good progress around women and disabled and ethnic minority staff, although we are absolutely needing to do more in the latter two. We haven't focused on social class and I'm really interested in what the emphasis is around here, because when we're talking about how we represent our population base, what are we doing around that in terms of apprenticeships and in terms of that progression and vertical pathway throughout the organisation, because I always understood there to be an issue here?

Yes. Of course, we have to allow ourselves to respond to the statutory expectations and the equality legislation and make sure that we've made progress, and I think that should give us a confidence on broader issues as well. It's really important that we are able, however, to look at the social characteristics and representation of the organisation as well. And, again, irrespective of a general approach to fairness, I think some of the outreach arrangements do help us in this respect. So, our apprenticeship scheme, for example, has been a really good way of demonstrating that we can have a different conversation at the entry point for the organisation. And Pete or Sally-Ann may want to comment, but I think sometimes we're finding, in those areas, that there will be people in communities who have never even reflected on whether they want to work for Welsh Government, may not fully understand that or the opportunity for career progression and certainty over the years. But, Sally-Ann, I know you've been overseeing some of those different programmes, including apprenticeships, but can you comment on that ?

Yes, that's a really good example, and it touches on what you were talking to me about earlier, Rhianon, about the community work and visiting schools and different things, and that was very much at the heart of the apprentice outreach. So, I mentioned earlier that we really saw that as a step in the right direction. So, we're certainly evaluating what worked or didn't and where we can take that outreach further. So, community work is really, really important and that will be a big focus of our outreach. The key for us will be ensuring that we put outreach around all our schemes and not just the big schemes like the apprentice scheme. So, that will very much be the approach we take for the year ahead.

And that would be part of any workforce strategy or is that just an external initiative?

Yes, it would be part of it.

Fine, thank you. So, how is the workforce strategy then going to build on the existing initiatives to address findings in the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales's recent report on implementing the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015?

Yes, the section 20 review has been a really significant exercise to work through and I would say alongside the commissioner and her office. So, actually, again, a really useful way of showing the organisation where we need to build on things that we're doing, but do better as well. It's been really useful to bring, actually, the ways of working under the future generations Act right into the centre of Welsh Government 2025, because I think it does fit with making sure that there is a change of our practices—we're not just promoting the traditional civil service outlook. And whilst I know it's the law, I just think that the way of working collaboratively just makes a difference, I think, to the way that we work in Wales, and I think it chimes very well. So, we don't just do it because it's the law; we do it because we know it makes a difference, particularly about the outcomes and the delivery approach.

I think that it was really good to have the feedback of the intent and the enthusiasm, to see some of the foundations. I think the challenge from the future generations commissioner was to make it more universal as an experience through the organisation. So, firstly, we are trying to make sure that all of our existing staff know how this helps us to change the organisation and our way of working. What's really useful, though, is that when anybody new comes into the organisation, the induction process actually spends some proper time on understanding the well-being of future generations Act as well. So, I think you can't just leave everybody else who's been in the organisation, even for many years, to leave them alone; you have to make sure that you approach both of those at the same time.

But I think there's a real enthusiasm, and actually in the staff survey, there was a very high level of awareness and understanding of what the future generations Act was about. So, again, I would take some confidence from that within the organisation too.


Thank you for those responses. And finally, in terms of the short and medium-term priorities and achievability, in terms of being a bilingual organisation by 2050, alongside all our other duties and the level of competence, really, of achievability within that time spectrum.

Yes. I mean the aspiration to be a bilingual organisation and to play our part in 'Cymraeg. Mae'n perthyn i ni i gyd' is really important to us. We've already seen a progress, even over the last couple of years, and certainly over the last 12 months about learner numbers increasing right across the organisation. So, to date, there's been about a 400 percent increase in our learner numbers; we've invested more in the budget that is available for training our staff right through our structures. We actually think that's going to be higher by the time we get to March this year. We think it may have actually gone up sevenfold from the levels that we were reporting as well. It will mean that probably we're getting close to about 15 per cent of the organisation will be engaged in an active current Welsh language learning approach.

Where I am pleased, though, is that I do think we're making some visible progress to the level of courtesy training that is in place to allow Welsh language to be spoken by everybody in the organisation, and I think that we're ahead of schedule on our goal to support all staff to be able to speak that courtesy-level Welsh by 2025. And we've done that by focusing on our own actions, but we've also brought in experiences of other organisations who are already discharging that across Wales at this time, and I think if I could describe it in this way: beyond a training offer, there's something about the way in which the organisation operates. So, just two months ago, I had the first properly bilingual, with translation mechanisms around one of our executive committees; I frame our board and our executive committee meetings where that happens in Welsh for the conversation that comes in place, so there's something just about embedding it very visibly across the organisation, and at all levels, from the senior leadership through to our more junior staff as well.

Okay. That sounds positive. And finally, if the Chair will let me: in regard to the skills base that we have around other minority languages in terms of Hindi, Urdu—I can reel off what we need—Polish, Ukrainian, do we have any skills within that, because obviously we need to be able to do those as well?

Yes. Peter, do you want to just talk about that from a staff perspective and about how we lean in? We have knowledge of staff with different language skills. I know sometimes that feels difficult if it's too personal rather than something where they feel able to act in a translation kind of way, but we also access expert support outside the organisation as well. But, Peter.

Yes, Andrew. So, you touched on a lot of what I was going to say. We haven't got the same level of resource or push that we had on the Welsh language, clearly, but we do have quite a resource base across the organisation in some of those languages, but it isn't formalised. It relies on the goodwill and our understanding of the capability that staff have.

Quite often, it comes through from some of the things they do from a volunteering point of view. Certainly, that was highlighted to us in the response to Ukraine and some of the language capabilities of staff who were volunteering to be hosts, for example. So, it's not as well developed, to be candid.

[Inaudible.]—to effectively the last set of questions, and have the recruitment and HR information system upgrades been put into operation? If not, why not, and when are they likely to be ready?


Chair, perhaps if I could ask Peter and Sally-Ann to comment on this. Thank you.

Peter, would you like me to go first?

Sally-Ann is a lot closer to the detail than I am, so rather than waste time, Chair, if Sally-Ann could comment, that would be great.

So, this is where the workforce strategy aligns with the digital strategy. Tim gave an overview of the five pillars of Welsh Government 2025. Although we're specifically looking at our HR systems, it is part of the wider digital strategy, and is part of a wider focus on a corporate IT systems upgrade programme.

So, there's a strategic level to this, where we've been looking at the long-term needs of the organisation across our corporate systems—so how, over time, we'll be able to better align our HR systems and data with our finance data and other systems within the organisation. So, there's definitely a longer term strategic goal, but Members may be aware from the report that a number of our HR systems were nearing end of life. So, we've had a number of—. So, either end of life, or end of contract. So, we've had a specific HR programme running as part of the broader upgrade programme that will look at short- to medium-term upgrades. The HR system and the recruitment system aren't fully operational yet, we're still at testing stage, but the intention is that they would go live in early summer. So, we will have a better indication of the date over the next couple of weeks, but we are on target for them to go live in early summer.

Thank you. On that point, could you let us know when they go live—

—and, obviously, if that's not achieved by early summer, if you could also give us an indicative alternative date?

Yes, and, Chair, we do have contingency plans in place on these areas, so, obviously, what I wanted to say in support of the HR team is the organisation did take a decision not to have its full attention on these corporate systems, particularly while we were in the middle of the pandemic response, but, just to reassure you, we've had practical arrangements to make sure that we could still manage the range of areas. A lot of these systems are about giving us the additional benefits that, I think, again, will really help our longer term planning for the organisation.

Thank you. To what extent will the new system, once implemented, address in part or full the shortcomings outlined in the auditor general's report, where, for example, annual leave was still being recorded manually, managers were still unable to interrogate data in real time, and a lack of reporting functionality was highlighted?

Hopefully, we've shown that we are using the data that is available to us, I hope, in a constructive way, but it's definitely to try and make it easier within our processes. But, Sally-Ann, do you want to answer that question? Thank you.

Yes, certainly. So, running in parallel with the specific projects, we've also had a focus on improving our management information. So, if we hadn't improved the MI before the systems went live, we wouldn't have seen the improvement that we could maximise by the systems. So, aligned to the workforce delegation framework, we have accelerated some of that work on MI, and we're currently piloting an improved and enhanced dashboard of information that our HR colleagues are testing initially, with a view to making that available to staff. One of the findings in the report recognised the limitations of the MI that's available currently, and the reliance on the HR service. So, we're already looking to address that in advance of the systems, and then, when the systems go live, we'll be in a much better position in terms of our MI.

Just on the specific point about annual leave, we do have an annual leave system in place. It relies on line managers working with individuals. What we don't currently have is a corporate overview. So, it won't be possible as soon as the system goes live, but the idea would be that would be one of the improvements that the new system gives us. What it will allow is a much more user-friendly, updated approach to a HR system that will then allow us to keep on building improvements into that. And then an annual leave system would be one of the second stages of that work. 

What, if any, shortcomings outlined in the report will not be captured, or will they all be captured? You're silent, sorry. You've gone silent, Sally-Ann.

Sorry, I think I double muted. We are working through all of the areas in the report. We were quite open about some of the challenges with our systems and MI, and reflected the areas that we were looking to develop as part of that work. So, we will be addressing all of the areas that were highlighted in the report, but it may not be initially—. There will be progress over time as we build our knowledge and use of the systems.


Thank you. A couple of weeks ago, I planted some snowdrops outside and they blossomed almost immediately. Why has it taken Welsh Government so long to replace its Snowdrop system, noting that it's no longer supported by its developer?

Andrew, do you want me to come in on this one?

Yes. Of course, yes, absolutely.

Yes, sure. So, Andrew mentioned that we needed to divert some of the resource. There are always choices around how much resource you can put around some of these things, and it is complex, introducing a new system, so it's been really important that we get it right. We've worked across the organisation to ensure that, when we do implement the system and it goes live, it is done in a safe and secure manner. So, we're working in partnership. Our project team is HR, IT and our security colleagues. We took a risk-based approach to the approach we've taken on our systems. So, although the HR system that we currently use is out of support, we have had that system for a number of years so we had quite a degree of in-house capability of using that system. So, whilst we were in support, we were relying far less on the developer for any support around that system, so it was a risk-based approach that we've taken in terms of the timing of implementation. As Andrew mentioned earlier, we've got contingency plans around the system, but also support in-house to ensure that it can still run. What we can't do is develop the current system that we've got, so it is limited in terms of any improvements that we've been able to make over the last year. But we knew that was an approach that was worth while taking to ensure that we could then focus on the new system for early summer.

And, Chair, it's often seen as just taking these technology examples and just plugging them in. I think the thing we have to focus on is the business change around it. I've been reassured by having the opportunity for some changes coming in ahead, because I think that demonstrates again it's a change to the way of working in the organisation; it's not just a switch across to a new piece of IT.

Yes. Sorry, could I just come back? Some of the other things that we've referenced today—. I think I referenced name-free recruitment earlier—that will be enabled by the new recruitment system, and there are a number of other improvements that are part of the wider workforce strategy that are enabled by the systems. But, as Andrew said, it's not just turning the system on, it's ensuring that there's the right training, support and business changes around that. So, we're looking at this as a holistic package that underpins both the workforce strategy and the digital strategy. 

Okay, thank you. Have there been any technical problems with the Snowdrop system since the system stopped being supported by its developer in April 2022? Noting your statement that you have contingency plans, has the Welsh Government needed to enact those contingency plans for failure of the system since last April? If so, what and when?

Okay. Andrew, I'll come back on this one again, if that's okay. We put in place considerable contingency plans. Just to be clear, it's only one of our HR systems that is out of external support. So, it's only one of the systems. We had put in place a series of different contingency plans, depending on what an outage could be, the length of time and so on, but we haven't had any outages or issues with the system, outside of if there is a general problem with systems it would have an impact on the system, but it hasn't gone down of its own accord and we haven't needed to invoke the emergency arrangements for contingency. So, no issues in terms of continuity of service from the system.

And we hope, Chair, that's the case for the next few months as well, of course, until early summer.

Okay. Well, that brings the formal questions in this session to an end. Members—. Yes, Natasha. I was going to say, 'Do Members have any final questions?', Natasha does.

Yes, thank you so much, Chair, for allowing me to raise just a final point. Sally-Ann, this one's for you, if that's okay. You gave some great answers in relation to the questioning that was given to you just now by our Chair in relation to HR and recruitment upgrades. There may have been a little bit of slippage in one of the answers, so I just wanted some clarification. Because you mentioned a January 2023 timescale, and it just conflicted a little bit with the Auditor General for Wales's report that we have. So, can you just clarify a little bit on that for us, please, in the committee?


So, in terms of when they'll be up and running?

So, the systems—. We're almost at the final stage of the two systems for the HR recruitment system and the HR system, and the aim is that it would be summer 2023, so we're looking at very early in the summer. I'm loath to give a very specific date—we'll be finalising that shortly—but they are on track for delivery by summer this year. Apologies if I gave a confusing timeline.

So, it's definitely nothing to do with January 2023. That date is not in your remit at all—it's not in the plan anywhere. 

So, we've been working on these systems now for a considerable amount of time. We have had to move some of the dates as work has gone on and, as Andrew said, we've had to divert resources elsewhere, but they will go live early summer. So, January would have been potentially a go-live date early on in the planning of the systems.

Okay, thank you. Thanks for allowing me to ask my question, Chair. 

Very briefly, in regard then to, heaven forbid, any outage in the systems that we were just talking about, how fit for purpose will the plug-in system be? If there is an outage. 

The new system that's coming in? Yes. Well, hopefully, it reflects the latest standards and technicalities and expectations, but it's never a guarantee, I know, with other experiences elsewhere. But, Sally-Ann, do you want to just speak about the robustness of the system?

Yes, the system is a very robust system. Obviously, we've gone out and procured that via the usual procurement routes for Government digital services. So, it's an industry standard—

Sorry to interrupt you, Sally-Ann; it's really in the interim, because it's early summer that comes in, that's my understanding. 

So, the interim arrangement? 

So, in the interim, we're carrying on using the same system, and we've had no issues since it came out of service from the external provider. So, we took a risk-based approach, based on the support that we've got internally. So, we have been using it for a number of years without relying too much on the external support. What we can't do is make changes or upgrades to the current system.

Thank you. Before I conclude, could I just ask our witnesses: do you have any final points you want to raise that haven't already been covered?

No, Chair, just to thank you, diolch, for the opportunity to speak on it, and also to recognise how important the piece of work done by Audit Wales was for us here. As I said in my opening statement, the chance to change our outlook now from a responsive, reactive organisation, as has been inevitable through the pandemic, to allow us to now look ahead into the long term—. I think the report very much fits with that expectation that we're setting within the organisation itself, so I just wanted to acknowledge that again. Thank you. 

Thank you. Well, I therefore thank Andrew Goodall, Sally-Ann Efstathiou, Tim Moss and Peter Kennedy for being with us today and answering our questions. A transcript of today's meeting will be published as normal in draft form and sent to you, and you may check it for accuracy before we publish the final version. 

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer y busnes a ganlyn:
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the following business:


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod ac o'r cyfarfod ar 8 Chwefror yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42.


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting and the meeting on 8 February in accordance with Standing Order 17.42.

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Well, the remainder of the meeting and the meeting on 8 February 2023 are proposed to be held in private. So, I move a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from this meeting and the meeting on 8 February accordingly. Do Members support that, or are there any objections? Thank you. In which case I'd be grateful, Clerks, if we could go into private session. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:44.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:44.