Conversations from the Royal Welsh Show 2017

For the second consecutive year, Inspection Wales partners (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, Estyn, Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales) shared a stand at the Royal Welsh show, to engage with the public about our joint and shared working and, to gather the public’s views about the quality of rural services for a future Wales Audit Office report.

I attended on Monday, the first day of the show, and had a number of interesting conversations with members of the public about the work carried out by Inspection Wales partners. As you read this blog, please bear in mind that it represents my account of what I have been told. I have not fact checked what my interlocutors told me. Rather, I have sought to position the issues they raised within a wider context and show how they relate to the work of Inspection Wales partners.

One of my early conversations was with a man who talked to me about plans to regenerate the area of Merthyr town centre around the Pont-y-Cafnau bridge, which is known as the oldest iron bridge in the world [opens in new window]. For him, the end of European Union funding for Wales due to Brexit was a big concern, as it meant the end of a potential source of funding for such regeneration projects.

Brexit is clearly a challenge for the Welsh Government going forward. Under the current round of EU structural funding Wales will benefit from £2 billion of direct funding, and when match funded should, according to the Welsh Government, result in investment of over £3 billion [opens in new window]. The Public Policy Institute Wales finds that Wales has been a net beneficiary from EU structural funds [opens in new window] and that Wales receives substantially more EU funding per head than other UK countries.

In September 2016, the Wales Audit Office reported that the Welsh Government intended to bid for £125 million of EU funding [opens in new window] for elements of the South Wales Metro transport scheme [opens in new window], which has a total estimated cost of around £734 million. The June 2017 Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee report [opens in new window] on the rail franchise and South Wales Metre found that Brexit has raised a question mark about the proposed EU contribution, and that ‘while the UK government has provided assurances that it will honour any agreed EU funding commitments up to 2020, it is impossible to argue that this money is secure’.

The same man also talked about what he saw as the ‘wild claims’ being made about the potential economic impact of the proposed Circuit of Wales racetrack; perhaps his interest related to the proximity between his own home in Merthyr and the proposed location of the circuit in Ebbw Vale. I was able to provide him with a copy of the recent Wales Audit Office report on the Welsh Government’s decision to provide over £9.3 million to support initial development of the Circuit of Wales project [opens in new window].

On the same theme of Welsh Government investment in business, I talked to a number of people from north Wales about the April 2014 Wales Audit Office examination of the public funding and closure of the Cywain heritage, rural life and sculpture centre in Bala [opens in new window]. At the time of publishing, the centre and all its facilities were closed. However, I was told that a cafe is now operating at the site.

Wales Audit Office performance auditors undertook a survey about rural services at this year's Royal Welsh Show
Wales Audit Office performance auditors undertook a survey about rural services at this year’s Royal Welsh Show

I also had a number of conversations with people who told me they had used inspection reports by Estyn and Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales to decide which schools and care homes to use for family members. On a personal level, it felt good to talk to people who were actually using the work of Inspection Wales partners to help them make informed decisions about the futures of their families. I also spoke with people about their experiences of healthcare in Wales, and told them about the role Healthcare Inspectorate Wales plays in regulating and inspecting healthcare services in Wales.

Readers may be interested to note that, although Healthcare Inspectorate Wales does not routinely investigate individual complaints or concerns, it would still like to hear about concerns and it monitors all complaints it receives [opeans in new window]. It uses complaints information as a way of gaining a picture of the overall safety and quality of healthcare services.

About the author

Emma Giles, Inspection Wales Programme Board ManagerDr Emma Giles took over as Inspection Wales Programme Manager in March 2017. Prior to this, Emma was a performance audit lead with the Wales Audit Office.
Emma is an outdoor enthusiast who likes mountain biking and walking.

Her PhD in Criminology looked at how offenders and criminal justice staff understood fairness, and what these differing perceptions of fairness meant for relationships between staff and offenders.

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