- Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford AM, First Minister
- Rebecca Evans AM
- Lesley Griffiths AM
- Julie James AM
- Eluned Morgan AM
- Ken Skates AM
- Kirsty Williams AM
- Jeremy Miles AM
- Jane Hutt AM
- Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary
- Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
- Carys Evans, Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister
- Will Whiteley, Head of Cabinet Division
- Toby Mason, Head of Strategic Communications
- Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
- Alex Bevan, Special Adviser
- Madeleine Brindley, Special Adviser
- Dan Butler, Special Adviser
- Paul Griffiths, Special Adviser
- Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
- Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser
- Tom Woodward, Special Adviser
- Christopher W Morgan Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
- Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat
- Andrew Jeffreys, Director Treasury (item 2)
- Piers Bisson, Director European Transition (item 3)
- Simon Brindle, Director Brexit Strategy (item 3)
- Emma Williams, Deputy Director Housing Policy (item 4)
- Vaughan Gething AM
Item 1: Government plenary business
- Cabinet considered the contents of the Plenary Grid and noted that, so far, one topical question, relating to the publication of Operation Yellowhammer documents, had been tabled for Wednesday.
Item 2: Implications from the UK Government Spending Round and update on Budget Preparations – oral update
- The Minister for Finance and Trefnydd set out the main implications for Wales, and the Welsh Government’s budget preparations, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement on 4 September on the Spending Round.
- In spite of the media headlines the Spending Round did not “turn the page on austerity” as claimed by the Chancellor. The reality was that the Welsh Government’s budget in 2020-21 would still be 2% lower, or £300m less in real terms, than in 2010-11 and Ministers would face tough choices over the coming weeks. The additional funding did not even return the Welsh Government’s spending power to the levels of a decade ago.
- The revenue budget for 2020-21 would increase by £593 million above the 2019-20 baseline, which represented a 2.3% uplift in real terms. The Spending Round also included an increase of £18 million to the capital budget, which would be 2.4% higher in real terms than in 2019-20.
- There were a number of risks and uncertainties hampering preparations, such as the timing and content of the UK Autumn Budget, which was unclear, the implications of Brexit and the potential impact of a ‘no-deal’ on future spending proposals. There was also the issue of the sustainability of the UK’s spending announcements given that these were based on dated forecasts and assumed a controlled exit from the EU. Furthermore, the suggested long-term settlements for NHS and schools, would actually be determined as part of the next Comprehensive Spending Review. In addition, the Government did not have a majority in Parliament to secure agreement to its spending plans.
- Given these risks and uncertainties there was no confidence that the UK Government’s spending announcements would be sustainable or that the UK Government could yet take decisions that would impact on the 2020-21 budget.
- The Minister was liaising with the Assembly’s Business and Finance Committees to finalise the budget scrutiny timetable. Subject to their agreement, the publication of the draft budget would be brought forward to 19 November and the final budget would be published on 4 February 2020.
- Cabinet welcomed the update but expressed concern that the messages from the UK Government about the settlement for Wales did not reflect the negative adjustments of over £200m.
- Cabinet noted that the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd would be making a Statement to the Assembly on the budget settlement the following day.
Item 3: A brighter future for Wales: Why we should remain in the EU
- The Counsel General and Brexit Minister introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to consider the policy document ‘A brighter future for Wales: Why we should remain in the EU’.
- In 'Securing Wales’ Future' and the more detailed policy documents which followed, the Welsh Government demonstrated that no Brexit scenario would provide equivalent or better outcomes for Wales than remaining in the EU. Welsh Ministers had highlighted that continued participation in the Single Market was essential to minimise the potential damage to Wales and the UK as a whole, whilst recognising that there would be a need to retain alignment in terms of Single Market rules and regulations, at the same time as losing the UK’s role in the political institutions that determined them.
- The Welsh Government had been working collaboratively to achieve these goals, however, the UK Government’s handling of the negotiations and failure to build domestic political consensus had resulted in continuing uncertainty, which resulted in a significant negative impact on the economy and had deepened divisions in society. The political turmoil continued, whilst the UK Government was set on leaving the EU on 31 October despite the overwhelming evidence of the damaging consequences of pursuing this hardest form of Brexit.
- With the type of Brexit Welsh Ministers had been working towards now a virtual impossibility, the position had necessarily evolved and in order to protect the interests of the people of Wales the Welsh Government had called for a second referendum and taken a public position that the UK should remain in the EU.
- In contrast to the UK Government, the Welsh Government’s position on exiting the EU had been strongly evidence-based throughout its evolution. 'A brighter future for Wales' followed this course by setting out the explanation behind the evolution of the position with clear and robust evidence for why this was now the necessary and responsible course of action.
- Cabinet welcomed the paper and the policy document.
Item 4: Homelessness Strategic Policy Statement CAB(19-20)01
- The Minister for Housing and Local Government introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to agree the future approach to homelessness prevention, as set out in the proposed strategic policy statement.
- Too many people only related homelessness to rough sleeping, which, while being acute, was an extremely small proportion of those who were homeless. The overarching vision was to work together to prevent homelessness, and where it could not be prevented, to ensure it was rare, brief and un-repeated.
- The approach underpinning this would focus on two key aspects: firstly, recognising that homelessness was not a housing issue but a public services matter. Therefore, all of Government would have a role in addressing the root causes and ensure that there was a whole-system approach to prevention.
- Secondly, it was important to shift the focus of Government efforts and resources from acute and crisis interventions to far earlier action. In housing for example, it would involve moving from temporary, emergency hostel provision to long-term permanent housing solutions.
- It was also recommended that Ministers should sign the Homelessness Prevention Pledge, which was a call for a collective commitment from public services and part of broader efforts to raise awareness and shift the focus of resources to earlier prevention and longer-term solutions.
- Cabinet welcomed the paper and agreed that Ministers should sign the Homelessness Prevention Pledge.
- Cabinet approved the paper.
Item 5: Welsh Government assets and public value
- The Minister for Finance and Trefnydd introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to agree to the transfer of land assets with residential potential from the Economy, Skills and Natural Resources portfolio to the new Public Sector Land Division. This would support the delivery of wider government priorities, with an initial focus on delivering social housing across Wales.
- The establishment of the new Public Sector Land Division was a clear demonstration that the government was intent on accelerating the development of public sector land for public policy benefit.
- As well as leading on the Corporate Asset Management Strategy, ensuring that Welsh Government land and building assets were managed efficiently and effectively, the division would also have an important outward facing role. As there was a need to address the serious reduction in the capacity and capability available across public sector bodies to lead housing developments with a strong social component. The government’s ambition in this area was affected by a shortage of the right sort of skills relating to compulsory purchase, land assembly and project delivery.
- The Division would be tasked to make the best use of the resources available and provide a mechanism for sharing expertise across the public sector so that there was a concerted response to the shortage of social housing. This would include work to develop ways of delivering a pan-Welsh public service approach in the future.
- Cabinet welcomed the key shift in policy and agreed that this would be a step change in securing public land for social housing.
- It would be important to secure the relevant planning consents for the land and ensure that future housing developments were sustainable and took into account the move to active travel, public transport requirements and the need for ultra-low emission vehicles, all of which would contribute to the decarbonisation agenda.
- Furthermore, there was a need to safeguard biodiversity by encouraging tree planting and sustainable land management to improve carbon stores and sequestration. In future, such issues would need to be addressed every time the Welsh Government considered capital expenditure.
- It was recognised that the Public Sector Land Division would be able to encourage the NHS in Wales to release public land, no longer required, for social care and housing. There was a need to encourage other custodians of public land, such as Local Government, to identify and release land for greater public value.
- Cabinet approved the paper, subject to comments made by Ministers, and agreed that there should be Ministerial oversight of the future management and release of Welsh Government land.