Radical action in testing times
1. Free school meals
No child should ever be at school hungry. Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government are agreed that the provision of universal free school meals would be a transformational intervention in terms of child hunger and child poverty, but also in supporting educational attainment and child nutrition whilst also enhancing local food production and distribution chains, benefiting local economies.
Over the lifetime of this agreement, we will put in place arrangements to provide a nutritious free school meal to all primary school pupils in Wales.
We share an ambition to provide good quality early childhood education and care to all children in Wales. Significant capital and revenue resources will be devoted to this ambition during the period of this agreement, focusing on two year olds.
Building on the success of many of the Welsh Government’s early years programmes, including Flying Start, we will:
- deliver a phased expansion of early years provision, to include all two year olds, with a particular emphasis on ensuring equity of access for our more deprived communities and our shared goal of achieving 1 Million Welsh speakers by 2050
- promote the wider awareness of the benefits of speaking more than one language from an early age
- do more to enable those in education/training or on the edge of work to access childcare
- explore with the Mudiad Meithrin and others the creation of a long term plan to strengthen capacity to deliver enhanced Welsh-medium early years provision
3. Future of social care
The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have a shared ambition for the creation of a National Care Service which is free at the point of need. Social care is a responsibility of Local Government in Wales and we are jointly committed to its continuation as a public service.
We will establish an Expert Group to provide recommendations on practical steps which can be taken, after April 2022, towards that shared ambition with a view to agreeing an implementation plan by the end of 2023.
In the meantime, we will press ahead with steps to provide for a better integrated system of care and to provide parity of recognition and reward for social care and health workers. We will use the recommendations of the Social Care Fair Work Forum to produce wider improvements for the workforce, including in its ability to provide health and care services through the medium of Welsh.
4. Second homes
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government agree that housing market failures have an impact on communities across Wales, but that this impact varies according to local circumstances. An effective policy response therefore requires a combination of Wales-wide and locally-delivered interventions. These will draw on a range of possible legislative and financial measures, encompassing the use of the planning and property system and taxation.
All measures implemented will be tested against the relevant evidence base, and all will be subject to the legally necessary consultations. Amongst the actions to be taken forward immediately in that way are:
- a potential cap on the number of second and holiday homes in any community
- further measures to bring a higher proportion of existing homes, and especially empty homes, into common ownership at a local level
- the introduction of a statutory licensing scheme for short term holiday lets, drawing on the current consultation due to end on 17 November
- providing greater powers to local authorities to charge council tax premiums on second homes
- increasing taxes on second homes land transactions
- ‘closing the loophole’ - act on the recent consultation and ensure genuine self-catered accommodation is distinguished from domestic properties with regard to local taxes
We will work with Plaid Cymru to explore local authority mortgages.
5. National construction company
We will establish a National Construction Company, Unnos, to support our councils and social landlords to improve the supply of social and affordable housing. We will take advice together on its remit, parameters and location.
6. Building safety
Significantly reform the current system of building safety which has allowed a culture of cutting corners to the detriment of public safety. We will introduce the second phase of the Welsh Building Safety Fund.
7. Property and fair rents
We will publish a White Paper to include proposals for a right to adequate housing with a view to establishing (a) system of fair rents (rent control) in the private rental market so that they are affordable for local people on local incomes and (b) new approaches to making homes affordable for those on local incomes.
We share the ambition to end homelessness in Wales. We are committed to ensuring that no one needs to live on the street and that any period of homelessness is rare, brief and unrepeated.
Together we will reform housing law in this Senedd term, implement the recommendations from the Homeless Action Group, ensuring that homelessness is rare, brief and unrepeated.
We will implement the Renting Homes Act – giving renters in Wales greater security.
9. Council tax reform
Local government finance is another area requiring overdue reform. Council tax is one of the most regressive forms of taxation and disproportionately impacts on poorer areas of the country, therefore exacerbating longstanding geographic inequalities.
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government will work jointly to reach a decision on council tax reform to make the system fairer and more progressive.
The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru share an ambition to use our procurement levers in Wales to support sustainable economic growth, to encourage strong local communities and to nurture vibrant local businesses in all parts of Wales.
We share an ambition to increase the level of public sector procurement of Welsh products and services and will work together, using the Social Partnership and Public Procurement Bill as well as the wider reform of procurement, to achieve that ambition.
Recognising the need to substantially improve the provision and use of data, we will work to develop new infrastructure in this area and enhance the quality of information used to support better procurement decisions and enhance transparency, accountability and the wider social impact of procurement. We will highlight existing good practice in engaging local markets through procurement and make good practice more widespread. We will jointly explore how best to set meaningful targets for increasing Welsh based public sector procurement from the current level of 52%.
As a first step and to supplement this work, we will dedicate resources to conduct a detailed analysis of public sector supply chains in Wales.
We will also promote the purchasing of Welsh-made products and services by businesses and consumers more widely.
11. Local tourism levies
We will introduce local tourism levies, and look to use local government finance reform legislation to take this forward.
Strengthening action to create a greener Wales to tackle climate change and the nature emergency
12. Net zero energy company
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government share an ambition to establish a publicly owned energy company for Wales, Ynni Cymru, in order to expand community owned renewable energy generation. We will work together towards establishing the company during the next two years, taking advice together on its remit, parameters and location.
13. Flood review
We will commission an independent review of the Section 19 reports produced into extreme weather flooding in Wales in the winter of 2020 and 2021, together with the reports produced by NRW. We will act on the recommendations made.
14. Agricultural pollution
Working with the farming community, we will deploy the Water Resources Regulations 2021 to improve water quality and air quality, taking an approach targeted at those activities known to cause pollution.
15. Net zero
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government believe we must maximise our progress towards net zero, while ensuring the costs and benefits of doing so must be shared fairly.
We will commission independent advice that will examine potential pathways to net zero by 2035 and the impact on society and sectors of our economy and how any adverse effects may be mitigated.
We support the devolution of further powers and the accompanying resources that Wales needs to respond most effectively to reaching net zero, specifically the management of the Crown Estate and its assets in Wales.
16. Flood capital investment and national resilience
We will deliver an increase in investment for flood and coastal erosion risk management and mitigation over the course of this Senedd term. Beyond this, and looking at how we can plan strategically to respond to the reality of the increasing risk of flooding, we will also ask the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales to conduct an assessment of how the nationwide likelihood of flooding of homes, businesses and infrastructure can be minimised by 2050.
We are committed to restoring biodiversity for species and habitats in both terrestrial and marine environments.
In order to address the nature crisis in Wales, we agree that setting a statutory duty and targets, as well as the establishment of an environmental governance body, have a key role to play in helping to drive this ambition. We will work together to take this forward. These targets must reflect the global ambition and we will work together to follow the scientific advice in this regard.
18. Tree planting
We will work with the farming community to encourage woodland creation on less productive land and through agro-forestry and ‘hedges and edges’ approaches as part of the imperative of meeting net zero.
This will include support for active farmers and landowners based in Wales through the sustainable farming scheme. We will work jointly with the expert group, alongside agricultural sector stakeholders, to explore ways of drawing investment for woodland creation that secures local ownership and control.
19. Sustainable farming scheme
The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru will implement a period of transition towards the Sustainable Farming Scheme of the future. Stability payments will continue to be a feature of the Scheme throughout and beyond the current Senedd term.
During the period of this agreement we intend to agree the longer term arrangements for Welsh agriculture, recognising the particular needs of family farms in Wales and acknowledging ecologically sustainable local food production.
20. Community food strategy
We will work together to develop a Wales Community Food Strategy to encourage the supply of locally sourced food in Wales.
21. Public transport
We will ask Transport for Wales and other partners to explore how transport links between the north and south of Wales can be developed, including how to protect potential travel corridors along the western coast of Wales from Swansea to Bangor.
We will ask TfW to form a partnership with local authorities in the North West of Wales and the Welsh Government to develop delivery plans for an integrated transport system for the region.
We will continue to press ahead with metro developments in different parts of Wales, focusing on how we can improve connectivity to achieve modal shift.
Reforming the foundations of Wales
22. Senedd reform
Both Parties to this agreement will support plans to reform the Senedd, based on:
- an expansion of numbers to between 80 and 100 Members
- a form of election which is as proportional, or more proportional than the current system
- an electoral system that is simple and intelligible to the voter
- legislative gender quotas integrated into the electoral system as proposed by the Expert Panel on Electoral Reform (2017)
In order to swiftly progress this commitment, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government will support the work of the Senedd Special Purpose Committee established to make recommendations by 31 May 2022 for policy instructions for a Welsh Government Bill on Senedd Reform.
Subject to the procedures of the Senedd, and in order to have passed the necessary legislation to reform the Senedd ahead of the next scheduled general election to the Senedd in 2026, our aim is to have introduced legislation to the Senedd within twelve to eighteen months of the Senedd Committee reporting.
23. Constitution Commission
The Welsh Government announced the creation of an Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales on 19th October 2021, along with its Co-Chairs. As the commissioning body, the Welsh Government is responsible for setting the Broad Objectives for the Commission and for appointing members to serve on the Commission.
We support the work of the Independent Commission on Wales’ Constitutional Future under its joint chairs, Professor Laura McAllister and Dr Rowan Williams and the practical arrangements in place to enable the Commission to carry out its work:
- The Commission will be supported by a secretariat of WG officials, who will work for the Commission for the lifetime of its existence. The secretariat will work under the direction of the co-chairs and be operationally autonomous from the WG and Plaid Cymru. The Commission will be able to call on the resources of the WG to take forward its work (e.g for specialist advice on financial matters) and will have responsibility for and ownership of its own work programme within the parameters set by the Welsh Government.
- While recognising and emphasising the Commission’s independence we will maintain joint contact with the Commission building on work practices which operated for previous Commissions (for example, Thomas, Burns and Holtham Commissions).
- The Commission’s interim and final reports will be presented jointly to the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
Both the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru will be free to make submissions and interact with the Commission independently according to their respective policy positions.
While the pandemic has raised the profile of Wales and Wales’s democracy in the UK media, there is a broad consensus that the current broadcasting and communications framework is inadequate, is hampering the democratic life of our country and is not serving the needs of, or ambitions for, the Welsh language. The current system is therefore not capable of delivering the media Wales needs. There are also ongoing threats to, and attacks on, public service broadcasting from the UK Conservative Government. Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government agree that broadcasting and communications powers should be devolved to the Senedd.
- We will work together, and with industry experts, communities and wider partners, to explore the creation of a shadow Broadcasting and Communications Authority for Wales.
- The remit of this body would include aiming to strengthen Welsh democracy and close the information deficit; bring together and coordinate in a structured way the Welsh Government’s existing efforts to strengthen the media in Wales and innovations to support the Welsh language in the digital sphere such as amam.cymru; enhance media pluralism and the use of the Welsh language on all media platforms.
- The new Authority would also be tasked with drawing up plans for, and steps towards, an alternative broadcasting and communications framework for Wales in readiness for the devolution of broadcasting and communications powers
This approach will allow us to strengthen the sector despite the challenges posed by a UK government that is failing to engage constructively with Welsh devolution.
25. Media financial support
As an initial intervention, we will provide additional investment to develop existing and new enterprises seeking to improve Welsh journalism and to support Welsh-based media to tackle the information deficit.
26. Arfor and Valleys
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government recognise the need to address the inequalities between the poorer and richer parts of the country. Connecting our communities and ensuring that investment and development are spread more evenly across the whole of Wales – with a particular focus on the economic needs of the communities across the western seaboard and the valleys – is crucial in order to eradicate these inequalities and also to support a thriving Welsh language and culture.
The £2m Arfor programme – agreed as part of our last budget agreement – piloted innovative approaches to promoting entrepreneurship, business growth, community resilience and the Welsh language, making the connection between economic regeneration and the vitality of the Welsh language across the western seaboard. It targeted support in Gwynedd, Anglesey, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and was delivered over a two year period 2019/20 and 2020/21.
- We will co-produce phase 2 of the Arfor programme with local government. This work will be supported by additional resources.
- We will ask the OECD to look at and design the best possible model for a longer term institutional structure to be developed where local authorities across the West can build on partnership working in pursuit of shared aims and in addressing shared challenges and opportunities together. The OECD will also be asked to look at a possible model for a longer term institutional structure to be developed where local authorities across the south Wales Valleys can build on partnership working in pursuit of shared aims and distinct challenges and opportunities.
27. National School of Government
We will explore how the establishment of a National School for Government might contribute to a step change in embedding the idea behind a One Wales Public Service in practical terms.
28. Review regional partnership arrangements
We will look to ensure that regional partnership working in Wales is efficient and streamlined and provide appropriate democratic accountability and control. Significant changes have been made to local government in recent years and the Senedd has legislated for new Corporate Joint Committees.
While this work continues it’s important that we look carefully at the surrounding structures of regional partnership working to ensure in the context of these changes, they remain fit for purpose. Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government will work together with local government, and relevant partners across Wales, to continue to review regional partnership arrangements, including Public Service Boards and Regional Partnership Boards, to ensure that structures are efficient in the partnership landscape. Changes to partnership arrangements should be led locally and not imposed, driven by what works best locally based on local priorities and existing relationships.
29. New revenue implications of sustainable public services
We will continue to work with the Wales Governance Centre, and OBR and others to develop greater understanding of the prospects for devolved public finances and the future needs of the Welsh public services, looking for new ways to address any funding gaps identified, grow our tax base, and consider the implications of the newly established Constitutional Commission.
30. Supply teaching and looked after children
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government believe that reversing outsourcing in the public sector, bringing activities back in house or at least under local democratic control and delivery, should be supported where possible.
As first steps, we will work together and with social partners to:
- bring forward options for a more sustainable model of supply teaching with fair work at its heart, which will include local authority-led and school-led alternatives
- put in place a framework to remove profit from the care of looked after children
31. School term dates
To narrow educational inequalities and support learner and staff well-being, we will look to radically reform school term dates to bring them more in line with contemporary patterns of family life and employment.
We share the priority to support physical and mental well-being as well as academic progression particularly for disadvantaged pupils. Running alongside the school year reforms, we will explore options around the rhythm of the school day, specifically to create space for additional sessions providing wide ranging, culturally accessible activities and opportunities.
32. Reforming qualifications
Working together, we will lead the way by radically reforming qualifications, with a focus on experiences and well-being. We will match the ambition in Wales’s new curriculum with ambition in our reformed qualifications. We will significantly expand the range of ‘made in Wales’ vocational qualifications to fit the needs of our learners and our economy.
33. Tertiary Education & Research Bill
We will take forward the Tertiary Education & Research Bill to empower education providers to be part of a diverse, agile and collaborative sector that delivers for learners throughout their lives, as well as for employers, communities and meets our needs as a nation as we face the future. We will jointly develop a new mission-based national innovation strategy to be implemented across Government and by CTER given it has a leading role in promoting innovation in Wales. We will also work together on post-16 curriculum reforms informed by our new national curriculum purposes, an expansion in lifelong learning and workforce professional development.
Creating a united and fairer Wales for all
34. Culture strategy
We will develop a new culture strategy from the ground up which reflects Wales in all its diversity and ensure that each government department works strategically towards the delivery of the sixth pillar of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language, and, in so doing, engages deeply and meaningfully with the arts, culture and heritage sectors. In parallel to developing the strategy, we will ensure the financial sustainability of our national cultural institutions to ensure its implementation. We will further develop the proposals for a National Contemporary Art Gallery.
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government believe that everyone should learn about and be able to critically engage with the history of our country in all of its diversity. Our citizens should also be able to participate in and enjoy culture.
We welcome Estyn’s report into The teaching of Welsh history including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic history, identity and culture (October 2021). We share a specific concern about the finding that pupils do not ‘develop a progressive and coherent conceptual understanding of the history of Wales’ and that ‘most pupils do not have an understanding of how Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals and communities have contributed to the history of Wales’.
- We are committed to the teaching of Welsh history – in all of its diversity and complexity – being mandatory in the Curriculum for Wales and will revise the Statement of What Matters/other supporting guidance in light of the Estyn report to ensure that this commitment is met.
- In addition, we will draw up a specification for new curriculum resources that are required to support Welsh history, in all of its diversity, including the development of a Welsh history timeline. We will commence National Network conversations in early 2022 on Welsh history, local contexts and on the subject of “diversity” and provide additional funding for professional learning to support the teaching of Welsh history.
36. Prosiect 2050
We will work together to support an increase in Welsh-speaking spaces, including workplaces, across the country. The Welsh Government will lead by example, including by supporting more sponsored bodies, local authorities and the Welsh civil service to administrate through the medium of Welsh.
37. Welsh Language Education (Bill)
We will work together to bring forward a Welsh Language Education Bill. This, together with any more immediate actions which can be taken prior to legislation, will:
- strengthen Welsh in Education Strategic Plans
- set new ambitions and incentives to expand the proportion of the education workforce who can teach and/or work through the medium of the Welsh language
- establish and implement a single continuum of Welsh language learning
- facilitate and enable existing schools to move into a higher Welsh language category
- incentivise the increase of Welsh-medium provision in all education settings, including those where English is the medium of instruction.
38. Welsh Language Standards
The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru will work with the Welsh Language Commissioner during the period of this agreement to:
- minimise obstacles in setting Welsh Language Standards
- streamline the process for implementation of such Standards, without weakening their impact
- implement standards on public transport; regulators in the health sector; newly established public bodies currently outside the Standards regime, and water companies
- begin work on implementing standards on housing associations which will be completed within the Senedd term
We remain jointly committed to the full implementation of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 and will develop a list to prioritise the further rollout of Standards under its schedules beyond the term of this agreement. Prioritisation will take account of the facilitation of daily use of the Welsh language, changing the behaviour of institutions and giving practical effect to the linguistic rights of citizens.
39. Welsh language place names
Act to ensure that Welsh language place names in the built and natural environments are safeguarded and promoted for future generations.
40. Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and National Centre for Learning Welsh
Ensure that the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and the National Centre for Learning Welsh receive extra funds to increase the proportion of apprenticeships and further education that are Welsh-medium, and to provide free Welsh language learning for 16 to 25 year olds.
41. Seren network
We will work together to ensure that the Seren Network specifically targets learners from our most disadvantaged backgrounds and we will create baseline data for all FSM learners from across Wales to ensure that we increase their engagement in the Seren programme.
We will also offer summer schools for each Welsh University for Seren Foundation learners and expand current partnerships with Aberystwyth and Cardiff with the aim of forming new pilot activities in subject-specific areas for other Welsh institutions.
42. Tackling poverty and inequality
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government share the clear ambition to tackle poverty and inequality across the country. We are united in our opposition to the UK Conservative Government’s draconian decisions on Universal Credit and their indifference to the drastic increase in the cost of living.
We support the devolution of the administration of welfare and will explore the necessary infrastructure required to prepare for this administration. We are agreed that such a transfer of power would need to be accompanied by the transfer of appropriate financial support.
43. Mental health
We will look at extending the sanctuary model to young people. This would include piloting specific facilities with the aim of preventing or reducing the deterioration in a young person’s emotional, behavioural or wellbeing in crisis. These would be community based to make the services as accessible as possible, operated by trained third sector staff with clear referral pathways into NHS services if required. This will support young people to deal with an urgent mental health or emotional wellbeing issue, to prevent further escalation and would be accessible in the evening and on weekends.
The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have a shared determination to strengthen the rights of Disabled People and tackle the inequalities they continue to face. We are committed to the social model of disability. Together we will ensure the success of the Disability Task Force that has been established to respond to the ‘Locked Out’ report.
45. Race Equality Action Plan
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government have a shared determination to tackle institutionalised and systemic racism and support the significant steps outlined in the Race Equality Action Plan which seeks to address this and much more. Together, we will ensure the justice elements of the Race Equality Action Plan are as robust as possible and address these matters with the police and the courts. We will work with the Wales Governance Centre and other stakeholders to determine what additional work may be required. We will support efforts to ensure the devolution of policing and justice powers as the most sustainable way to deliver a reformed justice system that is right for Wales.
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government are united behind the ambition for Wales to become the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe and embrace the LGBTQ+ Action Plan against this backdrop. Building on the work in our previous budget agreement to create a Gender Identity Clinic for Wales, we will trigger a request under the Government of Wales act to draw down the powers from Westminster to legislate to improve the lives and protect the safety of trans people in Wales.