Huw Lewis, Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage
In May 2012, I announced that I had established a Working Group to consider whether the core functions of the Royal Commission could be merged with other organisations, including Cadw.
I asked for the review because I was concerned about the resilience of the historic environment sector given the unprecedented financial pressures that will be facing the sector over the next few years. I am also anxious to ensure that we have a sector that is structured to make a coherent and sustainable contribution to the delivery of the Programme for Government and my Historic Environment Strategy. This includes delivery of the first ever heritage legislation to be considered by the National Assembly.
The Working Group included representatives from the Royal Commission and the Welsh Government together with trade union representatives. They have had the opportunity to consider the practical issues that surround the effective exercise of statutory functions in the sector in Wales as well as points raised by the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee and other interested parties during the development of a report for my consideration.
The Working Group has concluded that there is a case for change and have subjected three options in particular to preliminary scrutiny. These ranged in scale from the reconstitution of the Commission as a modernised arms length body; merging the Royal Commission’s functions with those of Cadw within the Welsh Government; and merging the Commission’s functions with those of Cadw into a new body operating at arms length from Government.
Having considered the report carefully I have concluded that the status quo is not an option.
In order for me to come to a final view on the future organisational model for the functions of the Commission and Cadw, I have therefore asked for a full business case to be developed for the merger of the Commission’s functions with Cadw within the Welsh Government. The modernised stand alone Commission will be used as a cost comparator during this exercise. I expect to receive the business case by March.
I recently met with the Chair of the Commission to explain my response to the Working Group’s report and to stress the priority I accord to the Commission’s functions. The Commission has made an invaluable contribution to the historic environment sector in Wales and I want to ensure that we can build on this through the next stage of this process. I welcome the Commission’s continued commitment to working with us to ensure that the historic environment sector is appropriately configured for delivering on my priorities.
I am very aware that the possibility of major organisational change will be unsettling for the staff of both organisations concerned. I will ensure that staff continue to have opportunities to contribute and engage with this process, while also engaging with the relevant trade unions as the Working Group have done to date. This process will support my aim to protect services and jobs. I reiterate my commitment that the jobs currently associated with delivering the Commission’s functions should remain in Aberystwyth.
I will make a final decision on how to proceed once I have received and considered the full business case that I have now commissioned.