Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jack Sargeant Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Joel James
Peredur Owen Griffiths
Rhys ab Owen

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Adam Cooper Greenbelt
Colin Thomson Greenbelt
Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira Prifysgol Leeds
University of Leeds
Robin Waddell Greenbelt

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Gareth Price Clerc
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Samiwel Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Sara Moran Ymchwilydd

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 14:00.

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

The meeting began at 14:00.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso cynnes i chi i gyd i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Deisebau.

A very warm welcome to you all to this meeting of the Petitions Committee.

Can I welcome everybody today to this hybrid meeting of the Senedd Petitions Committee? As a reminder, this meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and the Record of Proceedings will be published as per usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations for conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. Item 1 on today's agenda is apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. We've received apologies from Buffy Williams and no substitution. Can I remind committee members they should note any declarations of interest now or at the relevant point during today's session?

2. Sesiwn gyda'r Athro Cristina Leston-Bandeira
2. Session with Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira

Item 2. We are pleased to have a session with Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira, who has, with her colleagues at the University of Leeds, undertaken a piece of work and a report entitled 'Towards citizen-focused political engagement'. Professor, you are the current professor of politics at the University of Leeds, you also chair the International Parliament Engagement Network and you've had a long-standing interest—I know we've had many conversations—in how parliaments engage with citizens. I was grateful for having the opportunity to be interviewed by you and colleagues as part of this process. You've now reported. I should say, as Chair, that I'm keen that we do take this seriously and that we do find some way of implementing and improving our committee. We can always make our committee better. How we do that will be a question for us. We should note for Members that that paper will come around, hopefully informed by today's discussion as well, in the new year so we can formally respond to you and your colleagues for this work, and hopefully the UK Parliament can do the same there. Shall we start by handing over to you? I'm conscious that colleagues will have questions; we can either do that throughout today's session or at the end of the presentation from the professor. I'll hand over to you.

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:02:43

That's fine. Thank you very much, and thank you so much for inviting me to come here to talk to you about the research, which was a really, really interesting process to go through. Before I outline the main findings of the research and our recommendations, just a quick thank you, really, to the committee—to the staff, who've been absolutely amazing in facilitating anything we needed to do the research, but also to Members, obviously, and to the Chair for being open to doing this research. It's not every committee or every parliament that would be so open to welcoming academics to do the research. So, thank you very much. It's really appreciated and it makes a huge difference to do this type of research on political engagement.

The project itself had three core aims. The first one was to identify how citizens from what we refer to as 'seldom-heard groups' perceive political engagement and petitioning. When we say 'seldom-heard groups', we are thinking specifically of groups that don't usually engage—so, for instance, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, black and ethnic minorities in this country, those sort of groups. The second aim was to identify particular barriers that these groups face, but also enablers—what would help particularly these groups to further engage with political engagement and petitioning. And then our third aim was about establishing practices and processes that would enhance this experience or would diversify, say, the pool of people petitioning and would enhance the experience of those who already petition. And this is on the back of a lot of research that does show that those people who tend to petition tend to come from what we refer to as the 'usual suspects', which tend to be, in this country, white, higher socioeconomic background and everything. And all international research shows that to be the case.

We undertook some focus groups with petitioners, but mainly with non-petitioners, and those focus groups included people from seldom-heard groups. We also did interviews with staff, with the Chair, with representatives of community organisations. We've done this in partnership and co-designed with the Petitions Committee here at the Senedd, but also the Petitions Committee at the UK Parliament, which has been really useful to do, to draw comparisons and to take some learnings from it.

In terms of the findings, we outlined six core findings, really, that we got to. And please, if you want any clarifications or have any questions, just go ahead. The first finding—it's not very surprising—was that we found really negative perceptions about politics and a very deep well of distrust. This is not surprising. We know that people don't have particularly good views of politics. What was surprising was the voracity of those negative perceptions, but particularly also the fact that this was regardless of positive experiences. Some of the people we talked to in focus groups had actually quite specific positive experiences of contacting their Members and Members helping them out, but the overall perception of politics was really, really negative.

I have to say that the perception towards the Senedd and Members of the Senedd was slightly more positive than Members of the UK Parliament. Westminster, for our focus groups in Wales, was seen particularly negatively. But when it comes to talking about perceptions, people don't necessarily differentiate between one institution and the other, and they just see it all as part of the same thing. I think that it's important to understand, before you do any work, particularly with these types of groups, that there is that barrier, which I'm sure you'll recognise, in terms of dispelling that and breaking it down a little bit and trying to differentiate between institutions and different types of actions et cetera. They also felt that politics was not for them, particularly people from seldom-heard groups. This was interesting, because they all very enthusiastically talked about issues that they were concerned about, problems in their communities, and they were very, very ready to identify things that they would like to campaign on. But they didn't necessarily associate those issues with politics. Politics for them was the institutions and was something very negative that they didn't want. They didn't think it was for them. It was a different world from them. So, that's the first set of findings.

The second set of findings is about the barriers. One thing to bear in mind also is that there are lots of different types of barriers, like poverty, IT poverty, isolation, democracy illiteracy, like not understanding necessarily how the political system works, not having the campaigning skills, lack of confidence—a lot of lack of confidence—because it's perceived that it's not a world that is for them, that it's separate from them, and lack of knowledge in general about the Senedd, about how politics works, et cetera. But then those intersecting inequalities, such as poverty, obviously then reinforce other inequalities, such as IT poverty, isolation and all of that. Underlying all of that, you have huge distrust. When life is hard enough for you in terms of what you're facing and you have such a strong distrust, then why would you engage? That is, a little bit, the starting point for some of these groups. Obviously, it's a slightly different perspective for people who are not from seldom-heard groups and people who are from more professional campaign groups. There was a huge difference between how those groups perceived politics or perceived the petitioning process.

The third set of findings was specifically about petitioning Parliament and a lack of awareness about petitions to Parliament, and, I would say, particularly, petitioning to the Senedd. Some of the people we spoke to actually might have heard of the petitions to the UK Parliament or described things that were clearly from the UK Parliament, the House of Commons, but not the Senedd. I have to say that all of this research was done before the 20 mph petition, though. The 20 mph limit might have changed, slightly, perceptions. So, there was not so much awareness of petitions to Parliament. If they had an awareness of petitions, it tended to be more about Change.org, but not necessarily understanding the difference it makes to actually bring a petition to Members, where Members can actually consider it and bring it into the decision-making process. That was like a revelation to a lot of them. Once they were aware of that, they were actually very enthusiastic about it. We even had focus group participants there and then trying to organise themselves to put in petitions on issues that really concerned them.

And still within this finding, those people who were already petitioning—so, petitioners—they had a really, really positive perception of the staff of the committee, but that didn't mean that they didn't think that the process was not very clear. And the idea of it being disjointed came up quite a few times, and we've got recommendations specifically about that—so, some frustration and not understanding necessarily what's happening from outside the Senedd. And part of that, as I'll come to later, is because the e-petitions site, where petitions are submitted, is linked to the Senedd and the committee, but it's not a very clear link, so you need to know how to link the two of them. And there was a point that was interesting, that some of the petitioners in the focus group were talking about the staff and how helpful the staff were, and someone said, 'Well, I didn't realise they had staff. I had no idea they had staff'—so, this perception that Members are doing everything, with no help from staff. So, again, it comes back to that lack of awareness of how the system works, and, if there isn't a clear link to the committee site, then that just reinforces that idea of a disjointed process.

Then the fourth set of findings is about this idea of how important it is to manage expectations to shape those perceptions, and that this is linked, really, to clarity of information and an explanation of what's happening. So, managing expectations came up a lot, actually, through our focus groups, through our interviews, and obviously it is really, really important. And, ultimately, it's all about how processes are explained, about clarity of information. And sometimes it might be in terms of the type of language that is used, which for us might be very familiar, but for someone who's not familiar with the Senedd or parliamentary processes might not be. For instance, the word 'consider'—that, with a number of signatures, the petition will be considered. Someone in one of our groups said, 'What does that mean? I mean, what on earth—what does that mean?' So, it's about explaining the process to someone who doesn't know anything about the process, which is difficult to do if you are within the situation. And so for that, collaboration with outside organisations might be quite helpful. 

And that comes to our fifth group of recommendations, which is about community organisations being a really important mediator. I didn't say at the beginning and I should have said that we did the focus groups in partnership with community organisations, because it's really difficult to do research on politics, on political engagement, with these types of groups, and one of the ways to do that is to work with community organisations who already have the trust and relationship with those groups, and that's how we managed to do that. And we did some interviews also. And those mediators, they already have long-term relationships with these types of groups, they have direct access, they understand the challenges that people from these groups face, and they have their trust, which I wouldn't have as an academic, and Members might not have unless, obviously, they already know them and are working with them, which I realise also can happen, particularly at a constituency level. 

And then the sixth and final set of findings was the importance of what we refer to as citizen-centred services—so, services like education, engagement, communications. The Senedd has got very strong services in this area and they do an amazing role in reaching out to communities that other areas of the Senedd might not reach out to. But what we found was that there could be a closer relationship between those groups and the committee, and that's because this committee, the Petitions Committee, is a very citizen-oriented committee; your agenda is shaped by the citizen. So, I would say that it's a slightly different committee to other committees. And so that orientation to the citizen is particularly important. So, if—and, again, it's a question of priorities, but if—the committee did want to go beyond the usual suspects, there's a lot of work there that can be done with those other services, and that might be just about the team that supports this committee meeting more regularly with these other services, it might be about developing specific resources for, say, seldom-heard groups about petitioning, it might be a variety of strategies. But it's just about recognising the importance of those services, particularly to reach out to these particular groups.

So, these were our main findings, and then from these we set out some recommendations, and they're in two sets of recommendations. The first set is about increasing awareness of petitioning Parliament beyond the usual suspects, and the second set is around enhancing the current experience of petitioners.

So, within the first one, our first recommendation was about deepening and extending work with community organisations, which is something that I know the Senedd actually already does a lot, but maybe thinking about doing that with a view to petitioning and disseminating petitioning through those channels. There was actually an idea that came through the research about creating something like engagement champions, following the model of 'train the trainer', so community organisations that would have a particularly good understanding of how petitioning works, how the Senedd works, who then could talk to other community organisations or support their service users.

The second one was about developing material that is specific to seldom-heard groups on the value of petitioning, and doing this through story-telling, case studies, that sort of thing. You already have the very good practice of having your petition of the year, so, developing that further to these specific groups using case studies. And the third recommendation in that group was about closer collaboration between the committee and the engagement, education and communication services, because of this committee's remit being so citizen-focused. 

So, then, in the second set of recommendations on enhancing the experience, the first one is quite a technical and boring one, but it's quite an important one, which is about integrating the e-petition site to the committee site, so that there's a clearer link between them, so that people understand there are lots of things happening in there, even if it's not necessarily clear from the outside. But also, for instance, there's a page you have with very good tips on how to campaign to promote your petition, and none of the people we spoke to knew about that page, and that's because—you know, they don't know about it, and they can't find it, because it's not directly linked. So, it's just thinking about those links between those two sites.

And then the fifth and final one is about transforming communications, as we referred to, from Parliament-led to citizen-focused. So, this is about the language used, so coming back to that word 'considered'. It's not that you stop using these words, because obviously they are part of the parliamentary process; it's more about the translation of those terms and explaining. So, there are things like infographics, visuals. There's a great video of the Chair explaining about petitions—more use of that type of material, but also signposting it so that people actually find it, because they might not necessarily see it if they're only looking at their own petition.

So, that includes quite a few ideas. We gave a few ideas, but, actually, the Senedd has got plenty of professionals in communications, so I'm sure there will be plenty of ideas within the institution to move this forward. That's a summary. I hope that's useful. I'm open to any questions or comments you may have.


Professor, diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much for that. It is particularly useful. We'll take questions from Members shortly. A few comments from me. Just to say, I think you're right in your assessment: we have had a spike, or we will see a spike, of petitions coming to committee around March/April time, and, if you track back, that was because petitions around the 20 mph petition and law change were around six months ago, or will be when we have the spike, so I think you're correct in your assessment that the petitions process was made more aware to the people of Wales.

You've stated some, I think, areas where we definitely could seek to improve, the website being one of them, and using—. I'm a big believer in using language that everyday citizens use. We should seek to be more like everyday citizens, I think, in Parliament, and recognising that. When you say, in your first recommendation, recommendation 1c, deepen collaboration with community groups, would that include charities and other areas? Because we have seen charities in the past, and we do see charities, petition our process. I can think of one example where a particular charity had a successful petition, but then, sadly, decided to petition outside of the Senedd's system in the last few weeks, and that was disappointing for me as Chair. But the engagement champions scheme there, would it be something for us to look at, where we do see charities who are engaging with our petitions process on a regular basis, reaching out to them to say, 'Can you do more to help us?' Would that be worth while, in your eyes?

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:20:56

Yes, I think so. That would be the idea behind it, would be to work—. Yes, it could be charities, absolutely. And I think it's about making these groups understand the value of petitioning and how it could be very useful for their own causes, but also for their service users, for the people they support. And if they had the badge or the training or whatever it is, where they are recognised as engagement champions and they could go and talk to other community organisations about that, that could be a way of addressing that gap. There are community organisations of all types, aren't there, so it'd be about how to manage that process. But it would mean that it's not just coming from the Senedd, and I think it would reach out to those groups more easily, more fluidly. And the example you just gave, I agree that is quite sad. If they have gone through the process and now they've done a petition but, actually, they've gone elsewhere, that's a missed opportunity, isn't it? Whereas if there was a better understanding from these organisations of what petitioning is—petition the Senedd, where it goes to, and why it's different from elsewhere—then that would definitely mean that it's not always the usual suspects, the ones who know about petitions, who come to you.

It may have been a change in personnel in the organisation, but I think—. I'm thinking about my memory of the process of the charity that was involved originally; I think they had a really successful—we can discuss in private who, but—they had a successful one, and I think a change in personnel—. Which shouldn't be the case, really. They should feel comfortable to come back, whoever they are. Thank you for that. We'll start with questions from other members of the committee, perhaps starting with Joel James.

Thank you, Chair, and thanks ever so much for coming in this afternoon. The report is absolutely fascinating, actually, and I just wanted to pick your brains, if I can. Some of the topics there—. I'm quite interested, and you've touched upon it here now, about seldom-heard groups and how that is meant to switch the focus from—instead of those hard-to-reach groups, as they were originally called, switching the focus, then, to the parliamentary procedure in terms of engagement and that. I was just wondering if you can just go into a bit more detail about that, because one of the things that I sometimes get frustrated about is sometimes, you know—. The saying is, 'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make the horse drink it', and when I look at my own involvement over the years—council campaigns and everything—you can do everything you can to try and engage, but people are still just disconnected from it. I just wanted to have some thoughts on that, really.

I've got a few other questions as well. I don't know if you want to answer that and then I'll come back—or just throw it all at you, I don't know. I'm quite interested to know your views, then, on where social media comes into all that, really, because one of the things I always find quite surprising—and I don't know much about it—is when you hear of petition websites like iPetitions and Change.org. What is the benefit of people signing those petitions, as opposed to a parliamentary petition, which actually gets debated and spoken about? And then also, where does the likes of general data protection regulation come into it? Because, as politicians, we've all done petitions, and we've all sometimes had ulterior motives for that in terms of data collection and all that, and I just wanted your views on that.

And if I may, finally, it's something you were involved in about 10 years ago now, where the UK Parliament did a pilot with a public reading stage of one of the Bills that they were doing, and you said something quite good, then, in the sense—I made a note of it, actually—that it's more than just asking people for their views. It's about involving them in the process, and whether or not there could be something done with the petition, because a lot of the time we find we engage with the lead petitioner or the person who started it, but those who have signed the petition, you don't really hear much more about them, really. Yes, so I just wanted to hear your views on that then, if that's okay. 

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:25:20

That's great. So, quite a few things in there, all really, really interesting. So, to start on the seldom heard and the hard to reach, I think that the difference in the terms is really important, because 'hard to reach' implies that they are hard to find and we don't know where they are, whereas in reality we know very well which communities don't get so involved in participation, which don't necessarily get involved in things like petitioning. And talking of 'seldom heard', it puts the onus, the responsibility on the institutions, rather than on these groups, so it puts the responsibility on Parliament, on Government, whoever it may be in this case, or the Senedd, to reach out to these groups. And it also recognises that these groups are often not part of the conversations and decision making. They're not heard. They're seldomly heard, so that's why the term is quite important.

And, yes, it's true that you can do lots of different things, but ultimately if those groups really mistrust you and think that politics is not for them, they're not going to engage—they're just not. That's why the idea of working through community organisations is quite important, because they already have that trust, and so they will be listened to because these groups are used—. They understand that these people are there for them, whereas they might not see Members in the same way. 

But also, still on that, I think it's a combination of different processes. I'll talk about social media in a bit, but the use of leaflets can be quite a good way of communicating some of these messages, and just having something that community organisations have there with them to distribute and have a point of conversation, but also visits—I know the committee does visits quite regularly—but also from the services, the citizen-centred services, they also do these visits. So, there are lots of different ways, and I don't think there is one magic wand that will solve it all. It's about different approaches, and you work in different ways with different people and different groups. 

With social media, it works really well for some groups. There are some groups that are very, very proficient at using social media and it makes a huge difference for them. There are many groups for which it doesn't, and, obviously, it tends to be the more professionalised campaigns who know about how to use social media. But it depends on the groups.

Yes, because you mentioned there about the seldom heard or the hard to reach, and I always see social media as something that can cut across that. It almost, in my view, changes it then, in the sense that somebody talked about black and ethnic minority backgrounds, and you could argue that there's quite a high proportion who would be on social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, but then that changes it to the elderly or digitally excluded. Is that something you see, in the sense that it's not necessarily the method that's used to—? I see it myself. I see something come up on Facebook, I engage and I'll click the link, but if something comes through my door as a leaflet, I'll pick it up, think 'Oh', and I'll put it down, but then I'll forget all about it.

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:28:45

Yes. I think all those methods will work differently with different groups. So, we had in one of the focus groups—this wasn't the one in Wales; it was one in England—and the members of that focus group were mainly elderly people from black and ethnic minorities, and they had huge difficulties with anything online. They didn't even have a smartphone or—. So, anything online really didn't work for them, so they were saying, 'We need a leaflet', or even a conversation with someone. So, coming back to the idea of the engagement champions, it's about having people from community organisations or charities, or whoever they may be, who know these service users, know how to reach out to them, and sometimes, actually, it is a conversation rather than a leaflet or a post. 

However, other groups, yes, social media absolutely. Particularly, I don't know, with young people, TikTok would work really well, but Facebook not so much. Facebook, I think, is for an elderly—. So, it will be different. Different groups, do you see what I mean?

It was that point when it was all new, we were part of—

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:29:51

Yes, exactly. If I think of my sons, for instance, for them, Facebook, they'll look at me and think—. But if you talk of Instagram or TikTok or something like that, then—. And that's always changing. But then you have a communications service here who will know about all those different groups and audiences, so there is the expertise in the institution, I'm sure, to understand those different groups.

It's interesting that you talked about the data collection exercise, because there was some suspicion from some of the focus group participants, saying, 'Oh, this is all just a data collection exercise', and obviously that's not changed to a large extent. And again, making clear the difference between parliamentary petitions and other petitions is so important, so people understand it's coming right to the heart of decision making, but also, where it's not a data collection exercise, and that's really important for people out there. So, that's something else I would emphasise. 


Good. We have about 10 minutes—nine minutes—left of this session.

No, no, it was good, that question, but I'm conscious that Peredur and Rhys will have questions as well. So, perhaps I'll bring Peredur in now, if you try and keep to five minutes. 

I'll try and be brief. Thank you so much for your presentation and the report. Something you said—and maybe you can talk a little bit more about it—is that the perception of the Senedd compared to Westminster is slightly better for the Senedd compared to Westminster, and you said that positive engagement with politicians didn't change their perception. I'm just wondering: if that doesn't help, then what would? If you've got that magic bullet then we'd all be interested.

And the second question I had is that you talk a lot about peer to peer and engagement champions and that sort of thing. Would there be any benefit in doing something similar to what Jack's done with a video from the Chair on the petition, a peer-to-peer type of video engagement, or something that can be pushed out on different social media channels, depending on what the target audience would be?

And then, thirdly, obviously, the seldom-heard groups. We were in a meeting this morning talking about the seldom-heard groups that potentially don't have smartphones, and going out to see them where they are rather than waiting for them to come to us, and whether or not you've got any advice or ideas as to how we make that happen in a meaningful way.

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:32:47

Great questions again. We could be here the whole day talking about this. So, yes, those perceptions, positive experience didn't work, what would work, it's a really difficult one, because I think to some extent it's actually about accepting that it's just really about perceptions. We keep hearing—. Sometimes you'll hear politicians saying, 'Oh, the golden days, when we did all that, and everyone thought it was great', but you look back through history and politics has never been popular. So, I think part of understanding what works is understanding that, actually, politics is just not popular, and trying to do all these other things to show the specifics of what can make a difference.

Part of that links to your second question about the video peer to peer. Actually, if you have, for instance, little testimonies from petitioners themselves talking about their petition, and saying what worked with them, and how they would listen—. Because in the research that I've done, when you talk about—. We were talking about that earlier today, when I talked to staff, and someone asked about what is success, and success may be many things, but the thing that it really means is to be listened to. So, if the petitioner feels that they've been listened to, even if they didn't change the law, even if they didn't get a debate, then something positive has happened there. And there's nothing better for that than having another citizen saying that. So, definitely videos of the Chair and Members, they're all great, but also, then, testimonies from petitioners talking about their own petition, and what worked for them, and what they got out of it. So, I think that would make a huge difference, developing that type of different material. So, coming back to your first question, it's about trying to do lots of little things to convince them, whilst knowing that politics is always going to be unpopular.

And making those visits to the seldom heard meaningful, again it's about being seen to be listening, and going out to reach out. I know that the committee does visits, but going out to their own environment, rather than expecting them to come here, is really important, and just being open to listening—not just talking to them, but listening and opening those spaces. Also working with community organisations, or wherever it is that you go and visit them, and saying, 'What would work with this group?' Again, if you think of the engagement and education team at the Senedd, they have a lot of experience of that. So, they understand how to do these things in a way that feels welcoming and inclusive. I hope that answers you.


Thank you very much, Chair. I have two questions that I am desperate to ask you. I will ask them in turn, if the Chair will allow. The first question follows on, I think, from what the Chair mentioned, and then Joel James, and from a recommendation you have about clear integration between the Petitions Committee and the e-petitions website.

Like the Chair, I have been frustrated, on occasion, seeing very popular petitions on the iPetitions website and thinking, 'Well, why on earth isn't this being used through the Petitions Committee?' Of course, there might be changes in procedure that we have to do, but are there any major disadvantages that you can see with the Petitions Committee adopting some petitions from the iPetitions website that are relevant to our work? 

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:36:34

I think that the main difficulty with that is the question of recognition of signature, and being able to certify those signatures. So, I think that's the main difficulty, and I think that it's not something specific to the Senedd. There are other Parliaments that use similar systems, and again, they have the same type of regulations. The system that you use for the Senedd has got lots of protections in it, in terms of identifying duplicate signatures, but also where the signatures come from.

We get, every so often, news about—. I don't know if this happened with the 20 mph petition, but often people start questioning the process and saying, 'Are there people out there distorting this?' If we think of the UK Parliament and petitions around the Brexit period, that could have been quite tricky, because then there are all sorts of legitimacies that are being questioned. So, the recognition of the signature, I think, is the main reason why other e-petition sites—. It would be difficult to do it. I am not a technical person, but that's my understanding.

Rhys, before you ask your second question, can I just state as well: some of those arguments were made during the 20 mph petition, and our investigation internally has shown that that was not the case, actually. There may have been a small number, but it wasn't an overall majority, just for the record. Rhys.

Thank you very much, Chair. I'd love to ask a supplementary question on that, but I had better stick to my brief. It's an interesting topic. I just wanted to touch on something that you mentioned and that we are well aware of here in Wales, that people do not know the difference between the Executive and the legislature. I think that it's worse here, for several reasons. For example, when the National Assembly was founded, there wasn't an executive, and I think that that's been an issue. It's better due to COVID and 20 mph, ironically, but it's still a big issue here in Wales.

It was interesting to hear you saying that the effectiveness of the Petitions Committee was often judged on the actions of the Government. Now, that's very hard for us, isn't it? We aren't the Government, and that should not be the case. I want to deal with the management of expectations. I would guess that the clerking team deals with this a lot—managing the expectations of petitioners, and maybe changing the wording of petitions to make sure that they are compatible with our process.

How do you manage expectations? I liked your recommendation of case studies. I was also very pleased that you mentioned case studies of different outcomes. It's very tempting, isn't it, to show the success stories: 'This is what's happened through the Petitions Committee'. But the truth is that, very often, petitioners do not get what they want through this process. So, how do we manage expectations without, then, letting people down, and them thinking, 'Well, there's no point in using the Petitions Committee'? 

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:39:52

Again, an excellent question, and sort of at the core of all of this, really. And managing expectations, I guess, goes through a range of different approaches, again, working with engagement champions, having a website that's better integrated, having materials that explain the process in more plain language, such as an infographic, videos. All of those things help to manage expectations, because what they're doing is they're explaining the process, they're setting out what happens here, rather than leaving that out for the citizen to work it out by themselves.

But, I think that you touched on something really important, which is the outcomes. So, I often talk about how it's really useful to differentiate between outcome and output. Quite often, petitions are thinking 'the output', which is 'change the law' or 'have a debate'. But, actually, sometimes, it's better just to bring in the petition to Parliament. That leads to a conversation between Members and Ministers, which may eventually lead to a change. It may even not get to a debate, but what's happening there, there's been an outcome, an outcome from the petition, and I think that's really important in building in to those materials. So, when I talked about case studies, yes, the case studies need to be different. They can't be all about having a debate, because if you have them all about being a debate, then you're saying, 'What matters is having a debate'. So, they need to illustrate a different type of outcome rather than output. But also, making the case that Parliament is different from Government, I think, is a really powerful—. It's a very simple message, but it's a very powerful message to have, that Parliament is here for all citizens. And to make that differentiation that Parliament can speak for you is really important. So, it's not necessarily just about changing the law or getting a debate; it's about being listened to and getting into conversations there. 


Thank you, Rhys. Thank you, Professor. We're coming to the end of this session now. I must say it is a fascinating session. It's given us lots to think about and lots more questions for us internally, I'm sure. As I said at the start, we, as a committee, will want to respond to you, and we will respond to you more formally, going into your recommendations and seeing how we can implement them and what would be the best way to do that. I wonder, for the final question, what you hope the outcome is of your research, particularly for us here at the Senedd. 

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira 14:42:38

I would hope that the outcome would be to diversify a little bit the pool of petitioners and that you do get petitions from groups you would not expect. It would be really interesting if you start having petitions about things that you're not expecting, coming from communities that you were not expecting, and for the petitioners themselves to have a feel of a more coherent experience, not the idea of it being disjointed. So, those would be the two things I would say. I have to say it's already an excellent system, as I say in the report. If you compare it to some parliaments, it is a really good system, but there are enhancements that can be made further. 

Excellent. On that note, we will bring—. Are there any further questions? No. Okay. We have gone a little bit over time, but I think it was important that we did so. As I said, professor, we will respond formally to you. I'm hopeful that this committee, as I set out at the start, can improve again. We're always keen to do that. But I just want to thank you for your work, and, to your colleagues back at Leeds university, if you could pass our thanks to them as well. And thank you for your time today, both in the previous session with colleagues on the Senedd staff and here with the committee as well. We're very grateful for your work.

With that, I will take a short technical break. It will be a couple of minutes while we swap witnesses for the next item. Thank you. We'll go into private.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:44 ac 14:49. 

The meeting adjourned between 14:44 and 14:49. 

3. P-06-1307 Dylai Llywodraeth Cymru ymrwymo i fabwysiadu gwaith cynnal a chadw ystadau tai newydd gan awdurdodau lleol
3. P-06-1307 The Welsh Government should commit to the adoption of the maintenance of new housing estates by local authorities

Okay. Croeso nôl. Welcome back to the Senedd's Petitions Committee. We have now item 3 on our agenda. It's another evidence session for petition P-06-1307, 'The Welsh Government should commit to the adoption of the maintenance of new housing estates by local authorities'. We have representatives from Greenbelt with us. You describe yourselves as 

'the UK’s leading specialist in the stewardship of public open spaces, providing long-term, high-quality management solutions for outdoor areas and amenities on new residential developments.'

Can I, firstly, thank you all for being here? Perhaps I can ask you to introduce yourselves for the record.  

Yes. Robin Waddell, business development director for Greenbelt Group. 


Colin Thomson, managing director of Greenbelt Group.

Adam Cooper. I'm the group legal director.

Thank you very much. Welcome to the Senedd Petitions Committee. We're grateful for your time here. I think this is going to be our last evidence session of this inquiry and we'll seek to report in the new year now. But we have heard from Member of the Senedd, Hefin David, who has a particular interest in this issue; he gave evidence to us. And we've heard from Cardiff Council's chief planning officer and we've also heard from the Home Builders Federation, if my mind serves me correctly. So, it's great that we have you here in front of us.

Can I start questions, perhaps? You describe yourselves as the leading specialist, as I've stated. Can you perhaps provide an overview of the role and responsibilities of Greenbelt, or companies similar to you?

At Greenbelt, we look after all the open spaces on your housing developments, straight from the point of when they are constructed and established by the house builder. We look after them with a long-term view. We take ownership, or a long-term lease of open space areas and there's a mechanism in place for contributions by all the home owners on that development to fund the open spaces that are established on there, be they just a small piece of grass or have a sustainable urban drainage system, play areas, woodlands—all the complex features that you now have on larger developments.

Thank you. Can I dig a bit deeper into the specialist role? Is it a specialist role? Are there specific qualifications required for this role or specific experience, or is this something that, perhaps, local authorities can do or others can do? Robin, I think—

Greenbelt originated from—. It was a spin-out from a local authority way back almost 30 years ago, Strathclyde Regional Council, and it was set up primarily to protect the urban fringing around the Strathclyde region, mainly trying to establish new woodlands and bringing back into management existing woodlands. And then, Greenbelt, when it spun out and became autonomous, was being asked by house builders and developers to not only look after establishing woodlands on new-build sites, but also to adopt amenity open space as well. And that amenity open space 30 years ago doesn't really bear that much resemblance to amenity open space on residential sites now. Public open spaces on residential sites is becoming more complex; it's being loaded with lots of additional features. So, back in the 1990s, it was usually just amenities, grass, trees and shrubs, and then, slowly, local authorities started stepping back from adopting play equipment, so we began to see play equipment becoming a feature on these sites, and, as a company, we had to adapt and build that skill set, as the company developed. And then it quickly went from the adoption of play equipment to the adoption of drainage systems, when they became an integral part of development as well, and we had to upskill in-house quickly on that. So, certainly all of our contracting base and our site supervision are all trained in the management of these.

But, in terms of personal qualifications, most people within the business have an environmental management qualification, whether it be landscape architecture, which is my one, and we have foresters, ecologists, horticulturists, and also we have an in-house legal team that deals with the complexities of some of the conveyance side of things as well. So, it has become more specialised as a result of the open spaces themselves evolving and becoming more complex, and obviously, now, with the onset of biodiversity net gain, that layers in another layer of complexity and responsibility too.

Thank you for that. I suggested that question because it is not as simple as, perhaps, a local authority moving resource from one department to the next. Local authorities, perhaps 30 years ago, could've done that, as you suggested, but probably not right now; they would have to invest significantly in training or environmental—

Yes. As Rob mentioned, in the past 30 years, the complexity on these new housing developments has increased significantly, so it's no longer a case of just a small piece of grass or a small woodland; it's now trying to make sure that everybody has the amenities and the facilities they would expect to have, not historically within the local authority but more on their doorstep.


Thank you. I'll move to questions from Members. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Diolch. Thank you. Just following on from what the Chair was saying there, am I right in describing Greenbelt as, effectively, a management company for outside spaces or is—

Yes, that's our core specialism. We don't take on the property management. That's not our forte; it's more the amenity open space.

And then do you go to developers and tender for that? How does the process work? What involvement do the residents have in that and what sort of good practice have you developed over time?

In most cases, it is the developer that, through the planning process of obtaining planning consent, has usually the responsibility of getting the management entity up—well, certainly appointing it and then getting that entity up and running on the site initially. So, once the development is complete and they step aside, then that management body takes on responsibility, and the residents at that point can influence the outcome of certain aspects, but within reason, because, obviously, that management entity then has to make sure that all the open spaces are managed and comply with the approved plan's drawings and long-term management plans. Unfortunately, on some of these sites, a lot of the management plans are long term—they're a five, 10, 15-year works programme. So, it's starting to get a little bit more involved.

The local planning authority will have suggestions of mechanisms that might be put in place, but it's up to the house builder, pretty much, to do the tendering process and then find out what solution is best fitted for them and for the home owners.

And how many local authorities in Wales are you working with currently?

In Wales, I'd say probably about six.

So, what have you found would be best practice from your experience? Where have systems been put in place that have worked well, that you've engaged with residents? We're trying to tease out some of the good stuff that you've been doing over the years.

We have, presently, around about 2,500 properties across 25 developments in Wales with, I think, another couple of thousand and another 15 or so developments in the pipeline. We have a strong collection rate as one mechanism of good practice and available customer care. We like to expect that the service we provide is accepted as a reasonably fair value price for the home owners, and, by that mechanism, we believe we're delivering a good service.

And that price element, is that something that, on a new estate especially, would be costed and explained to people as they're buying the property, or would it come out later? How does that process work?

It is done in advance. I think we're slightly unusual in that, at the outset, when a developer comes to us, we fully price the maintenance. So, the mechanism for the obligation to pay goes into people's plot transfers, and there's a figure in there as well at the outset. One of the things we've been working on is what I refer to as our homebuyer pack, which gives the home owners details of the areas that we'll manage and the initial cost as well. So, we do price that, because I think there are examples out there where it does get priced at the end, and there'll always be some variation with that, because, inevitably, if you have a development building out, what it can look like at the beginning may look different to what it looks like at the end, particularly if it's a large development. But we do fully price, and we have a pricing system we're actually very proud of, I think, because it's unusual that part of what we do is, when they come to us, we do fully price it for everything that's due to be on there, so the home owners have an idea at the outset, and that's part of what they should be getting told when they're buying the house as well.

Just finally from me, if I may, what engagement do you have then with residents as this matures over time and if things are—? Inevitably, there's going to be some falling out, or there's going to be some people saying, 'Well, that's not being done. I thought it was going to be done'—some of those complaints, and that sort of thing. What sort of mechanisms have you got in place to alleviate some of that?


Prior to an initial billing of a development, we have our customer liaison team who will go to introduce themselves to home owners, explain what we're doing, explain why we're doing it. And also as the process is ongoing, we have a customer care team, we have operational managers, and in some developments we have wardens, all ready to look after what's going on in developments to make sure that, if there are any enquiries and queries and any issues that are addressed to us, we take care of them as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Thank you, Pred. Just before I bring Rhys ab Owen in, we undertook a committee visit to Cwm Calon estate in Caerphilly. Hefin David was there as the constituency Member, and committee members were Buffy Williams and me, and there was a real confusion at the estate. It was a large development. There was a mixture of management companies, local authorities, house builders themselves, and there was a real confusion from them: (1) they didn't know who was responsible for what; there were all sorts of different plans everywhere, but when you were looking and walking the estate, you could see overgrown grass where it shouldn't have been, there was cut grass, there were weeds on certain roads and not on others, and broken fences, I remember, next to children's playgrounds. And it was that difficulty for members of the public and residents of the estate to find out who was responsible for this and actually get it addressed. It was a real mess, quite frankly. So, is that the experience on your sites? I think you have 25 developments, I think. Is it your experience that it's pretty straightforward?

So, we're appointed generally before any houses are sold, so we're able to generate those information packs, as Adam was saying, early, and then get them out to the sales outlets that the developer has in place.

And would that typically look—? So, what does that look like, then? You're appointed before the houses are sold—you take the whole estate?

Yes. So, we will enter into a contract with the house builder to eventually take access and ownership or a long-term lease on those open spaces, so we know what's going to be coming to us, and so the residents, when they buy a house, know exactly what they're going to be paying towards once the site is partially occupied and fully occupied. So, these home-buyer packs help to explain that process as clearly as we can, and they include plans showing exactly where all the open spaces are located on the site, obviously, and then also an indication of where their property is on the site as well. So, they're able to see where they are in relation to the open space.

We are also looking to engage as early as possible with all the home owners and provide information more readily. Another example of the difficulty in—. You're talking about the difference of who's looking after which open spaces. We always provide a plan prior to issuing any correspondence, to make sure the home owners understand what it is we are and not managing, but the larger the development, it does become more complicated, because of the phased handover of these areas.

Sorry, Rhys, I will bring you in. In terms of the engagement with residents and householders, do you try and do that at the start? Is that just a business decision—you're not forced to do that?

It's a business decision. We're not forced to do it; it is a business decision. We want to explain our services and what we are doing with the development. As I say, we are long term. We're not looking at this as just coming in for a few years and see what happens. We are looking at this as a long-term project. We're there for the lifetime of that development, so we want to build a relationship with the home owners as early as possible.

Thank you. And I should state, we're not trying to catch you out here, we're trying to use this as valid information for our committee and the recommendations we seek to make. I know you've travelled from Scotland to be with us—we're grateful, because we did struggle getting other management companies in.

Peredur Owen Griffiths to ask a short supplementary, and then Rhys.

Do you ever take on an estate that's already developed, rather than getting involved at ground zero, as it were—you get involved afterwards?


We used to do that. The only way we used to be able to do that—we don't do it any more—was to have a local authority commuted sum, a lump sum, usually based on a 20 or 25-year multiplier. But we don't do that because, in our opinion, commuted lump-sum payments are just—. You can't, especially at the moment, with interest rates so low, you just can't—. It just takes a few unforeseen events, some damage or windblown trees or damage to a play area, and before you know it, your annual budget for maintenance for that year or the next couple of years is seriously compromised. And what we were finding with commuted sums is that they were just dwindling very, very quickly and not sustainable. So, we've taken a business decision not to take that kind of business on any more.

Thank you very much. Diolch, Cadeirydd. Thank you for coming to this committee today. This is something that we, as individual Members, hear about a lot, and I'm pleased to hear what you're saying seems to suggest that you set out right at the beginning what you're doing, what's expected of the residents. Because we've heard evidence—and I'm sure Members have received correspondence individually—of people buying properties and saying that they didn't know about these extra charges and when they do receive an invoice, there isn't a breakdown of the work done. So, just to clarify, when you do invoice residents, is there a breakdown of exactly what you are charging?

The way that our systems work, we bill in advance. So, the annual management charge, as Adam mentioned earlier, is calculated based on an expectation of what the cost would be for that next 12-month period. Once that 12-month period is complete, we will then provide a detailed breakdown of the costs that we've incurred in that year. So, there is information provided, but it's after the full period has been taken out. As we are meeting them in advance of the bills going out, we will try and explain all the services that we will provide for the forthcoming year.

So, when I receive the original bill, when I need to pay up, I don't know exactly where the money is going, do I?

Yes. It will be explained by our customer liaison team in advance what we'll be doing on the development and the annual management charge is effectively the budget for that development for the year. Year on year, they tend to be quite repetitive and quite similar in the expenditure. So, after the first year has taken place, you would primarily know what was going to happen. We can't foresee everything. If there is any storm damage or vandalism, we would make sure that that is taken care of as a priority, to make sure everything is safe for those using those facilities, and we will incur that cost and we will collect that within the reconciliation of the account at the end of the year.

Yes. We'll bill in advance and then we'll reconcile at the end of the year. If there's a balance over or a balance under, it will carry forward.

I think what I'm asking—I'm probably not saying it very clearly—the subject of this petition is the Mill development in Cardiff, and we had some residents there saying that they were asked to pay a sum at the beginning of every year and they didn't know where their money was going. So, I just want to know, when you invoice, for example, when you ask for, I don't know, £200, do you say £50 for the park facilities, £50 for cutting grass? Is that how it works, or not?

We wouldn't necessarily provide a definitive breakdown of that ilk, but it's not to say that it couldn't be provided, but it has to be treated as a budget position. Because you can't tell exactly what's going to happen in the next 12 months—things can change.

We probably should say as well that part of when the bill goes out to home owners is they will get the bill for the year, which is based on anticipated costs, but what they'll also get is a plan showing the areas we're going to maintain and what we refer to as our 'written statement of service', which details the features that are within those areas and how we'll maintain them. So, whilst they're not specifically listed as £50 for the grass cutting, £20 for the trees, what they get is they get a plan showing the areas we're going to maintain, and they get told how they will be maintained, because they're maintained on a specification basis. So, they know that that grass will have to be kept between this length and that length, and that's what their payment is for, to deliver what we refer to as our routine maintenance.


At the end of the year, would they get a breakdown?

So, at the end of the year they would know exactly where there money has gone, would they?

Yes. In the year, they will get a full breakdown of where that money's been spent, and just in addition to that, if there are any non-routine works over, I think it's presently £15 per property, we will write to every property and advise them of that cost before it's actually been incurred, so they're aware of an addition to their Bill, effectively, at the end of the year.

Thanks for that. I was interested, in the answer to the first question, that you mentioned how things have become more complicated in the past three decades, and I think the development that's the subject of this petition is quite complicated. Flood defences are involved, and park equipment, drainage et cetera, et cetera, so it isn't as straightforward as just hiring somebody to cut the grass. We've heard some suggestions, some examples of residents taking over. Now, of course, that requires a level of expertise, or certainly knowing where to get the expertise, and it also requires a large amount of time and energy. Do you have any examples of where residents have taken over? Do you have any examples of you actually being accountable to residents themselves?

Yes. We predominantly work on the basis that we've already discussed, which is that the land gets transferred to Greenbelt and Greenbelt will manage and maintain it in perpetuity. We do have what we refer to as our consumer choice option, which gives home owners the option of collectively getting together, forming their own company, and taking over if they wish, but we do have a small number of residents' management company arrangements. That's where the home owners are directors of a company that will own the open spaces, and we act as a managing agent for them. We have seen some good examples, typically where it is less complex, because you are asking the home owners to take on that responsibility. As you've touched on, if the features and areas are complicated, it is a big responsibility, and a big liability as well, because obviously some home owners are going to step up and be directors and accept all of the liability associated with that. And equally, we've seen some bad examples. Without naming them, we've worked with some management companies where—Colin touched on it—we sent out proposed works, and there was one that I dealt with and there were over 200 properties on the development. We had nine objections but three of them were from the directors of the management company, so the work didn't get carried out, because we have to take instructions from the directors, from the home owner directors. So, I think there are good examples and bad examples.

I think one of the things with the residents' management companies is it is a big responsibility and it's also a big liability, both on the directors but also for the development itself, because it is more complex, and what happens if areas aren't maintained, whether you're talking about injuries or whether you're talking about the likes of the sustainable urban drainage systems that we touched on and the risk of flooding and things like that? So, I think there are good ones out there, and I think there are some not so good, and I think there are also some—. I think a lot of the residents' management company ones are still currently sat with the house builders, with house builder directors, so it's still to be fully handed over to the home owners and them having to accept that responsibility.

And I suppose you're very reliant on individuals, then. Circumstances can change, people move, and then things can change very quickly. But anyway, thank you very much. I found that very useful. Diolch yn fawr.

I'll just ask a quick question around—. You talked about your reconciliation process at the end of the year. If there are underspends, I assume that comes off the following year. From a fairness or a disputes point of view, if you've carried out works—and you talked about that £15 leeway—if you had something that happened that was going to cost £30 per property, for example, and people were saying, 'Well, actually, I don't want that work carried out', what processes do you have, then, to be able to go through that dispute resolution type of situation?


We do have engagement with a lot of residents associations. So, if it does come to the point where costs are larger than you would expect, or may come as a kind of a shock—

At the moment, inflation has been up at 10 per cent, and everything goes up in cost; it's coming up to the end of the year, and the costs are going to be higher. What sort of dispute resolution efficiencies have you made throughout the year? What sort of stuff have you been dealing with?

Ultimately, with that, we do have a process. We write, if we know there's an individual one. We do have an in-house customer care team, so they can get in contact with that. And we do have our regional operation managers, who are the ones that are actually responsible for doing the works. Part of it is engaging with the home owners, and Colin mentioned you might have an RA. Sometimes, those works just have to be carried out, and people may not want them, but they need to be carried out, whether that's because it's part of the planning, or whether it's for safety reasons.

Ultimately, I suppose, sat right in the background, we have our ombudsman service. So, if, ultimately, home owners are really unhappy, they can go through that ombudsman service, and I suppose the extreme of that is, then, consumer choice. So, if they're really not happy with our maintenance, they can take over themselves. I suppose that's the kind of worst-case scenario. I think we touched on it earlier—I think part of what we try and do is not let it get that far, because it's not in our interest, and it's not in the home owners' interest, because, ultimately, we provide a service for the home owners and they pay for it, and if they don't pay for it, we've got a problem. 

We're there for the long term. We make common-sense decisions. We're not just going to do works that are excessive for no real reason. There's always a reason for doing works, and it's the long term we're there for, so we want to make sure a relationship is actually built between us and the home owners. 

Thank you, Chair. Thanks ever so much for coming in this afternoon, and for making that journey all the way down, actually, because we sometimes struggle to get witnesses in person. So, we're really grateful for that. I suppose I've often wondered—I know it's quite a glib statement—how management companies, or companies like yourselves, actually make money, if that makes sense. Because you're taking on liabilities that councils don't want, because they see it as a drain on their finances. And you've got to then, somehow, try and make it work, if that makes sense. So, I don't necessarily envy you, really. But I suppose, going forward, the key thing I'd like to try and get an idea of is what you think needs to be changed going forward. Are there any practices or any policies that you think, 'In order to ensure proper maintenance going forward, or ensure that residents get the best out of this, this is what needs to be adopted going forward'? I'm just keen to know what your views are on that. It's quite a broad question, so sorry about that. 

I think there's a few bits to that. I think, if we split it down, there's the kind of maintenance side of it, and I'd hope that would really take care of itself, insofar as I see the planning, and you'd expect there to be maintenance obligations as part of the planning, so having maintenance specifications in there. And I think there's an important piece that is the responsibility of Greenbelt, or anybody acting in management, about making themselves available to home owners, because that might not look like what they think, particularly with—and it's not my area of expertise—wildflower. It looks amazing for very short periods, and for the rest of the time, it doesn't, but it's quite important. So I think there's the maintenance side of it, and it's about home owners as well, and understanding that and the interaction with them.

I think a big part of it is probably the house builds and the point of sale—making them aware about what's going to happen. And that should be everything, in terms of that there's going to be a responsibility to contribute. I'd hope that happens. I think the National House Building Council and the new homes quality code that's been introduced has really focused in on giving home owners that information. So, you'd hope they'd have that at the outset, about knowing that there's a charge there, because I think historically, if you look back, a lot of the time it was falling on the conveyancers, and they should be passing that information on, but if it was good enough or not is another thing. 

Beyond that, I think there is a piece as well about letting home owners know what they're signing up for in terms of roles and responsibilities, and what structure it's going to take, what role they'll have to fulfil. It could be quite onerous if they've got to step up and do this. And that's fine—some people will want to do that, and that's good, but they have to be aware of it. And I think, as well, part of it is an awareness for the home owners, not only about what's going to be done and what they'll be contributing to, but, ultimately, the mechanisms in place and what happens if that doesn't happen as well. I think it's quite important, really. So, I think there's a lot of information going on there.


There's also the local planning authorities. We feel that they really, probably, should be a little bit more in a position to offer advice to developers about the right type of model for the right scale of development and what will work. And if they can give that kind of advice at planning, then I think you'd get the right model being implemented in the right places. Because it's not horses for courses; the models have to vary based on the scale of the site and the complexity of the open spaces.

Can I just raise two points before Joel carries on? We hear, don't we, where house builders should give the information about there will be a management company coming on board that charges £300 a month, whatever, and they should do that. They may do that, but the majority of people we speak to, or certainly I have spoken to, either don't realise until they get the bill, or it's somewhat hidden in the idea of you're buying your dream home, you're buying your first home, whatever that might be, and it gets lost. So, should there be a strengthening in regulation or guidance—perhaps we'll come onto that a bit later—to make that information be more readily available to home owners? And then, again, there's the other information—you just spoke about a number of things, the information that is around. Who should be providing that information, and how do we ensure that happens? Because you know it's there. My question is, if I asked a home owner, would they know it's there. 

As part of, as Adam mentioned, the new homes quality code, it should provide information that details all this information for the home owner before they purchase the property. There is, obviously, an obligation on the house builder to make them aware of any council tax bands or expected electricity or water values for that property. It should be the same for any common fees that they will incur on a development. That system there should negate any misconceptions or not advising them of that information. There's also an obligation on the solicitor they've chosen to assist them with the purchase of the property to ensure they've looked through all the terms and conditions that actually they're responsible for when they're buying the property as well.

I think one of the challenges is about making it palatable as well, because, as you said, people are buying the houses, and it's just part of it. So, it's trying to supply that information in a way that is—. I think, sometimes, the house builders—. There may have been instances where house builders haven't provided this information, and I'm sure there will be examples as well where they have provided it, but it's just in the mix with other things, and I think there's only so much that can be done. But it's providing it in a palatable way that home owners can see it there and have some idea. And it might be that that's enough for some home owners. Others might want to go and do further digging. But, yes, making it available, I think, is the challenge, and in a way that they'll actually be able to engage with.

Thank you, Chair. No worries. It's useful that you brought in the local authorities there, and also the house builder, because it's always been my experience—. It almost seems to be like a breakdown in relationship. Naturally, you assume that the developer will build a housing estate, they'll hand over to the council the commuted sum for future maintenance and that, and it almost feels as if management committees, or where you guys come in, is like a last resort. I remember I visited a new build, and I asked the showroom guy, 'Is this going to be a managed estate or council?', and he said, 'Oh, it depends if the council want to adopt it or not.' I just feel like you would think that that would be sorted before the diggers went in, you know? And I just feel that, really. But thank you, Chair. It was just a good idea to see about what role the councils can play. Thank you.

Thank you, Joel. I'll move to perhaps final questions from Members. I'll start them, and then perhaps Members may want to come in at the end. I touched on regulation in the last question to you. What does regulation look like as a possibility? Would you welcome it? You're in front of us today, you've provided some good information for us, you've made conscious business decisions based on you want to be in it for the long term, that's your business goal there. Not every management company who would be in front of us would perhaps be able to say the same thing, or we would find other—. Would regulation of management companies address that issue? Would you be open to it? If not, why?


I think we would be open to it. I think it's one of those things where the industry has a problem. That's one of the reasons that you're sat here, because there's a problem. I think that's part of the conversations that we've had with people now, and house builders and third parties: realising that there are issues, and what the average charge is, and it's been increasing. I think, as you'll be aware, there's quite a lot going on with the likes of the Competition and Markets Authority looking at this, and the freehold and leasehold Bill that has been introduced, and it is kind of an eye-opener. So, I think regulation is quite important and we'd actually welcome it. I think it's got to be done in the right way as well. I think the challenge will be regulation that doesn't actually prevent good management and some of the benefits that you can have with various structures, because I think that's something that's gone on so far and that I've seen from the legal side of it sometimes, with certain aspects that focus in on a certain way of doing things that isn't necessarily best for home owners.

That's a very welcome comment, and we'll make a note of that when we write our report. In our report, we'll make specific recommendations to the Welsh Government to respond to. I wondered if perhaps you could help us in some way. What recommendations do you think the committee should make?

I think, firstly, one of the things you could do is look at the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011, which is looking at the factoring and the managing agent side of things, and has been broadly well received in the whole of Scotland. We've been there since day one of its inception, and they have evolved it two or three times now, and are still in constant dialogue with ourselves about how they can refine and develop that and make it more efficient, going forward.

I think it's a big question. I think there's a lot that can be done. You've touched on regulation. I do think it's a good idea. I think that, as Colin said, looking at the PFSA as something that—. Scotland has done the work there for X number of years now, and we've taken it, and whilst that applies to our properties in Scotland, we've applied it across the UK. So, the likes of our written statement of service, I think that was a requirement of PFSA, and our community choice actually predates it, but what we've then done is rolled it across so it's open to Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. So, I think, as Colin said, there's some lessons to be learnt from that. But also, I think it's quite useful—. We appreciate being here, because it's nice to actually talk to someone. We've been to speak to lots of parties at the moment about what it's actually like down the line to actually deliver the management and maintenance, and our experiences of it, and the challenges of that, and allowing that to actually feed into plans, I think, is really quite important.

As I say, we struggled getting some management companies here, so we're grateful for—. I've actually written at the top of my page of notes 'written statement of service', and the question was going to be, again, you do that because it's a conscious—. You have to do it in Scotland, fine, but it's a conscious decision that you want to do it elsewhere.

Yes. We have treated a lot of what was introduced by the PFSA as good practice or best practice, and we've, as I say, pushed that out across all of our developments in the whole of the UK. 

Would there be any initial improvements you could make to the Act that perhaps you would like to see if Welsh legislation came forward? I'm conscious that there's—

I don't know if that's for us to decide, I suppose. [Laughter.]

Okay. Let's leave that there. If there is, after the session, it would be good to have that in writing. Peredur, you wanted to come in.

It's just something that I should have asked earlier, really. When you're talking about charging the home owner and that sort of thing, how does it work when the home owner is the landlord rather than the occupier? How does that relationship work?


So, typically, we will bill the landlord. The way it works for us is the obligation to pay going to the—. Whether it be a long lease or a transfer, that connection for us is with the landlord, with whether it be the freehold or long-leasehold owner. So, if you do have an arrangement whereby, say, you've got a short-term lease, we won't bill those people; it will be the freeholder that we'll bill. Now, what that landlord then does is—. We don't know. And the same works with—. We have arrangements with housing associations, so, typically, we'll bill the housing association as the freeholder rather than, with some exceptions, the shared-ownership leaseholders or—.

No problem. I'm just looking to Joel and Rhys for any further questions. No. Any further comments you would like to make?

No. Thank you very much for having us in and letting us have a discussion with you.

And again, thank you for travelling from Scotland to join us today; we do appreciate it. I think you've given us some steer into where we may want to go. You'll get a transcript—it'll be shared with you after today's session. Please check that for factual accuracy. Any inaccuracy—if you let the clerks know and we can correct the record. And again, we may have some further questions to follow up in writing. The same for you, if you have further comment that you'd wish to make, particularly on any improvements, I'd be interested in hearing that. If you let us know by writing, then of course we can take that into consideration. For the record and for the public to know, we will discuss this evidence session later on. We will seek to report some time in the new year. As you've given evidence, you'll get prior sight of that report and any recommendations that we do decide to make to Welsh Government. But, in the meantime, thank you very much for your time. We do appreciate it. So, thank you.

4. Deisebau newydd
4. New Petitions

Okay. I'll move to item 4 on today's agenda. Item 4.1, P-06-1377, 'Decline planning permission for the development planned, proposed as Parc Solar Caenewydd'.

'Decline planning permission for the development planned proposed as Parc Solar Caenewydd; on farm land at the farm known as Penyfodau Fawr Farm, Swansea, SA4 4LN and surrounding areas.

'This development will result in some of the farm being covered in solar panels. The resulting visual impact will be negative on an approach route close to the Gower AONB.'

Additional information is available to members of the committee and members of the public. This was submitted by Richard Lake, with 8,274 signatures online, 2,092 signatures on paper, totalling 10,366 signatures. I'll bring committee members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Rhys ab Owen.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. As the figures you mentioned indicate, this is an important matter locally. However, I think our hands are tied as a committee, as this is going through the developments of national significance process at the moment, so we will not be able to have any response from the Welsh Minister. It's my recommendation, therefore, that we wait until the pending decision, and we keep it open for now until we have received the decision about the DNS process. Diolch yn fawr.

Diolch, Rhys. Any other comments from Members? Are Members content? Content. Okay.

Item 4.2, P-06-1378, 'We want farm subsidies to be extended to small scale and market gardeners.'

'Most farmers receive around 50% of their income from government subsidies. This means they have enough money to make a living from farming and they can continue to grow food. Most farms are large but small farms (1-5 hectare) are more productive and tend to grow fruits and vegetables for local markets. These currently are not eligible for subsidies, due to their size, which is unfair and shows a lack of support for local, seasonal food growing.'

Again, additional information is available to members of the committee. Submitted by Karen Schneider, with 413 signatures in total. I bring in Joel James to discuss this petition.


Thank you, Chair, and thanks ever so much for bringing me in there. This is quite an interesting petition, really, that we've received, something that actually I'd never really given thought to before. But I know from the Minister's response that there is going to be a consultation launched soon about farm subsidies, so I think it would most probably be beneficial to almost have a holding exercise, to see what the outcome of that consultation is. I know the Minister is aware of this petition, and that's been fed to her—the comments and that. So, I think that's probably the best step at the moment.

Thank you, Joel. I can see Members are in agreement.

Item 4.3, P-06-1379, 'Ban the sale of single-use vapes'.

'Single-use vapes are becoming increasingly popular, particularly amongst younger people and there is an increasing trend of these being disposed of incorrectly. Whilst the components are recyclable, they are typically, at best, thrown into general waste and more often than not are left as litter in public areas, causing problems for the local environment.'

Submitted by Joseph Pashley, with 455 signatures in total. I will bring committee members in to discuss this petition, and any actions the committee may wish to take. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I know this is quite a hot topic, especially if you go and speak to young people in high schools in particular—it's a big topic of discussion. I know Rhys ab Owen brought this up in some amendments fairly recently in the Chamber, and obviously it's been debated quite a lot, with other Members as well, including John Griffiths—and Joel, yourself as well—bringing some contributions in on this. It's a difficult one, because a lot of it is a little bit outside our competence, but some of it is within as well. There is work obviously being done—it's been raised with the Government, and it's, as I say, a hot topic, especially with the Minister. I think, because the work is being done, and it will hopefully deliver on the objective that this petition has raised, if we thank the petitioner for raising this, that it is on our radar, but we could either close the petition now or keep it open for 12 months and see how it goes. Chair, I'd be guided by yourself, but I'm thinking, because it's quite a high-profile one, that we keep it open for 12 months and see how it goes from there. But there is also another argument that could say close it now, because the work is going on. But I think my recommendation would probably be to keep it open for 12 months.

I agree with Peredur Owen Griffiths—with his recommendation to keep it open for 12 months. It's a very topical issue, and it would be very interesting to see where we are within a year.

Okay. Thank you. I can see all Members are in agreement there. I too have had conversations locally about this issue, particularly in Coleg Cambria. So, yes, we will keep it open, seek the update in 12 months' time, unless anything major changes, and we'll bring it forward ahead of that.

Item 4.4, P-06-1380, 'Make Blue badge Applications Lifelong for individuals who have a lifelong diagnosis'.

'Not all disabilities are the same, some are life long, meaning they do not change over time.

'Unfortunately, current guidelines require individuals with lifelong diagnoses, which include learning disabilities or profound and complex needs, to reapply for a blue badge every three years. This process can be very frustrating and time consuming for both individuals and their caregivers and focus heavily on the negative aspects of an individual’s abilities.'

There is further information available to this petition, including a statement from the Equality Act 2010 and other information available to Members. This was submitted by STAND North Wales community interest company, with a total of 1,618 signatures in total. For the record, I have met with STAND North Wales CIC in my capacity as Member of the Senedd for Alyn and Deeside around a different issue, but noted this petition is submitted by them. I met them last month to discuss local issues. At this point, I'll bring Members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Rhys ab Owen. 


Diolch, Gadeirydd. I thank the petitioner for this very important petition, a petition that has gained some media attention today. We have received a reply from the Deputy Minister for Climate Change. I must say, I found his description of the reapplication process as being 'essential' to verify applicants' identity and to protect against fraudulent applications to be rather unconvincing. I can't see how it's essential. I accept there is a concern about fraudulent use of blue badges, but the petitioner has responded to the Deputy Minister's response with some quite powerful questions. I think we should certainly write back to the Deputy Minister with those questions and to see his response. It's incredible that they didn't know that there was an opportunity to acquire a lifetime badge. There's certainly a piece of work to be done there to allow people to know of that opportunity. So, I would certainly want those questions to be answered—I would certainly recommend that those questions are put to the Deputy Minister. 

I'd echo what Rhys says there. I think the process seems to be onerous. The only caveat I would say—this is me racking my brains a little bit; it may be something we can check out with the Deputy Minister—is, from scrutiny of the legislation on elections currently going through, is a blue badge one of the IDs that could be used to vote in a general election? I can't remember if it is—it may not be—because I think it might be photographic evidence, I'm not sure, but it's something that could potentially put an element of risk there that would need to be thought through if that was the case. But maybe the research team, before going ahead with the letter, could just look into that, just making sure that there's not something—. There's something—I can't remember exactly—I'm sure I've seen something somewhere, but I might be barking up the wrong tree. But I would suggest that we write back to the Minister as well. 

Okay. Thank you. I can see clerks have made note of your comment. We'll ask the research team to do some investigations into that, but I can see Members are content as well with Rhys's suggestion to write back to the Minister. I agree. They've responded with a series of questions from campaigners that need to be addressed by the Deputy Minister in his response to us as a committee. Okay. 

Item 4.5, P-06-1383, 'Pause onshore wind & solar projects >10MW until the full potential of off-shore wind is included'. 

'To prevent widescale and needless damage to the Welsh countryside, we call upon the Welsh Government to place a temporary moratorium on all onshore wind and ground based solar developments over 10MW, until Future Wales 2040 and the Welsh Government’s renewable energy targets are updated and incorporated with Wales Marine Energy to ensure that the full potential of offshore wind, rooftop solar, and other emerging energy sources is recognised as a critical priority to combat climate change.'

There is again additional information for members of the public and the committee on this petition, submitted by Carys Matthews with 5,160 signatures online and 3,166 signatures on paper—a total of 8,326 signatures. Just to say, just over half of those, 4,687, are from Wales. I will bring in committee members to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Joel James.


Thank you, Chair. Thanks ever so much for bringing me in. Unfortunately, this is quite a difficult one. As we've seen with the discussion earlier about the solar panel petition, the Minister won't necessarily comment on planning applications, and made it clear that she doesn't support a moratorium, and I don't necessarily know what more we can do other than maybe to look for change with our constituency or regional hats on, and maybe to thank the petitioner and to close it. But I'm open to suggestions from the other committee members, really—to pass the buck on that. Maybe Rhys might have some comments there. I see him looking down. But if Members are happy that way, I think probably closing the petition is probably the best bet there. 

Thank you, Joel. I can see the Minister has been very clear in her response. She does not support a moratorium, so I think it would be difficult for the committee to do much more than that, unless there are ideas from committee members, which I don't think there are. So, are we agreed to close this petition and note it? Yes, all Members are in agreement. Thank you. 

5. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
5. Updates to previous petitions

Item 5.1, P-06-1247, 'We call on the Welsh Government to lead the way by supporting trials of a four-day week in Wales', submitted by Mark Hooper with 1,619 signatures. Before I bring Members in, I'll make a declaration for the record. I know Mark Hooper really well. I think a lot of people in this room perhaps do. We'll take it as noted for committee members. I will bring in Members now to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Peredur Owen Griffiths. 

I echo that: I know Mark well as well. The other thing is I'd direct people to my register of interests. I've been on a four-day working week seminar as well, so it was one of the things I was paid for, so just for people to be aware of that. I'm an advocate for a four-day working week, so it's apt that I look at this one. 

The work that's ongoing has been excellent, I think. The Minister has been good in looking at and undertaking the work and the sub-groups to look through this. I think we should welcome the detailed work that's ongoing in response to our report from this committee. I think we're probably a little bit early to do anything other than keep a watching brief on what's developing and keep this ongoing until we see some further updates on the work being carried out.

Thank you, Peredur. I should say that the work of the Welsh Government was in response to the recommendations made in our report, 'From Five to Four?', following the inquiry into this petition. I should state for the record as well that that report was agreed subject to the addition of the minority view of Joel James, just so it's clear for the record.

Thanks for clarifying that, again, Chair. It's in the sense that if private companies want to go down to a four-day working week, that's up to them, really, but I don't necessarily see why the public sector should be looking to do that. 

We've had an extensive inquiry into this, but nonetheless I think again it's important to note the Member's view. Are Members content to wait for the conclusion? They are. Okay. 

Item 5.2, P-06-1294, 'Don't leave metastatic breast cancer patients in Wales behind', submitted by Tassia Haines, with a total of 14,106 signatures. I'm pleased to say that Tassia is here with us in committee this afternoon. Welcome again, Tassia, and to those with you, to be witnessing again our consideration of your petition. Can I firstly, on behalf of the committee, thank you for your engagement with our committee on this important petition? I think that it stands out, and it provides an example of where petitioners engage well with the committee and what the committee can do. So, I'm grateful for that. I will bring Members in to discuss this petition and any actions that we might wish to take. Rhys ab Owen.


Diolch, Gadeirydd. Yes, I'd reiterate the inspiration that this petition is, and how the petitioner has really fought for this despite her own ill health and seeing others suffering. It's very inspirational, and we are very grateful for her work and for her engagement with the Petitions Committee. It has been a long process. The petition closed back in September 2022, but we are very pleased and very grateful for Tassia's perseverance in this. 

Tassia has raised some very important questions—questions that I think we need to have clarity from the health Minister on. These are basic questions, such as: why hasn't the Wales Cancer Network board published minutes of meetings yet? There needs to be transparency here, and it's unfortunate that we haven't received information from the cancer network board regarding the decision as to whether it is going to approve the pathway, and if it is, what the plans are for its implementation. So, I think that there are very important questions that we still need to ask.

So, I am grateful to Tassia for the questions that she has provided. My recommendation is that we write to the health Minister again to seek clarification on the decisions made by the cancer network board, and to raise the important and relevant questions that Tassia has asked us to raise. Diolch yn fawr. 

Diolch yn fawr, Rhys. I can see Members here nodding. I do believe—but we haven't had it confirmed from the Minister, which we should—that the pathway has been approved by the cancer network board on 24 November. Nonetheless, the Minister can make that clear in her response to us, and I think that the remaining questions are ones that need answers from the Minister as well. Do Members agree? They do. Diolch yn fawr, Rhys, and thank you, Tassia, too. 

Item 5.3, P-06-1348, 'Commission suitable NHS services in Wales for people with EDS or hypermobility spectrum disorders', submitted by Natasha Evans-Jones, with 1,125 signatures in total. I will bring Members in to discuss this petition and any actions that they may wish to take. Joel James.

Thank you, Chair. As you might know, I met with the petitioner a couple of weeks ago to discuss a few things that I could do as a Senedd Member, in terms of writing off to the health boards. I have also agreed to sponsor a drop-in event raising awareness of that. That's in the process of being finalised, but I think that that will be in the new year at some point. I know, from recent correspondence that the committee has had with the petitioner, that they have raised some further questions and information. I was wondering whether or not we could go back to the Minister and highlight that with her. 

Thank you, Joel. Are Members content to do that? They are. We will seek to do that: write back to the Minister and also look forward to the event that you are sponsoring in the Senedd.

And you are more than welcome—. Well, everyone here is more than welcome to attend.

We will certainly try and take you up on that offer.

Item 5.4, P-06-1341, 'Accessible guidance for parents and schools to help develop plans to support children with additional learning needs'. This was submitted by Zoe Beasley, with 347 signatures in total. I bring committee members in to discuss this petition now. I should say that I received correspondence from Zoe, I think maybe last week, or a couple of weeks ago, certainly, in relation to this petition. But, Peredur Owen Griffiths.


Diolch, Cadeirydd. This petition is really important and I thank Zoe for raising it. The Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee confirmed that the issues have been raised by the petitioner through their inquiry into equal access to childcare and education for disabled children and young people, and she's noted that the petition is also to be considered as part of that evidence. So, that's a good thing. We know that Zoe welcomes the opportunity for her petition to form part of that inquiry and intends to provide further evidence to that. She's also asking the committee to keep her petition open until the inquiry report is published and the Welsh Government responds, to consider whether the petition's calls have been handled in that. So, I think in light of that, if we can keep it open—I'd agree with Zoe—until we see the outcome of that, to see if there's any further work that we need to do, or whether or not that committee has reported fully, and see what the Government will do on the recommendations.

Okay. Thank you, Pred. I can see that Members are in agreement to do that.

Item 5.5, P-06-1350, 'Re-open Dyfi Ward at Tywyn Hospital now'. This was submitted by Jane Eleanor Seddon Barraclough, with a total of 5,528 signatures, the majority of those on paper. I should say as well that we have received a number of items of correspondence from residents and those interested in this petition in the last few days. I have them in front of me and Members do too. I bring Members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Rhys ab Owen.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Another very important petition this afternoon. We've received evidence of serious concern within the local community about the ward still being closed, and it's disappointing that the ward has been closed since April of this year. We've received a number of questions from the group involved in the ward, trying to reopen it—questions they say have yet to be answered by the health board. It's my recommendation that we should write to the health board, ask for a quarterly update on what action they are taking to recruit staff to reopen the ward, and to present the other questions that the community group has provided to us and to try and get an answer to them, because at the moment, they don't feel that they're being listened to. Diolch yn fawr.

Diolch yn fawr, Rhys, for that suggestion to write to the health board. I can see that Members are content and we will take that action up.

Item 5.6, P-06-1356, 'Introduce comprehensive safety measures at the A477 "Fingerpost" junction', submitted by Elliott Morrison, with a total of 10,310 signatures. To provide an update to the committee, as you know, I visited the Fingerpost junction with the constituency Member, Sam Kurtz, on 26 October. We then debated the petition during Road Safety Week here in the Senedd, and we have now received further correspondence from the petitioner. I think we should quote from the correspondence, if that's allowed:

'I am...extremely pleased to see members of the Senedd providing their support to the need for substantive change at this dangerous junction in recognition of the fact that further similar, avoidable, tragedies may be avoided.

'The goal of this petition had one sole purpose, which was to prevent further avoidable loss of life along this stretch of road, and it now seems that this outcome will surely be achieved.'

Therefore, can I thank all those who supported this petition, collecting signatures in their local campaign work? I know the local Members, local representatives, councillors and the MP have been working on this issue for a long time. I thank the petitioner, and we will seek to close this petition on that outcome, but, in doing so, remember Ashley Rogers, who lost his life, and also those others who've tragically lost their lives, their family, friends and loved ones. Our thoughts are very much with them. Members are content.

The next two items will be considered together. We have received a response for both from the Welsh Government. Firstly, item 5.7, P-06-1359, 'Offer Welsh working parents the same financial support for childcare as England', submitted by Jade Richards, with 10,820 signatures, and petition 5.8, P-06-1362, 'Match the new childcare offer in England of 15 hours for 2 year old's from April 2024', submitted by Madelaine Hallam, with a total of 407 signatures. As I said, these two will be considered as one item, and I will bring Members in to discuss these petitions and any actions we may wish to take now. Joel James.


Thank you, Chair. I think it is right that we discuss the two petitions together. I know the petitioner for the first petition, Jade, and I share her frustrations, really, in the sense that the point of that petition is about working parents and the response that they seem to be getting is, ultimately, about non-working parents, really, from the Minister, and there isn't a clear message coming from the Minister. But I note that one petition alone has gone over 10,000; if we add them together then, it's substantially over 10,000, nearly 11,000 signatures. That hits the mark, then, for a debate. I'm conscious there are a lot of other petitions waiting for a debate, as well, but I definitely think this is something that should be highlighted in order to give other Members an opportunity to speak to the Minister in the Chamber and have that discussion about how best to proceed.

Thank you, Joel. A suggestion from Joel James to write to the Business Committee to seek a debate in Senedd time. Are Members content? I can see they are. Okay, we will seek to do that. Joel was right to mention that there are a number of things that have reached the threshold for the item to be considered for debate, but Members are content to push this forward, and, as you say, there's more than one petition on the same item. This is quite an item that is drawing the attention of members of the public. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Just a thought, because the budget is obviously going to be laid on the nineteenth, and then we'll be debating budgets, and this is to do with funding, in essence, rather than calling for a debate now, that we relook at it after we've seen the budget itself and seen what the outcome would be from the scrutiny of the budget. I'm just throwing it out there, really, because I know our time for debating in the Chamber is limited, and so whether or not some of the answers might come in scrutiny of the budget before we decide to ask for time in Plenary. It's just a question, that's all.

The only thing I was going to say was we're unlikely to get a debate tomorrow; it will be at least the end of January, more likely February, before we'd get one, even with urgency.


Or the other thing that we could do, I suppose, is ask in the general scrutiny of the budget in—I'd imagine this would be children and young people's committee—for them to pick this element up within that scrutiny and then report back to us before we call for a debate.

Given the number of petitions we've had on the matter, why don't we suggest—or I suggest as Chair—we do ask for permission to seek a debate, and if the answers to the questions that the petitioners are seeking are drawn out in the conversations on the scrutiny of the budget and then the scrutiny of the Minister through the committee, then I will take the decision as Chair to withdraw our request, and then do it that way. I think, otherwise, we may be waiting later, and I'm conscious other petitioners are going to come forward into this space as well. So, we will seek a debate now, and if there are substantive answers, or that this will have been answered in those, between now and then, then we can bring that to committee to consider the item.

And just for clarity, are we writing to Children, Young People and Education Committee to bring it to their attention so they could bring it up in their budget scrutiny?

Okay, if Members are content, that was our last petition today.

6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, can I, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), propose that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting, where we will discuss the evidence from Greenbelt, in particular, and perhaps have a discussion about the session before that with Professor Cristina from Leeds university about the work and how we can respond, hopefully positively, to the report and her recommendations there? Okay, I can see Members are content. We will, therefore, see you in January—15 January—2024.

Just as a final comment from me, again, to thank committee Members, but in particular to thank our clerking team and our research team—everyone who helps put our work together throughout the year for another sterling year. Your efforts are truly appreciated. We couldn't do our job without the support that we have, so we're very grateful for another year of that and we look forward to next year. Thank you very much. Meeting closed.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 16:07.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 16:07.