Y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus a Gweinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus

Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee

14/12/2023

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Adam Price
Mark Isherwood Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mike Hedges
Natasha Asghar
Rhianon Passmore

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Adrian Crompton Archwilydd Cyffredinol Cymru, Archwilio Cymru
Auditor General for Wales, Audit Wales
Ann-Marie Harkin Archwilio Cymru
Audit Wales
Kathryn Jenkins Prif Swyddog Diogelwch, Llywodraeth Cymru
Chief Security Officer, Welsh Government
Tim Moss Prif Swyddog Gweithredu, Llywodraeth Cymru
Chief Operating Officer, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Fay Bowen Clerc
Clerk
Lisa Hatcher Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Owain Davies Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

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 09:17.

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

The meeting began at 09:17.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau a dirprwyon
1. Introductions, apologies and substitutions

Bore da. Croeso. Good morning and welcome to today's meeting of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee in the Senedd. The main items of business today will be an evidence session with the Welsh Government in relation to the committee's inquiry into public appointments in Wales. I welcome our witnesses, who we'll be speaking with shortly. We've already agreed who will be questioning on what. If, for any reason, the meeting becomes inquorate, or temporarily so, because of technical difficulties, we will continue proceedings until we reach such a point when we might need to make a decision. Members attending virtually, please remember to raise your hands physically if you wish to speak, rather than pressing the button on Zoom, which would then show up on the broadcast. You've already checked the translation, so we can move on. No apologies for absence have been—

Mike Hedges is indicating.

Just for the record, I'd like to declare that I live in Morriston. That's mentioned in one of the reports. 

Thank you. I think that's the town centre report later, if I recall. 

On that basis, I should perhaps mention I live, well, not actually in Mold, but I have a Mold postcode, because that's mentioned as well. Would anybody else like to make any declarations of interest?

Yes, I assume we all live somewhere. [Laughter.] But it might have some reference. No apologies have been received for this meeting. In which case, we can move on to papers to note. 

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

We have a paper, or a response, from the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales to our request for additional information following their evidence session with us on 22 November. Clerks to this committee are currently drafting our report on these matters and will incorporate relevant details arising from that letter into our draft report. Do Members have any specific issues in the letter that they'd like to raise?

Sorry, Chair, is this the letter from the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, on accounts scrutiny?

Okay. In that case, yes, I do. Just bear with me, I have notes here—one second. In relation to the letter, on pack page 5, they've mentioned a team restructure. I'd just like to ask what the team goals are and what the new team will be bringing to the table. And on page 6, they talk about the commitments they've made to adopting key performance indicators and milestones based along the following lines:

'What we have done...Who we have reached...Monitoring and assessing'.

These are in bold, and bullet pointed as well. So, I would just like to get clarification on how often this is going to be reviewed, please—those particular points from them. That's it. Thank you.

09:20

Okay, we can capture that. Anyone else? I can't see anyone indicating. In which case, are Members otherwise content to note the letter? Thank you. That was our only item to note. 

3. Penodiadau cyhoeddus: Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Llywodraeth Cymru
3. Public Appointments: Evidence session with the Welsh Government

So, we move then on to our evidence session on public appointments with the Welsh Government. So, I welcome our witnesses. I'd be grateful if, for the record, you could state your names and roles.

Thank you, Chair. My name's Tim Moss. I'm director general and chief operating officer at the Welsh Government.

I'm Kath Jenkins. I'm the chief security officer, and the public bodies unit is in my division.

Thank you, both. As you'd expect, we have a number of questions. Again, I would ask both you and Members to be as succinct as possible so that we can get through as many of those as possible. And, as convention has it, I will begin with the first set of questions. In January last year, 2022, the Permanent Secretary told us that some of the more experienced staff in the public bodies unit had been deployed for the pandemic response. What is the current situation regarding the staffing level and resource in the unit? Is the public bodies unit at full complement now, and is it now operating as intended across its full remit?

Thank you, Chair. Maybe I could start on that. The public bodies unit now has 17 members of staff, and that fits with the budget that we currently have for it. There's been some change over the last six to 12 months. We have a new head of unit in place since July and, as Kath mentioned earlier, the public bodies unit has also moved into the chief security officer's area. Since the new grade 6 has been in post, Kath and the individual have also been looking at the structure of the unit, both in terms of the resourcing, but also the skills and the capability that we've got there. And they're going through a review currently, on the team, to really make sure that it can focus on its core functions around appointments, reviews, the honours system, engagement and also being a centre of information and excellence in terms of the key aspects around public appointments. So, that's currently ongoing, but it is up to the full complement of the budget that we have at the moment, but that is being reviewed as part of this restructuring. Kath, I don't know if you want to say a bit more about the restructuring.

Yes. We've looked at various options ahead of the formal evaluation. We wanted to be as transparent as possible with staff, so we've shared those options with trade unions and with staff. We're currently evaluating those and will be going out to formal consultation with trade unions now in January. However, we haven't left everything until the result of that consultation. We have done some immediate realigning of resources to put them where best placed. So, for example, to free up some resource from the public appointments team, we've moved honours to a slightly different area. We've been able to change some of the temporary staff to fixed-term appointments, and we've been able to include them in our baseline, going forward. And, as Tim has said, we're going to be advertising for the head of the public bodies unit post, and we've managed to secure a temporary resource to lead on some job-shadowing work. So, we've done quite a lot to move that forward, but the formal consultation will be in January now.

And when you say 17 persons, is that full-time equivalent or 17 physical, human people?

Seventeen people.

They're not all full time.

Just underneath that.

And how does that compare with the pre-pandemic staff roll number?

I think there was a pre-pandemic number of 21 at one point. I know that was mentioned in correspondence from the Permanent Secretary, I think, previously. But that was before work that was going on last year around baselines and different teams within the organisation. So, that's the current complement that meets with the budget that we have.

Okay, thank you. Again, in October last year, the Permanent Secretary stated that Welsh Government would soon complete its evaluation of the sponsorship arrangements around arm's-length bodies and the work of the public bodies unit, and you've referred to that already. Who carried out the review and what were its main findings? We note that, in January 2023, the Permanent Secretary told us that he was

'strengthening the governance around the work of the public bodies work'.

Further to what you've already told us, what, if any, additional changes have been implemented, and why, and what difference are they making?

09:25

The review was carried out by Liz Lalley, one of the directors within the Welsh Government, and it was an internal review and came up with five core recommendations. One was very much around the leadership and strengthening the role of the public bodies unit. The second one was making sure it's more focused in its role around being a source of information, guidance, a centre of excellence, looking at driving up standards and improvements. The third one was around, really, looking at making sure that the role was clearly understood across the organisation. And then some more specific ones around the work it does on public appointments but also tailored reviews.

In response to that, as I said, the leadership within the area has been strengthened—the move into the chief security officer's area, but also it's sitting clearly within the chief operating officer's group. And, what we've also done to help with the strengthening of that role but also the communication across the organisation is set up something called the public bodies reference group, which I chair. It meets currently on either a bimonthly or quarterly basis, and that's made up of directors from across the Welsh Government, especially in the areas that have the highest number of public bodies, and the idea is that that group really looks at the cross-cutting issues that affect public bodies and sponsorship. So, we've looked at things around appointments, tailored reviews and the role of public bodies. We've had, I think, up to six meetings so far, and it will carry on meeting, going forward, with that aim to really strengthen the role. As well as that, we've looked at things like the appointments processes and have been reviewing the whole issue around tailored reviews.

Okay. And, given all that work, what difference thus far is that making?

I think it's giving a clearer role across the organisation, but I think, especially with the public bodies reference group, it gives a forum and a way to really establish the role of the public bodies unit and make those stronger links with the sponsorship teams from across an organisational perspective—the themes that cut across. I think, in the past, probably things have been on a more individual basis, with individual teams and sponsor teams, and this gives an opportunity to really look at the role and to position it within the Welsh Government in the right way.

Okay. Thank you. Can I bring in Rhianon Passmore, please?

Thank you, Chair. So, in regard to the visibility of public bodies and the customer-facing role and actual responsiveness, I'm going to move into that line of questioning. Can you explain to us as a committee how the public bodies unit engages with potential candidates for public appointments and what support it provides for them? We've had a number of different commentaries around that, so if you could just shine some light, please.

Okay. To start, I think the public bodies unit plays a key and fundamental role in the whole public appointments process, but it's only one role and working very much in partnership with the panels, with the sponsorship teams, and also with the public bodies. In terms of its role in dealing with candidates and potentially those on public appointments, it's done a number of things, especially around training for potential candidates. So, we've had a number of training programmes that the unit has been responsible for, and two specifically looking at potential candidates—one around the near-ready leadership programme, and also the future leaders programme. So, it's engaging with those. These tend to be people who are interested in roles or have previously applied and not been successful, and saying, actually, 'How can we help them on that journey?'. They've also set up something more recently called the talent bank, which is 14 candidates who were near misses on public appointments, and looking to then have that as a group of people that future panels can look at and will really focus on in terms of future public appointments. 

The next thing that they're looking to do, in January, is we're kicking off something called a job-shadowing programme. We've got funding for 15 individuals who, again, are close to being on boards but maybe don't have the experience or haven't quite achieved that. This will be an ability where they'll work with public bodies and actually sit on boards in a job-shadowing arrangement, again, trying to develop a stronger pipeline of candidates for the future.

Thank you very much. There has been some commentary around the actions that are being taken to make the public bodies unit more public facing. You've mentioned three initiatives there, which are very interesting to us, but then also some witnesses have told the committee that the unit is actually slow to respond, is not welcoming. So, do you think that (a) that is the case or (b) that that is acceptable?

09:30

I would say it's certainly not acceptable. If that's the experience that people have had, that's certainly not what we would want them to have, and shouldn't be the way that that should operate. Public bodies deals with a large number of enquiries; I think they get well over 100 a month to do with public appointments. I would hope that's not the experience of all 100, by any means, but the fact that you've had evidence that some have experienced that way, that's disappointing to hear.

More widely, some of the work we're trying to do within the chief operating officers group at the moment is to look at the whole area of our customer service and the range of services we provide, both to colleagues within Welsh Government but also more broadly to those externally, like the public bodies unit, and develop much more of a customer service mindset, where there should be service level agreements, so, if somebody sends an e-mail in to the public bodies unit, what's the standard, the SLA for reply? So, we've got to create the right expectations for people. We then measure that and monitor that, going forward. We're not in that position yet, but that's the work that we're trying to look at doing within the chief operating officers group, going forward, and to ensure that we are getting feedback from customers that those sorts of things don't happen, because we actually want people to have a good service and people to be clear what that service should look like.

Okay, thank you very much. I'm going to move on to strategic management of the public appointments vacancies process, and you've already highlighted some of the initiatives, which I'm sure will be very welcome. But, really, in terms of the evidence presented to the committee, it does question whether the public bodies unit has a strategic plan in place for upcoming vacancies and recruitment exercises. Does the unit have a plan in place, and, if not, how are the vacancies and recruitments managed, to avoid, critically, from the evidence that we've taken in other areas, governance gaps?

I think I mentioned earlier, when talking about one of the actions coming out from the review that Liz Lalley carried out, that the focus on appointments is one of the key recommendations there, and, certainly, the team have then taken that on board. One of the things they've now put in place is very much a forward plan around future public appointments. There's a nice large spreadsheet of the appointments coming up for the next 12 months. Each one is then red, amber, green statused against that, with the aim that, 12 months before the appointment is due to end, there is then contact being made with the partnership team or the sponsorship team, and the process being kicked off so that, actually, it can be managed in a much more proactive way. So, that's the work they've put in place, and I think there's a much clearer view around what we're doing for the future. I think, in the past, there have been occasions where, yes, maybe it hasn't been quite as structured as that, but it's good to see the work the team has done on that.

That's very good news. So, what evidence can you share with us as a committee to demonstrate that the plan is going to address the situation, and what can you tell us further about the anticipated levels of end-of-term turnover, the recruitment activity for the year ahead—and we've spoken to that plan—and what are the current gaps and vacancies as a proportion of all public appointments overseen by Welsh Government? There's quite a lot in there, so I'm quite happy to go through that again, if needed.

Okay. The current forward plan—I mentioned that large spreadsheet—certainly for the next 12 months, I think has well over 100 appointments on it, right the way through the year, and the team are working through that. I don't have the exact figure for what proportion that is of total appointments. I think the total is probably in the 400 mark, or something around that, especially if most things are on a three-year cycle, and that'll be a mixture, when it goes through, of new appointments and potentially reappointments. I think, last year, the team dealt with 130, which was a mixture between people who were reappointed and also appointments on that. I'm not sure if that's covered all the points you raised, but that's the current position in terms of the forward look on appointments.

I think the last part you mostly covered. So, what are the current gaps and vacancies as a proportion of all the public appointments overseen by Welsh Government?

As I say, probably the appointments coming up are probably in the region of a third to a quarter of the appointments. In terms of gaps, these are—as I said, it's part of the plan, so these are not necessarily gaps, but—terms coming to an end or, on some occasions, where there may be new roles that were created that require appointment. And it would be down to individual teams to look at the gaps that they've got, and then the public bodies unit is very much looking at the overarching process, rather than the specific requirements of each individual organisation.

09:35

Yes, I understand. So, the final question from myself: the Commissioner for Public Appointments has told the committee that the volume of casework from Welsh Government where his view is sought for exceptions under the code is out of proportion to the number of public bodies in Wales. He said he had discussed this issue with the Welsh Government, and recommended that a better management of competitions would reduce the number of these exceptional arrangements. So, what action has been taken to address those concerns? So, the appointments that are being given to him through his role—

'the volume of casework from the Welsh Government where my view is sought for exceptions under the code is out of proportion to the number of public bodies in Wales.'

That's what he said. So, has there been any action to address those concerns that he's made?

There has been action, and I think some of it links to what we've just talked about in terms of the forward plan of appointments, in getting better plans up, so that there's less chance of having to ask for extensions and things like that, which is one of the reasons why you would link into the commissioner. I think the team have also done—. Again, it's part of that focus again on making sure the appointments process is getting better, around team training, around streamlining processes—when it makes sense to talk to the commissioner, and when, actually, we should do things ourselves—and also making sure there are the right links with the partnership teams and suitable guidance. And certainly, the meeting that the team had with the commissioner in June—and I also met with him as part of that—I think was quite a positive relationship, and I think things have improved. As far as I'm aware, there are only a couple of occasions where we've had to contact the commissioner over the last year around exceptions, and that would be either, as I said, an extension over a second term, or for a direct appointment. And so, I think the number of occasions and contact on that more formal basis certainly reduced, and I think the team are more confident in how they approach. But that's certainly the impression we had from the commissioner, when we met in June this year.

Kath, do you want to add anything on that?

There's been significant training within the public appointments team. There's a relatively new head of the public appointments team, who has done a lot this year in streamlining, making sure that we've got single, consistent processes. And there's been a lot of training within the team, and it's given the team confidence. Previously, they were going to the commissioner quite a lot for advice, but that's not necessary now, with a better understanding of the code and coupled with that forward look that has been introduced. We've only had to contact the commissioner twice, for example, in the whole of 2023.

Thank you. Because the comment—I didn't read it out, but the comment—was related to June 2022, so these are further events, in terms of your last comment, for the committee to be clear. Thank you very much.

Thank you. Can I just go back briefly to the tailored review process? In evidence to us on 29 November, the Welsh Government Director for Economy, Treasury and Constitution told us that the tailored review programme, and I quote,

'is effectively on pause while we work through this risk assessment process for each of the bodies'.

What is the status of the tailored review programme now, when will the risk assessment process mentioned be complete, and what will be the next steps in the assessment of the performance of arm's-length bodies?

I think there are a number of aspects to the tailored review programme, and I think that the previous plan that was given to the committee, I think, from the Permanent Secretary had a number of items in it. Some of those have been taken forward, some have changed since then. So, one element of that in the previous plan was around a consultation around thematic reviews, which did go ahead, and that was a consultation with both public bodies and partnership teams around what were the key areas to look at. Out of that, there was a decision taken to look at thematic review around board recruitment as the first review, and then another one around sponsorship roles and skills. So, the thematic review around board recruitment has started, and we're mid process around that. But what was also looked at, and it linked partly also to the Liz Lalley review, was a review of the tailored reviews of specific organisations. And I think previously there was mention of the risk assessment tool—the Handy assessment risk tool, the HART tool. Kath, along with the head of the public bodies unit, and myself were involved in a review of that earlier in the summer, and also looked at the model that's come out of Cabinet Office, which is the self-assessment model, linked to the public bodies review programme, and we made the decision as part of that review that actually that was a much more appropriate model that we should use going forward, and would meet our purposes. It would need some adaptation to make sure that it took account of the situation in Wales, and didn't make references nationally to bits of UK Government. So that process is one that's happening. We aim to review the self-assessment model early in the new year and then pilot it and roll it out to organisations following on from that, and that then forms the risk assessment process that would lead into a tailored review programme around specific organisations.

So, as I said, there are a number of aspects to the programme. The actual reviews of individual organisations, that bit of work is paused while we're using the self-assessment model and adapting it, and then that will follow on. But the thematic review will carry on, and that's in process. There have been a couple of surveys sent out around that to boards, those that have been appointed onto boards, but also partnership teams, with the aim that that review will report probably in the middle of 2024. It's slightly delayed from where we'd hoped, but we'll report round about then.

09:40

Okay. You answered a question by telling me when you anticipate that report to be published. Can you tell us anything more about the review and the scope of the thematic review of public appointments, or have you covered it?

The review is one around board recruitment, so it fits very nicely with the work that the team's doing around ensuring that we have better processes around recruitment. So, it's really looking at the experiences of those that have been appointed onto boards, but also experiences of panels and sponsor teams in terms of arranging it, and, again, it provides a body of evidence to help us develop and improve the process going forward. So, it's really looking at what's the experience we have had, from all the different aspects, and I think there have been a couple of surveys sent out—one to those that have joined boards, but also those from a recruitment perspective, the panels and sponsor teams—with the aim of coming up with some recommendations and looking at what we can do to improve the process further. 

Thank you. I'm having a war with the unmute button with somebody remotely. In regard to the thematic review that the Chair has just touched upon, and the pause within that, you've mentioned processes. Is there any governance oversight in terms of the terms of reference of the tailored review—sorry, the thematic review?

The aim of the thematic reviews—again, it's another role that the public bodies reference group I've referred to will play—is that that will provide internal governance around the thematic reviews, so both in terms of, if we have future ones, at the start of one that would come to the reference group to agree, and then any reports and draft reports will come to that reference group first to review—

Sorry, I'm perhaps not very clear. In terms of the thematic review itself, I'm not talking about governance around the review and oversight of the review, I'm talking about governance as an issue in terms of thematic review mandate or scope, in terms of the public bodies of Wales. Will that overarching thematic review be looking at governance within its mandate?

The review is focused on the experience of individuals going through that recruitment process, both in terms of boards and applicants. So, rather than the governance of the appointments, it's very much focused on actually how does the process work and what was the experience of individuals going through that process, and are there lessons that we can learn from it? So, there'll be elements of governance that will come into that, yes. 

So, in terms of the tailored review, there's been a pause in that, if I'm understanding correctly—and please correct me if I'm wrong. In terms of the tailored review that has been paused, in terms of looking at the SMART review that's going on at the moment, is there going to be an oversight on governance of public bodies within that, when it restarts?

No, I mean the—. When we looked at the topics for thematic reviews, and we went out and did the consultation, the governance of public bodies wasn't a specific one that was raised. It may well come up in terms of the second thematic review that was proposed, around sponsorship roles and skills, so that will link a little bit into that when we come to plan that review, and we could look at that. But there's not a specific planned review around governance of public bodies. 

And in regard, then—very briefly, if I may, Chair—to the recent witnesses that have come to this committee in terms of the museum, it's still not in scope to look at governance, other than what you have just said. 

09:45

It's not planned at the moment, no.

Thank you. Mike Hedges, could you take up the questions, please?

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I'd like to ask some questions on the diversity and inclusion strategy. In written evidence to the committee in January 2022, the Permanent Secretary told the Committee that the Welsh Government’s diversity and inclusion strategy for public appointments was a ministerial priority. Is it still a ministerial priority?

Definitely, yes. When I first took up post and had my initial meeting with the First Minister, it was one of the items that he raised. He felt that it was really important in terms of the role that I play. In subsequent meetings with both the First Minister and also the Minister for Social Justice, this is always a topic that gets raised.

So, as far as I'm concerned, it's very clearly a ministerial priority, especially around improving the diversity of appointments to boards. But it is also something that we share, because it's a key part of the strategy going forward, and things like the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan', which we are really keen on and very committed to.   

Thank you very much. An action plan for year 1 was published that included targets for delivery in 2021-22. Were all those targets met?

There were a whole range of actions within that year 1 plan. I think that there were 44 separate actions—some actions and maybe some targets. Not all of those have been carried forward. When we did a review of that, I think that 28 of them had been done. Obviously, the pandemic caused an issue in terms of the delivery of some of those. And there is the point that was raised earlier—that some of the staff were moved from the public bodies unit during the pandemic, and we didn't have all the resources.

More recently, we have looked at the overarching plan and the five goals that sit within it. I think that each goal has five individual actions, and we're looking at, actually, the progress that we are making against those in terms of looking at the overarching plan. But, as I said, for the year 1 plan, we didn't complete all of the actions, no. 

What is the current status of the action plan? We had an action plan for year 1, but nothing has been published beyond year 1. Can you explain why?

The approach that we have taken since then has been looking at the 25 actions that sit across the whole plan, rather than doing specific detailed plans for each year, and looking at the actions that we need to take against the five goals that we have got there. I think that we are making progress in all areas, but have we gone as far as we would like to have done? No, we haven't, and there's a lot more work that we want to do. But, certainly, there has been some good practice.

We were just reviewing the other day the five goals and the 25 actions. I think that there are nine of those that are completed or closed, and I think that there are 16 that are ongoing at the moment. A couple of those actions are things that are going to be planned in the near future. So, there is progress, but we haven't followed the focus that was put for that year 1 plan into subsequent years. 

Witnesses have said that they have seen no evaluation or information on progress to deliver the strategy. Can you clarify how progress has been monitored and measured, and why hasn't it been more widely communicated?

You're right. There has been no formal evaluation of the plan and publishing of that. It has been something that we are looking at internally and looking at the actions around it. The team is monitoring it. It's about us looking, really, to deliver those actions. It was originally a three-year plan from 2020 to 2023. Obviously, as I said, the pandemic had disrupted some of the actions. It's something, as we get to the end of 2023, where we are looking at what we actually need to do in terms of what the next steps are, in terms of the plan and the strategy that we had. So, maybe at that point, we'd be looking at giving a summary of where we are at and doing a more formal evaluation in the future.  

Evidence gathered by the committee highlighted that many of the issues identified in the 2020 strategy remain of significant concern. Are you disappointed that these same issues don’t appear to have improved during the three years since the strategy has been in place?

I'm disappointed that we haven't completed all things. But I would argue that we have made significant progress in a number of different areas. Even from some of the results, in terms of the outcomes and appointments, some of the statistics have definitely improved from when the plan was first put in place. But also, we know that we have made improvements to the appointments process: the recruitment of senior independent panel members—the 13 there. Again, I think that we were one of the first countries in the UK to do that.

We've also improved the processes and the training programmes that we've done; we've had 208 people go through those training programmes. And so, I think there have been a number of things that we have done. Whether people haven't realised that or we haven't communicated that as effectively as we could—that may be some of the reason why people don't think there has been progress. I think there definitely has been progress, but there is a lot more to be done, and that's something we're really keen to drive forward.

09:50

Can I move on to data on diversity? Do you collect the first part of the postcode of everybody you appoint, and do you actually map that out to see if some areas have many, many more people on boards and some areas have none?

I confess that I don't know the answer around whether we collect the first part of a postcode of individuals, and certainly, we'd have to consider how that sits in terms of requirements around GDPR and the analysis around that. But that's something we could maybe come back to the committee on. I don't know, Kath, if you—

That's why I said the first part of the postcode. Because SA6, where I live, covers about 10,000 to 15,000 people, so you don't have a GDPR problem with it and you actually identify areas, and what you'll find is the areas where you don't get anybody. I would guess that there are bits of Cardiff that are awash with people on public bodies and we have some public body deserts in some other parts of Wales.

That may well be correct. I don't have the data around that. I think what we want to make sure is that, on our public boards and public appointments, we have a cross-section of society, whichever way we want to categorise that. We want, as the report says, to reflect Wales in running Wales, and that should be a distribution across different characteristics and different sectors of society. But that's not something that we've looked at. Part of the plan is to look at the data, and we're in the middle of doing that sort of data collection and analysis of individuals on boards, but that's focused primarily on the diversity of boards from a characteristic perspective, and that work is ongoing. The analysis is currently happening on that, but I don't think it will go into the detail around postcode. That may be something for the future, because there are lots of other ways of looking at the data and cutting it. That's not one that we've currently got planned, but it may be something that could be considered, going forward.

Or where people are employed. Again, I would guess that solicitors and other people in legal professions are massively over-represented. But you talk about diversity; if you had four solicitors, and one was LGBT, one was of south Asian origin, one was female and one was male, would you see that as diverse, or would you see that as four solicitors?

It depends how you look at it. From one angle, it is diverse, yes, but at the same time, again, you can look at characteristics from different areas, whether it be socioeconomic, whether it be from an education perspective or elsewhere, and actually you can define it in many different ways. I think, from my own experience, what you want on a board is a good diversity across all aspects; you don't want groupthink, you don't want everyone from the same education background, or socioeconomic background, or experience, et cetera. So, you want to ensure that you have good diversity across your organisations, and I think that's an important consideration that people should look at.

Therefore, shouldn't you be collecting employment data? I think you should collect postcode data and look at that, but we've gone through that. But on employment data, you do tend to get a group of people—. If I can go on to something that's nothing to do with this, the appointment of magistrates, where they are grouped in a small community—. Within Swansea, they're grouped almost exclusively in a number of small communities and we have magistrate-free areas covering probably at least a third of Swansea.

I think you could, over time, collect data on all sorts of areas. Going back to the original aim of 'Reflecting Wales in Running Wales', it was to say that one of the most important areas where we're not diverse is around people who are disabled, but also people from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background; they're not adequately reflected. And different sectors of society in Wales are not adequately reflected on our boards. So, that's been the primary focus: ensuring that we have really open processes. But I think the benefits we put in place that will apply for those groups of people will apply more generally in terms of we want to encourage the process to be available to everybody and for everyone to apply, and also we want to make sure that we make those roles available to everybody and we create awareness around it and make sure that the characteristics that we ask for and the criteria for the roles are open so that we can get applications from all sectors of society. So, I think there's a lot that could be done in this area. There are limits in terms of how much data we can collect, analyse and utilise, but there is a priority very much at the start around those particular characteristics that are a priority.

09:55

I'm only asking you about data that you've got. You've got people's employment; they fill it in, don't they? And you've got where people live, because they fill in their postcodes. These are things you've got. I'm not asking you to collect data you haven't got. The fact that you don't want to use it is another matter, but it's not data you haven't got.

Yes, there will be data that comes through from application forms and people will put it on their CV. I think you then have to look at what information we actually have that is stored historically around that as to what we can then access, and there are, sometimes, systems limitations in how we can access the information. It's a very good challenge as to looking at, actually, how do we get ultimately to ensure that we've got diverse boards across all our public bodies, and there's more we can do in the data collection piece, which is why I said the first step was the work we're doing with the race equality data and evidence unit to look at the diversity of boards and the information they've got, initially looking at the particular characteristics I've spoken about. Then, actually, there could be multiple phases and we can look at more segregation of the data going forward. 

Mae'r strategaeth sydd yn sail i'r gwaith yma'n dyddio nôl tair blynedd, 'Adlewyrchu Cymru wrth Redeg Cymru'. Mae'n dyddio nôl i 2020, rwy'n credu. Yn y strategaeth honno, mae yn codi'r angen am ddata yn ymwneud â'r dimensiynau mae Mike Hedges newydd godi. Mae e, er enghraifft, yn dweud, o dan nod 1, sydd yn ymwneud â data, fod angen 

'Adolygu, cryfhau ac ymestyn y systemau presennol ar gyfer casglu gwybodaeth...er enghraifft drwy nodi dangosyddion dirprwyol'—

proxy indicators, dwi'n credu, yn Saesneg—

'grwpiau economaidd-gymdeithasol.'

Felly, tair blynedd yn ôl, mi oedd y strategaeth yn gofyn i chi nodi dangosyddion ar gyfer grwpiau economaidd-gymdeithasol. Pam dyw hynny ddim wedi digwydd tair blynedd yn ddiweddarach?

The strategy that is the basis of this work dates back, I think, three years ago, 'Reflecting Wales in Running Wales'. I think it goes back to 2020, doesn't it? In that strategy, it does raise the need for data relating to the dimensions Mike Hedges has just raised. For example, it says under objective 1, which relates to data, there is a need to

'Review, strengthen and extend current systems for gathering information...for example by identifying proxy indicators of socio-economic groups.'

So, three years ago, the strategy did require you to note indicators for socioeconomic groups. Why has that not happened three years later?

The work on data gathering, as I said, had been delayed, and it wasn't until last year that we were sending out the surveys to boards around their diversity work, and that work is now ongoing, at the analysis stage, and we expect that to report in 2024. Around that, I haven't got the information on all the characteristics that the data group is looking at, and we can certainly come back to it, but I think there was a primary focus on really understanding what data the boards have about themselves. We didn't have it as a public bodies unit, and so it's actually going out and surveying the boards to say what information do they hold around the make-up and composition of the boards. So, it's an area we need to look at and develop.

Mae'r strategaeth yn mynd ymlaen i nodi yr union gwestiwn oedd Mike Hedges yn ei godi. Rwy'n dyfynnu'r strategaeth:

'Mae data lleoliad yn angenrheidiol hefyd mewn ymateb i’r canfyddiad bod llawer o Fyrddau “wedi’u canoli yng Nghaerdydd”'

a bod pobl tu allan i Gaerdydd a'r de-ddwyrain ddim yn gallu cymryd rhan am resymau yn ymwneud â lleoliad, iaith, natur wledig eu hardal ac yn y blaen. Felly, mi oedd y strategaeth hefyd yn gofyn ichi ddynodi lleoliad aelodau o fyrddau tair blynedd yn ôl. Unwaith eto, pam dyw hwnna ddim wedi cael ei weld fel blaenoriaeth pan roedd e'n flaenoriaeth yn y strategaeth?

The strategy goes on to note the exact question that Mike Hedges raised. I'm quoting the strategy:

'Data for locality are also necessary, in response to the perception that many Boards are “Cardiff-centred”'

and that people outside of Cardiff and the south-east can't take part for reasons relating to location, language, and the rural nature of their area and so forth. So, the strategy also required you to denote the location of board members three years ago. Once again, why has that not been seen as a priority, given that it was a priority in that strategy?

The work on data is a key part. It's one of the fundamental goals in the strategy. As I said, the data collection exercise had been delayed until last year, and we're keen to look at the results from that. I think I’ll probably need to come back to the committee with some information in terms of exactly what data they are analysing as part of that work, and what information we will have and whether the locations stuff is part of it. But I agree, it comes back to the fundamental principles of the strategy, making sure that we do have diverse boards and they do reflect Wales in running Wales and the location bit will be an important part of that.

10:00

A gaf i jest ofyn, Gadeirydd, hefyd: mae gennym ni ffigurau yn ymwneud â grwpiau cefndir ethnig ac anabledd a LHDTC+, ac mae’n dda i weld y wybodaeth honno, a’r cynnydd sydd wedi bod o ran cynrychiolaeth ar gyfer grwpiau oedd wedi eu tangynrychioli yn y gorffennol. Oes gennych chi ffigurau ŷch chi'n gallu eu rhannu â ni o ran siaradwyr Cymraeg ar y byrddau? Oes gennych chi ffigwr y gallwch ei rannu â ni heddiw?

Could I just ask, Chair: we have figures relating to ethnic backgrounds and disability and LGBTQ+, and it’s good to see that information, and the progress that has been made in terms of representation in those under-represented groups in the past. Now, do you have figures that you can share with this in terms of Welsh speakers on the boards? Do you have figures that you can share with us today?

No, I don’t. I don’t have figures on Welsh speakers on boards. No.

Mae yna ffigurau dwi wedi eu gweld yn y gorffennol: mae yna dangynrychiolaeth o siaradwyr Cymraeg wedi bod yn y gorffennol ar fyrddau. Ydych chi wedi canfod hynny yn y dadansoddiad ŷch chi wedi ei weld? Hynny yw, heb roi ffigwr i ni nawr, ond ydych chi wedi adnabod a oes yna dangynrychiolaeth? Ydy'r ffigwr yn gyfartalog, neu ydych chi ddim yn gwybod ar hyn o bryd?

The figures that I’ve seen in the past: there is an under-representation of Welsh speakers that has existed in the past on boards. Have you found that in the analyses that you’ve seen? Without giving us any figures, but have you recognised whether there is under-representation, and whether the figure is an average figure, or do you not know at present?

I don’t know at present. I haven’t seen any figures for Welsh speakers on boards.

Ocê. Wel, efallai y gallwch chi ddarparu'r ffigurau hynny i ni. Jest yn olaf hefyd: o ran y canran o bobl sydd yn byw y tu fas i Gymru, oes gennych chi'r ffigurau cyffredinol, penodiadau newydd, neu'r holl benodiadau, beth bynnag, jest er mwyn i ni gael rhyw fath o syniad bras ynglŷn â'r canran o bobl ar fyrddau sydd yn byw tu allan i Gymru?

Well, maybe you could provide those figures to us. And just finally: in terms of the percentage of people who live outside Wales, do you have the general figures, new appointments, or all the appointments, just for us to get some kind of broad-ranging idea of the percentage of people on boards who live outside Wales?

Again, I don’t have any data on people living outside of Wales on boards as a whole. As I say, we’re in the middle of the data collection piece of work, and as I said, we might be able to come back to committee with what are the specifics that they’re looking at as part of that work. But I don’t have those numbers.

Jest ar lefel safbwynt polisi, fyddech chi'n gweld, neu ydy'r Llywodraeth yn derbyn y byddai cael canran rhy uchel o bobl sydd yn byw y tu allan i Gymru yn issue o ran cyrraedd y nod o adlewyrchu Cymru—hynny yw, adlewyrchu dinasyddion Cymru—oherwydd mae'n anodd i alinio hwnna pe bai'r canran yn uchel iawn? Neu oes yna unrhyw farn wedi ei mynegi ynglŷn â'r cwestiwn hwnnw?

Just in terms of a policy position, would you accept, or does the Government accept that having a percentage that was too high of people living outside Wales would be an issue in terms of attaining the aim of reflecting Wales—that is, reflecting the citizens of Wales—because it’s difficult to align that if the percentage was very high? Or have there been any views expressed on that issue?

Not necessarily specific views expressed. I think if on any categorisation we saw very high levels one way or the other, that would go against the fundamental principles of saying, 'Actually, do we have diverse boards, and does it meet the objectives of "Reflecting Wales in Running Wales"?' So, I don’t have any data on that, but it’s something that we should be looking at.

But is it more difficult to reflect Wales if there is a significantly higher proportion not actually based in Wales, then, I suppose? Is that a factor in some of your thinking?

I think it’s by the nature of the report, 'Reflecting Wales in Running Wales', yes, if everyone was living outside of Wales, that would raise a number of questions. So, as I said, I think you need to look at the trends, you need to look at the analysis and say, ‘Okay, is there a big issue one way or another?’ And that would be something that we would definitely need to consider.

I don’t currently have that data.

If we have it, I’m sure we can provide it, but I’m not sure if we collect that data or what format it’s in, so we'll need to come back to the committee with information around what we do have.

Ocê. Dwi'n ddiolchgar, Cadeirydd. Diolch.

Okay. I'm grateful, Chair. Thank you.

I should note in response that when I was on the board of a housing association on Merseyside, myself and another board member both lived in Wales, so it can work the other way.

But can I—just before I bring you back in, Mike—just ask a question on the strategy? When will engagement on the new strategy take place, and how will the lived experience of applicants and post holders be taken into account?

There’s no formal plan yet in terms of the new strategy or reviewing the strategy. I mean, as I’ve said, the fact that the strategy was 2020 to 2023, and as I said, there are a number of actions that we ought to be thinking about reviewing next year, and so—. And I think in terms of getting the views of people, we're doing that as part of the work, in terms of the actions we've got and lived experience. We're engaging with experts linked to the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan' and external and accountability group. We're working with currently one expert looking at what we can do to improve the appointments process around it. So, we're already engaging with people in terms of developing the actions we've currently got, and certainly if we look to review things in the future, we'll want to get evidence to say, 'Okay, how far have we gone and what are the important bits, going forward?'

10:05

And in terms of ensuring that the lived experience of applicants is captured, will that be hard-wired in?

Absolutely. It's also part, as I said, of the thematic review of board recruitment. It's the lived experience of those who've been appointed onto boards that we're capturing through that as well, because we've surveyed them. But we'll also look at how we can capture the experience of those who weren't successful, and, again, that feeds into the training programmes that we've got. And also, one of the things that we've strengthened as part of the process is people being provided with feedback, but also getting feedback from candidates around it. So, I'm a great fan of customer insight and making sure that those who have gone through processes, that we understand their experience and how we can improve things for the future. So, lived experiences are absolutely key to the future and any review, going forward.

Thank you. It's a question really on clarity. You've mentioned again the thematic review of board appointments. The questions that Mike and Adam have asked you, in a sense, are really a survey or an audit of current board members in terms of being able to scope the diversity of what we currently have. That's a good starting point. So, have you surveyed the current boards across Wales in terms of their diversity? That's my first question, very briefly. 

And then, secondarily, linked to that, a major issue, as well as the other points that have been made—and I note your comments to my first question in terms of the initiatives that you've put in place, which are welcome—what proactive initiative has the public appointments unit, and others involved in this, taken in regard to literally advertising what is available to lower socioeconomic output areas? That is my second question briefly, thank you.

Okay. In terms of the first bit around the surveying, the race equality evidence unit, in doing their data work, have issued a couple of surveys. One is out to boards and board members around the information they've got. That will form part of the work that they're doing. Again, it links into—I haven't got the detail of that—what is the information that they've actually gathered in terms of the different types of it and whether it meets all the requirements that you just said.

On the second bit around advertising the roles, we're looking to advertise roles as widely as possible and we do use an external agent, but also a whole range of different groups and networks to advertise roles. I don't think it is necessarily specifically targeting areas of lower socioeconomic groups, but some of those will be linked into the range of groups that we do engage with right the way across the sectors, and also using things like, for example, the links we have through the anti-racism Wales network and the external accountability group and the forums around that. So, we're looking to advertise roles as widely as possible to get as many applicants as possible.

Okay, so, there is no overall survey of current public boards at the moment. There is no survey that has gone out to everybody to get a snapshot of the diversity; it's just coming from different angles. I think that's what's been said.

The race equality evidence unit have surveyed boards and I think they've gone out to them to gather that data—

But that relates to that protected characteristic, I'm thinking overall in terms of a snapshot of where we are in Wales, but that's fine. Thank you, Chair.

Okay, thank you very much indeed. Mike Hedges, could you come back in again, please?

I'll follow on from Adam.

Mae pobl fel Adam yn dewis siarad Cymraeg.

People like Adam choose to speak Welsh.

Should every board have a Welsh speaker?

The specific requirements of boards are down to the individual boards and organisations to decide on in terms of what they need, in terms of the boards. There are a huge range of boards—some are very large, some are very small—and I think that would be a matter for individual boards. Certainly from the public bodies unit, we look to make sure that the processes work and that we have the right governance around it, and we're improving the overall diversity of boards and we make sure the processes are suitable and work effectively. But I think there are some bits that come down to individual boards and their make-up and the requirements they need in terms of fulfilling their purpose. 

10:10

Fine. I think perhaps we can agree to differ on that. A couple of more questions I've got: how do the actions set out in the year 1 action plan relate to the work the PBU is carrying out with the knowledge and analytical services and the race and disability evidence units mentioned in your written evidence?

The actions in year 1 and the issue around data, that's what I was referring to in terms of the work that that unit is doing in terms of its current piece of work and analysis, which involved the surveys that went out to boards earlier in the year. They're also doing research in terms of literature research around the diversity of boards and good practice. And so that's the work that I previously referenced that that unit is doing, and that follows on from the action that was in year 1. And, as I said, that had been delayed, but it is now very much in train and is looking to deliver, I think, in spring next year.

You stated in written evidence that the PBU were working with knowledge and analytical services and the race and disability evidence units in Welsh Government to collect diversity data for boards of regulated public bodies. You said that questionnaires were issued in May 2023 and the initial assessment of the pilot would be published in summer 2023. What was the outcome of those pilot exercises?

Well, the surveys have been issued, but, as I said, the outcome and the analysis of that has been delayed, and that's the information that we'll be looking to have the results of in spring 2024. 

Moving on to awareness of opportunities, we talked a lot about that earlier. You can only apply if you know the vacancy occurs, and there does seem to be a group of people who are in the know and a huge portion of the population who are not in the know. What consideration has been given to using existing board members and case studies on the public appointments website to raise awareness of the opportunities available?

We use existing board members to help with some of the training programmes we've done. We've not had case studies on the website, but part of the next stage of the development of public appointments is improving the campaigns page, and that's an area where I think we can look at saying whether we can incorporate case studies, going forward. There are a number of changes we're looking to do into next year around the appointments process, building on the work of it, but also there is an awful lot of work done to really advertise roles as much as possible. I'm told they have over 300 contacts and also use groups like Disability Sport Wales, Race Council Cymru, Stonewall Cymru, as well as the anti-racism Wales bulletin and accounts around that. So, we're looking to advertise roles as widely as possible to ensure that we get as many applicants as we can from that.

So, there's always more we can do in this space and, as I said, part of that for the future is looking at what more we can do, both in terms of the web presence, but also actually ensuring the contacts. It's also why we use an external agent as well to help advertise roles, because we want to make them as widely available as possible. 

Yes, but making things available and having people applying are entirely different, and what I'm saying is that, if you show people who have been appointed, I think that people will see, 'Ah, people like me can be appointed', otherwise it's only for other people. That would make a huge difference. Don't you agree that people need to see that people like them can be appointed, rather than just saying, 'It's for the good and the great of Cardiff'?

I would agree, yes, it's really important around that, and I think that's an important bit we want to pick up as we develop things further. But I think it's also why we're keen and we're working with a whole range of groups to advertise these roles to do that. But it's people seeing 'people like me', from a range of diverse characteristics, I think is really important and I would agree with you that that's something that we need to look at more. 

I think I'd also add in there that we've got a range of training courses, and one of them is a near-ready leadership programme. And one of the things that we've done as part of that is to get existing board members to come along and speak to that group, so that they can see the opportunities that are available to them. So, that is one of the things that we've done off one of our modules on the training programmes, where we've had the 208 delegates.

10:15

Mike, did that answer your questions? Okay. Thank you very much. Can I bring in Natasha Asghar?

Thank you so much. Good morning, both. I'm going to ask you a bit about developing the pipeline of talent. You've mentioned a lot of things, which is music to my and, I think, the committee's ears, about diversity and inclusion and everything else. I do want to bring something to your attention. We've had an evidence session here previously, and we've also read a findings report from the citizen engagement team. They concluded two things. So, from the findings report—. Sorry, I apologise. From the evidence session, one gentleman said that he'd had absolutely no contact with the PBU during the application and appointment process. He said that on one occasion he tried to speak to someone; it took them three and a half days to respond. In another session we had, somebody actually stated, and this is a quotation here—and, for the benefit of the committee and anyone reading, it's all on page 14—it says:

'When you phone the public appointments unit, you’re not made to feel particularly welcome when you ask them questions or as for things in an alternative format.'

Now, it doesn't take a rocket scientist—. I like to be very clear and very concise with people when I talk to them. I tick two diversity boxes: female and a woman of colour. If I was told this, or if I applied for this, I'll be honest with you, if I went through this experience, I would never apply again. I'll be honest; I wouldn't bother. So, how can you convince me that the PBU is actually developing talent when these are the sorts of responses that we're hearing and reading?

I think, as I was saying earlier, it's really disappointing to hear individuals' experiences like that, and that's certainly not how we would want to operate. As I said, there's a programme of work that we're looking to put across the chief operating officer's group around customer service and ensuring that we provide the right service, and the things you've identified are not examples of good service, quite clearly, and we wouldn't want that, and I would agree that would put people off applying. So, there are definitely things that we need to improve and get better at. I know that's a focus for Kath and the leadership team within the public bodies unit—really making sure that the things that we're responsible for work, and work effectively. The other thing is, in terms of the appointments process, the role that the PBU plays, but also then the role of the sponsor team, the panels, and the bodies themselves in terms of engaging with people, and we need to make sure that the whole end-to-end process works, and there are definitely areas where we can get better.

So, how soon will you be implementing those so that these instances don't happen again?

I think, in terms—. Kath's already mentioned that we've done training with the team, and certainly the work we're doing around what I referred to as the service catalogue and having other things like SLAs to say, 'Look, okay, how long should it take for somebody to respond?' and make sure there are clear expectations, that's something we're looking to roll out over the next three to six months across the group, and we'll look at the specific things around the public bodies unit and that helpline or the enquiries line that they have.

Okay. I've been listening intently to a lot of what my colleagues have been asking you so far, and I know you've been getting quite a grilling, but there is one thing I'd like to follow up from what my colleague Mike Hedges just asked. There is a misconception, perhaps—. You may argue it is a misconception, but there's a feeling that I have that many of these roles that are advertised, particularly those that are remunerated—and I will come back to that, because that's the next section of my questioning to you, remuneration. It does feel apparent to me, and perhaps to many others out there watching this right now and perhaps who have experienced the process, gone through the process, or just looking from the outside in, is that it's almost like a big boys' club—and I don't mean that as gender specific; there may be some women included in this—that those roles where money is involved, those top, plum positions that exist out there, particularly which the PBU is responsible for, they are the ones given to specific individuals who just seem to be churning those roles over and over, from one organisation to the other, to the other, to the other, regardless of whether they're good at them or not, but they're just going. How would you convince me and the committee that that's not the case?

I think there are a number of things that we're looking at in terms of improving the process. I think one of the key things that has happened over the last few years is the appointment of 13 independent panel members in terms of that, to, again, ensure that we do have independence and that we do have fairness on the panels. Because, ultimately, the role of the PBU is running the process. It's the panels that then decide on the shortlist. They then do the interviewing and then put the recommendations through, and obviously it's all in line with the process for the commissioning of public appointments, and so the roles and then how that feeds into the options that are given to Ministers as well. So, I think it's making sure that, at every stage in the process, fairness is baked in, so in terms of whether it be the criteria that are set out at that start, that there aren't very, very job-specific ones, or things that require certain experience, which limits the field automatically, right the way through to then ensuring the panels work and work effectively, that there is that independence, and then that suitable options are put forward as part of that decision-making process.

I think, certainly, if you look at some of the data that's coming through now, it's not where we need to get to, but there has been, definitely, improvement. If you go back three or four years, for those from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background, I think the numbers were around about 5 per cent. We're now at 11 per cent or 12 per cent. So, those people that are disabled, again, it was down at the level of 8 per cent; we've been up into the 12 per cent to 18 per cent levels. We've made a shift, but there's more to be done, and so I think, certainly, there's evidence that we're moving in the right direction, but there's more we need to do, and I think there are a number of steps that we're looking to do. The appointments process—we've got some new things we're looking to implement next year, which will include, actually, even making the criteria simpler and clearer, removing things like desirable criteria and just having a few essential ones, batching appointments together, so there are groups and people—link things together—and also almost no wrong time to apply for these sort of panels, which will run at set times during the year. So, a number of things that we're looking to try next year to improve the process and make it fairer and more independent around that, as well as, importantly, that we then review things. This is a journey we're on, and there's more we need to do. 

10:20

Okay. The year 1 action plan of the Welsh Government diversity and inclusion strategy included a number of actions in relation to developing a pipeline of talent. Apprenticeships and mentoring schemes—have these been delivered, and how are their successes in increasing the diversity of applicants being measured?

A number of actions have been taken. We've mentioned, previously, some of the training programmes, and the ones that Kath's just mentioned around the near-ready leadership programme and also the public leaders futures programme were key things around that, and we've had some good attendance and good results from those over the last six months. We also mentioned that we've now got a talent bank, which is 14 individuals who've been a sort of near-miss—again, how we can then use that to help with future appointments. And just starting in, probably, the second week of January, is a job shadowing programme. Again, we've got funding for 15 individuals to then actually come on boards—whether you class them as shadows, apprentices et cetera—to actually then get the experience of sitting on boards and linking into board members and chairs around that. They will be remunerated roles as well, to remove any barriers around that, so that they can sit on those boards and get the experience, and use that as a pilot. And then hopefully, the success of that will encourage boards across the public sector to use that and develop more shadowing schemes for the future. So, there are some things we're doing in terms of the pipeline. There's always more that we can do. But I think there have been some important developments, especially over the last 12 months. 

How do you and where do you advertise for these roles? Because, coming into the questions of what my colleagues have mentioned, we tend to find that a lot of these roles are filled with people from Cardiff/local specific. So, how can we get or how do you work on getting the best sort of candidates, in advertising in the best possible way for these positions?

I think, on some of the training programmes, they've come through either people who have applied and not been successful, and then they've gone on to some of the training programmes—the training has been available through the feedback loops we've had—or people that have applied for these things. In terms of the job shadowing, I haven't got the details of how those 15 were selected, but we can probably come back with that, unless Kath knows more on that. 

I haven't got more on that.

That would be great. Thank you so much. So, which organisations and groups are you specifically working with when it comes to—? The evidence states that you're keen to work with external partners on mentoring and shadowing schemes. So, who are they, and, if there is no-one in place, then does that mean that nothing's happening at the present?

On the shadowing scheme, as I said, there are 15 individuals, and they will go on to 15 different boards. So, we've gone out to boards and asked who's interested in that, and we've had some response back from that. I think the matching up is going to be happening during January. So, there'll be an induction for the 15, I believe, in the second week of January, and then some matching up with individual boards after that. So, I haven't got the details of the 15 organisations, but that will be happening into January. 

Ie, gawn ni droi at y broses ymgeisio yn benodol? Pa gamau ydych chi'n mynd i'w cymryd i wneud y broses ymgeisio ei hunan yn fwy hygyrch i grwpiau sydd yn draddodiadol tangynrychioledig?

Yes, can we turn to the application process, specifically, please? What action have you taken to make the application process itself more accessible to candidates who come from traditionally under-represented groups?

There has been a range of things that have been put in place—and, as I said, this is an ongoing process, because there are further developments we want to introduce into next year—so, certainly, some simplification of the packs and the criteria for roles. We also developed—. There's a guide for candidates to help them in applying, and also better information out to the partnership teams around the process. We also have some pro formas and templates that go out to partnership teams and the panels as part of the recruitment process, again, trying to get more simplified, more standardised processes as part of that application process that goes on. 

So, a number of steps have been taken, but, as I said, we're currently doing work around the next stage into next year, which is looking to develop that further, and that's where we're also engaging with an external expert through the external accountability group of the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan', to help us look at the process and develop it further into next year.

10:25

Ydy'r camau hynny'n cynnwys hefyd newid y disgrifiadau anghenion swydd i gydnabod rôl profiad bywyd, yn hytrach nag arbenigedd mewn termau mwy confensiynol felly?

Those actions, do they also include a change in terms of the job descriptions, for example, to recognise the role of lived experience rather than specialism in more conventional terms?

Yes, they do. I think there's been some simplification already, but I know—. I spoke with the expert this week and some of the details he's given us are absolutely key around that in terms of having really simple criteria going forward, taking account of lived experience, in some respects making some of these things less civil service and much more applicable to public appointments. So, that is absolutely key to the future and the new criteria. As I said, we've done some work on that in simplifying criteria, but we need to go further, and that's a key part of the next stage, as well as then—. As I said, that links to the batching of appointments together so that we have more generalised criteria that are less specific and more ability for lived experience to be part of that, rather than more specialist criteria, which can limit sometimes the applicability to individuals. 

Rŷch chi wedi cyfeirio at yr wybodaeth rŷch chi wedi'i roi i baneli cyrff cyhoeddus sydd yn apwyntio. Ydy hynny'n cynnwys gwybodaeth ynglŷn â sut y gallen nhw wneud addasiadau rhesymol y gellir eu cynnig i ymgeiswyr anabl?

You've referred to the information that you've given to public bodies appointment panels. Does that include information relating to how they can make reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates specifically?

Some of that is picked up—. We also, as part of the training programmes, we've got the modules we have; one is around fair recruitment processes, which is for boards and those involved in panel recruitment, which looks at how we make sure that the panels operate in a fair manner. There's also training around all aspects of diversity and inclusion.

On specific things like reasonable adjustments, there's probably more we need to do, although we've done a lot of work internally within Welsh Government, and, obviously, a number of people who sit on the panels will be internal members of Welsh Government as well and sponsor teams. We've done a lot of work more recently around things like the social model of disability and also focusing around how we ensure internal processes have reasonable adjustments. So, those members of the senior civil service that are involved in sponsorship panels and panel recruitment will have had information on that. But I think there's more we still need to do around reasonable adjustments, although the recruitment process comes through our new recruitment system, Cais, and it also does ask the question around if reasonable adjustments are required on that. But I think there's more that we can do in that space.

Ydych chi'n cynnig yn uniongyrchol help i bobl o grwpiau sydd wedi'u tangynrychioli i wneud ceisiadau, ysgrifennu ceisiadau, er enghraifft?

Do you offer help directly to people from under-represented groups to make applications, to write them, for example?

We don't provide specific help for individual candidates, no. That's not a role that PBU plays. As I said, we do provide—. There's simple guidance around how to do applications, but, no, the public bodies unit doesn't provide a role of individual assistance to people applying.

Jest i fod yn glir, nid felly help uniongyrchol ar gyfer gwneud cais penodol, ond ydych chi'n cynnig hyfforddiant, er enghraifft, i bobl o grwpiau wedi'u tangynrychioli'n gyffredinol ynglŷn â sut i wella eu sgiliau o ran ysgrifennu ceisiadau?

Just to be clear, you don't therefore provide specific help to make applications, but do you provide training to people from under-represented groups in general to help them improve their skills in terms of writing applications?

Part of that is some of the training models like the public leaders programme and the training we do for near-misses, so that's people who have applied and then actually, maybe, for whatever reason, haven't got through; they're the ones that then move on to the training programmes to help them, whether that will be help with how they actually put their application forward or whether there would be other aspects in terms of their development. There is some; we don't provide specific help for individuals in applying, but it does feed into some of the training programmes that exist.

O ran y gwaith rŷch chi wedi'i wneud i symleiddio'r iaith sy'n cael ei defnyddio yn y pecynnau gwybodaeth ac yn y blaen, ac wrth ddisgrifio swyddi, ydych chi wedi profi hynny neu ymgynghori â phobl o'r grwpiau targed, hynny yw y grwpiau sydd heb gynrychiolaeth ddigonol, er mwyn jest gwneud yn siŵr eich bod chi yn cyflawni'r nod?

In terms of the work that you've done to simplify the language that's used in information packs et cetera, and in job descriptions, have you tested that, or have you consulted with people from those target groups, from the under-represented groups, just to make sure that you do reach that goal?

10:30

The current work that we're doing, as I said, with some experts in this area, we haven't then tested that out. I think that's an important part of the next stages, as we move forward into further developments, in terms of the appointments process, and we're always looking to get feedback on what's been done. So, there's more testing we should be doing as part of that next stage.

Ydych chi hefyd wedi treialu gwahanol dechnegau o benodi—hynny yw, nid cyfweliad ffurfiol, traddodiadol, ond, hynny yw, gwahanol ffyrdd o asesu pobl ar gyfer y swyddi mae cwmnïau yn y sector breifat nawr yn defnyddio, i weld ydy hwnna yn medru cael effaith bositif ar gynhwysedd ac amrywiaeth?

Have you also trialled different techniques in terms of appointing—so, rather than just a formal interview, different ways of assessing people for jobs, which companies in the private sector now use, in order to see whether they can have a positive impact on diversity and inclusion?

As a public bodies unit, I mean, we look at the overarching process. Obviously, the specifics around the selection criteria is something that the panels decide on. I'm not aware of any other than the fairly standard process around interviewing that goes on, but that's down to the panels. Obviously, anything in the process needs to fit with the guidelines set around public appointments, so I'm not aware of other forms of assessment. I know we're looking at—. We do other things internally within the Welsh Government for own appointments—different types of assessments and panels and things to help with the process—but I'm not aware of any from a public appointments perspective. But some of that is down to the bodies themselves and the panels that are set up.

Ie, ond ydych chi efallai'n gweld mai rhan o'ch rôl chi ydy cynnig opsiynau o ran arfer da, annog cyrff cyhoeddus i ystyried ffyrdd eraill o recriwtio ac o asesu yn y cyd-destun ymgeisio? Fel rŷch chi'n dweud, o'ch profiad chi gyda Llywodraeth Cymru ac, wrth gwrs, fel roeddwn i'n dweud, ar draws y sector breifat, mae yna lot o arbenigedd a thystiolaeth nawr ynglŷn â gwahanol ffyrdd o fynd trwy'r broses, ond ydy hwnna'n rhan o'ch rôl chi, efallai?

Yes, but do you perhaps see part of your role as being to provide options in terms of best practice and encouraging public bodies to consider different ways of recruiting and of assessing in the recruitment process? As you say, from your experience in the Welsh Government and, of course, across the private sector, there's a lot of expertise, and there's evidence that there are different techniques in the appointments process that can be effective, but is that part of your role, perhaps?

I think there are lots of things that could be done in the future around recruitment. Certainly, for the role of public bodies unit at the moment, our focus is very much on the current process and improving that and looking at ways we can do that, taking account of said best practice from experts that we are engaging with around the future, but it's very much focused on things like the criteria for roles, things like batching roles together and setting the standards for it, rather than different innovations in terms of the actual recruitment process itself. As a public bodies unit, we're not necessarily recruitment experts from a HR perspective, but we are looking at the processes to improve them. It's often a case of what are the priorities. I think, at the moment, the priority is to make sure the current processes are working and working fairly and are as open as possible. But where we may go in the future and understanding what is best practice is probably something we should look at at some point in the future, but the focus very much now is on getting some of the basics right in the current process, and we ought to ensure that that develops in the future.

A gaf i droi at adborth? Mae hwn wedi cael ei bwysleisio gan nifer o bobl sydd wedi rhoi tystiolaeth i ni. Oes yna bolisi cyson ar draws cyrff cyhoeddus yng Nghymru o ran cynnig adborth ystyrlon i bobl sydd yn ymgeisio am swyddi, ac, os nad oes e, ydy hwnna'n rhywbeth rŷch chi, o feddwl am eich swyddogaeth chi, yn awyddus i'w weld?

And if I can turn to feedback, this has been emphasised by a number of people who've given evidence to us. Is there a consistent policy across public bodies in terms of providing meaningful feedback to people who apply for jobs, and, if not, is that something, considering your role, you're keen to see?

I think feedback is really important. There is a standard process now where all outcome letters invite candidates to seek feedback, and that'll be written feedback from the panel or specific feedback from the chair of the panel. So, I'm a great fan of feedback, but also ensuring we get feedback both ways. It's how you use that to improve, both for individuals and for the process, going forward. So, that is a standard, now, part of the process.

Can I just come in with a supplementary on the questions Adam Price asked about reasonable adjustments in recruitment processes, and so on? I think Mr Moss made reference to looking at the social model of disability, which states that people are not disabled by their impairments but by the barriers to access and inclusion that society places in their way. What consideration is there in the processes you described, or indicate you aspire to deliver in the future as to hidden impairments, such as vision impairment, hearing loss or particular neurodevelopmental conditions, where people may have particular strengths and skills that would benefit a board, but would not be able to cope necessarily with normal communication and sensory processing provision in the recruitment process?  

10:35

They're things that we're certainly very much looking at internally within the Welsh Government, and we've done a number of things around reasonable adjustments as part of our recruitment processes. It tends to be very specifically linked to the individual concerned, and, obviously, the offer is made and then there can be a discussion. I know we've been looking at things for those, maybe, from a neurodiverse perspective, often about the idea of maybe having questions in advance. That's an area we're looking at. So, it depends on the impairment or the barrier that we're looking to overcome as to what reasonable adjustments are done, but the Welsh Government has done a lot over the last couple of years internally.

As I said, I think the recruitment system, the Cais system, does ask questions of whether people need any adjustments or whether there are any issues to take into account, but I think there's probably more to be done in terms of how that feeds through to the public appointments process, and whether there are things we can learn from what we've done internally within the Welsh Government. But we're really keen to make sure that we develop that. I think it's all part of making the process as fair as possible and that the more standard processes that we've just been talking about actually then have the reasonable adjustments to help people from every background and characteristic to apply. 

Thank you so much. I'm going to be asking you, as I mentioned earlier, about remuneration, but I just wanted to ask, before I go into the actual in-depth questions, how many people from diverse backgrounds are currently in remunerated positions, in roles that they may have obtained through the PBU? 

I don't have that data. One of the ideas for thematic reviews when we were doing the consultation was about board remuneration. That was one of the possible options put forward as part of the consultation with sponsor teams and public bodies. That was not decided to be the priority. There was a priority given to the board recruitment process. So, we haven't done work on board remuneration on that, so I don't have that data.

Okay, because one thing—. I am going to ask you as in-depth—. You probably all saw me on my phone earlier. I wasn't being rude; I was actually doing some homework. So, I went actually on your website and I started job hunting. I came across five jobs that you have available, and, just for the purpose of the exercise, it's not just a WhatsApp conversation I'm looking at, but actually the various roles available. So, there's one role where it's the appointment of an independent member, generic x2 finance and third sector to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. I thought, 'Let me go a little bit further out there, out of south-east Wales, and have a look'. So, I've checked everything, the vacancy details—in everything I can't find a flaw or fault. You've got a lovely disability confidence scheme, which is fantastic. However, the one thing I noted, as someone who'd be looking for a job, if I was to look for one—which I'm not at the moment, just for everyone's benefit—the salary is not shown. I have to go into the actual link to the job, and page 17 is where it shows the basic remuneration for the position. So, if a person who's looking to apply, get involved, start their journey into this particular position, why, like with every other job that's advertised out there, would the salary not be visible to a person who wants to apply?

To be perfectly honest, I don't know why. It's an important part of a job application to know whether it's remunerated or not and, if so, at what level. If that's not prominent, then that's something that should be considered. 

It's not prominent in any of the advertisements, just to make you aware of that. So, just for the process and just to make everyone aware, that should be definitely looked at, because if someone is considering a job, we all have bills to pay, and I'm sure applicants do as well. If it's an unpaid role or a paid role, it needs to be visible to everybody there.

Okay. So, the Welsh Government strategy on diversity and inclusion in public appointments and the Wales Centre for Public Policy on the recruitment process and improving diversity identified remuneration as a key barrier to diversifying public appointees. Has the Welsh Government completed a review of the remuneration of public appointees, and, if so, what were its findings and how have these been addressed?

I'm not aware that any review has taken place. As I said, that was one of the thematic reviews that has been looked at, but we decided that that wasn't one that we were going to take forward because there was a greater priority about board recruitment. So, there hasn't been a review on that as far as I'm aware.

10:40

And has any consideration to supporting those on benefits and with caring responsibilities to apply for and take up public appointments been made?

I think there are some quite complex issues around benefits and how that applies, because, obviously, there's a whole range of remunerations. I think, with boards, some are at quite low levels, some at quite high levels, and obviously the impact that may have on individual benefits depends on the individual circumstances and things like that. So, it's a complex area, and not one that I've got any detail on around that. I'm aware it is a very tricky area, but it's an important one from a diversity point of view, because, as I said, we want people from all sectors of society to be on boards. Obviously, where things are remunerated and those are on benefits, that can cause an issue, or where you've got roles that aren't remunerated, that limits those people who can apply. So, it's certainly an area that we need to look at, but it's not one that we've done detailed analysis on yet.

Will it be one that you'll be making a priority, going forward, though?

I think it's one we'll need to consider as part of the plan. In this space, there are an awful lot of priorities, and so it's really understanding how that fits together. But I think it is an issue that will need to be looked at.

I would suggest please do, because many Members, including me, have caring responsibilities, and there are provisions made by our parties and the Parliament so that we are able to carry out those roles and do those things. So, even with this particular sector, it should be looked at in depth and detail, because there have got to be some great candidates that you will have out there who'll miss this opportunity just because of caring responsibilities or things that may, obviously, take up their time and attention, but I'm sure who'd equally be able to contribute to roles that you've advertised and, perhaps, going forward as well. 

So, witnesses identified that job adverts often underestimate the time commitment needed to undertake a public appointment properly. Has any review of this issue been undertaken by the public bodies unit?

No. The public bodies unit hasn't done that. Primarily—I think I mentioned before—with all appointments, there's a combination between the role of the public bodies unit, the panels involved in the recruitment and also the public bodies and the sponsorship teams. I think the specific time requirement for individual boards is very much a decision for boards, the chairs and the sponsorship team in the organisation, and it will vary from organisation to organisation. I know, having been chief exec of two partner organisations that have their own boards, there are different amounts of time depending on the nature of the board, the role and also what's happening in the cycle within the organisation. So, I think I would say primarily that's a conversation between a board member and the chair and the organisation, if the time commitment appears to be much higher than was originally advertised. But it's not an area that the public bodies unit has looked at, because I think the primary responsibility would sit with the organisation and the sponsor teams.

Okay. Just one final question, please, Chair, if that's okay. As I was doing my earlier job hunt on your website, and having a look at the five jobs available, one thing that was apparent—. You have the disability disclaimer on there, you have details of role closing dates, contact details, all of that. But the one thing—and I accept we live in Wales; I understand Welsh is a national language here as well as English, and we respect both—is that there is a lot of emphasis on the ability of people to be able to speak Welsh, and I know a lot of people from diverse backgrounds don't speak Welsh. How many people in remunerated positions do speak English and Welsh, and is that predominantly those who sit in paid roles, purely because I just feel that that will, unfortunately, discriminate against a lot of people from a diverse background who may not be able to get those positions because they don't speak Welsh? 

We don't have that data. I think it links to the question that was raised earlier around Welsh speakers on boards. I'm not aware of the data at the moment. Whether any of that comes out of the analysis that's currently going on—. But that's not information we have to hand.

On the analysis work from the race and equality unit, spring 2024 is when we're looking to have that information. But, as I said, I don't know exactly what characteristics it's looking at, and that's something we need to come back to.

Ydych chi'n gallu dweud wrthym ni ba sesiynau cynefino a hyfforddiant sy'n cael eu darparu i aelodau newydd o fyrddau?

Could you tell us what kind of induction and training sessions are provided to new board members?

One of the modules that's part of the training programme—the five-module training programme—put together was around induction for board members. So, that was offered to new board members. But then there's also the induction training that individual boards and organisations will put forward for new board members as well, and that will vary from board to board. So, there was an offer of induction training for new members over the last year.

Ocê, so mae pob aelod o fwrdd newydd nawr yn cael y cynnig hwnnw. Beth yw rôl yr uned cyrff cyhoeddus o ran darparu cymorth parhaus i bobl sy'n aelodau o fyrddau?

Okay, so all new board members have that offer. What is the role of the public bodies unit in providing ongoing support to people who are board members?

10:45

I think that the public bodies unit's role, primarily, is around the appointments process. Once someone is appointed to a board, the responsibility really sits with the board and also the sponsor team around that. The public bodies unit has a very limited role in terms of ongoing support for individual board members through that period. A lot of it then sits with the board.

We do get involved if there are more general issues or if there are particular issues of complaint or elsewhere. But the individual support for board members sits with the boards and the organisations.

Ond, onid oes rôl gennych chi o ran cefnogi aelodau newydd o fyrddau o grwpiau sydd wedi'u tangynrychioli? Er enghraifft, mae yna gyfeiriad at y syniad o system gyfeillio yng nghynllun gweithredu blwyddyn 1. A ydych chi wedi treialu hynny, a beth yw'r canlyniadau?  

But, do you not have a role in terms of supporting new board members from under-represented groups? For example, there is a reference made to the idea of a buddying system in the year 1 action plan. So, have you piloted that, and what were the results? 

No, that hasn't been taken forward—the buddying system—from a public bodies' perspective. As I said, the involvement with board members has been around the induction training that was put in place. I'm not sure whether individual boards have put in place buddying set-ups.

Again, I know from my own experience that that's something that we would have done as part of the organisation. We would have linked board members together—those new members with more experienced ones—in the past. But that was done on an individual organisation basis. We haven't done that as a public bodies unit.

Pam nad ydych chi wedi mynd ymlaen â'r cynllun yma, a oedd yn y cynllun gweithredu?

Why did you not take that plan forward, which was in the action plan?

I think that it came down to individual priorities. We have not achieved everything that we wanted to within that plan. I think that the focus has been much more around things like the training programme, and making sure that that exists, and putting that in place. So, that wasn't one that we have been able to take forward with the resources that are available.

Ar ochr arall y bwa, mewn ffordd, a ydych chi hefyd wedi rhoi mewn lle system o gyfweliadau ymadael—neu exit—ar gyfer pobl sydd yn gadael byrddau?

On the other side of the coin, have you also put in place a system of exit interviews for people who leave boards?

I'm not aware of a system from a public bodies' point of view. Again, that may link more to the role of individual organisations' boards and sponsor teams.

Ond, unwaith eto, o ran eich ffocws penodol chi ynglŷn â chynhwysiant ac amrywiaeth, oni fyddai o leiaf siarad â phobl o grwpiau tangynrychioledig yn ddefnyddiol o ran canfod unrhyw wersi ynglŷn â'u profiad nhw ar y byrddau hynny?

But, once again, in terms of your specific focus on inclusion and diversity, wouldn't at least the opportunity to speak to people from under-represented groups be useful in terms of learning lessons about their experience on those boards? 

As a principle, I'm a big fan of things like exit interviews for an organisation, because it's a key learning point in understanding why people leave organisations, and it's something we would do in Welsh Government. Again, I think that there is an element where it comes back to the role that the public bodies unit plays. It's there very much around looking and ensuring that the overarching system around things like appointments and reviews and things is working effectively, and we look to improve things, going forward.

It's not really set up and resourced to look at real support for members and board appointees, post that appointments process. It looks more generally at issues around public bodies. But that responsibility sits more with boards and organisations, and the unit, that's not part of the role that, really, it currently plays.

A gaf i ofyn yn olaf—? Mae yna nifer o enghreifftiau proffil uchel wedi bod yn ystod y pump i chwe blynedd diwethaf o aelodau o fyrddau—ac weithiau, byrddau cyfan—yn gorfod mynd oherwydd amgylchiadau neu bwysau yn cael ei roi arnyn nhw: Chwaraeon Cymru, Betsi Cadwaladr, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru, Amgueddfa Cymru. Mae rhai o'r bobl a oedd wedi gorfod gadel yn y sefyllfa honno wedi dweud eu bod nhw o'r farn y byddai hynny'n cael effaith ar barodrwydd pobl i roi eu henwau ymlaen ar gyfer gwasanaethu ar fyrddau yn y dyfodol. Oes unrhyw un wedi mynegi hynny i chi, fel uned? Ydych chi wedi dod ar draws unrhyw dystiolaeth o hynny?

Could I ask you, finally—? There are a number of high-profile examples that have occurred over the last five or six years of board members—and sometimes, entire boards—having to leave because of circumstances or pressure being put on them: Sport Wales, Betsi Cadwaladr, Natural Resources Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru, and so forth. Some of those people who had had to leave under those circumstances have said that they are of the opinion that this will have an impact on the willingness of people to submit their names for service on boards in the future. Now, has anyone expressed that to you, as a unit? Have you come across any evidence of that?

10:50

I'm not aware that anyone has specifically expressed that to us, as a unit.

And certainly no evidence of that that we're necessarily seeing in terms of appointments or a lack of people applying for roles. That would be something that we would monitor. We do monitor when we put out campaigns as to whether they're successful or not, and try and understand it. I'm not aware of any increasing trend or anything at the moment, but that would be something that we would certainly want to look at in our overarching role as a public bodies unit. If you're getting more campaigns where you're not getting sufficient fields, then that would raise questions around the whole process, which we'd need to look at, and that really does fit with the role of PBU in terms of that oversight of the process and making sure that we can have effective campaigns for roles, but we haven't seen any evidence as yet. It's one to look at.

Thank you very much indeed. Just going back on that, as you indicate, it's the role of individual bodies to provide ongoing support to public appointees. What, if any, ongoing support do you provide to those individual bodies to enable them to do that?

Part of the role of PBU is very much around how we engage with the organisations and the bodies themselves. So, one of the roles it plays is we have some networks that we've set up, so we have an informal chief execs network, which I will chair and it meets a few times a year, where we look to build up that support network for bodies across the public sector. We've also kicked off again something called the public leaders forum in November. Again, that's for chairs and chief execs, and building up a stronger network where you can share information or talk about key topics. We're also part of the devolved sector group, which brings together unions with organisations as well. So, there are a number of things where the public bodies unit plays a sort of co-ordinating role to help facilitate those sorts of networks and we're looking to develop those going forward. It's been a bit ad hoc over the last year or so, but we've actually now put a clear plan together for next year, with a series of meetings, both for the chief execs and public leaders forum, et cetera, to build a much stronger network to help and discuss the key issues and bring people together.

Okay. Moving on to a different theme, how does the relationship between the Welsh Government and the Commissioner for Public Appointments operate in practice?

I think we touched a little bit on that earlier. I think the relationship is now in a much better place. Obviously, the commissioner is there as the independent regulator of the appointments process, ensuring that we operate compliant processes, which I believe we do, and also as that escalation point, if there are exceptions, specifically where an appointment needs to go over the two-term rule, or if we're looking to do a direct appointment, and that's where we would need to consult with the commissioner. As I said, the meeting that we had in June was very positive and I think there's been an improvement from when evidence was given in June 2022 to where we are now, and certainly the number of occasions where the team are engaging with the commissioner is fewer. There is a good relationship, and as far as I'm aware, there are only a couple of occasions when we've had to consult them around things that are happening in public appointments over the last year. So, I think it's in a better place.

What, if any, consideration has been given to the appointment of a commissioner for public appointments for Wales?

I think that's probably a question more for Ministers in terms of the policy around what we should do in Wales. My personal approach to things like that is that the current system appears to be working quite well, we have a good relationship with the commissioner who covers Wales, and the processes are compliant and appear to be working reasonably well. So, I always start from the point of view of, 'What's the problem we're trying to solve, and what's the best route to do that?' But the current process, from a public bodies unit perspective, appears to be working effectively at the moment, so I think the question is, 'Is there a case for change?' Ultimately, that can be a political choice as well, going forward. But you look at what's the business case in terms of both the costs and the benefits that would be delivered through a separate commissioner for Wales.

So, in terms of your role, this isn't an issue that's crossed your radar.

No. It's not an issue from our perspective. As I said, it's important that we have good processes that work effectively and are compliant with the guidelines and that's how it appears to be working at the moment, and it's not an issue for us.

10:55

Do you know, you might not, but would the reserved powers model we currently have permit a Welsh Government to make such a decision, to introduce a commissioner for Wales, or not?

I don't know the specifics. That's not an area I've looked into.

I don't believe it does, no.

Okay. We recently met with the Ethical Standards Commissioner for Scotland, who also serves as their public appointments commissioner for Scotland. How, if at all, do you compare the oversight provided by the commissioner for England and Wales to the commissioner in Scotland? Although you say it's a political decision, do you see any value in having a dedicated Welsh commissioner providing direct oversight of Welsh appointments and, potentially, also incorporating that ethical standards role that he has in Scotland?

I'd like to hand over to Kath on this; I know she's had some discussions with our colleagues in Scotland around that. Kath.

Yes, I spoke to Scottish Government colleagues recently, and the role of the commissioner there is quite different. They also look at complaints, for example, from Members of the Scottish Parliament and from councillors as well. But one of the key differences in public appointments is that the commissioner's staff do get involved in every single public appointment, and the role that they play is decided very much upfront. It's custom for each role. They have had to make some changes recently, which I'm aware of, and that's because the commissioner was unable to be a full decision maker on the panel, and that has now reverted to being a civil servant, in very much the same way as we do in Welsh Government, because there are obviously some issues about conflicts of interest, if you're assuring a process that you're directly part of.

I don't have any visibility about whether there are any disbenefits to that approach, in terms of, for example, whether it extends the length of time that it does take to do recruitment. But one of the ways that we've approached it, as I hope we've outlined already, is that we've increased the training in our own team, so that we're better skilled to be able to make the appointments in a fair way and in a streamlined way that gets the best results for the boards we're looking to appoint.

Developing that from the meeting we had with the commissioner in Scotland, he told us that his roles and powers provided more oversight earlier on in the appointments process, whereas the commissioner for England and Wales only has powers to review the appointment once it's made. He also felt that this was not as effective as the Scottish model. So, to what extent, if you're able to express a view, do you believe that increased powers for a public appointments commissioner to oversee and review appointments earlier in the process would be beneficial here?

I understand from my colleagues in Scotland that a key part that the commissioner's staff play in the recruitment process is providing advice. Apparently, the advice is well received and is welcome. But that's my understanding of the particular benefits that having the commissioner's staff involved assists with there.

I think I come back to what I was saying earlier, that I think the current process we have appears to work effectively. The process is clear in terms of the different stages of it, the role of Ministers, the role of officials, the role of panels, et cetera, around that, and, certainly in the engagement with the commissioner, there appear to be very few problems with that. Where there are exceptions, they are escalated and the role of the commissioner within that is clear. So, as I said, there are probably a number of processes you could have, but the current one appears to be working effectively in terms of both the regulation of it, but also the in-practice working. I think the issues around the process are more down to the ones we've been discussing, around how do we make sure that the processes are fair and open and we get the right candidates coming in, rather than the oversight and the regulatory framework that it sits within. That's certainly the focus for us in terms of where we see that we need to make improvements going forward.

As I recall, when we met the commissioner in Scotland, his view and that of his team was that that earlier role of oversight in the process actually addressed some of the points that Members have been raising with you today, not as a criticism, in his role, of the Scottish Government or other bodies he was working with, but just having a separate, fresh pair of eyes who could, perhaps, pick up or notice something that could be added to or changed in a particular appointment process.

11:00

I think it’s a fair point. But the other point I would make is that it’s also a key role that the independent panel members can play, and it’s an important role that they play in terms of ensuring that at every stage, in terms of that recruitment, that it’s been done in a fair way. So, I think again, there are different solutions to the problem and certainly I think the independent panel members have a key role to play in terms of ensuring that the process is fair and open and things are looked at in the right way.

We’ve reached the witching hour. I’ve got a couple of very short questions to finish with, and then we can release you. What are your views on the purpose and role of pre-appointment hearings undertaken by the Senedd, and what is the public bodies unit’s role in supporting those hearings?