Thursday, 10 November 2011

Consultation or advice

Dylan Jones-Evans posts an interesting comparison today between the membership of the ‘Economic Renewal Council’ in Wales and the membership of the ‘Council of Economic Advisors’ in Scotland.  As a like-for-like comparison, it makes for grim reading, but I wonder whether that is entirely fair.
The two animals have evolved by very different routes.  Whilst the purpose of the Scottish body is to give the best possible economic advice to the Scottish Government, the Welsh body has, as Dylan himself notes, grown out of a statutory requirement to consult; and it seems to be more about seeking consensus than setting a new direction. 
During the early part of the recession, the Welsh body seemed to be performing quite well in that more limited role, although I suspected at the time that there was more than an element of spin about the extent of its contribution.  However, a body containing representatives of the different stakeholders, meeting periodically to discuss the economic situation with the Welsh ministers is no bad thing in itself.  To that extent, I’d disagree with Dylan’s criticism. 
However, the unanswered question for me is this – where is the body in Wales which is performing the rôle being performed in Scotland by the Council of Economic Advisors?  This is not a representative body taking part in consultation, but a group of leading people in the field with a much better capability to do some pro-active and wide-ranging thinking and advising – and it appears to be missing in Wales.
I doubt that the ‘sector groups’ which the Welsh Government spent the best part of two years setting up are really working on the same level, or are likely to do so.  The problem, it seems to me, isn’t so much with the membership of the body we have trying to perform the functions allocated to it, but with the lack of a rather different focus which could probably only be provided with a very different membership.
On that point, I can only echo Dylan’s question about a lack of economic ambition on the part of the Welsh Government.


d said...

I think Dylan's wide of the mark in focusing in on union officials. It's quite obvious from the TUC's Touchstone blog that it possesses a number of competent economic specialists, including the very incisive Duncan Weldon. We can't be sure that will mean good things from the three TUC officials on this panel. Conversely, we cannot infer they are not up to the task simply because of their backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

having sat on it , its more like a "lets pat ourselves on the back arent we good club". few challenge most fan the ministers feet. Its not the economic people from the unions who are there. Its cosy and of no use in economic development or business terms. I stopped going

Anonymous said...

good post as ever John.

whether or not an economic panel with alternative ideas is formed and different ideas are debated, the same issue remains Wales still lacks a political class that is unwilling or unable to champion new economic thinking and challenge the current economic orthodox with welsh voters.

But voters have a part to play and if there is no demand change politicians have no incentive to change economic practice which means the status quo of terminal declines continues unabated.