Plans to 'future proof' communities among new laws

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Plans to "future proof" communities across Wales against economic and social decline are among new laws put forward by First Minister Carwyn Jones.

He said the renamed Sustainable Development Bill would create jobs, enable growth and tackle poverty.

Mr Jones told AMs reducing domestic violence and abuse of women was also a priority for the next 12 months.

Conservatives welcomed some of the plans but said they were not enough to "inspire confidence" in the government.

Announcing eight new bills altogether, Mr Jones said the Future Generations Bill was to ensure public services made key decisions with the long term well being of Wales in mind - "future proofing" communities from pressures that threaten their viability and survival.

Start Quote

I am confident the plans I have set out today will help transform our society and make Wales a better place in which to live”

End Quote Carwyn Jones First Minister

"This bill is about how we tackle the generational challenges Wales faces in a more joined up and integrated way, we cannot afford to leave this burden behind for our grandchildren," he said.

Fly-grazing

The Ending Violence against Women and Domestic Abuse Bill would "tackle all forms of violence against women and domestic abuse", he said.

Legislation on the abandonment of horses and ponies and so-called "fly grazing" would give local councils the powers to "seize, impound and dispose of horses either through selling, re-homing or destruction in as humane a way as appropriate, and when circumstances dictate".

Local health boards will also be given the scope to break even over a three year financial period rather than the current one financial year.

Mr Jones said a housing bill aimed to strengthen homelessness legislation and would introduce a licensing system for landlords and letting agents.

It would also allow councils to charge higher council tax rates on long-term empty properties.

Start Quote

Fast-tracking the [NHS Finance] Bill limits the ability for AMs to properly scrutinise the plans”

End Quote Andrew RT Davies Welsh Conservative leader

There are also bills to give the Higher Education Funding Council greater powers to maintain standards in colleges and legislation on planning matters to set out new roles and responsibilities for Welsh ministers, councils, developers, local authorities and communities.

There are limited details on the Public Service Workforce Bill, but it is expected to seek to bring about more consistency in the terms and conditions of public sector workers in Wales.

Mr Jones said: "At the heart of our legislative programme is a firm commitment to improve public services and create opportunities for everyone.

"I am confident the plans I have set out today will help transform our society and make Wales a better place in which to live."

'Lazy approach'

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies welcomed some of the proposed bills, but said the plans would "hardly inspire confidence" when education, the NHS and the economy were "getting worse by the day".

"While we support the proposals to give local health boards greater flexibility in finance planning to help them cope with Labour's record-breaking NHS cuts, fast-tracking the bill limits the ability for AMs to properly scrutinise the plans," he said.

"Announcing the decision to fast-track the NHS Finance Bill on the day the Welsh government is using an emergency procedure to rush through legislation on agricultural wages shows a reckless contempt for scrutiny and a slapdash and lazy approach to law-making."

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood urged Mr Jones not to "water down" his commitment to sustainable development and questioned how the bill on ending domestic violence would work when the police and criminal justice system were not devolved to Wales.

She also urged Welsh ministers to meet opposition parties before bills were published to avoid what she called "thorny issues" with legislation over the previous 12 months.

Ms Wood said she wanted to ensure that "this Senedd uses its resources in the best way possible, to produce good, if not excellent, legislation that will improve the lives of people here in Wales".

Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts questioned whether some of the proposed bills were affordable and warned it was difficult to support legislation if it had not been given a "full financial assessment".

He also urged Welsh ministers to ensure that local health boards provided "greater assurance with regard to the robustness of their own financial controls" if they were to be given greater financial flexibility.

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