Plenty of focus on new commissioner

The appointment of the new future generations commissioner was always going to attract plenty of attention.

It's a position which pays £95,000 a year and runs for a seven year term.

The new commissioner Sophie Howe will have an office of up to 18 staff, which includes up to four directors with an overall budget of £1.4m a year. So it's not small change.

The new job and office is the result of legislation, the well-being of future generations act, which was passed earlier in the year.

What's it designed to do? One definition is that public bodies in Wales should not do anything that will make life worse for future generations, and it covers virtually everything from the economy, environment and social and cultural life.

Motherhood and apple pie

Critics say it's all motherhood and apple pie, supporters say Wales is doing something unique.

In fact, the Welsh government has referred to the grand quote from a United Nations official who said he hopes that what Wales is doing today, the world will do tomorrow.

The legislation had a bumpy ride on its journey through the assembly where it was described as a bureaucratic monster.

Opposition parties forced large parts of the legislation to be re-written before agreement was reached

The job description is demanding to say the least. Among the key responsibilities is to "act as a guardian of the ability of future generations to meet their needs." Good luck with that one.

More manageable

The second part seems more manageable to "encourage public bodies to take greater account of the long-term impact of the things that they do."

Sophie Howe joins a growing list of commissioners covering children, the Welsh language and older people, but of all of the roles there appears more freedom for her to take this in whatever direction she wants.

Opposition parties have criticised her selection because she's a former Labour councillor and a former special advisor to current environment minister Carl Sargeant, someone she will inevitably be expected to scrutinise.

Although I should also make the point that Sophie Howe takes up the job shortly before the assembly elections so there will be a new cabinet in place soon after she starts.

But her selection was the result of a cross-party panel.

Bit rich

Forty people applied for the job and I understand five shortlisted candidates were interviewed over a two day period before a final recommendation was made to the First Minister.

This has inevitably blunted any criticism. Even the Lib Dems say it's a bit rich for the opposition to criticise the selection as they were part of the process, although Plaid have been keen to point out the choice of Sophie Howe's was not unanimous.

For her part, the new commissioner responded to the claim that she's too close to government on Wales Today when she said: "I have had a range of different roles across the public sector and actually I think my knowledge inside of government will be really useful in understanding where the issues and challenges are and where I need to focus my attention."

This touches on an age-old debate that has existed in job applications in both the public and private sector.

Is it better to have an insider who knows his or her way around the Welsh public sector or an outsider who can bring in a new way of thinking?

We'll see in the new year.