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Politics, Welsh Government

Programme of Government – the row over targets

A few thoughts on the Welsh Government’s Programme of Government which First Minister Carwyn Jones unveiled yesterday.

You can watch my colleague Esyllt Carr’s report on what’s in the programme here and you can judge for yourself by reading the Programme and its supporting documents here on the Welsh Government’s website.

I won’t rehearse the row over the absence of specific target figures in much of the document that we reported yesterday. The  Western Mail sets it all out here .

But I will pass on something which may shed some more light on the controversy.

Following yesterday’s briefing of journalists, senior government officials tried to help me out of my confusion.

One told me that behind the programme of Government was an ambition to try to move to a more mature politics, one that’s not obsessed with ‘arbitrary targets’ which are often set in stone many years ahead and unable to change to reflect changing circumstances in, say, the economy.

I said that was a noble aim but wondered if it left open the possibility, admittedly extreme, that the Government could claim that, say, a rise of 1 per cent in a specific area was a success while an opposition party could claim a drop of 1 per cent was a missed target.

The officials dismissed that and said that a more mature political culture would be better able to debate progress – or otherwise – which can be monitored in clear annual reports without the distraction of those ‘arbitrary’ targets.

There is a view that targets so often used by previous governments in both Cardiff Bay and Westminster HAVE proved hostages to fortune in the past with debate focussing on whether or not they’ve been met.

There’s another view, though, that they provide a clear statement of the direction of travel even if that sometimes means taking the flak when they’re missed.

And if the Welsh Government is moving away from targets, it’ll certainly take a lot of getting used to for journalists and politicians alike.

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About Adrian Masters

By day, Political Editor at ITV Wales. By night, obsessed with music and books.

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