esterday’s statement on the Welsh Programme for government comes at an extraordinary time. The pandemic has delivered one of the biggest public health and economic challenges in the history of devolution, challenges continue to arise from a shifting constitutional landscape, and COP26 – the UN Climate Conference scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November – quite rightly focuses attention on the need to tackle climate change.
With the publication of the programme, the Welsh Government hopes it will be able to use its legislative leavers to create a more prosperous Wales and deal with the significant current and future challenges it is likely to face over the course of the Senedd term. These challenges will require political co-operation across party lines in pursuit of finding common ground in the interests of the people of Wales. It also requires the Government reaching out to key stakeholders such as ACE and its members – global leaders, renowned for the quality of their work and in-demand to help deliver key projects and programmes.
With the vaccine rollout in full-swing, attention is quite rightly turning to the longer-term handling of the pandemic, and how we will recover from the biggest economic challenge in living memory. Throughout this pandemic, members of ACE Wales, and the wider construction industry, have helped play their part in keeping the local economy moving in difficult circumstances.
Before the administration was re-elected in May, ACE members in Wales outlined their key priorities in an open letter and urged the incoming Government to invest in projects that support the Welsh economy, improve strategic transportation links, deliver placemaking for our public spaces and regenerate our public sector assets, notably though their refurbishment, refitting, maintenance and active management. If we want to ensure longer term social, environmental, and economic outcomes are met, then we need to understand that placemaking should be at the heart of any local plans for a post-pandemic recovery.
The Government has emphasised plans for employment in its programme, but we also know that the nature of work has changed. With many spending more time at home, there is now an opportunity to revitalise local areas to support small businesses, create open spaces, revolutionise mobility by embedding active travel measures, increase public transport options and deliver more electric vehicle charging points.
There is an opportunity to revitalise local areas to support small businesses, create open spaces, revolutionise mobility [through] active travel measures, increase public transport options and deliver more electric vehicle charging points. Piers Burroughs
This programme is also an opportunity for the Welsh Government to focus on building resilient communities in the broadest sense. How society responds to the Net Zero challenge is the biggest question of our time and the focus on climate change by the Cabinet reflect this new reality. However, we also know that policies will be what defines success in this area, not personnel.
The UK Government has committed the delivery of a Net Zero future. This will help mitigate the worst effects of climate change and cap global heating at 1.5 degrees. Like all businesses, ACE and EIC members will need to change the way they work on a day-to-day basis. However, as the designers of the built environment, ACE members especially play a key role in delivering the Net Zero society of the near future. As such, our members are key to delivering a truly green economic recovery.
As part of the commitment to Net Zero and climate change, we will need to decarbonise construction projects through better design and by exploiting the benefits of digital systems and solutions. However, Government can also help us by preparing for hydrogen production, distribution, and usage.
In recent times, ACE has developed a strong track record of challenging traditional cost-based procurement approaches. We have helped to develop and champion new thinking on a UK level through the Construction Playbook and the Value Toolkit. ACE Wales also delivered a similar piece of work for the Welsh Government on achieving better value by design. We now need to take an equivalent approach and think about Net Zero’s interactions with procurement. We hope to explore the approaches of major public sector clients to assess the extent to which we can incentivise carbon reduction through procurement.
This programme is the start of what will be a long and challenging road for the Government with the coming decade decisive in addressing major issues such as recovery and Net Zero. We look forward to working closely with the administration to ensure we can play our part in meeting these challenges and deliver better social, environmental, and economic outcomes through value-based decision making.
Piers Burroughs is chair of ACE Wales.