Switch of power calls for caution

27th April 2007 at 01:00
The significance of the Government of Wales Act on the political landscape here should not be underestimated (see page 1). This is an awesome transfer of law-making powers from Westminster to Cardiff Bay. It will no doubt have huge implications on policy-making.

Editors will no longer be able to use "Assembly government" in headlines after the May 3 elections. The legal separation of the executive and legislature will mean that the new government and Assembly will be on a par with the UK Government and the Houses of Parliament. It will mean that new initiatives, particularly involving the curriculum, are in the classroom quicker and the minister for education, lifelong long learning and skills will not have to be answerable to fellow Assembly members on scrutiny committees.

Top civil servants are already paving the way for the likely scenario of wide-ranging education measures being pushed through in the first two years of the newly formed government's term. But a closer look at the changes reveals that while Westminster has conceded the power, it still holds on to the purse strings. And, with the Institute of Welsh Affairs telling us that an increase in spending from the English-delivered block grant are expected to drop from 3 per cent to less than 2 per cent year-on-year (the slowest increase in spending since devolution) there could be lean times ahead.

This does not bode well for flagship policies that have yet to be fully rolled out, such as the Welsh bac and the 14-19 agenda. It would be lunacy to rush through reforms without the upfront funding needed to make them work. Heads already claim there is not enough cash at the chalkface to do justice to new initiatives.

Brian Lightman, vice-president of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru is a firm believer in most of the education reforms of the current government but warns of using the new powers without financial teeth.

His view appears to be based on common sense. It seems that with any transfer of power, in any walk of life, there comes responsibility. Let us hope our politicians don't fall into the trap of letting power go to their heads. It could prove to be their downfall.

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