Monday, 20 July 2009

There's a pattern emerging...

Posted on This is My Truth on July 20th

The slow death of ITV Wales, cuts at BBC Wales and the emasculation of the Western Mail have been much discussed. But the weakening of the Welsh media is only part of the story. The decline of civil society has been going on under the radar.

The Ramblers have dispensed with the post of Director for Wales, leaving the highly experienced Beverley Penney without a job. Oxfam Cymru have downgraded the role of Welsh Director - making clear they didn't want a 'spokesman' when they recently filled a vacancy. And the WWF have made redundant the well respected Morgan Parry as their Director for Wales.

Add to this the fact that the CBI Director for Wales, David Rosser, has widened his responsibility to take on the west of England, and a pattern begins to emerge.

There is no doubt that the NGO sector is far from immune from the general economic downturn. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of the redundancies. But when cuts have to be made it seems that the post of Director for Wales is among the first to be sacrificed.

Add to this the view in the higher echelons of the Welsh Civil Service that when cuts begin to bite WAG's funding for a number of Welsh charities is likely to be seen as 'low hanging fruit', and therefore easy pickings.

It is generally agreed that we are in for a grim few years. But the implications go beyond jobs.

A few less members of the chattering classes, you might think - no bad thing.

Wales already has an immature and underdeveloped media and civil society. Though there was a blooming in the sectors following the establishment of the Assembly, it now appears to be being pruned.

In my view the issue of 'capacity' is going to be one of the dominant themes of Welsh Government over the coming years. Capacity of AMs to cope with a bigger role and workload; capacity of the Civil Service to meet the challenge of greater scrutiny and greater demands; capacity of the media to adequately report on it all; and capacity of our civil society to inform a divergent policy agenda without a resource base to meet the demands.

Just as we need to be preparing to meet the challenges of a new chapter of the devolution story, we are losing some of the charecters we need to make it a compelling tale.

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