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Monday, November 26, 2012

Another missed Welsh Labour target

This morning's Western Mail contains another example of the failing culture of government by targets that has been a hallmark of both the Welsh Labour Government and that of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Westminster.

They report that the Welsh Government has admitted that its four-year campaign to get more people walking and cycling is failing, despite help from high petrol prices and squeezed household budgets:

New figures show that there has been little change in the proportion of people who walk and cycle to work, leaving the Welsh Government at risk of missing nearly all the targets it set itself in a widely-publicised 2009 action plan.

Of the six targets set for 2013, only one has been met and ministers are accused of failing to support their action plan with suitable funding.

The then environment minister Jane Davidson held a photocall outside the Wales Millennium Centre in February 2009 to launch the “ambitious” Walking and Cycling Action Plan. She pledged that the plan “will ease congestion, lower emissions and address growing obesity levels”.

The director of transport charity Sustrans Cymru, Lee Waters sums up the problem: “They [the Welsh Government] publish targets with a fanfare and don’t achieve them. Then they publish more targets.”

He told the Western Mail that the new Active Travel Bill’s success depends on the Welsh Government giving councils more money to implement traffic-free networks. But councils have already warned that the Bill could lead to disappointment, because it will compel them to publish maps of prioritised traffic-free networks but they are not promised any more funding to create the extra routes required.

Jane Davidson has since gone on to new pastures including the second incarnation of the Silk Commission, but she was renowned as the Minister who always insisted on evidence-based policy. Well the evidence here is clear, if you set a target and do not put the resources and legislation into place to meet it then it will fail. No doubt Paul Silk will take note.

Will the current Transport Minister learn the lessons of her failure and that of her successors?
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