The Programme for Government – how is progress measured?

2 June 2014

Article by Graham Winter, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image from Flickr by Welsh Government. Licensed under the Creative Commons

Image from Flickr by Welsh Government. Licensed under the Creative Commons

The First Minister is making his third annual statement about progress in delivering the

Programme for Government to Plenary on 3 June. His previous annual statements were in May 2012 and June 2013.

The First Minister told Plenary in a recent debate on the Programme for Government indicators:

[…] we have always wanted to show that it is possible for Members to compare the Government’s performance from year to year. That is what the programme itself is doing.

The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government was published in September 2011. It contains a ‘roadmap’ for the Fourth Assembly that “emphasises the outcomes” the Government is working towards. It sets out high-level aims and specific actions for twelve broad areas of policy. It also shows how the Government will measure progress and which Ministers are responsible for delivery, as well as key partners who will be involved in that delivery. Some of these Ministerial responsibilities have since changed as a result of the Cabinet reshuffle in March 2013.

In launching the Programme for Government the First Minister said:

I was clear in asking for a mandate that this administration would be characterised by a focus on delivery. A mature Government must be able to demonstrate its effectiveness in the delivery of results that people can measure, and in terms of change that can be seen and understood. The programme for government is central to this.

For each of the 12 policy areas the programme includes a number of Long-term Outcome indicators of how Wales is performing as a country, plus more detailed Tracking Indicators that are to show how action by the Welsh Government “is making a positive difference”. Although a number of the indicators are intended to show a desired ‘direction of travel’ (eg: an ‘increase’ in the percentage of energy from renewable sources), the programme doesn’t include specific targets to be achieved.

Whilst many of the indicators take the form of statistical measures, some are more subjective assessments of progress (eg: Progress against the recommendations of the Community Cohesion Programme Evaluation). Some but not all of the indicators include comparisons with other parts of the UK.

The 2012 Annual report gives information on progress made towards achieving the 122 Outcome indicators and 224 Tracking Indicators from the 2011 programme.

The 2013 Annual report added some new Outcome and Tracking Indicators and also removed some. A table showing these changes is available on the Welsh Government’s website. It is likely that some further changes to the suite of indicators will have been made for the 2014 update. Alongside the 2013 annual report, data for each of the indicators was made available online on the website for the first time, rather than as part of the published report. However this information has not been updated since the last annual report in June 2013, although in some cases more up-to-date information has since become available.

How is progress measured by the other devolved administrations?

The Scottish Government produces an annual Programme for Scotland publication setting out “the legislation for the coming year, as well as summarising the Scottish Government’s key achievements and main goals for the future – both legislative and non-legislative.” In addition to this, Scotland Performs measures and reports on the progress of government in Scotland “in creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth.” The National Performance Framework which forms the basis of this work was originally adopted in 2007 and updated in December 2011.

Progress is tracked by 7 Purpose Targets and it is supported by 16 National Outcomes and 50 National Indicators, covering health, justice, environment, economy, and education measure progress. This are updated regularly as new information becomes available, rather than on an annual cycle. The broad ‘Purpose Targets’ are specific (eg: To match the GDP growth rate of the small independent EU countries by 2017). However the more detailed ‘National Indicators’ only show a desired ‘direction of travel’, in a similar way to those for Wales.

The Northern Ireland Executive published its Programme for Government 2011-2015 in March 2012. The programme contains five priorities and 82 commitments. The priorities cover the economy, health & disadvantage, environment, communities, and public services. Milestones/outputs for 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2014-15 are given for each of commitments organised by the five priority areas. A Strategic Online report provides the latest information on progress against each commitment. This information is updated on a quarterly basis.