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6 July 2015 | Comment | Article by Ioan Prydderch

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015

Following some last-minute wrangling, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 eventually became law in Wales on 29 April 2015.

Originally titled the Sustainable Development Bill, the Act was passed by the National Assembly for Wales, whose hope it is is that it will sit together with the soon-to-be-enacted Environment (Wales) Bill and Planning (Wales) Bill, to better meet the needs of current and future generations in Wales. It is the first piece of legislation of its kind worldwide and has put Wales at the forefront of legislative sustainable development, improving quality of life for people across Wales – and all over the world – and safeguarding the country’s invaluable natural resources.

Sustainable development and well-being goals

The Act gives Welsh public bodies a set framework to follow to ensure that they meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (the sustainable development principle). Its aims include: considering the long-term; working better with people and communities and each other; looking to prevent problems; and taking a more joined-up approach. Simply put, the aim is to place sustainable development at the heart of the public sector in Wales.

Sustainable development is defined in the Act as the process of improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by taking action, in accordance with the sustainable development principle, aimed at achieving the seven well-being goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Each public body is required to carry out sustainable development. In doing so, it must include set and publish objectives (designed to maximise its contribution to achieving each of the well-being goals) and take all reasonable steps in exercising its functions to meet those objectives.

There are five things that public bodies need to consider to show that they have applied the sustainable development principle:

  • Long term – balancing needs of those in the short term
  • Prevention – of problems occurring or worsening
  • Integration – of the well-being objectives and their impact
  • Collaboration – with any person or body in order to achieve the well-being objectives
  • Involvement – of those with an interest in achieving the well-being goals

The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

The Act establishes a Future Generations Commissioner for Wales (the Commissioner), whose role it is to act as a guardian for the interests of future generations in Wales and to support public bodies to work towards achieving the well-being goals.

They have a range of actions they can carry out:

  • Advise, encourage and promote – to public bodies and Public Service Boards
  • Research – to include goals, indicators and milestones and sustainable development
  • Carry out reviews – into how public bodies are considering long term impacts
  • Make recommendations – to public bodies regarding their well-being objectives
  • Future Generations Report – published a year before the Assembly election
  • Advisory Panel – to support the Commissioner

Public Services Boards

The Act also establishes Public Services Boards (PSBs) for each local authority area in Wales. The members of each Public Services Board must include:

  • The local authority;
  • The Local Health Board for an area any part of which falls within the local authority area;
  • The Welsh Fire and Rescue Authority for an area any part of which falls within the local authority area;
  • The Natural Resources body for Wales

Each PSB must improve the well-being of its area by working to achieve the well-being goals. It will do this by assessing the state of economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being in its area and setting objectives that are designed to maximise the PSBs contribution. Each PSB must publish a Local Well-being Plan, setting out its objectives to contribute within its local area and the steps it will take to meet them. Each PSB will then carry out an annual review of their plan, showing progress made.


Public bodies will also be subject to new reporting and audit provisions, to include:

  • Publishing a statement explaining why it feels each well-being objective will help them achieve the goals and how it has applied the sustainable development principle.
  • Publishing a yearly annual report showing the progress made in meeting its objectives.
  • Publishing a response, where the Commissioner has made recommendations.

The Auditor General for Wales will work with the Future Generations Commissioner to ensure that public bodies are working to achieve the well-being goals for Wales.

To monitor progress towards achieving the well-being goals, the Welsh Ministers must set national indicators and milestones for the future, to be reviewed and amended so as they stay up to date and relevant. In addition, at the start of each financial year, an annual progress report must be published, setting out the progress made over the last year. Twelve months before an Assembly election, a Future Trends Report must also be published.


It remains to be seen what impact the Act will have on public bodies in Wales, as most will, to greater or lesser extent, have already been working towards similar goals. Only a handful of the provisions were immediately brought into force, but it is hoped that this ground breaking piece of legislation will soon be fully operational in Wales.

Author bio

Ioan Prydderch


Ioan is head of the firm’s business services division, which comprises all of the teams which provide transactional, contractual, advisory and dispute resolution advice to businesses and organisations.  Ioan is also Head of our Construction, Energy and Projects team and has spent almost 20 years advising clients on non-contentious and contentious construction matters. He has extensive experience in the construction and engineering sector and has acted in a number of high value and complicated disputes.

Ioan’s role involves advising the firm’s key clients on some of the most significant construction projects and disputes in Wales and the wider UK.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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