1. ITV Report

'Wales This Week - Who Runs Wales?'

Adrian Masters and Jonathan Hill on the quest to find 'Who Runs Wales' Photo: Glenn Edwards

There are four flags flying in front of the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. I can see them from my desk in the ITV Wales office overlooking the Richard Rogers building which houses the National Assembly for Wales.

That building is a symbol that the way Wales is run has changed, that a great deal of political power has been transferred from Westminster to Cardiff Bay.

But the flags are a visible reminder of the fact that the political power is shared: the dragons representing Wales and the National Assembly flutter alongside the British Union Flag and the EU's circle of stars.

The people I report on and talk to everyday in my job as Political Editor, whether or not I'm in Cardiff or London, are those whom we've entrusted to make decisions on our behalf and those who'd like to make the decisions in future.

The choices they make and the laws they create affect us all. Decisions made by Welsh Ministers mean University students pay lower tuition fees and nobody pays for prescriptions here. Decisions made by UK ministers affect the amount of tax we pay and how many police officers there are.

I often wonder though, who's the boss? Who runs Wales? Is there a single person or a single institution that can be said to be in charge?

Devolution has definitely changed things. When I first began my reporting career, the Secretary of State for Wales seemed pretty much to run the show on behalf of the UK Government, although it's fair to say there were also powerful council leaders running large authorities and controversial quango bosses taking decisions without, it seemed, much accountability to voters.

These days sixty Assembly members debate matters that affect Wales with executive power wielded by Welsh ministers led by the First Minister. So that makes Carwyn Jones the man who runs Wales, doesn't it?

It's certainly true that, as devolution develops, people are increasingly turning to the First Minister as the leader not just of the Assembly, but also of the nation. but Carwyn Jones is acutely aware of the limits to his power. He's repeatedly called for the devolution of responsibility for large-scale renewable energy projects only to be told by a succession of UK Government figures that such a transfer won't happen.

Major decisions are being made every day at Westminster that affect Wales. These are decisions such as the one to electrify the rail line from from London to Swansea and the Valley Lines; how many soldiers there should be and how many regiments; and the rate of benefits people are paid as well as how they qualify.

Then there are the rules and regulations set in Brussels that affect farmers and fishermen here. Wales has received over £3 billion in EU aid since 2001 - all of it with strings attached. Does that effectively give the responsible European Commissioner, Johannes Hahn a say in running Wales?

The many layers of bureaucracy which now rule us are illustrated by the controls over the fishing industry. Fishermen's spokesperson Jerry Percy explains.

But what about local councillors whose decisions can directly affect, for instance, the number of plastic bins in front of our house and the frequency they're emptied, or who can stop you building that extension. Unless, that is, you live in the fifth of Wales covered by the National parks and then you have to go to them to apply for planning permission.

Local health boards are even now drawing up plans which could mean radical changes to the hospitals we're used to visiting in times of need. Local Education Authorities decide the priorities for our schools and even how many schools there are.

'Who runs Wales?' is a question that's bothered me for a good many years. How much power do the people that I report on day-in day-out actually have?

I've been given a chance to answer it. This month our current affairs programme 'Wales This Week' celebrates thirty years of asking difficult questions. For a special edition of the programme I've left the corridors of the Senedd and Parliament to travel around the country talking to people who've come in contact with power as they try to change things.

It's a journey that takes me from the outskirts of Port Talbot where people are battling big business, to Llangollen where the fight is with the local health board. In Milford Haven, I met the fishermen who deal with Welsh Government officials carrying out EU rules. In Powys, windfarm protestors take on two governments and the energy companies.

Who do they turn to? Who do you blame or praise? Who's in charge?

Who runs Wales?

WALES THIS WEEK: WHO RUNS WALES 9th October 7.30, ITV1 Wales; follwed by an hour long edition of SHARP END on Thursday 11th October, 10.35 pm ITV1 Wales

Watch the full programme here:

...and feel free to leave your comments on Twitter by using the #walesthisweek hashtag

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