New WISERD Book Explores the Varied Post-Devolution Governance and Policy Making in Wales

Set within the context of UK devolution and constitutional change, People, Places and Policy: Knowing Contemporary Wales Through New Localities offers important and interesting insights into ‘place-making’ and ‘locality-making’ in contemporary Wales. Combining policy research with policy-maker and stakeholder interviews at various spatial scales (local, regional, and national), it examines the historical processes and working practices that have produced the complex political geography of Wales.

This book looks at the economic, social and political geographies of Wales, which in the context of devolution and public service governance are hotly debated. It offers a novel ‘new localities’ theoretical framework for capturing the dynamics of locality-making, to go beyond the obsession with boundaries and coterminous geographies expressed by policy-makers and politicians. Three localities – Heads of the Valleys (north of Cardiff), central and west coast regions (Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and the former district of Montgomeryshire in Powys) and the A55 corridor (from Wrexham to Holyhead) – are discussed in detail to illustrate this and also reveal the geographical tensions of devolution in contemporary Wales.

This book is an original statement on the making of contemporary Wales. It deploys a novel ‘new localities’ theoretical framework and innovative mapping techniques to represent spatial patterns in data. This allows the timely uncovering of both unbounded and fuzzy relational policy geographies, and the more bounded administrative concerns, which come together to produce and reproduce over time Wales’ regional geography.

Professor Martin Jones, one of the editors of the book, said: “The book is written in the context of Welsh devolution and constitutional change, a subject that is very lively and topical both within Wales and the UK more generally, with the Scottish referendum for independence last year and the in/out EU referendum for the UK in the next couple of years. The book itself focuses on post-devolution governance and policy making and how the impact of this varies across Wales.”

Co-editor Dr Scott Orford said: “[This book] is an attempt to try and define, identify and understand how and why different parts of Wales have experienced difference in their fortunes post-devolution across a variety of policy areas – hence the use of localities as a conceptual and analytical framework to help us do this.”

The publication of this book is timely as the Williams Commission recently concluded that Wales suffers from something akin to governance complexity, with devolution appearing to have created confusion, rather than simplification, of governance and delivery in the devolved public sector in Wales – a situation that is illustrated in the book. The Commission offers 62 wide-ranging recommendations including mergers of existing local authorities to reduce the complexity of the existing structures. Whilst the merging of existing local authorities has brought much excitement but also brings to the fore the importance in understanding the spatial complexities involved in place-making and locality-making; one of the main concerns raised by the book.

The book is published by Routledge, and can be found, in full, here: