If seeing is believing then 'delivery is everything'

Assembly sign Image copyright bbc
Image caption Ministers could be spending less time on the fifth floor

"If the public out there can't see what we're doing, they'll think we're doing nothing - so delivery is going to be everything".

The words of a newly re-elected Carwyn Jones, addressing civil servants in Cathays Park, flanked by his new Cabinet.

His main lever for achieving that? The new First Minister's Delivery Unit - flagged up prominently during the election campaign and currently being set up - delivered, you might even say.

So how's this Unit going to look? Will there be a sign appearing some time soon on one of those forbidding, heavy wooden doors in a hushed corridor in Cathays Park: First Minister's Delivery Unit? (You may have spotted that those dealing with signs have a lot on their plates these days. The Deputy First Minister may have been removed from government but not yet from the sign on the Fifth Floor of Ty Hywel.)

Well, first of all, the Delivery Unit will be drawn from the existing ranks of the civil service. There'll be no external business high flyer drafted in to shake things up. If you're looking for a Sir Michael Barber figure, brought in to head Tony Blair's Delivery Unit - then you probably won't find one.

The purpose of the Unit will be to monitor the performance of all Welsh Government departments on behalf of the First Minister.

It will deliver a weekly update to Mr Jones across government, particularly in priority areas. For example, in the case of literacy, the Unit will have a civil servant responsible for keeping track of progress in that area and warning him if they're found to be missing their targets.

Could this tread on the toes of strong-willed ministers in various departments? Well, yes, but in Mr Jones' words 'the buck stops with me'. Like it or lump it.

A few questions still remain though. Will the Delivery Unit be offering advice to, or even intervening in, departments seen to be falling behind?

After all, one thing most departments most certainly aren't short of is specialist advice - and if the monitoring civil servant from the Unit has been recruited from that department in the first place, it's a lot to ask for them to suddenly escape from the groupthink they may have been used to.

There's also the tension between Mr Jones's determination that the public should have the right to measure his government's success - or otherwise - in various areas and the private advice that will come across his desk every week from the Unit.

At the moment, he's mulling over how much should be published and in what form. It's a tricky balancing act. The opposition will demand full disclosure. This, he would probably argue, would be completely counterproductive and anyway, how many citizens would be interested in a weekly update on the minutiae of government?

But where do you draw the line? If the Delivery Unit is to have any credibility outside that heavy wooden door, then surely it has to show that it's working for the taxpayer as well as the First Minister. They, as much as he, will rely on the Unit to prove the government's delivering.

There are signs that this government may operate in a slightly different way to its predecessor as it goes about that business of delivering.

The change of name from Welsh Assembly Government to Welsh Government was primarily a response to widespread public confusion about the difference between the executive and legislature in Wales. Ministers had become exasperated with finding themselves having to explain who they were to people, both here and abroad. Believe me, I shared their pain.

The hope is that it will draw a much clearer distinction between the two bodies. But there's also another culture change underway following the election. At the moment, ministers have two main offices. One is on the fifth floor of Ty Hywel, the red brick building bolted on to the back of the Senedd, with the other four floors occupied by AMs offices and the media.

The other is the old Welsh Office buildings, CP1 and CP2, the latter the large rectangular hulk of concrete in the middle of Cardiff's Cathays Park, and home to well over a thousand civil servants.

Over the past four years, ministers have been a familiar sight in the busy lifts, corridors and canteens of Ty Hywel. Very handy for us journalists but the signs are that they are likely to spend more of their time in future in the quieter, more old fashioned surroundings of Cathays Park. As one civil servant puts it, "people always sit up straighter when the boss is around".

After all, ministers don't run the UK Government from Parliament, do they? There seems to be a move to put almost a psychological as well as geographical distance between Government and Assembly from here on in.

The bottom line? The process of setting up a Delivery Unit may sharpen up the government's act but no-one is under any illusions that simply having an Unit - nailing a sign to a door - nails the problems this government has to solve.