(Title Image: Wales Online)
The Welsh Government’s Valleys Taskforce recently launched their action plan (my take here) after a lengthy consultation process with the affected communities. The plan aims to improve the economic and social prospects of the Valleys, which have seen little progress in key measures for several decades.
The Motion (Amended Version)
- Notes the publication of the Our Valleys, Our Future Delivery Plan.
- Regrets that economic productivity (GVA) per head in the West Wales and the Valleys is still bottom of the UK, at just 64% of the UK average.
- Notes the Bevan Foundation’s Tough Times Ahead? report that states although UK unemployment is forecast to remain at 4.3% in 2018 “performance, is unlikely to be enough to boost those parts of Wales where unemployment stands well above the UK figure such as Merthyr Tydfil (7.3%) and Blaenau Gwent (6.7%)”.
- Regrets that delivery of the Welsh Government’s “Working Wales” employability programme has been delayed until April 2019.
- Calls on the Welsh Government to outline how it will consult and deliver the Our Valleys, Our Future Delivery Plan with people who live and work in the region.
- Notes that proper engagement with the “Be The Spark” movement, to create more profitable home-grown businesses, requires linking innovation and entrepreneurship.
Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales)
- Wales is lagging behind on economic productivity and unemployment.
- The plan needs the full buy-in of business to be a success and the Welsh Government needs to understand the problems businesses face.
Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr)
- We’ve seen many laudable strategies, including this one, going back to the 1930s producing few results; that’s a tragedy. Why do we need a new one every 10, 15, 20 years?
- Supports a regional entity/quango to get to grips with the problems in the area similar to one established in the Ruhr area of Germany in 2000, which was democratically accountable and enabled the region to turn a corner.
Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East)
For (in principle): We need infrastructure and investment.
- What incentives will be offered to private companies to invest in the region? Clear targets need to be set.
- It’s vital the Welsh Government deliver major infrastructure projects like the M4 Newport bypass and Metro.
Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly)
For (in principle): Spread the wealth that already exists within the Valleys.
- There’s no such thing as a “typical Valleys community” and they all have different challenges.
- Why are there more successful companies established in the southern half of the Valleys than in the northern half?
- Consider franchising higher education courses at FE colleges to improve access to part-time learning.
- The area around the M4 shouldn’t be over-developed and more housing development should be pushed north – pressing the need for better transport links.
Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd)
For (in principle): Procurement, Decentralisation, Metro
- Public procurement can be used to stimulate new, highly-skilled Valleys-based industries; Mick mentioned local companies working in public record data digitisation for health boards and local authorities.
- Decentralisation of central government stimulates regeneration – as in Pontypridd.
- He still needs to be convinced of the Welsh Government’s commitment to capital funding for the Metro.
Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley)
For: It’s a cross-cutting plan.
- Health inequalities – particularly mental health – need as much focus as economic prosperity and the delivery plan recognises that.
- The Bryn Pica waste/recycling eco-park will be the first of its kind in the UK; welcomes commitment to green jobs.
- More needs to be made of the links and supply chains companies based in the Valleys make with each other.
Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West)
- The main complaint from constituents is a lack of high-quality jobs within the region and an over-reliance on agency work.
- High taxes and extra payments (i.e. waste collection charges for businesses which used to be covered by business rates) have made south Wales less economically competitive; business rates are unfair and regressive.
Welsh Government Response
Local Government & Public Services Secretary, Alun Davies (Lab, Blaenau Gwent)
- The action plan fully took into consideration the views of people living in the Valleys and seeks to address the fundamental issues facing the region.
- The proposed “strategic hubs” will take into account local needs; there won’t be a single template enforced by the Welsh Government.
- It’s fair to criticise some of the initiatives, debates and strategies of the past as sterile PR exercises.
- He doesn’t want to compartmentalise the Valleys into one single department or quango; has to be a cross-government approach, with different government departments already working on different aspects of the delivery plan.
The amended version of the motion was unanimously approved.