(Title Image: Twitter via BBC Wales)
Here’s a round-up of this afternoon’s economy questions.
Economy Minister distances government from insulting tweets
Rhun ap Iorweth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) brought up a recent Twitter promotion which sold the fact Welsh salaries are up to 30% lower than other parts of the UK as a positive reason for investment. He said it was an insult to Welsh workers. Was this a key part of Welsh Government economic thinking?
The Economy Minister was in no doubt:
“Absolutely not….I can say to the Member that no Ministers approved that tweet. It was unacceptable. It does not represent Ministers’ thinking. Indeed, the economic action plan has been designed to drive salary growth and the quality of jobs across Wales….”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South)
Rhun added that the fact Wales still had low salaries was a damning indictment of Labour rule. Why was the Welsh private sector lagging behind the rest of the UK in bringing forward a living wage?
The Minister replied by saying a living wage is a core part of the new economic contract for companies seeking Welsh Government support. He disputed claims Labour has failed; employment is at record levels, while economic inactivity in Wales (disability etc.) was now lower than the UK average.
Swansea City Deal “needs new momentum” following reviews
Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), raised the recent independent reviews of the Swansea Bay City Deal.
Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters (Lab, Llanelli), said the reports were critical of “all the actors” but it was more important to focus on delivering the deal from here on in. Russell demanded fast action:
“I did note from reading the report that the key recommendations outline the need for action over the next four months. Now, these actions are for the city deal to deliver, but I wonder how you and the Welsh Government are going to support the city deal in delivering on those recommendations.”
– Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM
The Deputy Minister told him the government’s priority is bringing momentum back to the city deal, with two projects – Yr Egin in Carmarthen and Swansea Waterfront Digital District – either over or close to the finishing line, but:
“….this city deal was set up in a way that has not been identical to other city deals, and I think it’s been one of the problems – dealing with it on a project-by-project basis, rather than giving the city region autonomy to take a portfolio management approach….Some of the local authorities and the region as a whole have struggled to have the skills and capacity to go through that rigorous business case model….So, in a sense, it’s been set up in a way that has made it cumbersome and difficult for them.”
– Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters
Supporting the car industry
Rhianon Passmore AM (Lab, Islwyn) asked what the Welsh Government were doing to support the automotive industry, underlining how important it was:
“….it’s an important industry in Wales, which comprises of around 150 companies, and employing, critically, nearly 19,000 people -13% of the Welsh manufacturing workforce – generating over £3 billion worth of revenue and manufacturing 30% of the 2.7 million engines produced in the UK.”
– Rhianon Passmore AM
Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East) followed up by asking what the Welsh Government were doing to support electric vehicles following initial findings of an Economy Committee inquiry which suggests a lack of leadership in Wales on the issue?
The Economy Minister accepted it was a difficult time for the automotive sector, but in the last five years, the Welsh Government has invested £200million in the industry. Brexit was, naturally, a looming threat.
On electric vehicles, he believes the potential for induction charging would solve issues with, for example, terraced streets. He also pointed to Aston Martin’s development of electric vehicles at their St Athan plant as an example of forward thinking by the government.