Peter Fox is the Member of the Senedd for Monmouth and the Welsh Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for Finance.
To unleash success in Wales, we need to nurture aspiration and promote ambition. We can do this by investing in a new generation of people and industries.
One project that is already delivering on that cause is the £1.3 billion Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, of which I had the pleasure of playing an instrumental role in securing.
The city deal, which was the biggest in Britain, is set to deliver 20,000 jobs – through creating the much-anticipated Metro, investing in technologies such as the compound semi-conductors, as well as much more – and will subsequently lift GVA by five per cent. This is important because it’ll flood the region with high-end job vacancies by generating the right conditions for businesses to flourish financially across South Wales.
This initiative has laid crucial foundations, but we need to go further by unblocking the huge spanner that’s currently stuck in the Welsh economy’s cogs.
Very soon, the Welsh Labour Government will have a choice to either remove or retain the self-made blockages to our economy through its draft Budget.
What is also crucial is that our businesses need to be able to prosper, not be financially punished.
Therefore, it’s absolute madness to think businesses can be hammered into the ground, then suddenly be expected to pick up again to where they once were.
That isn’t the way business operates.
Yet, absurdly, this matter of fact appears to have eluded the ears of ministers so far. To date, Welsh Labour ministers have refused to rectify huge obstacles damaging our economy, including a business still only being entitled to additional financial support if it’s lost more than 60 per cent of its revenue from the pandemic; no plans to work constructively with UK Government colleagues to beef-up job-seeker support schemes; and no implementation of a Covid Support Fund to further aid businesses improve mitigation measures to keep staff and customers safe, such as having improved ventilation.
The draft Budget should also strive to secure more research and development monies which is something the Welsh labour Government have been wilfully poor at to date.
Neither is there any plan to desperately fill in an ever-increasing black hole in education, where the decline of the number of teachers in Wales continues to increase. To be precise, between 2011—21, according to the Education Workforce Council, the number of teachers registered in Wales has declined by 10.3 per cent – this is simply unsustainable.
It’s clear to anyone that what I’ve listed above reveals that there are huge problems facing Wales, but these can be overcome.
The driving wheel needs to be seized and steered away from the never-ending destination to nowhere, and instead go in the opposite direction towards opportunity and success.
We have all the ingredients of being a great country—inside our cherished United Kingdom—but we’re currently rudderless in driving forward for future generations. Our international footprint is nowhere near where it should be.
Welsh Labour Ministers can alter the Budget, if they want to, and I urge them to do so. We need to invest in the younger generation and improve the current economic conditions to secure our future successes.
It’s time that Welsh Labour ministers put our country’s future success, ahead of narrow political beliefs.