New “master plan” for the Welsh economy ‘wafer-thin on detail’
A new “master plan” for the Welsh economy has been described as wafer-thin on detail, with nothing new announced.
Vaughan Gething, Wales’ economy minister, gave a statement to the Senedd on his priorities for a stronger economy.
He outlined four priority areas: a just transition and green prosperity, a platform for young people, stronger partnerships, and investing for growth.
Mr Gething, who also led a press conference, criticised “tokenistic” announcements for Welsh businesses in the Chancellor’s autumn statement last week.
He told MSs that the Welsh Government’s budget is now worth £1.3 billion less in real-terms than when it was set during the 2021 spending review.
Mr Gething said the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out that Jeremy Hunt chose to spend rising tax revenues on tax cuts for the wealthy rather than invest in public services.
He added that Wales has lost more than £1.1bn in EU replacement funds.
Paul Davies, the Conservatives’ shadow minister, accused the minister of spending most of his statement taking post shots at the UK Government.
He suggested the statement was made with an eye on the forthcoming Labour leadership election, with Mark Drakeford expected to step down as first minister next year.
The former Conservative group leader said: “I believe that a jobs target needs to be set to set an ambition for industry and a benchmark to measure success.
“Perhaps the minister will tell us why he hasn’t set a jobs target alongside the four priorities.”
Mr Davies called for changes to business rates in Wales to create a level-playing field with other parts of the UK.
Luke Fletcher described the announcement as wafer-thin on policy detail and targets, saying it amounts to a set of vague claims about economic nice-to-haves.
Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister said: “It is all the more disappointing in this case given the way this has been trailed as the government’s master plan for the economy.
“When it comes, we are told it needs further discussion at a summit and a deep-dive by officials. Why wasn’t this done before coming to the chamber?”
Mr Fletcher said in almost every month this year, the economy minister has come before the Senedd to give statement after statement on job losses across Wales.
He told the Senedd: “I’m afraid to say under his watch the state of the Welsh economy is more precarious now than it has ever been.”
He accused successive Labour-led Welsh Governments of failing to improve the economy, highlighting that Wales is ranked last in terms of economic output in the UK.
Swansea East MS Mike Hedges pointed out that Plaid Cymru’s Ieuan Wyn Jones was responsible for the economy in the ‘One Wales’ government between 2007 and 2011.
Mr Hedges said the weakness of the Welsh economy is a lack of higher-paid jobs in sectors such as IT, life sciences, professional and financial services.
Fellow Labour backbencher Alun Davies argued that the minister’s statement was rightly rooted in the reality of an economy battered by a financial crisis and austerity.
He told MSs that the autumn statement compounded matters, moving money from the poorest to the richest – and from Wales to London and the south-east of England.
John Griffiths, the Labour MS for Newport East, called for greater opportunities for school-age learners to access vocational qualifications.
Ken Skates, a former economy minister, who represents Clwyd South, welcomed relative stability at a political level in Wales.
Mr Gething agreed, arguing that the churn and inconsistency has real-world impacts such as slow progress on a compound semiconductor cluster.
“It has been very dispiriting,” he said. “Not just working with a government I disagree with at a UK level, but having so many different ministers to work with in such a short period.”
Darren Millar, the Conservative MS for Clwyd West, said: “We thought you were going to make some sort of new, shiny announcement today.
“We’ve heard absolutely nothing new at all in anything that you’ve said.”
By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter
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