Welsh “behaviours will never revert to how they were in February of this year” but opportunity to ‘build back better’
The Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales has said the pandemic presents a unique chance to be a ‘great leveller’ and allow the recovery to see a generally better society for all.
Huw Irranca-Davies MS raised the issue in the Plenary session in the Senedd, asking Ken Skates MS “…beyond COVID-19, we’re still facing a climate emergency; we have a biodiversity crisis; we have underlying deep social and economic inequality; we have companies that are not as ethical as others and do not pay their fair share of taxes and so on. So, in the building back better, can I ask you to elaborate on this and what it would mean for a different type of Wales socially and economically in future?”
The Minister replied, “I would agree that there is an incredible opportunity to do as Andy Burnham has said, to build back better.”
Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester Metro Mayor, recently co-launched a UK wide campaign to ‘Build back better’, which notes the inadvertant benefits of the lockdown period that include lower pollution, working from home, more exercise and repurposing towns and cities to adapt to the new normal.
The Minister explained to the Senedd session, “I think some of the exciting work that can be taken forward to ensure that we create a greener, fairer society and a greener, fairer economy includes the work that has been commenced on working smarter…in how we might be able to support town centres and high streets.
“It’s our view that behaviours will never revert to how they were in February of this year, and that once we’re through this crisis, behavioural change will lead to more remote working. We need to embrace that, and we could support a wide take-up of remote working if we were to invest in redundant shops in town centres on high streets, offering opportunities for people not necessarily to work from home, but certainly to work closer to home.
“This could be a great leveller as well for the Welsh economy.
“It would mean that people wouldn’t have to necessarily travel tens upon tens of miles to the larger towns and cities of our country to attend meetings; it would enable town centres to feel more vibrant for us to be able to invest in some of the infrastructure that would also enhance town centres and high streets, including wider pavements, active travel infrastructure.”
Top pic: Wrexham town centre during lockdown.
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