Minister hits back at claims that plans to boost the Welsh economy are an “admission of a quarter of a century of failure”
Wales’ economy minister has hit back at claims that proposals to “pursue a progressive economic policy” are an “admission of a quarter of a century of failure” by the Welsh Government.
It comes after plans for a “Team Wales” approach to helping the Welsh economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic were unveiled on Tuesday by Economy Minister Vaughan Gething.
At a hybrid Economic Summit, the minister invited businesses, trades unions and local government leaders to discuss how “Wales can create a stronger, fairer, greener economic future”.
Mr Gething said the Welsh Government will also “start a conversation” about the long term demographic challenge facing the Welsh economy, with the proportion of the population aged 16 to 64 years old in Wales has decreasing year-on-year since mid-2008.
It is feared the demographic would make up just 58% of the population by 2043.
In response, Welsh Government say their approach will be geared towards “creating an economy where more young people feel confident about planning their future in Wales thus supporting job creation and more dynamic local economies”.
However the plans have been criticised by the Welsh Conservatives, who have described the Welsh Government’s vision as amounting to “an admission of a quarter of a century of failure”.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Economy Minister Paul Davies MS said: “After running health, education, and economic development in Wales for a quarter of a century, it is refreshing to see Labour finally admit the problems they have failed to address like the brain drain that has left our businesses and public services falling behind elsewhere in the UK.
“Sadly, they still do not have a plan to stop young people leaving as we see good jobs remain concentrated in Cardiff or outside Wales altogether and road building put indefinitely on hold rather than give workers the infrastructure they need to grow the economy.
“At the same time, Mr Gething is obsessed with shoehorning Brexit into the conversation as a negative, but his government’s failure to translate its addiction to EU money into substantive and valued change demands the new approach for which people voted.
“If Labour were actually interested in creating a strong Welsh economy, the least they can do is stop obsessing about the constitution, focus on priorities by engaging in levelling up through road improvements, cut outdated business rates, and strengthen cross-border economic links.”
During this afternoon’s Welsh Government press conference Mr Gething criticised the Welsh Conservatives’ comments, describing the response as “typical” of the party.
He said: “It doesn’t really reflect the reality of where we are in the history of devolution, productivity has risen, wages have risen.
“Our challenge is that we still need to do more and to travel faster. If you look at employment rates in Wales today, they’re better than the UK average, that wasn’t the case 20 years ago at the start with the devolution journey.
“At the start of each term it’s important that you look again at where you are and consider what to do. If we hadn’t set out at this point in time at the tail end of the pandemic, hopefully, what we want to do about recovery and resilience, the Welsh economy than the Welsh conservatives would have simply issued a different press release criticising us for not having a plan.
“What’s important is we have set out what we’re going to do, we need to see choices made in the UK spending review and budget that enable us to make those choices here in Wales.
“But we have a really firm base to build on with businesses, trade unions and local government, as active and trusted partners.
“And that team Wales approach will be the basis upon which we build the fairer, greener transition that we all want to see here in Wales.”
He also called on the UK Government to ensure that decisions over how replacement EU funding for Wales will be spent are made in Wales.
Mr Gething added that that the Welsh Government’s plans for the Welsh economy “will be made significantly more difficult if the UK does not honour its promises made on EU successive funds for Wales.”
He said: “Our framework for investing replacement EU funds builds on years of partner engagement and is based on evidence and agreement with clear priorities for Wales. This is what a Team Wales approach looks like.
“Instead, we remain in the dark about funding for Wales and what we will received from the UK government that has so far been missing in action.
“The upcoming spending review is an opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate its ambition for Wales.
“So I call on the chancellor and on Michael Gove to ensure that Wales will make decisions about how our EU replacement funds are spent.”
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