A Cabinet Minister for North Wales — Eluned Morgan AM

Eluned Morgan has said that she would appoint a Cabinet Member with responsibility for North Wales if she were to become First Minister.

The Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning has stated that she is acutely aware of the fact that the Welsh Assembly has not connected with parts of North Wales in the same way it has with other areas, and that the Welsh Government under her leadership would do more to focus on the region.

One of the areas upon which the AM believes there needs to be particular focus is that of the Wylfa B nuclear power development on Anglesey.

She stated, “Wylfa B has the potential to transform the economy, not only of Anglesey but of the whole of North Wales if it is planned in an appropriate way and ensures that local people develop the skills to take advantage of available opportunities.”

The AM has offered her enthusiastic support for the North Wales Growth Bid, which presents the biggest investment in North Wales as a partnership between the public and private sector since the birth of the Welsh Assembly.

Commenting on the bid she said:

“It is hugely encouraging to see Councils in North Wales join together with the private sector in championing the proposals set out in this bid. We must put all the pressure we can onto the UK Government to secure their support for this transformative programme. The focus on low carbon, advanced manufacturing and digital sectors makes perfect sense when it comes to employment opportunities for the future. It is key that this is done, in particular in North East Wales which is likely to be hardest hit by developments in automation, and it is essential that the Welsh Government recognises that the economic axis of North Wales reaches into the North West of England rather than into South Wales.”

The proposals would enable investment of £1.3billion in the North Wales economy from a growth deal investment of £328m capital and £55.4m revenue (totalling £383.4m). That’s a return of £3.40 for every £1 spent.

The AM has also stated that she would wish to pursue the ideas proposed in her Rural Economic Plan, developed in cooperation with a range of successful businesses, third sector organisations and local councils. She emphasises strongly that rural Wales, particularly in the face of BREXIT, will need to respond more quickly and flexibly to the changing nature of the economy. Any Rural Deal must benefit Mid and West Wales as a whole.

Eluned also remarked that she would like to see additional support made available for the self-employed.

“The fact is that the self-employed now make up 14% of the work force and this is likely to increase over time. Manufacturing in Wales currently accounts for 18% of the Welsh economy and gets a great deal more support and attention.”

She underlined the fact that, whilst forced self employment needs to be tackled, the majority of those who are currently self-employed could do with more support and should be encouraged, where appropriate, to take on more workers.

North Wales’ economy is heavily dependent upon its small businesses, 90% of which employ less than 5 people. We must encourage expansion by providing additional easily accessible support for businesses.

“It is essential that we drive growth and innovation across the region, creating more high-skilled, well paid jobs, whilst supporting those in existing roles to feel secure in their employment and prospects.”

She went on to emphasise the need to also be more radical and ambitious in relation to transport in rural areas.

“The North Wales Metro needs to be looked at, yes, but we also must consider how we improve rural community transport. The reality is that there are not enough buses running during unsociable hours and that trains are very expensive; subsidised fares could make all the difference to those reliant upon these services”.

She has also suggested that within 10 years people will be travelling in driverless vehicles — giving communities broader options than simply depending on public transport.

As Cardiff recently welcomed its first Volvo 7900E into the city, Eluned would like to see North Wales also benefit from similar, state-of-the-art trials. As Welsh Government Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn rightly said, “we must look to develop innovative solutions to reduce vehicle pollution and improve air quality”.

Increasing pockets of deprivation are cause for concern, exacerbated by austerity driven cuts to police budgets at a time when crime rates continue to soar.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 8,414 reports violence related crimes were reported in North Wales in September 2008, compared to a staggering 16,284 in September 2017 — a rise of 94%. Over the same period, the full-time equivalent number of police officers fell by seven per cent, from 1,595 in September 2009 to 1,487 in September 2017 — a loss of 108 officers.

“Social and economic decline in North Wales has been significant and cuts to the welfare budget and council funding have hit the region hard. We need to get to a point where we are less reliant on regeneration funding and look to how we can encourage more economic activity and investment to get towns like Rhyl thriving again.”

Whilst Eluned has set out some ideas on the economy of North Wales, she has also emphasised that this is the continuation of a dialogue she began with people at the grass roots in the region.

She has requested that people feed further ideas about the role of a North Wales Cabinet Member into her Beyond the Bubble listening exercise.

Additional Info on the deal

In late 2017, a partnership that included the six North Wales councils, business partners, colleges and universities, formally launched the North Wales Growth Deal.

The proposals would enable investment of £1.3billion in the North Wales economy from a growth deal investment of £328m capital and £55.4m revenue (totalling £383.4m). That’s a return of £3.40 for every pound spent.

Over 5,000 jobs could be created, as well as new businesses and housing (including affordable housing).

The North Wales Growth Board — the partnership behind the document — has submitted the proposals to the UK and Welsh governments, and a lot of hard work and negotiations now lie ahead.

Eluned Morgan is the Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales.

The Fabian Society in Wales