It’s been a busy week back at the Assembly, during which I have been getting my teeth stuck in to my new brief as Shadow Minister for Business, Enterprise & Technology.
I am very pleased to have taken on this role. During the election campaign there appeared to be a clear consensus amongst the voters that I met on the doorstep that the Welsh economy needs to start making money!
I was rather disappointed that the First Minister chose, in announcing his cabinet, to spread the levers of business and the economy across different portfolios; in spite of the vocal protestations of many business leaders in their election manifestos. However, it will be my duty to work with the brief as it stands and provide constructive, albeit robust, scrutiny of the Minister’s performance.
I will be seeking to engage with all sectors in my endeavour to help build a prosperous Wales and ensure that during the 4th Assembly we do not see a continuation of previous years of Labour-led neglect.
In figures we released yesterday, I was particularly concerned to see that the Welsh Labour Government has been using the lion’s share of its European Funded Convergence grants to subsidise its own projects; giving just 1% of grants awarded to private sector sponsors. This reliance upon public sector projects in part explains the failure of the economy in Wales to grow.
Wales needs a balanced approach to delivering its economic strategies and this must include a greater involvement of business in developing projects such as these; at the expense of civil servants who, with the greatest will in the world, are the last people who will fully understand the needs of the private sector.
On a more positive not, it was excellent to see that the UK Government’s strategy is starting to pay dividends – with a drop in the number of unemployed people in Wales. A simultaneous decline in the number of economically inactive people is also encouraging, not least for those who have found employment. It is a personal tragedy for anyone who loses their job and it is heartening to observe this upward trend.
It is incumbent upon the Welsh Labour Government to make this area an absolute priority and to ensure that, in spite of having scattered the critical levers of economic growth across the cabinet table, they are able to work with efficiency.
They could start by publishing their manufacturing strategy at the earliest opportunity!