Working for a prosperous Mid Wales
I suspect we can all share the same aim – that is to see a Mid Wales which is more prosperous. It goes without saying that a strong economy opens a whole range of exciting opportunities for the public to grasp.
In a nut shell, the stronger the economy the more resources can go into our vital public sector, including schools and hospitals whilst also ensuring they can provide for them and their families. But maintaining the economy’s strength is equally significant.
That is why I applaud both the UK and Welsh Governments for liaising and exchanging positive dialogue on how best equip the Welsh economy in the face of the greatest danger our country witnessed for decades: Covid-19.
We have all seen the devastating social and economic dimensions to the virus.
A number of measures were introduced by the UK Government and Welsh Government, most notably the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which paid up to pay 80% of workers’ wages if they are put on leave and the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund.
As we move out of the worst effects of Coronavirus, we need to future proof the Welsh economy as we continue into recovery phase, allowing businesses to adapt their business models, innovate through the use of technology, and ensure that they are in a strong position to capitalise upon the opportunities of future growth. I appreciate these are unprecedented times, but we must remember to look to the future.
One of the areas of my work that I most enjoy is going to meet businesses across Montgomeryshire, whether it's one of our largest businesses, or a small business on the high street.
Our local high streets are instrumental in bringing people together – acting as a meeting place for friends and families and supporting jobs for local people. Let's do all we can to ensure that our high streets can flourish by shopping locally.
An area in which I feel I can be particularly helpful is raising specific issues which businesses raise with me with Government Ministers to bring about change, but more widely, I’m not entirely convinced that the Welsh Government has a road map for driving forward long term economic development here in Powys.
I would like to see the return of the very best of the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) and ensure every part of Wales benefits directly from Growth and City deals supported by UK Government funding; I want to see Wales have a number of new Trade Envoys in order to boost Welsh export activity and raise our commercial presence in both advanced and emerging economies; and I want to remove the key economic barriers for young people in Wales when trying to access jobs and training. I also believe that a strong Welsh economy should be built around sound public finances, low taxes, free trade and effective regulation; and that no new taxes must serve to over-penalise businesses or individuals such as the regressive proposal for a tourism tax which would hit Mid Wales’ tourism industry hard.
I have been supporting Powys County Councils bid to the UK Levelling-Up fund to support a number of projects in Montgomeryshire, such as the restoration of the Montgomery Canal. The Levelling Up Fund and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which replaces EU ‘structural funds can be used to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets. I will continue to work closely with our MP Craig Williams in supporting local bids to attract UK wide funding.
I have been a long-time advocate of pushing for a Mid Wales Growth Deal, and was pleased that the Welsh Government accepted the recommendation from the Senedd committee I chaired to agree to this proposal. I’m pleased that the Heads of Terms have now been signed by both the UK & Welsh Governments, as well as Powys & Ceredigion local authorities. This will see £110 million of investment pumped into the region with the deal committing both the UK & Welsh Governments to each invest £55 million.
The partners in the deal will now move on to identifying specific projects to benefit from investment, with 8 strategic growth areas identified. These are:
· Applied Research & Innovation
· Agriculture, Food & Drink
· Digital Connectivity
· Strengthened Tourism Identity
· Business Support
· Skills & Employment
What is particularly pleasing is that the UK & Welsh Governments have closely worked together on securing this deal, in conjunction with the 2 local authorities. I am extremely pleased that we are now one huge step closer to seeing these hugely exciting projects for Montgomeryshire and Mid Wales become a reality.
This investment will bring real growth and new opportunities to Montgomeryshire and Mid Wales as a whole and will be used on areas such as digital infrastructure, transport, agriculture, tourism – all areas which are of huge importance to Mid Wales and will matter even more as we emerge the other side of this pandemic.
I am very pleased by the positive collaboration between not just the UK and Welsh Governments, but also MPs, MS, and County Councillors. We can now say with certainty that the Mid Wales Growth Deal is actually going to be delivered.