LET’S be honest, not a lot. Before the pandemic, Wales had the slowest growing economy in the UK.
Almost a quarter of people in Wales were living in poverty before the crisis struck.
It’s clear why a Welsh Labour Minister admitted “we don’t know what we’re doing on the economy.” They’ve failed on nearly every barometer imaginable.
Regional inequality in Wales continues to be a national disgrace. It’s seen most starkly in Wales’s gross value added (GVA) statistics.
GVA won’t mean a lot to many, but it’s the measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy.
In some local authority areas in Wales it is twice that of others, for example Cardiff stands £32,310, while Anglesey sits at £15,008.
The great North-South divide just keeps getting bigger under Labour.
In 2018 Wales’ GVA was just over £65 billion, putting us behind nine of the UK’s 12 nations and regions.
And although Wales accounts for 5% of the UK population, it produces only 3.4% of the UK’s wealth.
On business rates, Labour have punished small firms and entrepreneurs ever since the onset of devolution.
The socialists in the Bay have had control of business rates since 2000 – and businesses are now forced to pay 12p more in every pound, with Welsh firms paying the highest rates in Britain.
And perhaps the most damning statistic is what they’ve done – or not done – for hardworking people’s pay packets.
In 1999, Welsh and Scottish workers brought home identical wages – £301 per week.
By 2020, a Welsh pay-packet contained £537.80, whereas a Scottish pay-packet contained nearly £55 more at £592.70. That over a month, over a year, adds up.
Welsh workers sadly now have the lowest weekly wages in Britain. That’s what Labour’s “fairness” gets you in Wales – less money, fewer opportunities and more poverty.
And that’s why the Senedd election in May is the most important in Wales for a generation.
The pandemic has put Wales at a crossroads – and as the vaccine rolls out, the election will decide which road we take.
We can’t risk more of the same with a tired, clapped-out Labour Party who haven’t delivered what our country needs.
They’ve shown they can’t or won’t provide change and they’ll continue to break the promises they make to the Welsh public.
They’ve failed to deliver on previous promises such as an M4 relief road and upgrades to the A55, and poverty has only got worse on their watch.
Welsh Conservatives will help workers, businesses and entrepreneurs bounce back from the pandemic with new energy and new ideas.
1. Deliver the biggest road building programme in a generation – with the M4 relief road and upgrades to the A55 in North Wales and the A40 in West Wales. So it’s easier to do business, get to work or see family and friends.
2. Create 65,000 more jobs – by 2026. By investing in green industry and helping our tourism sector recover. So more families can benefit from a secure, well paid job.
3. Bring back the best of the Welsh Development Agency – to help revive the Welsh economy. This one-stop shop for business would be arms-length from the stranglehold of Welsh Government, and would drive new opportunities and prosperity into all four concerns of Wales.
4. Abolish business rates for small firms across Wales.
5. No new taxes. This will ensure our tourist industry in Wales can flourish, and road users aren’t hit in the pocket.
I’m instinctively a low-tax Conservative. I believe it encourages creativity and rewards hard work, which in turn boosts our economy and allows for greater investment in our public services.
Everyone knows we’ve been through a difficult period over the past 12 months with significant amounts of public spending that will have to be paid back in time.
However, when the time is right – perhaps towards the back end of the next Senedd term – I want to see Wales use the levers it has at its disposal to cut taxes and incentivise job creation and economic growth. We to have give our people every chance to succeed.
Where we can act immediately is on closing the North-South and ensuring the Senedd doesn’t just view things through the lens of Cardiff Bay. There is a Wales outside the M4 corridor after all.
Later this week we will outline our plans to break government out of Cardiff and ensure it’s seen, heard and delivering across the country, particularly in the north.
And ahead of May we will also outline our plans to provide more support for our vital retail, tourism and hospitality sectors.
They have been badly let down by Labour over the past two decades, and particularly so during the pandemic.
Last week’s shambolic handling of the lockdown announcement by ministers devastated retailers the length of breadth of Wales, and hit home how out of touch Labour are.
Most have never run a business in their life and it shows in their approach to the Welsh economy. If you’re not the 3rd sector or one of their pet projects they aren’t interested.
Small firms are the backbone of our economy but they are an afterthought for our socialist foes.
That’s why Wales can’t afford another five more years of Labour. They’ve allowed problems to mount up for over 20 years and now have no plans to fix things. They’ve failed our poorest communities time and time again.
With the challenges we face moving forward, and after twenty years of decay under successive Labour administrations, it’s time we put on the afterburners and injected some real urgency to help the private sector to thrive.
A vote for Labour just risks five more years of the same. Everyone knows it, even their most ardent supporters. It’s time for change.
More of the same is unthinkable, whilst the Welsh nationalist commitment to a referendum on independence would unleash economic uncertainty at the very time we should be solely focused on rebuilding Wales.
That’s why we’ll be encouraging voters to call time on Labour, and say “dim Diolch” to a reckless referendum – and to back our plan to harness the strength of Great Britain and rebuild the Welsh economy.
Welsh Conservatives will build a better Wales – with more jobs and first class infrastructure. Back us on May 6th.
Andrew RT Davies MS
Welsh Conservative Senedd leader