Watch: Plaid Cymru MS slams ‘levelling up’ fund as ‘nothing more than political spin’
A Plaid Cymru MS has slammed the UK Government’s so called ‘levelling up’ fund as “nothing more than political spin”.
Delyth Jewell, the regional Senedd member for South Wales East, offered a scathing assessment of the Westminster-controlled pot of money during a session of First Minister’s Questions.
She argued that Wales is “£1 billion worse off under these plans than if we’d not left the EU, despite the promises from the Tories that we wouldn’t be a penny worse off.”
The independence-supporting politician suggested that the Tories are “reducing the level of structural funding” in Wales and “depriving us of the ability to spend it strategically”.
In response the First Minister Mark Drakeford said Jewell had made her “points very forcefully and I agree with them all”.
The Tories repeatedly promised that Wales wouldn't be a penny worse off due to Brexit. Yet their structural funds replacement scheme leaves Wales £1bn worse off over the next 3 years. I asked the FM if he agreed that the "levelling up agenda" is nothing more than political spin. pic.twitter.com/kI7ORpvqBs
— Delyth Jewell AS / MS (@DelythJewellAM) February 8, 2022
Delyth Jewell said: “The levelling-up fund White Paper makes for an interesting read, doesn’t it, First Minister, with references to Renaissance Florence, Jericho’s Byzantine empire, if nothing else, but it also references the levelling-up that happened in Germany after reunification, explaining that £1.7 trillion was spent there up to 2014, being £71 billion a year over 24 years.
“The levelling-up and shared prosperity funds combined don’t provide for even 10 per cent of that level of funding. As you’ve just been setting out, First Minister, Wales will be £1 billion worse off under these plans than if we’d not left the EU, despite the promises from the Tories that we wouldn’t be a penny worse off.
“But, as well as that, it’s the question of how these funds are spent. Gone will be the strategic oversight we had with Welsh European Funding Office and in its place comes a pork-barrel process, with councils pitted against each other in a battle to get funds from Westminster.
“So, First Minister, do you agree with me that the levelling-up agenda is nothing more than political spin, when the Tories are in fact reducing the level of structural funding and depriving us of the ability to spend it strategically?”
Mark Drakeford replied: “Well, Llywydd, I think Delyth Jewell has made those points very forcefully and I agree with them all. The ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper is a friendless document, even by the Secretary of State whose name is on the cover.
“Its attempt to range far and wide across the mists of time is simply, I think, an indication of the lack of real content that there was there for this, despite the fact that this levelling-up fund, the shared prosperity fund, has been trailed by the Conservative Party since 2017.
“They have had years in which they could have produced something that matched their promises. What we have instead is a very thin document indeed—thin on money because the Treasury refused to provide the necessary funds to back it up, and very thin indeed in response to its claims that it is about transferring power and decision making beyond Whitehall because, as Delyth Jewell said, every single decision made about how money is to be spent in Wales will be made in Westminster, nowhere else.
“And that competitive way of pitting one part of Wales against another in order to bid for what is left on the table in this fund is guaranteed to mean that the money is not well spent.
“There will be no strategic plan behind it. It will be a series of minor dollops of money handed out on a basis in which it is very hard often to find any genuine rationale, and with no sense at all about how any long-term impact from that investment is to be secured for the Welsh public.”
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