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Welsh ministers blast UK Government’s ‘appalling record’ of investing in Wales

25 Feb 2021 4 minutes Read
Rebecca Evans and Jeremy Miles. Pictures by Senedd Cymru (CC BY 2.0).

Welsh ministers have blasted the UK Government’s “appalling record” of investing in Wales after it was announced that a levelling up fund will be controlled from Whitehall.

In a joint statement, Minister for European Transition Jeremy Miles and Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said Wales had been considerably “short changed” over the years.

They said that the UK Government were not interested in investing in Wales but rather in weakening devolution.

“It is important to remember that this UK Government has an appalling record on providing Wales with even a fair share of UK spending, let alone the kind of funding needed to ‘level up’,” they said.

“Two of the main levers for levelling up are investment in Research and Development and rail Infrastructure which remain reserved to Westminster. In both areas, Wales has continually been short changed.

“If the UK Government were serious about their levelling up agenda for Wales, they would focus on redressing their historical failure to invest adequately in Wales.

“Instead, the UK Government is going out of its way to take money away from Wales and pick a needless constitutional battle to weaken devolved powers in the middle of a global pandemic.”

‘Centralised’

They said that the UK Government were not delivering new money to Wales but rather taking money that would previously have been spent by the Senedd.

That meant that people with less understanding of Wales would be making decisions about where to spend the money instead.

They also noted that Wales’ share of the new money was around £50 million a year – far less than the country received from the EU – and there was no guarantee it would come to Wales.

“It is important to highlight that none of this is new money being allocated to Wales by a Westminster Government which is serious about the levelling up agenda,” Jeremy Miles and Rebecca Evans said.

“This is the UK Government taking funding that would previously have been allocated to Wales to spend in line with the priorities this Senedd – elected by the people of Wales – has identified. This means decisions made by Whitehall departments with no history of delivering projects within Wales, no record of working with communities in Wales and no understanding of the priorities of those communities.

“In practice, this will mean that the UK Government is taking decisions on devolved matters in Wales without being answerable to the Senedd on behalf of the people of Wales.”

They went on to say: “We now face the prospect of a centralised, Whitehall-led approach instead of a regionalised, made-in-Wales approach.

“The UK Government’s fixation with undermining democratic devolution is driving a cynical attempt at rebranding existing spending as new, and rolling back progress on a model of regional development that will empower local communities and create jobs and growth across Wales.”

‘Jobs’

Yesterday, the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has said that Wales’ Government should stop “fretting” about their “little status” following the decision that a levelling up fund will be controlled from Whitehall.

“This is not about politicians and power – this is about jobs, livelihoods and post-Covid recovery,” he told the BBC.

A Welsh Government spokesman said that the levelling up fund meant that the UK Government was “aggressively undermining the outcome of two referendums which backed Welsh devolution”.

A Welsh Government spokesman said that the levelling up fund meant that the UK Government was “aggressively undermining the outcome of two referendums which backed Welsh devolution”.

“The UK Government was not elected to take decisions or spend money in areas that are devolved to Wales,” they said.

“It is also an example of the unconstitutional Internal Market legislation, which was rejected by the Senedd, being used to stop decisions about Wales being taken in Wales.”

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