5 things the UK Government could do in 2018 to help reverse Wales’ decline

Picture: National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

Leanne Wood

As we mark the beginning of a new year, we have reached the point where half of the world’s wealth lies in the hands of 1% of the global population.

Possibly not the most cheerful new year’s message but it is nonetheless a striking fact which lays bare the need to tackle this gross inequality.

While it is one of the wealthiest states on earth, the UK is not immune from this scourge of deep income inequality which sees poverty and privilege living side by side.

Our all-Wales agenda provides a vision for spreading prosperity and opportunity. We know we can be different to this – we don’t have to be a country where rural and urban communities are pitted against each other as services are cut and town centres stripped of vital facilities.

So, what can be done?

While all attention in Whitehall focuses on all matters related to Brexit, we will not allow the UK Government to shy away from its day to day duties when it comes to providing meaningful employment to fuel a strong economy.

Stagnant wages and slumping productivity rates pre-date Brexit and will outlast it too unless radical action is taken to rebalance the economy and prompt a much-needed rise in living standards.

Here are five things the Prime Minister and her Cabinet could do in 2018 to help overturn a decade of decline in Wales:

  1. Commit to the single market and customs union

The benefits of single market and customs union membership for Wales are unquestionable. 200,000 Welsh jobs are linked to the European single market while no other nation in these islands sends more of their exports to the EU.

As negotiations move to their second phase set to focus on trade, now is the time for her to make a firm commitment to the thousands of workers and businesses in Wales and beyond who would lose out should the UK sever its most important economic ties with the EU.

If the most ardent right-wing Tories get their way we will career towards an extreme Tory Brexit that will see workers even worse off than now, while trade deals are designed to line the pockets of City fat cats.

  1. Invest in infrastructure

Wales’s transport network is outdated and in urgent need of an upgrade. Our roads and railways are wholly inadequate and unable to cope with increasing commuter numbers.

Plaid Cymru has long made the case for extra capital investment in Welsh infrastructure of 1% of UK GDP, equating to around £20bn. This would mean an additional £1bn a year for Wales to invest in properly connecting our country with transport links fit for the 21st century.

The Westminster government is not only guilty of chronic underinvestment in Wales but also of backtracking on promised proposals.

Be it cancelling the electrification of the main line to Swansea or going cold on the Tidal Lagoon, the Prime Minister must right these wrongs and deliver these long overdue projects for Wales.

  1. Prioritise deprived areas for investment

The ‘boom and bust’ economic model pursued by Labour and Tory governments in Westminster has seen the wealth gap between the nations and regions of the UK grow.

The Chancellor should bring in an Economic Fairness Bill to proritise deprived areas for investment to rebalance the economy – a principle applied successfully in Germany during the 1990s.

At present, a disproportionate amount of money is ploughed into London and the south east of England leading to the economies of these areas overheating while Wales is left behind.

  1. Deliver tax justice

The blight of tax avoidance and evasion has seen the Treasury lose out on at least £2bn a year for nearly the past decade.

However, the tax gap i.e. uncollected taxes is far higher at around £34bn in 2015/16 – more than double the entire annual Welsh budget.

The Prime Minister should make it a priority to get to grips with a more robust and transparent tax system where those with the most bear the greatest burden.

A Financial Transaction Tax on bankers’ trading transactions, for example, would raise around £20bn a year.

  1. Empower employees

Much noise was made about then Chancellor Osborne’s ‘National Living Wage’ announced in the 2015 UK Budget.

While the Tory spin machine was in overdrive, it didn’t go unnoticed that this rebranding exercise fell short of the ‘real living wage’ of £8.75 an hour, as defined by the Living Wage Foundation.

People who are paid properly are more productive and have more money to spend in their local economies.

With so many people forced to rely on working tax credits to top up poverty pay, a real living wage is matter of economic sense and something the UK Government should adopt without delay.

Another powerful move, in principle and in practice, would be to appoint workers to remuneration committees.

This would give lower paid workers a greater say over decisions which affect their employment conditions and ensure better scrutiny of chief executives’ pay.

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Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

There can never be a equality of resources and inspiration with a history of assest stripping of any and all colonies. To ask for investment at a time of major investment in English infrastructure HS 2, Trident, a National Health Service in crisis, a social care sector on its knees and a diminishing economy based on a service and financial sector is asking for gold dust. We’ve already been washed over on full electrification of railway lines and the crucial need for a metro style valley rail network is over powering. The case for the Swansea Bay barrage is beached… Read more »

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Fine, as far as it goes, but it’s not just the Tories in Westminster that are responsible for the economic and social woes of Cymru. The massive elephant in the room, the Labour Welsh Assembly Government has done a stirling job since the inception of the Assembly in running our country down with nary a murmur of any real opposition from the likes of Plaid Cymru, who seem often to be more concerned with ‘ishoos’ and a malformed political correctness that is really just a form of censorship. It has often bugged me as to why Plaid Cymru hasn’t been… Read more »

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

I’m glad you took time to write all that because most of it fits neatly with my thoughts. Indeed I might even be happy if I did not not agree with you or anybody else on a personal level so long as I see Plaid growing a pair and getting stuck into a sustained critique of this Labour maladministration which we have endured for nearly 20 years with little or no progress. Now that’s a whole load of frustration, isn’t it ! Rolling out a regular item by item review, picking up on defects, commending the occasional good bits and… Read more »

ERNEST
Guest
ERNEST

I agree with most of what you wrote Leanne, please take on board the constructive criticism. Only today, I have an email (from a reliable source) that the UK government is considering signing up for TPP, the trans-pacific free trade block. This includes Australia and New Zealand !! New Zealand produces cheap lamb which will be a disaster for our farmers. If they, the UK, did sign for TPP then the only solution for Wales would be to leave the UK and possibly rejoin the EU which is our largest export market. Let England have their substandard lamb; Wales should… Read more »

Benjiman L. Angwin
Guest
Benjiman L. Angwin

@ Earnest’s last line.
If you are on board we will be more ready.

@Dafis
No party is one opinion.

Gareth Williams
Guest
Gareth Williams

We should hold a referendum but this time based on facts not fiction. Remeber that around 70% did not vote to leave, and 49% voted to stay. Plaid is pro Europe so why not fight that corner. Leaving will be a disaster for Wales. Pro Europe could unite a lot of people in Wales as the Labour party ar to weak to stand up for what is right so Plaid should take on that fight.

Simon
Guest

Leanne is right in pointing out that the gap between 1% (financial oligarchs) and everyone else continues to grow exponentially. She fails however to state the reason why. I suspect that she doesn’t understand why. This in turn explains why her suggested remedies will have little effect, even if they could be enacted. Leanne is not alone. Recent research discovered that 85% of Westminster MP’s don’t understand the how money system works, many believing things that are false. Most MP’s don’t even know where money comes from. (It doesn’t come from governments.) See: http://positivemoney.org/2017/10/mp-poll/ Because of these deeply held beliefs… Read more »

Michael Matthews (@Ybont333)
Guest

Let’s first reclaim our sovereignty and demand the return of our legal and judicial system, to do so will not incur any financial burden on the UK economy. Only when Wales is sovereign again can we rebuild both country and economy. Anything else is pie in the sky.

Eos Pengwern
Guest
Eos Pengwern

The only fiction being peddled in the 2016 referendum was coming from the Remain side: all that guff about the economy crashing and the need for an emergency budget to ameliorate the damage. The Remain side couldn’t possibly have painted a bleaker picture of life post-Brexit but you know what? Leave won anyway. [OK, there was that thing about the £350 million per week, but the only thing wrong with that figure was that it left out Mrs. Thatcher’s rebate; so at the end of the day, the UK is still shelling out a net £250 million a week to… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Eos what are you chatting about….absolute rot ….. you believe that con job of philanthropy …..What has Jeff Bezos done for Wales? You say Plaid cymru has done nothing for Wales and Bill gates has done more….the difference is Bill gates and Bezos made vast money off the backs of their workers. And they are smug ones who are allowed to decide how the money is spent (clue: not for welsh interests) Have you thought through the structure of the world we live? “dont be jealous”…..of course I am jealous !!!! The workers should part own their work places….that is… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

“Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have done a great deal more to raise living standards in Wales”

Outright lie … total rubbish – give us concrete evidence for that bold statement

Eos Pengwern
Guest
Eos Pengwern

Thanks to Bill Gates I can use a reliable computer that makes me far more productive than I’d ever be without it, and so raises my salary and improves my standard of living. I can work from a rural location in Wales, doing the sort of work which a generation ago I’d only be able to do in the centre of a large city (and more than likely an English one at that). I can even do so using a user interface entirely in Welsh, which the company Bill Gates founded fully supports. Thanks to Jeff Bezos I can buy,… Read more »

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

To seriously believe any one individual can be responsible for wealth creation attributed to anyone or all countries is self delusional at its very best. Those therefore who built the Titanic, or the motor car, or invented the bomb is responsible for countless deaths. This borders the ridiculous and stretches fantasy of the Mikey Mouse cartoons. If you use such reductionist propaganda of how the £350m for the NHS is some how irrelevant, or consequences of even thinking of leaving the EU is already impacting on all forms of life, then what you write is for the birds. Total one… Read more »

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Why ask Westminster for this when you know the answer is “NO”.

Number 6 on the list should be “Westminster gives Wales the power to self rule and create its own wealth….and for Cymru not to be dependent on a frankly uncaring UK”

Rhiannon
Guest
Rhiannon

Mae’n flin gennyf ond mae hwn yn erthygl di-bwrpas. Does dim byd yma na wyddwn yn barod. Yr hyn fyddai’n well i’r Blaid ac i Gymru fyddai gweld y 5 peth mae Plaid Cymru yn mynd i wneud am hyn, ac y gellir ei wneud nawr, er enghraifft: 1. Stopo llyfu Llafur a dechrau bod yn wrthblaid yn y Cynulliad gan dynnu sylw cadarnleoedd Llafur at gamweddau’r blaid honno a hynny mewn dull effeithiol. 2. Gwir ddadlau dros annibyniaeth i Gymru a chreu strategaeth i ymgyrraedd at hynny 3. Sicrhau bod pob Awdurdod Lleol sy’n cael eu rhedeg gan y… Read more »

Gwilym ab Ioan
Guest

Prominent by it’s exclusion. I cannot find any reference to fighting for Independence and Freedom for Cymru in that nice little piece by Leanne. Perhaps she genuinely forgot to mention it. Being such an irrelevant little subject.