Saturday, October 29, 2016

Backing Regional Aid

The decision by Nissan to build two new models in Sunderland has produced some what seem to me to be illogical attitudes amongst some of those who comment on my Facebook page - based on misconceptions of reality (past and present). Let's list a few. Firstly, that we should know exactly what discussions have taken place between Government and Nissan. Secondly, that the same terms, whatever they are, should be available to all. (this one is particularly misguided). And thirdly a local complaint that as a result of Govt policy, young people are leaving rural Wales in "droves". 

It would take too long to cover all aspects, but I can share some of my own experience, which in itself offers a reasonable rebuttal. I think so anyway. 

I left a small comprehensive school (Llanfair Caereinion HS), aged 16, to work on the family farm. Not a big farm, but a good little livestock rearing business which my parents had worked hard to build up from scratch over 16 years. My father died young, and I took over the farm. Aged 30ish began taking an interest in local politics.

I was much influenced by the opportunities (lack of) for my classmates when I'd left school and also, the dire state of the local economy. There were very few quality jobs available. Anyone academically minded had to leave for work. If continuing in education, they had to leave for university. They still do but it's not anything like so difficult to find good jobs locally today. Let's look at what's changed.

When I was young, the population of Montgomeryshire had fallen over recent decades - as rural based work had become mechanised. The population of Montgomeryshire, which had been well over 60,000, had fallen to a low of about 36,000. The economic prospects were so bleak that Govt contemplated building a new town of 65,000 people in the Severn Valley, incorporating Newtown and Caersws. Prospects for young people were so bad, I supported this crazy idea. Won my first bardic chair with an essay championing this plan. Very sensibly the Govt of the time decided against, but did establish a new town corporation to double the size of Newtown and established the Development Board for Rural Wales to promote economic dev't across Mid Wales. Now here's the relevant point. All this activity involved giving a business advantage to anyone establishing or expanding in Mid Wales. That's what regional aid involves. I was much in support of it. I still am, where it strengthens the economy of disadvantaged areas. That's why I welcome Gov'ts work with Nissan to agree it's massive investment in Sunderland. 

I find it difficlt to understand anyone who is not very pleased about the Nissan decision. Sec of State, Greg Clark went out to Japan to help develop a trusting relationship. I do not want to know what the discussion involved. I do assume it was consistent with state aid rules. It's the best form of regional policy I can think of. As well as being brilliant news in itself, it demonstrates the flexibility and agility the UK is capable of. It's great long term news for international investment in the UK, as well as a huge short term boost to the North East.

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