How to and Why? Why the plan to regenerate our Valleys is 'going wrong'

//How to and Why? Why the plan to regenerate our Valleys is 'going wrong'

there are serious problems at the heart of the welsh government’s big project to help the south wales valleys, the director of the bevan foundation has warned  victoria winckler has sounded the alarm bell about the valleys taskforce, saying it "means well" but fails to address the real problems facing a region that has struggled for decades to overcome the collapse of heavy industry  she argues the valleys economy has been "ravaged" and needs to be rebuilt – but she doesn’t think the welsh government’s programme can deliver such a transformation what is the valleys taskforce?  the taskforce is the welsh government’s flagship effort to bring “lasting change” to the south wales valleys it has three priorities: ensuring there are “good quality jobs and the skills to do them” supporting “better public services” strengthening local communities  it brings together some of the most senior figures in the welsh government with people from a business, academic, trade union and public services background   a detailed progress report has just been published but ms winckler fears what the taskforce is proposing is "simply too small to make a difference"  she is concerned that "the number of people who are unemployed in the local authorities that cover the valleys is at best static and at worst going up" and points out that in some areas around "one in four young men is out of work"   this is what victoria winckler says is ‘going wrong’ with the taskforce 1.

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1. a lack of focus   ms winckler says the area covered by the taskforce is too big and includes “greater cardiff” and parts of south wales “where there isn’t an economic problem and where people almost certainly do not think they are from ‘the valleys’ ”  she said: “even worse, the slippery geography allows developments to be presented as being ‘in the valleys’ for sure, treforest is up the a470 but to someone living in tredegar or treherbert it may as well be in cardiff – it is in the upper parts of the valleys the most acute challenges lie and where effort should be targeted ” 2. a failure to address the big problems  the bevan foundation director says the deliver plan fails to address the deep-rooted problems facing the valleys – “the weakness of the local economy and labour market and the shocking lack of skills and qualifications”  ms winckler argues that “creating hubs for digital businesses” and “relocating some public sector jobs” simply won’t make the difference needed  she writes: “they need a wholesale reinvention and rebuilding of an economy ravaged by coal and steel closures and by successive recessions it is not impossible to rebuild economies – and the valleys should not be left to wither ” 3. too small a vision  ms winckler warns that too many of the solutions put forward by the welsh government are “simply too small to make a difference”  this is not the time to “fiddle round the edges,” she argues, adding: “i’m sorry to say this, but although the taskforce means well it is simply too little, over too large an area, and doesn’t address the underlying problems ” it is not only victoria winckler who has concerns  kevin morgan, professor of governance and development at cardiff university and the chair of the yes campaign in the 1997 referendum, strongly agreed with ms winckler  he said: “i totally endorse every word that victoria winckler says here and i would go further the model of development will not deliver even if the targets are rendered more ambitious because government cannot possibly deliver  “government needs to recognise that, apart from its own investments and activities, its key task is to enable others to help themselves because all players must be enjoined and enabled to play a role in regeneration as regards targets, i would prioritise much more – the spatial focus should be the upper valleys; the sectoral focus should be jobs and education in schools and fe; and the strategic focus should be that every body should be tasked with regeneration tasks and held to account because all too often there are no consequences for poor performance, which is why i say that good practice had been a bad traveller in wales, especially in public procurement ” what does the progress report say?   the welsh government insists it is making progress on jobs it highlights: “more than 1,000 economically-inactive people living in the valleys taskforce areas have started work through welsh government-led employment programmes since september 2016 ” “nearly 1,000 people and small businesses have been helped through advice and business support and more than 100 new enterprises have been created within the valleys taskforce area during 2017-18 ” “more than 5,000 apprenticeship programme starts by those living within the valleys in the 2016-17 academic year ”  in april, digital pilot schemes were approved to provide “better and wider access to free wi-fi” and an “uber-style app for people who need to order nhs or community transport”  public money will be focused on seven “strategic hubs” to “provide opportunities for the private sector to invest and create new jobs” these are caerphilly/ystrad mynach, neath, ebbw vale, pontypridd/treforest, merthyr tydfil, cwmbran and “northern bridgend”  the progress report also highlights how initiatives in areas such as childcare, affordable housing and the south wales metro and the proposed valleys landscape park have the potential to improve the region what does the welsh government think of the criticism?   alun davies, the am for blaenau gwent and cabinet secretary for local government and public services, rejected any suggestion the welsh government was "not being ambitious enough" – but he welcomed the comments from the bevan foundation  he said: "i thought it was a very good response, actually. i thought it was very well articulated, and i thought it made some very fair points can i say more than anything that i share the same frustration?  "because i want to see a greater tempo of change i think it’s right and proper that that sense of impatience underpins a lot of our debate and much of what we say  "because i don’t believe for one moment, and i don’t seek to make any claims, that all in the garden is rosy, and i don’t seek to make any claims that we have, in a little more than 18 months, turned around nearly a century of decline i think it would be absurd were i to come to the chamber and make those claims, and i think it would be absurd were the government to seek to make those claims on our behalf  "that’s not what we are saying. in my statement, i said we were planting the seeds for sustainable transformation, and that is what we are seeking to do " plaid says the taskforce lacks funding and influence  plaid cymru am and leadership contender adam price said: “the vehicle for the welsh government’s valleys policy is simply not of the scale required to deal with the challenge in regenerating the valleys communities a taskforce with no real budget and which lacks political clout both inside and outside of government, simply does not have the ability to transform  “contrast this with the city regions which have both money and political buy-in in order to effectively deliver and transform the valleys in a way that will improve the lives of the people who live there, the taskforce needs to be turned into a fully-fledged delivery body with the funding and influence required to deliver on its outcomes  “until that happens, the valleys will unfortunately always be on the losing side of the economic divide” this is what victoria winckler made of the progress report   she said: “the progress report on the valleys task force’s first year is a bit of a curate’s egg it shows that a lot of action is underway to improve the economy, improve public services and strengthen communities  “most people would find little to object to. and that’s partly why we’re concerned  “one problem is that there isn’t much that is specific to the valleys – a lot of actions in the progress report are actually wales-wide schemes – things like employment programmes, support for businesses, the offer of child care, social prescribing and grants to support bus services  “so we’d question how far the welsh government really is prioritsing the valleys another problem is whether the task force is ambitious enough.  “the figures quoted sound impressive – 1,000 people into work, 100 new businesses but we should remember that the valleys have a population of around 700,000 people, making the achievements modest for an area of this size and tiny compared with the scale of the challenge  “on top of this, the mostly small-scale initiatives have to be seen against cuts in public spending at the same time as the welsh government claims to be improving access to vocational training, the auditor general for wales has warned that colleges may struggle to maintain provision after £22m of cuts and councils are closing valleys schools – such as cymer afan comprehensive – to save money ”  she added: “the ultimate test of course is not glossy reports, but whether the welsh government achieves any change on the ground we fully accept that change takes time.  “but one of the earliest indicators of how well an area is doing is unemployment – and there’s no sign yet of any improvement many people in the valleys feel abandoned.  “the welsh government has to prove that this valleys initiative is different to all those that have gone before ”

2018-07-12T01:41:11+00:00 July 12th, 2018|Categories: How To.. for My Online World|Tags: , |