Baroness Randerson: Infrastructure and skills the two main challenges for Welsh economy

Baroness Randerson
Baroness Randerson

Improving infrastructure and enhancing skills in Wales are two of the key challenges for its economy, Baroness Randerson said today in her first major speech since becoming a Wales Office minister.

 In her first appearance at the House of Lords despatch box, Baroness Randerson said that revitalising the economy was not just a job for the UK Government and it needed to work closely with the Welsh Government and private sector to revitalise the Welsh economy.

 But she warned that hopes and aspirations needed to be founded in reality in the recognition that the UK economy as a whole was dealing with deep-rooted problems.

 She told peers: “I am pleased to be able to say that the increase in the employment rate in Wales over the last quarter was the largest of all the devolved countries and English regions and well above the increase seen across the UK as a whole.

 “However, there is no room for complacency, and no-one is more alive than I to the challenges we continue to face in Wales.

 “I see two of the main challenges for the economy in Wales as improving infrastructure and enhancing skills in Wales.”

 Baroness Randerson pointed to the UK Government’s investment in Wales, illustrated by its commitment to electrify the South Wales Mainline and Valleys. Wales is expected to benefit directly and indirectly from almost £2bn from the programme to modernise the rail network.

 She also highlighted the UK Government providing its counterpart in Cardiff Bay with almost £57m to help bring broadband to everyone and superfast speeds to 90% of homes and businesses.

 She added: “In addition to the challenges we face to improve infrastructure, it is vital that we do all we can to enhance the skills of the workforce in Wales. Wales has a lot to offer but further upskilling of the workforce will not only support indigenous business but will also help Wales to attract more inward investment.

 “The simple fact is that we will only deliver real economic growth for Wales if both its governments work closely together. Wales is not an island – we are very much an integral part of the United Kingdom economy.”

 

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.

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Lord German: time for UK and Welsh governments to work together

The UK and Welsh governments need to work together and avoid a “pointless” situation where they are pulling in different directions, Lord German warns today.

The former Welsh Liberal Democrat leader will warn the House of Lords that levers to affect change in the Welsh economy are split and that two governments working in different directions creates a risk of overlapping and duplicating.

And he will call for a joint task force, calling on the best brains from both governments, to work on areas such as apprenticeships, finance for companies and inactivity reduction.

 Tabling a question for short debate, Lord German will say that, despite 13 years of a National Assembly, economic performance in Wales still languishes at the bottom of the league and it needs to lose an overdependence on the public sector to “pull itself up by the bootstraps”.

 He will tell peers that it is “crucial” that the ability of the Welsh Government to use financial levers is changed, expressing surprise that Labour has rejected income tax powers.

 Lord German will say: “Despite 13 years of a National Assembly, economic performance in Wales still languishes at the bottom. There is an overdependence on the public sector and lower private sector development than is needed for Wales to pull itself up by the bootstraps.

 “The UK and Welsh governments need to work together. The levers to affect change are split between the two, and working in different directions is pointless and can result in overlapping or duplication of support. While we wait for the Silk Commission to report, it is crucial that there are changes to the Welsh Government’s ability to use financial levers. It surprises me that Labour have rejected income tax powers. It isn’t about the variation of income tax, but about raising the tax base overall to give Wales a better income.

 “It is important that the Welsh Government should have financial incentives to do better. It is something which should go alongside borrowing powers.”

 He will add that apprenticeships, finance for companies and inactivity reduction are all areas where the UK and Welsh governments could work together. “Perhaps now is the time for a joint task force, for both governments to work together, drawing on the best brains in these areas,” he will say.

 

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE. Tel: (020) 7222 7999.