Senedd Election 2021: Welsh Conservatives on the Economy
Ahead of a policy roundtable with Shadow Economy Minister Russell George MS this week, Elin Llŷr takes a look at some of the key economy pledges from the Welsh Conservatives.
Ahead of the Senedd election in May 2021, political parties in Wales have now finalised their manifestos – and will soon be publishing their key policies and legislation should they form or be part of the next Welsh Government.
The most recent opinion polls suggest that Labour are still likely to return as the biggest party in May but without an overall majority. The latest Welsh Political Barometer Poll by YouGov for ITV Wales and Cardiff University shows that Labour could drop seven seats to the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru in the election, with the Conservatives projected to win 19 seats. Labour’s dominance may therefore be challenged more than ever seen before in Welsh elections, and they certainly can’t take anything for granted.
The Welsh Conservatives have a serious appetite to govern, and we could very well see them involved in discussions on coalitions and informal arrangements – despite the leader of the Senedd's Conservatives Andrew RT Davies recently ruling out any deals with Plaid Cymru after May’s election. He called Plaid "divisive separatists" and said there would be no repeat of 2016, when his group supported Leanne Wood to be First Minister.
Following his return as the Conservatives Group Leader in the Senedd in January, he vowed to “put forward a positive plan to get Wales moving again" and "unleash our country's potential" at the upcoming election. He’s also pledged that his party would create a new version of the Welsh Development Agency based in North Wales - bringing together the Development Bank of Wales and Business Wales in the new organisation. He also said that the Welsh Revenue Authority - Wales’s version of the Treasury - would also be moved to North Wales with the two moves bringing 200 additional jobs.
Andrew RT Davies has been publicly criticising the Welsh Government for not publishing a road map out of lockdown and has pledged that his party would release lockdown measures in Wales if they came into power after May's election.
Russell George MS has held the post of Shadow Minister for Business, Economy and Infrastructure, and Mid Wales since 2016 and also chairs the Senedd’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee. As part of a series of articles on the Conservative Gwydir blog site, Russell has spoken about his passion for this particular portfolio as it offers the ability to “create more jobs, less poverty and better lives for all.” He supports the creation of freeports that would import and export of raw materials that can then be manufactured in the surrounding area and exported without paying tariffs, along with simplified customs checks. Russell believes that this proposal would enable sustainable manufacturing in local areas, providing long term and high skilled jobs.
He has also promoted the idea of establishing the Office for Government Resilience and Efficiency (OGRE) to work across government, focus on eliminating waste, promoting best practice and making government more self-critical.
Senedd Election – Key Pledges
As with other parties, the Welsh Conservatives will now be preparing to publish their manifesto ahead of May’s Senedd Election. During their campaign launch earlier this week, they outlined some of their key pledges including more cash for the NHS, build more roads and freeze council tax. The party’s ambitious plans to “Rebuild Wales” aims to create 50,000 new jobs and a further 15,000 in the environment and energy sector – making Wales the “green jobs capital of the world.”
Welsh Development Agency
In one of their first manifesto announcements, the party outlined plans to bring back the best of the Welsh Development Agency in order to help “revive the Welsh economy”, as well as bringing together the Development Bank of Wales and Business Wales. In his recent article for the IWA, Russell George MS explains how his party aims to create a more nimble, agile, and dynamic business entity to respond to the needs of firms large and small after the pandemic.
On transport, the party has pledged to build the controversial M4 relief road, as well as upgrading the A55 and the A40 as part of their plans to rebuild Wales. Other key transport policies include launching a “Green Card” to give young people free bus and cheaper train travel.
As well as setting a target of 100,000 homes being built over the next decade, they’ve also pledged to ensure that first-time buyers would not pay tax when buying a home in Wales. The party would bring back The Right to Buy scheme that was abolished in 2019, and also promises to extend a Welsh government-backed deposit contribution scheme for property purchases.
Russell George has previously outlined his vision of seeing Wales’ coastline fully utilised for tidal energy, whilst also delivering flood protection for the coastal areas. The party has pledged to “complement” the UK Conservative Government’s investment in a Green Industrial Revolution with a £150 million Wales Marine Energy Investment Fund, that would see them purchasing equity in viable and exciting marine energy projects and small-scale hydro initiatives. They also promise to establish a Green Home Grant Scheme to help low-income households to make energy efficiencies in their homes.
The party has re-affirmed its policy of no new taxes – and reducing taxes where possible. They also have plans to reform some of the existing taxes outlined below:
• Reforming Business Rates so that they directly contribute to a better business environment to help with economic recovery post Covid.
• Reshaping Land Transaction Tax to take into account a green agenda so that it rewards properties with environmental and energy efficiency.
• Examining Landfill Tax to see how it might be improved.
As we look back at their previous pledges, the party’s manifesto for the 2016 Senedd Election included 5 headline policy ideas – with a focus on creating jobs and supporting small businesses. Their pledge of 50,000 more jobs included plans to abolish business rates for small firms with a rateable value of up to £12,000 and the introduction of a new regional development bank. Other flagship policies included reforming Jobs Growth Wales, replacing it with their own new scheme, “Stronger Future Cymru”. The party also promised to prioritise the construction of the M4 Relief Road and bring forward plans to construct a third Menai crossing in Anglesey.
Transport & Infrastructure
In their 2016 manifesto for the Senedd Election, the Welsh Conservatives pledged to create an arms-length body to deliver an "integrated transport system" across Wales. Since the formation of Transport for Wales in 2016, the party has been critical of the way it is run and administered by the Welsh Government and often call for more investment in public transport services. Their 2016 manifesto also focused heavily on the need to improve rail infrastructure, with a pledge to work with the UK Government to deliver electrification of the South Wales Main Line and Valley Lines as well as backing the electrification of the North Wales Line. They also promised to launch a new smart card travel scheme for use on different modes of public transport.
In the 2016 Senedd Election Manifesto, the party promised to revitalise the Welsh High street by bringing empty premises back into use, slashing business taxes and improving access. They also pledged to promote free town centre parking and stimulate community-led regeneration ideas.
Ahead of the 2016 Senedd Election, the party pledged to lead the “most small business friendly government Wales has seen” with measures including a ‘Small Business Hub’ which would scrutinise all Welsh Government policy for its impact on small firms. Some of their other initiatives included universal broadband & mobile coverage across rural Wales by 2019 and helping small Welsh firms to access public sector procurement. More recently, they have highlighted their proposal to abolish business rates for all small businesses with rateable values of up to £15,000.
The Welsh Conservatives have backed the UK Government investment in the city and growth deals across Wales. As part of their 2019 General Election campaign, the party promised to negotiate a Marches Growth Deal in order to improve connectivity and infrastructure on both sides of the border. That said, Russell George has outlined how he believes that there needs to be a significant change in the operation of the growth deals that are already in place and coming on stream.
The Welsh Conservatives have long criticised the current Government’s “lack of clear brand for Wales” and called for the removal of “Visit Wales” from Welsh Government’s control as part of their 2016 Senedd Election manifesto. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the party has recently called for a “Seaside Town Fund” in order to support businesses through a difficult winter.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on all of the parties’ pledges and manifestos as they’re published over the next few weeks. For all the latest news, manifesto analysis, key seats to watch, candidate details & full results service – get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our special Election Service.
For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.
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