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Senedd Election 2021 - Jobs and Growth Pledges

Lewis Davies
Lewis Davies

Lewis Davies takes a look at how the three main parties compare on job creation, investment and development agencies.

Job Creation

Amid ongoing economic uncertainty, each of the main political parties have put job creation at the centre of thier Senedd campaign. Labour and Plaid Cymru have entered the election campaign with ambitious pledges for young voters on jobs and training opportunities. Plaid Cymru have signposted a youth job guarantee on at least a Real Living Wage to every 16-24-year-old not in full-time education. Whereas Labour have pledged to offer all under-25s work, education, training, or self-employment. The Labour Party are looking to build on the success of creating 100,000 apprenticeships in the last Senedd term by pledging to create another 125,000 apprenticeship this time around.

The Conservatives have not made a specific pledge on jobs or training for young people in their manifesto. Instead, they have aimed to boost opportunities for workers hit hard by the pandemic with a Retrain, Gain programme to get people into key sectors. The Conservatives have also set the target of creating 65,000 jobs in Wales over the next Senedd term, with at least 15,000 those jobs being in the green economy. However, despite their pledge for a quarter of the jobs being green, the Conservatives have also made clear promises to spend big on road projects for the A40, A55 and the M4 relief road.

Investment

Plaid Cymru have outlined ambitious plans to introduce a £6 billion programme of investment- £4 billion extra capital investment in infrastructure and £2 billion extra spending on the foundational economy over the course of the five-year Senedd term. This investment is to be spent on projects such as expand and electrify the rail network, house building and retrofitting, food and farming sustainability, renewable energy and decarbonization, repurposing empty shops and offices and gigabit broadband.

Plaid Cymru have noted that in order to finance the stimulus, they will request that the UK Government suspend the £150m annual borrowing limit and remove of the annual limit on drawdowns from the Welsh reserve. This not likely to occur so instead Plaid Cymru’s alternative position is borrow through other financial instruments: a national Green Growth Deal in conjunction with local authorities, greater use of Financial Transaction Capital, the Mutual Investment Model, adapting its use to additional areas, investment by the UK Infrastructure Bank and other institutional investors such as the Wales Pension Partnership and a Welsh Green Bond.

The Conservatives have aimed their investment pledges around rebuilding Wales’ tourism industry and supporting businesses in their recovery from the pandemic. As part of their Covid-19 bounce back package, the Conservatives have announced that they’ll establish a £2.5 billion investment fund and maintain the cut to 5% on VAT for tourism businesses until April 2022.

The Conservatives have also pledged to invest £2 billion to modernise Welsh infrastructure, including an M4 relief road, upgrades to the A55 and A40, and 20,000 green charging points. While there is very little detail on the funding of Conservative investment pledges in their manifesto, they have emphasised the importance of working in collaboration with the UK Government to implement Growth Deals worth £800 million and to deliver the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in Wales.

Labour have outlined in their manifesto how they are looking to build on their work in government on the foundational economy. They have pledged to develop a Backing Local Firms Fund to support local businesses, as well as building on their ‘Build Jobs Closer to Home’ programme to grow local economies.

The Labour Party’s major investment pledges can be found in their long-term plans for developing modern, green infrastructure. They state that they’ll l launch a new 10-year Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan for a zero carbon economy; delivering on their 10-year £100m Tech-Valleys programme and complete major projects including the £1bn dualling of the Heads of the Valleys road.

Development Agencies

Both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives have outlined their priority to develop arms-length development agencies to support businesses in the response to the pandemic. Plaid Cymru’s Prosperity Wales will draw on expertise from the business world, as well as specialists in tackling inequality and decarbonisation and would be focused on nurturing local businesses and helping firms to innovate.

The Conservatives have stated that their development agency, Innovate Wales, will aim to re-establish the best parts of the Welsh Development Agency in North Wales as part of an agenda to level-up the country. The Conservatives have emphasised their support of the North Wales economy in their manifesto, pledging to move the Welsh Treasury up north and promoting the region as premier destination for international tourists.

The Labour Party has no plans to bring back the Welsh Development Agency it scrapped back in 2006. Instead the Labour Party have decided to build on the success of the Development Bank of Wales and expand its patient capital funds to provide long-term lending to small and medium sized enterprises, entrepreneurs and start-ups.

For a bird's eye view.
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