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"Wales being failed by Levelling Up", claims Economy Minister


January 16, 2024 - 379 views

Wales' Economy Minister will today claim in a Senedd debate that the UK Government’s levelling-up schemes are failing Welsh people, businesses, and communities as the amount of unreplaced EU funding rises with inflation.

Vaughan Gething will argue that in real terms Wales is now short-changed by almost £1.3 billion in unreplaced EU structural and rural funding between 2021 and 2025 due the ongoing impact of inflation in this period.

This shortfall is on top of the overall Welsh budget now being up to £1.3 billion less in real terms than when it was set at the UK Government’s spending review in 2021 due to decisions taken by the UK Government and soaring inflation.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething will say: "All of the UK Government’s schemes – whether it’s the Levelling Up Fund, the Shared Prosperity Fund, or the Towns Fund – have the same things in common: they are an incoherent mess with very little planning, consultation or economic logic.

"Their implementation is chaotic leaving stakeholders confused or excluded entirely. At the same time, they put immense pressure on local government to spend money quickly despite UK Government delays and implausible deadlines.

"Plus, they take money and powers away from Wales putting them in the hands of UK Government Ministers in London, meaning Wales has less say over less money.

"The result is Merthyr Tydfil, Flintshire and Newport will not see any money from the Levelling Up Fund despite using time and resources on bids turned down by the UK Government.

The Minister will add: "UK Government delays in decision-making have driven up costs during a cost-of-living crisis with soaring inflation that has loaded extra pressure onto our councils.

"The Welsh Government previously used EU funding to help tackle unemployment, deliver apprenticeships and training, create and grow businesses, and invest in infrastructure and major projects like the South Wales Metro and the renewable energy sector in North and West Wales.

Universities were also supported to deliver high-level skills and growth programmes in partnership with industry and work with businesses on cutting-edge Research and Development.

"Under the UK Government’s levelling up agenda, it is estimated around 1,000 high quality jobs in research and innovation are being lost in Wales as universities cannot access these funds at anywhere near the same scale.

The Minister will add:  "Wales already faces the toughest financial situation since the start of devolution.

"The legacy of Levelling Up is duplication, local piecemeal projects and precious little economic impact. Through ineptitude and indifference, the UK Government has wasted the opportunity to deliver the meaningful change Wales and the rest of the UK so desperately needs to see."