WALES could soon have its own multi-billion pound ‘Welsh Wealth Fund’ to invest in infrastructure and drive economic growth after the UK Government looks set to change it position on pension scheme investments.
Earlier this year Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards warned that a UK Government proposal to pool pension scheme investments into “wealth funds” with at least £25billion in assets would risk the funds of Welsh employers and employees being invested outside of Wales.
Wales’ councils are understood to have assets worth £12-13billion – a substantial figure in itself but almost half of the figure outlined by Chancellor last year.
Mr Edwards said he feared the £25billion threshold would result in “Welsh funds being pooled with an English region”. As the policy does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland, Mr Edwards said there was a “clear case for making sure that Welsh assets are combined into Welsh pools so that we are able to invest in infrastructure that will develop the Welsh economy.”
Since first raising his concerns the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP has tabled a parliamentary motion and challenged Treasury Ministers in the House of Commons to look again at the proposals for Wales.
The UK Government’s Minister for Local Government, Marcus Jones MP, has now given his consent for Welsh pension administering authorities to develop proposals for a Wales-only wealth fund.
Mr Edwards welcomed the change in policy branding it “a tremendous opportunity to make up for the years of chronic under-investment in Wales’ public infrastructure.”
Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards said:”As I have said in Parliament, Plaid Cymru has no opposition in principle to the creation of these wealth funds, indeed we first proposed something similar many years ago. Our innovative ‘Build for Wales’ policy in 2011 was partly aimed at creating a vehicle to draw down private investment for Welsh infrastructure development.
“We have always, however, been concerned that the assets built up by Welsh employees and employers would be pooled into a larger England and Wales fund which would see subsequent investments inevitably diverted outside of Wales.
“We are delighted that the Westminster Government has now conceded there is a case for a Walesonly fund.
“Welsh pension fund assets are worth more than £12 billion. Using just a fraction of this money could be a tremendous opportunity to make up for the years of chronic under-investment in Wales’ public infrastructure.
“It is imperative now, as details of the Welsh Wealth Fund are finalised before the July deadline, that the fund is set up with a clear mandate to invest in Welsh infrastructure in order to boost the Welsh economy. If utilised properly this could be a major shot in the arm for our economy.”
Elin Jones raises Fibre Ceredigion’s connectivity with Openreach
ELIN JONES AM has attended an Openreach drop in session in the National Assembly of Wales to raise concerns about the lack of Fibre in areas of Ceredigion.
Elin Jones met with Openreach’s Partnership director in Wales, Connie Dixon, and Catherine Colloms, Director of Corporate Affairs. Elin also met with Openreach engineers and was shown the process undertaken in order to install fibres in people’s homes and businesses.
Elin Jones said:
“There are still many homes and businesses in Ceredigion that need to be connected to superfast Broadband. Many are in rural locations, but there are also whole villages and, in most cases, homes that are just at the end of the line and have fallen out of scope.
“More needs to be done to ensure that access to Superfast Broadband for premises across Ceredigion is equally available. I hope to meet with Openreach in the near future in Ceredigion in order to assess the challenges that they face in installing Fibre, but also for them to see the need in our communities for superfast.”
Connie Dixon, Openreach Partnership Director for Wales, said:
“We’re already working closely with the Welsh Government to bring fibre broadband to Wales and as a result of this partnership nearly 95 per cent of the country can access superfast broadband today. But we also know there’s more to do and we’re working hard to reach those properties that currently can’t access fibre broadband.
“We’re also committed to future-proofing the network with full fibre technology but in order to build a new full fibre network for Wales we’ll need the support from our public sector partners.
“It won’t be quick or easy, but action to reduce red tape and remove barriers will speed things up. Full fibre will open up huge possibilities for the Welsh economy and help answer long terms challenges like energy use, climate change and sustainable rural communities.”
Plaid candiate votes to fight for police devolution
AHEAD of the general election on 12 December 2019, Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru candidate for Ceredigion has outlined a commitment to continue to fight for the devolution of policing to Wales.
Between 2010 and 2018, the number of police officers in Wales fell by 9% – with rural Wales particularly hit due to the unfair funding formula used by the UK Government.
Plaid Cymru have announced that they will create a new £50m crime prevention fund to recruit 1,600 extra police officers through the devolution of policing. The proposals would see a greater police presence locally, and helping to root officers in their communities, rather than being stretched over large geographical areas with little resources.
Earlier this year a Welsh Government-appointed commission said Wales should have full control of its justice system, including powers to run policing – with further studies suggesting Wales’ four forces would be in line for £25m extra from the UK government if policing was devolved.
Ben Lake said: “Time after time, police budgets have been cut by the UK Government, meaning far fewer officers are available to police forces in Wales. Welsh forces and rural areas have been hit harder than those in the rest of the UK, due to an unfair Home Office funding formula.”
“Since my election in 2017, I have seen firsthand the detrimental impact this funding arrangement is having on Welsh police forces and communities, something I was glad to raise in Parliament.”
“We cannot expect a one size fits all approach police funding to work effectively across the whole of the UK, and as such, it is imperative that the criteria for the central Government grant are revised to reflect the demands and unique challenges faced by rural forces in areas such as Ceredigion.”
“It remains unacceptable that Wales is the only nation in the UK without powers over policing and justice, especially given the clear financial dividend that devolution would bring about.”
Conservative Candidate for Ceredigion, welcomed Lord Nick Bourne back to Aberystwyth
THIS week, Lord Nick Bourne of Aberystwyth, visited the University town to meet with Amanda Jenner, the Conservative Candidate for Ceredigion in the forthcoming General Election. Lord Bourne joined with members of the Aberystwyth University Conservative Society to support Amanda with her General Election campaign to be the next MP for Ceredigion.
Coincidently, Amanda Jenner and Lord Bourne have taken similar paths – both Aberystwyth University Law Graduates who have gone on to work in the Education sector before turning to politics.
Lord Bourne, until recently, was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Wales Office and was heavily involved with the Mid Wales Growth Deal.
Commenting on the Growth Deal, Lord Bourne said,
“One very important thing that we have been spending a lot of time on as a Government, is to ensure we get money into Mid and West Wales, including Ceredigion, particularly to motivate businesses here.”
“I personally hope that this extends to projects involving Aberystwyth University – who are already doing tremendous work, led by Elizabeth Treasure the Vice-chancellor, to ensure we have prosperity and sustainability.”
Amanda Jenner added,
“From speaking with businesses in Ceredigion, I can see that there are some fantastic opportunities here, including in the tourism and education sectors. If elected as your MP, I would be a strong voice in Westminster, fighting to ensure that the Growth Deal stays on track and that we get the levels of funding needed for the proposals put forward by the partners of the Growth Deal.”
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