Welsh Labour Spring Conference: Brexit, austerity, and social partnerships

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Held amidst the stifling political uncertainty of a postponed Brexit and the divisive talk of a people’s vote, the recent Welsh Labour Party Conference was quietly fraught with discordance, meaning it is no surprise that there weren’t too many headline grabbing policy announcements.  

The focus of party leader Jeremy Corbyn was to differentiate Wales by insisting that ‘Welsh Government is doing its best’ despite widespread austerity and extraordinary levels of political volatility within the UK, and  he took the opportunity to sympathise with fellow party members regarding the severity and impact of central government cuts. Corbyn maintained that a UK wide approach is needed to remedy Welsh funding issues: ‘The answer is an end to austerity and the answer is a Labour Government for the whole of the UK which will properly fund Wales’.

Corbyn’s closing remarks focused on climate change, stating that a Labour Government would reverse the decision of the Tidal Lagoon and strive to instigate a ‘green industrial revolution’ that would bring clean energy and a host of new jobs nationwide.

Mark Drakeford, speaking at conference for the first time as First Minister, stated his regret for the challenges facing Wales’s youth in the form of Brexit and widespread austerity and avoided mentioning a potential second referendum entirely. Instead, Drakeford took the opportunity to hammer home the importance of the proposed Social Partnership Bill for Wales, which aims to put ethical standards of employment at the core of Welsh Government economic and social policy and public service delivery.  Specifically, this would be done by enforcing standards (such as living wage and employment contracts) through government supply chains.

Drakeford sees the proposed Social Partnership Bill as an opportunity to bring the strength of a statutory foundation – building on the Equality Act of the last Labour Government – to demand the highest standards of training, education and skills within Wales. The Bill would also look to reassert the importance and centrality of workers as ‘the country’s greatest asset’.

Although Drakeford did not comment at length on housing, he stated that Welsh Government would set Councils to building council houses, providing affordable housing for the people.  Drakeford also raised the renewable energy agenda stating that he regretted the decision on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, and stressed that he wished for Wales to be at the forefront of renewable technology.

There was little else to report in terms of infrastructure and regeneration announcements - so now we turn our attention and wait with bated breath for the key infrastructure  announcement that everybody has been waiting for – the verdict on the M4 relief road.

To keep up with politics, planning and the built environment in Wales, please follow us on Twitter @Grasshopper_UK or get in touch.