Mark Drakeford wins the Welsh Labour Leadership election with a promise of 21st Century Socialism

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The result from the last few months of hustings, campaigning and policy promises came to a head this week, and as expected, Mark Drakeford secured victory as the new Leader of the Welsh Labour Party.

The Cardiff West AM took 46.9% of first preference votes, while his opposition candidates, Vaughan Gething and Baroness Morgan took 30.8% and 22.3% respectively. With no candidate reaching 50%, Baroness Morgan was eliminated and second-preference votes of her supporters were redistributed. In the final totals, Prof Drakeford beat Mr Gething by 53.9% to 41.4%.

After nine years as First Minister, Carwyn Jones will stand down following his final First Minister Questions on Tuesday, with Prof Drakeford expected to be confirmed as First Minister on Wednesday.

Prof Drakeford has represented the Cardiff West Assembly constituency since 2011, holding a number of prominent positions within Welsh Government during that period, including his current role as Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

Drawing on his experience working under former First Minister Rhodri Morgan as well as his commitment to Jeremy Corbyn, Prof Drakeford launched a comprehensive leadership manifesto last month entitled ‘21st Century Socialism’ setting out his key policy objectives.

So what does this mean for the future of Wales? Will we see the beginning of a 21st century socialism - or will it be business as usual for Welsh Labour?

From a planning, regeneration and infrastructure perspective, there are a number of key policy commitments of interest that could have significant future impacts:

·       Energy: Prof Drakeford has proposed a large surge in Wales’ relationship with renewable and sustainable energy. In his manifesto he outlines that investment in renewable energy must be seen as a bid to boost the Welsh economy, adding that Wales must make use of the abundance of wind, water and waves available.   His pledges include re-examining the case for a new Welsh Energy Mutual (based on the Welsh Water model), support for the Tidal Lagoon project, as well as setting up an independent commission to advise on nuclear power.

·       Housing and Regeneration: Prof Drakeford has stated that he would appoint a Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for housing and allied matters, allowing housing to be represented at the top table. He adds to this that he would press ahead with plans for a vacant land tax, tackling land banking and allowing for the release of land for housing and regeneration developments.  He has also committed to aligning housing and planning responsibilities, allowing councils to work together more flexibly across boundaries in a bid to provide the housing Welsh people need.

·       Transport and the M4 relief road: Prof Drakeford has expressed a strong desire to tackling M4 congestion in South Wales, although he is yet to commit to the M4 relief road – although this decision will now fall to him (and not Carwyn Jones as previously anticipated).  Additionally, Prof Drakeford claims that he would revise Planning Policy Wales to make provision of sustainable transport infrastructure a fundamental requirement for new development (PPW Edition 11 could be arriving sooner than expected).

There is no doubt that Prof Drakeford is a man of conviction who will be committed to following through on the pledges set out in his manifesto that has resulted in a strong election win.  He has clearly convinced Labour Party members he is the man to lead Wales, but he now needs to convince the wider population of Wales also, as he looks to roll out his manifesto commitments and steer Wales down, what could be, a bolder new path. 

For updates on all things politics, regeneration and infrastructure - please watch this space or follow us on Twitter at @Grasshopper_UK.

UK Budget 2018: Wales, Housing and the End of Austerity?

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While austerity, cuts and taxation caught the headlines in yesterday’s budget, other key points from the announcement included a boost to housing and infrastructure projects across the UK and £500m over the next three years for Welsh Government.

Additionally, the Treasury committed to a review of the Welsh Government’s borrowing powers including a potential £300m extension to support the delivery of projects including the M4 relief road, a removal of the cap of local authority borrowing to enable councils to build more houses and the appointment of a dedicated manager from the British Business Bank in Wales for the first time.

In response,  Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, stated that: “today’s budget shows the scale of ambition the UK Government has for Wales.” However, not all felt as positively as Cairns. Speaking candidly, Welsh Government Finance Minister and early front-runner in the Welsh Labour Leadership contest, Mark Drakeford, claimed that “any suggestion this Conservative Government’s failed policy of austerity is over, on the evidence, is wrong,” and real-term cuts paired with Brexit unease left many suggesting that austerity is far from over.

The Chancellor stood by his commitment to a house-building programme in England, announcing both  an extra £500m for the Housing Infrastructure Fund to support the building of 650,000 homes across the country and the next wave of strategic partnerships with nine Housing Associations, in a move that is expected to bring a further 13,000 homes.

High streets were also on the agenda and a £675m High Streets Fund was launched to regenerate high streets and town centres which could see empty or under-used retail and office space turned into flats. Although this would potentially make the conversion process of empty buildings a lot smoother, commentators, such as the RTPI urged caution “about making it easier for empty shops to be turned to residential use.” 

What is clear from this year’s budget however, is a commitment to creating much needed housing, and, with a further axe on stamp duty - it is hoped more people will get onto the housing ladder and give the economy a much needed boost.