Welsh Labour Leadership Contest: The votes are in - but will the outcome make any difference to the future of Wales?

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The polls have closed for the Welsh Labour leadership election and the winner will be announced on Thursday (6 December).  But will the outcome have any significant impacts on the future of Welsh development and infrastructure?

While Mark Drakeford has remained the favourite to become the next First Minister since becoming the early front-runner, the divided nature of politics and preferential election process means it would be dangerous to discount the other two candidates, Eluned Morgan and Vaughan Gething, before the final result is announced.

We have taken a look at each candidate’s policy commitments and the impacts these may have on the built environment, construction, transport and energy sectors.

Mark Drakeford:

The current Finance Minister has long been seen as the inevitable successor to Carwyn Jones, with his experience and commitment to Jeremy Corbyn and the UK Labour Party being seen as the cornerstones to his leadership drive. Mark has clearly set out his policy commitments and released a detailed manifesto entitled “21st Century Socialism”.

So, what is Mark proposing under his leadership:

·       Energy: Mark 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), as well as setting up an independent commission to advise on nuclear power.

·       Housing and Regeneration: Mark 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: He has expressed a strong desire to tackling M4 congestion in South Wales, although he is yet to commit to the M4 relief road, unlike Eluned and Vaughan. Additionally, Mark claims that he would revise Planning Policy Wales to make provision of sustainable transport infrastructure a fundamental requirement for new development

Eluned Morgan:

The last to get on the ballot following the intervention of Carwyn Jones to ensure a woman was on the ballot paper, Morgan has been clear in expressing her principal policy area: The Welsh Economy.  Eluned has stated that “economic development and the provision of jobs will be my first priority as First Minister of Wales.” Below is a summary of the key manifesto commitments set out:

·       Energy: having formerly been Director of National Development for SSE in Wales, this is an area Eluned is very familiar with.  She has detailed a range of ambitions for energy in Wales including producing affordable clean energy, increased regulation around sustainable construction, a carbon-neutral public sectors and stronger renewable energy policy.  Eluned has also recently expressed her support for nuclear power.

·       Housing and Regeneration: In terms of regeneration, Morgan was quick to bring economics into play. She stated that “I will investigate the introduction of a Cymru Currency to see if we can encourage people to spend more of our Welsh money locally.” Morgan also added that she will assemble a panel of experts to give advice on revising taxation in Wales who can then investigate how best to support Wales’ town centres.

·       Transport and the M4 Relief Road: Eluned has stated that encouraging active travel and supporting public transport could transform the economy in South Wales, whilst also standing by the election manifesto on which Labour promised to deliver the M4 relief road.

Vaughan Gething:

Vaughan has positioned himself as the candidate for change in the Labour leadership bid.  Using the campaign slogan - ‘ChangeTakesCourage’ - Vaughan asks “What kind of Wales do you think we deserve?” Despite not providing a detailed manifesto, based on interviews and statements, his key policy commitments can be surmised as follows:

·       Energy: Vaughan makes little mention of energy and environmental issues, but has recently expressed support for nuclear power.

·       Housing and Regeneration: Vaughan has been clear that in order to support Wales’ town centres, we need to empower local authorities to ensure they have the financial tools to ensure their communities thrive. He states that he wants to reset the relationship between Councils and the Welsh Government, allowing local authorities to have greater control over the way they spend their budgets.

·       Transport and the M4 Relief Road: For Vaughan, doing nothing with regards to the issue of congestion in Wales is not an option. He adds that this means delivering the M4 relief road.

It is clear there is a range of new policies being put forward by the three candidates in relation to the future of economic development, investment and development in Wales.  It is likely that a collections of these (from all candidates) will be promoted as the Assembly term progresses, with the emphasis depending on who the new Leader is, and how their cabinet is formed moving forward.

Please watch this page or follow us on Twitter @Grasshopper_UK to keep up to date with the Welsh Labour leadership race.

Lewis Clark, Account Executive

Engagement with civic society is key to delivering new infrastructure

At last week’s Infrastructure Investment and Delivery in Wales Conference (http://www.cewales.org.uk/2015/11/what-next-for-wales-infrastructure/) hosted by Constructing Excellence Wales, one of the key themes to be repeated is that a lack of public understanding and support is a major hurdle when it comes to enabling progress of major new infrastructure. 

During this time of austerity there are bound to be challenges when it comes to convincing the public that building new infrastructure is a prudent use of public money when competing with essential public services for funds.  This results in proposals becoming political footballs to then be kicked around in the media, inevitability lessening the level of public confidence.  However, it is generally acknowledged that there is a clear need for improved infrastructure across Wales and the UK to help ensure long-term economic recovery and growth – so how do we start ensuring an improved level of positive engagement with civic society when it comes to infrastructure in Wales?

Essentially, a joined up approach to campaigning for the delivery of new infrastructure is needed to tackle political debate head on and attempt to change the tone of the media coverage and social dialogue taking place.   The recently established Homes for Wales campaign (https://twitter.com/HomesforWales) is one such example of a collaborative approach to getting out key messages about the need for development. 

The Welsh Government has identified that a more joined up approach overall to the delivery of infrastructure would be beneficial, due to the complexities of the required alignment of political representatives, government and the private sector in order to facilitate delivery.  Therefore, Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Finance and Government Business, has announced plans for the establishment of a Wales Infrastructure Forum to enable key players to come around the table and agree a strategy for progress. 

Although this may not be the correct platform to launch an actual campaign – communications will hopefully be high up on the agenda.  This will hopefully result longer term in a more joined up and assertive approach to ensuring a wider public understanding of the value of new infrastructure and why it is key to enabling the Dragon Economy to take flight.