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

Let us start building a coaltion for change – exploring the Deep Place approach to economic renewal

This week saw the Regeneration Skills Collective host a seminar exploring the ‘Deep Place’ approach to sustainable community renewal. 

This research stems from the year-long Tredegar Deep Place study published in 2014 by Dave Adamson and Mark Lang for CREW (Regeneration Wales), looking at the development of more locally focused economic activity and how this could tackle problems of poverty and social exclusion in communities where mainstream economic policy traditionally have no impact.

It was fascinating to hear Dave Adamson explain in detail the work he is currently undertaking in developing the Deep Place approach in Australia, in particular a project in Logan - a satellite city of Brisbane with acute social exclusion and poverty issues.  Here the Deep Place plan is successfully linking into local programmes of social enterprise development and social procurement by local government.  It is also ensuring that the stock transfer of 4,800 homes maximises the local economic development opportunities. 

Adamson’s view is that the social housing sector is well placed to help lead and catalyse a Deep Place approach and establish a localised coalition for change.   Adamson expressed his disappointment at the lack of leadership seen to date from both central and local government within Wales, not necessarily due to a lack of interest, but rather a lack of appropriate resource, structure and leadership. 

The evening saw insightful responses from Calvin Jones (Professor of Economics, Cardiff Business School), Ben Cottam (Head of External Affairs Federation of Small Businesses Wales) and Anna McMorrin (Consultant on poverty and sustainability) who in particular provided an interesting perspective as a former Welsh Government Special Advisor around the structural restrictions and silo working within central government that makes this type of localised, cross portfolio, socioeconomic approach difficult to implement.

The lack of response within Wales to what is undoubtedly a well-considered study offering an alternative solution to an ongoing problem is no doubt disappointing.  However it struck me that really, this all links back to what many would argue is a need for a widespread culture change within society (not just in deprived areas), in terms of encouraging a more sustainable, local and healthier approach and culture to how we consume and live across the whole of Wales (in terms of sustainable energy generation, localised food production, care provision models etc). 

So maybe Welsh Government should not only be looking at Deep Place opportunities in key target regeneration areas, but leading the way to drive forward some of the key themes across Wales (some may argue the Future Generations Act signals the start of this).

The conclusion from the evening was that the opportunity for developing such a vision for Wales needs a serious and proactive response from the public, private and third sectors.  

It is clearly down to all of us who can see the potential of the Deep Place approach to take responsibility and help drive this agenda forward.

To find out more about the study click here to visit the CREW website.