ELEC­TION RESHUF­FLE COULD HELP ‘RALLY4WALES’ EF­FORT

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - Photos: JMS Pho­to­graphic, Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic

Rally4wales cam­paign leader and Welsh co-driver Jamie Ed­wards is hope­ful the newly reshuf­fled Welsh govern­ment will help push for­ward a so­lu­tion to the Welsh ral­ly­ing cri­sis.

Last week Ken Skates was pro­moted to the role of cab­i­net sec­re­tary for econ­omy and in­fra­struc­ture, while re­tain­ing his job as brief for sport and cul­ture. Skates has at­tended Wales Rally GB and sup­ported the event, even tak­ing a ride with El­fyn Evans in a Ford Fi­esta WRC.

Nat­u­ral Re­source Wales and the Mo­tor Sports As­so­ci­a­tion can’t cur­rently agree a deal for the use of Welsh forests for ral­ly­ing. NRW is ask­ing for an in­crease of more than dou­ble it’s cur­rent fees, which it claims will cover a dam­age ex­cess.

Ed­wards be­lieves Skates is well briefed on the cri­sis.

“Ken is aware of the is­sues and hope­fully he can take that for­ward,” said Ed­wards. “The new min­is­ter or sec­re­tary responsible for Nat­u­ral Re­source Wales is Les­lie Grif­fiths. She’s an ex­pe­ri­enced mem­ber of the Welsh govern­ment. Hope­fully they’ll be able to see the is­sue and the wider pic­ture, and what we do to solve it. It’s very pos­i­tive that Ken and Les­lie are in those po­si­tions as they are both prag­matic peo­ple who can act and see the big­ger pic­ture at the same time.”

This week the first min­is­ter – Car­wyn Jones – is ex­pected to make a state­ment in re­sponse to a ques­tion raised by a Lib­eral Demo­crat with re­gards to what the govern­ment in­tends to do about the cri­sis. Ed­wards is hop­ing that the de­ci­sion isn’t to fund the dif­fer­ence in fees for NRW as that will jus­tify the rise in costs and set a wor­ry­ing prece­dent.

“Kirsty Wil­liams [for­mer Welsh Lib Dem leader] has writ­ten to the first min­is­ter and it’s on record through the as­sem­bly sys­tem ask­ing what’s be­ing done about it [the stale­mate be­tween NRW and the MSA] and he has to re­spond to that,” added Ed­wards. “Oth­ers have done the same thing so strictly speak­ing he should make a state­ment say­ing what is be­ing done about it. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what he says.

“My con­cern is the Welsh govern­ment says ‘if we need to put £300,000 [the fee NRW is re­quest­ing from the MSA] in the pot be­cause it’s a big in­dus­try, we’ll do it’. That to a lot of peo­ple would be great, but I ac­tu­ally think that would be a re­ally bad thing. What it does is jus­tify the costs NRW have pro­posed and I don’t think they’re right in my opin­ion.”

Speak­ing at the 2015 Wales Rally GB me­dia day, Skates said: “This has be­come a huge event and it was a mas­ter­stroke bring­ing it to Wales. We’ve got ev­ery con­fi­dence in it con­tin­u­ing to grow.

“It’s a mag­nif­i­cent way to show­case the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment in North Wales and to show North Wales as a des­ti­na­tion for vis­i­tors. It brings in huge num­bers of peo­ple and this has a mas­sive eco­nomic im­pact. It ben­e­fits a huge num­ber of busi­nesses and it gives us an op­por­tu­nity to part­ner with num­ber of lo­cal author­i­ties like NRW.”

Wales Rally GB is press­ing on with plans for this year’s event de­spite the mas­ter agree­ment. This year’s route will be re­vealed on June 1 in MN, when Wales Rally GB ad­vanced ticket sales be­gin. If you pre-regis­ter be­fore June 1 on the Rally GB web­site, you will be en­tered into a prize draw for a chance to be a pas­sen­ger in a WRC car on the event’s me­dia day.

Last week the Rally4wales cam­paign launched a pe­ti­tion that has al­ready gar­nered over 4000 sig­na­tures. It can be found on­line at as­sem­bly.wales.

Welsh Ral­ly­ing is at risk with cur­rent stale­mate Skates (l) took a spin with El­fyn Evans in 2015

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