ELECTION RESHUFFLE COULD HELP ‘RALLY4WALES’ EFFORT
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.