Regeneration plans must not be in vain
THE evasive comments made in the Lords by Home Office Minister Lord Greenhalgh when asked about the scheme to replace European aid money for Wales are hardly a surprise.
But they point up yet again the low ebb of the relationship between the UK and Welsh governments.
It is not surprising that European Transition Minister Jeremy Miles finds it outrageous that three years spent putting together plans aimed at the economic regeneration of Wales post-Brexit could all have been in vain.
Economic development is a devolved matter, but you wouldn’t think so from Lord Greenhalgh’s answers to questions from Welsh peers in the House of Lords.
It is clear that the UK Government doesn’t want the Welsh Government involved in administering the projects to be run in Wales under the aegis of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
When we were in the EU, Wales’ poorest region received three successive seven-year rounds of toplevel EU regional aid funding.
West Wales and the Valleys qualified for such assistance because it met very specific criteria. The Gross Value Added (GVA) per head measure in the region was less than 75% that of the EU as a whole.
There has been no indication that a similar measure will be applied to those areas seeking funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Lord Greenhalgh repeatedly made reference to the overall amount of money that would be available across the UK as a whole, but made no commitment at all in terms of what would be available for Wales.
It’s certainly the case that the £200m set aside for pilot projects under the fund is no more than a drop in the ocean, and significantly less than the annual sum received by Wales from the EU.
We know that the Conservatives will be anxious to hang on to the so-called Red Wall seats in the north of England which they won from Labour at the last General Election.
The suspicion is that they will divert money into such constituencies in a “pork barrel” effort to keep voters on board.
It is wholly unacceptable that public money should be spent in this way.
It appears that Boris Johnson wants to roll back devolution as part of his drive to present to the world his version of “global Britain”.
He should be reined in.