For too long now, Wales has been caught in the grips of economic stagnation, continually coming in last place in UK-wide economy surveys. While it’s noteworthy that the unemployment rate in Wales is well below the UK-wide level, people in Wales are less than half as wealthy as their counterparts in London. Furthermore, the wealthiest areas in Wales are consistently below the UK average.
Since 2000, Wales has received £4 billion in “EU funds”, paying for projects all over Wales. For the purpose of receiving EU funds, Wales has been split into two regions:
- West Wales and the Valleys – which has been classed as a less developed region, and receives funds specifically because it’s one of the poorest regions of the EU, where GDP is less than 75% of the EU average.
- East Wales – which has been classed as a more prosperous region, where GDP is 90% or more of the EU average.
For the billions of pounds in funding that the EU has thrown at Wales over the last two decades, Wales still struggles with domestic wealth creation, social deprivation and poverty. In fact, around a fifth of the Welsh Government’s annual budget is spent on tackling poverty, directly affecting around a quarter of the population.
It would be unfair to say that the EU has caused every single one of the problems that we face today in Wales, although 53% of people in Wales said that we would be better off out of the EU last summer. One of the biggest factors responsible for today’s biggest societal challenges is the governance of the Labour Party. Since the beginning of devolution in Wales, Labour has always been the party of Government. Under successive Labour governments in Wales, we have seen continuous Council Tax rises and real term cuts in NHS spending.
To add insult to injury, this same Welsh Labour Government is set to receive the power to raise or cut up to 10p within each tax band, from 2019. This devolution of Income Tax rates is likely to see an increased pressure on the overall budget, as the economy is smaller and tax revenue lower than the rest of the UK.
The time has come for Wales to start pursuing policies of self-reliance and implement programmes of wealth creation. We need to stop relying on ‘external funds’ to make up the shortfalls, especially when this money is destined to alleviate societal challenges. Politicians across the political spectrum in Wales need to set an example of fiscal responsibility and encourage small businesses to generate wealth in the local economy.
This article was originally published on BrexitCentral.