Welsh Conservative Shadow Economy Minister Paul Davies
Just a few months ago I wrote in this paper that Wales had the worst unemployment figures in the UK and that the Labour Government were far more focused on creating high-paying jobs for politicians than for the people of Wales.
Since then, the First Minister has made it clear time and time again that this Senedd term will be dominated by the Welsh Government’s pet projects.
When given the opportunity to discuss his plans to address the people’s priorities and rectify a quarter of a century of Labour’s mismanagement of our economy, education and our Welsh NHS, the First Minister deflects and dodges scrutiny at every turn.
He’s not interested. It’s the complacency that comes with perpetual rule and an outgoing leader who doesn’t have to face the electorate again.
The people of Wales are some of the most innovative and hard working in the world, so while we are seeing some improvements in unemployment numbers, the fact that Labour-run Wales’ economic inactivity rate remains 10% higher than the UK average should be our greatest cause for concern.
These figures cannot be labelled a success while the brain drain to other nations of the UK is still a blight on our labour force.
Action must be taken – and quickly – to reduce the economic inactivity rate and empower businesses in Wales to invest in their workforces so that we do not continue to see the number of payrolled employees continue to fall again.
The Welsh Government needs to get a grip on this and show some leadership. Twenty-five years of Labour holding the economic reins and we’re still facing a brain drain to other parts of the UK.
The UK Conservative Government is taking decisive action to boost employment and get as many of the economically inactive back into work as possible. Rishi Sunak’s five pledges includes a promise to grow the economy.
With UK growth numbers being revised up and inflation halved, there is an optimism that these economic pledges will be met.
Conversely, Labour have made no such pledge to grow the economy here in Wales. There is a distinct lack of ambition from left-wing politicians when it comes to boosting prosperity and I believe that is the key difference between Labour and the Welsh Conservatives.
Despite holding the economic levers, Labour seem wholly disinterested in providing the shot in the arm Wales desperately needs. Successive Labour Economy Ministers seem content with stagnation.
We need to increase the taxpayer base by boosting our workforce, solving our economic inactivity crisis and reversing Wales’ economic decline under Labour.
Wales has the highest business rates in Britain and our high streets are suffering as a result. Time and time again, plans to reform this tax on growth are kicked into the long grass by Labour Finance Ministers.
The Welsh Conservatives would prioritise reducing the burden of taxation on Welsh businesses. We have proposed national insurance refunds for new microbusinesses for their first employees, helping them make the jump from sole traders to job creators.
It is only the Welsh Conservatives who are genuinely listening to businesses and taking onboard their concerns and ideas. In this Senedd alone, we’ve seen Labour ministers ignoring the valid concerns of the tourism industry – who firmly oppose the proposed tourism tax and the harmful 182-day regulations for self-caterers.
This is a simple question of political priorities. Whilst the Welsh Conservatives are keen to do what we can to support businesses, Labour are far more interested in anti-business policies, such as its freeze on the majority road building and even the new 20mph default speed limit. These are policies which will harm businesses, not help them.
After 25 years of Labour holding the economic reins, things continue to go from bad to worse and the views of Welsh businesses continue to be ignored. What’s needed is a change of government with fresh ideas on how to support and nurture the economy.
Only the Welsh Conservatives are capable of delivering the change that Welsh businesses and the Welsh economy needs.