“It seems that Labour in Cardiff Bay are quite happy to continue gilding their own back yard, while blatantly ignoring the needs of north Wales." Sian Gwenllian
Having expressed her disappointment at the Welsh Government's announcement on Friday that it would be locating the new Welsh Revenue Authority in Treforrest - 10 highly commutable miles from Cardiff - Arfon Assembly Member Sian Gwenllian notes that the decision is particularly nonsensical in view of all the assurances made by Labour about working to bridge the north-south divide.
Said Sian Gwenllian, "Labour both here in Wales and in Westminster have said three times now that they are keen to see a better spread of economic opportunities beyond Cardiff and London. Both Ken Skates and Carwyn Jones have made comments to this affect in the Senedd, and it is the height of irony that Labour in Cardiff Bay snubbed north Wales just hours before Westminster's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell's announcement that Labour is pledging to end the north-south divide by introducing new laws guaranteeing an end to funding gaps between the regions. I presume he was talking of an England-only policy? Either that or Carwyn Jones didn't get the memo. This shows once again that what a divided Labour says and what divided Labour does are two very different things.
Six weeks ago, in response to a suggestion by Plaid Cymru's Adam Price that the WRA should be located in north Wales, Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates spoke of his desire to "share opportunities right across Wales.'
During First Minister Questions at the Senedd in January Sian Gwenllian put it to Carwyn Jones that Caernarfon would be an ideal location for the WRA as the Welsh Government has a half-empty building in the town and a population ideally suited to serving the public bilingually, and he answered that it was a matter he had asked his officials to consider.
"...I do understand that where a new body is created - a new public body in that regard - we should look beyond Cardiff, and perhaps look beyond the south, to see whether there is a way to ensure that the body can be located somewhere else in Wales", said Carwyn Jones at the time.
But this was not to be, and an announcement followed on Friday that the WRA will go to south Wales, a mere ten miles from Cardiff. The decision has been a huge disappointment to the people of Arfon and across north Wales, who see it as yet another body-blow at a time when economic conditions in rural Wales are worsening.
"Over the weekend people have been expressing their disbelief at this decision," said Sian Gwenllian. "Carwyn Jones had made all the right noises about giving north Wales some serious consideration this time, and the general ethos of his party - supposedly - is to close the gap between the more affluent south and the struggling north. John McDonnell has said that the next Labour government will shift power and wealth away from a few gilded places in the south-east and back into the rest of the UK, but it seems that Labour in Cardiff Bay are quite happy to continue gilding their own back yard, while blatantly ignoring the needs of north Wales."