Joyce Watson AM’s County Times ‘Politically Speaking’ column
This month’s floods have been awful, even by recent years’ standards. Let’s hope for a drier March. The footage and stories from places like Crickhowell – one of the hardest hit areas of the country – have been distressing. Elsewhere, from Ystradgynlais to Welshpool and Machynlleth, road and rail closures have caused all sorts of misery and disruption. The Welsh Government has promised an initial £10m to help – £500 to every affected household, with a further £500 given to families with no insurance. That will be a real help.
But the clean-up and repair bill will be many millions more. Powys council is meeting today to discuss the cost of the storms so far, and what can be done to help residents. Meanwhile, the UK government has announced lots of extra money for England but not a single consequential penny for Wales. That’s not right. Boris Johnson has made a big play about governing for all of Britain, not just the Tory heartlands. Wales has suffered a national emergency; the prime minister must back up his words with action.
The UK government should also throw its weight behind the Growing Mid Wales Partnership. The initiative – between the private and public sectors and Welsh Government – was set up in 2015 with the aim of boosting the mid Wales economy. It is not about short-term handouts but, rather, long-term structural investment. If it is to deliver lasting change for our county, though, it needs real money behind it. Last October, the UK Government said it would provide £55 million for the scheme. But when you consider the Welsh Government put in £95 million for the Newtown bypass alone (with no help from UK government, by the way), you can see that £55 million won’t go very far. Throughout the Brexit campaign Boris Johnson and others promised to make good the lost millions of EU regional funding. His government has since said it will manage this through a UK Shared Prosperity Fund. However, we don’t yet know whether it will match EU funding or if spending decisions will be devolved. Again, the prime minister must put his – or rather our tax – money where his mouth is.