The Holyhead & Anglesey Mail has a very troubling story this week about how Anglesey County Councillors are planning to spend Llangefni's £1.8m slice of the Three Towns Fund. This money, provided by the European Regional Development Fund, the Welsh Assembly's Mon a Menai programme, the Lottery and Anglesey County Council's own coffers, is supposed to spent on projects which:
- create jobs
- win back shoppers to town centres
- and build on tourism projects
Before I go on I should point out that as far as the Druid is concerned Menter Môn does a fantastic job and this post should in no way be seen as being critical of them. However, considering the aims of the fund set out above, is this really the best use the Council could find for the money?
- Menter Môn already have offices in Llangefni (behind the Council buildings) - so effectively one organisation already present in Llangefni is going to move to another part of Llangefni. Accordingly there is no net impact on jobs in Llangefni.
- As Menter Môn's employees already presumably shop in Llangefni, it is difficult to see how this will deliver any more shoppers to Llangefni's town shops.
- Do you often hear Llangefni residents say, "you know what Llangefni needs? More office space, thats what". No? Neither do I.
Of course its easy to criticise, and as Gerallt Llywelyn, the Menter Môn CEO says in the article, "we have come up with a vision for the town hall when no-one else would come forward". Accordingly, here is the Druid's advice to the Council on how the money should have been spent:
- The very first thing that I would urge the Council to do would be to look at rectifying the incredibly shortsighted decision they made years ago to house the Oriel Môn so far outside the centre of Llangefni. Its current position next to the Public Golf Course means that the shops of Llangefni enjoy no benefit from its presence as it is just too far for Oriel visitors to walk into the town centre. People come in cars and leave in cars without spending any time in Llangefni itself. What a ridiculous own goal by the Council considering that the natural location for the Oriel would have been inside the defunct town hall located slap-band in the town centre. I appreciate that after all the money the council have lavished on it, it would take a great deal more than £1.8m to bring the Oriel to the town hall, but it's impossible to write about what should be done in Llangefni without mentioning this characteristically backward decision by the council.
- The key to Llangefni's future actually lies in its past. As the road signs when you enter the town say, Llangefni is a "Market Town" - this is what Llangefni's past success was built on and what it should also capitalise on now. If the town hall cannot be repurposed to house the Oriel collection, then the ground floor should be refitted so that it can serve as an enclosed market. The bustling Thursday markets in Llangefni used to bring in visitors from all over the island which benefitted both the market traders and also the local shops - now the current market is a shadow of its former self. Making a dedicated market area and promoting not just the traditional Thursday market, but also holding other specialist markets on different days of the week - think farmer's markets, antiques markets, etc - would be a sustainable investment which would keep on giving to the town.
UPDATE: An anonymous commenter below feels this is proof of Ieuan Wyn Jones delivering for Anglesey. I couldn't disagree more and offer this reply:
"This would be the Three Towns Fund money supplied by the Welsh Assembly Goverment then."
No, as I wrote at the top of my post, the WAG only supplies a portion of the money. The rest comes from the EU, the Lottery, and Anglesey County Council.
"Seems like Ieuan Wyn Jones can deliver for the island after all. No mention of it in your post, though Druid."
You call this delivering? Firstly, as I just pointed out, only a portion of the money came from WAG; Secondly, despite Anglesey being officially the poorest county in the UK with a GVA per head of just 53% of the UK's average, only £8 million has been allocated for regenerating the Island as part of the Three Towns Fund. Compare this to the £100 million of European funding that the Welsh Assembly recently injected into the much more prosperous area of Swansea - with a much higher GVA per head figure than Anglesey (7% above the all-Wales level but 19% below the UK average). To add insult to injury, the Swansea announcement came on almost the very day that Anglesey Aluminium was closing with a loss of 450 jobs. Is being tossed scraps from the table your definition of IWJ 'delivering for the island'? Because it isn't mine. For more info from an impartial source, see this for example.
"The lack of objectivity in this blog is getting quite farcical. Why don't you just come out for the Tories and be done with it? At least your pretence at being independant could then be seen for what it is - a complete nonsense."
I'm afraid that the lack of objectivity is being shown by yourself if this is the best you can point to show us that 23 years of Ieuan Wyn Jones has been good to the Island.