"the Council needs to recognise that the Island’s economic future rests on promoting and supporting multitudes of small businesses - not just one or two large employers. Accordingly the Council must: (a) avoid supporting developments which merely contribute to the cannibalisation of sales from existing small businesses and shops; (b) prioritise reducing the bureaucracy and costs involved in running small businesses on the Island; (c) provide meaningful and high-quality support to encourage both the growth of existing small businesses and the establishment of new ventures."
It is therefore disappointing in the extreme that Ieuan Wyn Jones - Anglesey's AM and Deputy First Minister - has recently announced changes to the way WAG supports the Welsh economy which will in effect do exactly the opposite, i.e. support a few large employers in Wales at the expense of the multitudes of small businesses. As Dylan Jones-Evans notes in his Daily Post column, research clearly shows that companies of less than five years old (which naturally tend to be SMEs) create the vast majority of new jobs, therefore it is clear that a country such as Wales which suffers from an under-developed private sector should strategically focus on providing support to its small businesses as a way of growing the number of private sector jobs.
Unfortunately the WAG's new Economic Renewal Programme (ERP) will shift half of the resources in the £100m Single Investment Fund (i.e. the WAG's central funding 'pot' for business support) to infrastructure projects (such as delivering 'next generation' broadband throughout Wales - not likely to be provided by SMEs), thus halving the amount of repayable loan capital actually available to small businesses. Furthermore, the ERP then proposes to focus the remaining funds on supporting just six 'key sectors':
- Creative industries
- Information Communication Technologies
- Energy and Environment
- Advanced material and manufacturing
- Life Sciences
- Financial and Professional services
Firstly, these sectors are mostly dominated by large companies. Secondly, the WAG press release breathlessly describes them as sectors where "Wales has clear advantages for growth". Really? They sound pretty much like those fields which every other government in the World is keen on growing - what 'clear advantages' does Wales realistically have in any of them? Of course I'm not saying that these businesses shouldn't be supported, just not at the expense of cutting off ALL support to other fast growing small businesses which just happen to be in not quite so fashionable sectors.
Small Businesses in these and other non-supported sectors are the backbone of the Anglesey economy and Anglesey's AM has just abandoned them.
UPDATE: Well known local businessman Glyn Pritchard-Jones leaves a comment below giving an insiders' account of Ieuan Wyn Jones's complete lack of engagement with his own constituency - even when the possibility of 250 new jobs for the Island is served up on a plate:
"Last September I brought a company up from London to Anglesey and we met with IWJ / Brynle Williams (because i wanted to keep IWJ on his toes!) and the local posse. Suffice to say the company is cutting edge / clean technology. The opportunity would be to manufacture in Holyhead and jobs created anticipated as 250 plus. The proposal is currently being love-bombed from different countries and IWJ/WAG/DEIN have been unable to assist. When I am able to, I will provide details of the company when my NDA is released however its' embarrasing that after all the effort made; locally its all talk and no action because WAG is financially embarrassed and somewhat clueless. Why is IWJ simply unable to deliver the goods??"Considering the recent large scale job losses on the Island I would have hoped that our AM would have been chomping at the bit to secure a golden opportunity like this for his constituency. Glyn rightly asks "why is IWJ simply unable to deliver the goods"? My guess is because Ieuan Wyn currently has four jobs (Deputy First Minister, Minister for Economy and Transport, Leader of Plaid Cymru, and Anglesey AM) - which is at least three jobs more than he is capable of. As officially the poorest sub-region in the UK, Ynys Môn can no longer afford the luxury of an AM who's first priority is not looking after his own constituency.