Thursday, 21 April 2011

“They're more interested in making the backs of the buildings look nice for the ferries”

The Daily Post backs Enterprise Zone status for Holyhead
I was in Holyhead on Monday with Wales Office Minister, David Jones MP, to meet with local small business and shop owners to discuss the economic problems facing the town. The general consensus was that despite the millions which have been ploughed into Holyhead over the years, due to a lack of consultation with local residents and businesses (“they just do what they want to do”), and due to a lack of vision and direction in both WAG and the County Council, the economic fortunes of the town have declined rather than improved. This is certainly borne out by the fact that Holyhead now has the highest jobseekers to vacancy ratio in all of Wales. There was also great dissatisfaction that more had not been done to help two of the town’s largest employers, Anglesey Aluminium and Eaton Electric, which both closed within months of each other in 2009 losing 700 jobs between them – the eleventh hour offer of a £48m loan to Anglesey Aluminium was “too little, too late”.  In terms of attracting new businesses to replace them the feeling was that too much money and effort was being spent on brushing up the appearance of the place (“they're more interested in making the backs of the buildings look nice for the ferries”) but not enough was being done to proactively support the existing small businesses or attract new enterprises which should provide the beating heart of any town. Unsurprisingly the Council and many of its members came in for severe criticism.

There are of course no silver bullets for the economic problems being faced in Holyhead or, indeed, all over Ynys Môn. But one thing is certain: you cannot continue to do the same things and expect different outcomes. The time has come to try something radically different and that is why I have been pushing for Holyhead to become the first Enterprise Zone in Wales. Announced in last month’s Budget, 21 Enterprise Zones will be set up in England, with the closest one to us being in Wirral Waters, Birkenhead. As Economic Development is devolved in Wales, WAG has now received £65m as the ‘Barnett consequential’ of this policy and it will be up to the new Welsh Government to decide post May 5th how to use this money. I sincerely hope that WAG will give serious thought to introducing a similar Enterprise Zone policy here in Wales due to their terrific potential to help revive some of our most economically struggling areas – and to this end,  I’m delighted that the Daily Post has also come out in support of my calls for Holyhead to become Wales’ first Enterprise Zone (see image above).

In terms of the specifics of Enterprise Zones, the Welsh Conservatives would push for the following:

  • tax breaks for both existing and new businesses – including the lifting of business rates and discussions with Westminster on the possibility of also obtaining corporation tax reductions
  • simplified planning rules to assist businesses setting up or expanding
  • the roll out of super-fast broadband

It is also important to note that the benefits of having an Enterprise Zone in Holyhead would not be just confined to Holyhead. As Ynys Môn’s largest town, it is in the interests of the Island as a whole to have a thriving, profitable and growing economy in Holyhead. Enterprise Zones have their critics, but quite frankly, its time to try something new and radical in Holyhead: to simply carry on tinkering around the edges will not change anything.


kp said...

Start by listing the reasons why businesses don't choose to move to Holyhead. And then add on the reasons why businesses don't choose to set-up in Holyhead.

These are the things you politicians need to work on, nothing else.

Why try to make everything so complicated and wasteful?

Anonymous said...

So, the Druid is now pushing Thatcherite policies for the island. Well done, Paul.

Anonymous said...

Much of this has nothing to do with the WAG and is the domain of the UK Parliament which, at the last time I looked, was Conservative. So there has been nothing stopping them doing most of this since last year.

It hasn't been because a Conservative government doesn't want to.

Anonymous said...

tax breaks - undevolved
business rates- possibility
corporation tax- undevolved

planning rules- the majority of framework plans are whitehall based, particularly on environmental side- so undevolved.

super fast broadband- could do.

So on the whole, nice idea, but the power ain't there- we need MORE devolution.

Secondly, 'wow' a blog from the druid on the campaign trail.... didn't think it would happen!

Anonymous said...

David Bowles has gone.

Following the new Rebecca TV article, David Bowles has now slunk off back to where he once came, as the highest paid failure in the history of Local Government with plenty of recriminations to follow.
More later.

Anonymous said...

anon 18:40 So, the Druid is now pushing Thatcherite policies for the island. Well done, Paul.

Push any policy that can be clearly identified as 'Thatcherite' in Wales or Scotland and you'll get spanked at the ballot box. She's a very unifying force outside of England - against the Tories. There are people who won't vote Tory because of her who weren't even born when she stood down as PM. This is especially true in Scotland and South Wales and is probably one of the reasons why the tories are fighting not to finish fourth in Scotland and why Labour will probably win the Assembly outright. Having the tories in Westminster benefits the anti-Tory vote in the regions largely because of the impact Thatcher had.

Anonymous said...

With all these negative comments on your blog, it a little wonder we are poorest place in the UK ! They are afraid of admitting that Paul is the one to move us forward.
Fight on Paul you are getting there !!

Un o Fon

The Red Flag said...

I fail to see any negativity. Pointing out that most of this is a London issue not a WAG issue is not negative, it's true. As is the point made that the tory vote in Wales & Scotland was all-but destroyed because of Thatcher.

As for Holyhead - if anyone has any serious intention of rejuvenating the town centre than they have got to stop promoting out of town developments. It's as simple as that. Occasionally people get distracted by paying for car parks but that's a nonsense - car parking on Anglesey is dirt cheap. The bottom line is that there is insufficient population and disposable income to support out-of-town shopping areas and town centres.

And it is that simple and always has been. If anyone actually thought that Holyhead could turn back the tide and support a retail park of that comparative size and a town centre then they should be taken outside and stoned. There simpy is not.

Another classic is the idea of turning the Parc Cybi into a lorry park. First off, the reason the lorries are parked all round Morrisons is because it has a nice, spacious, well lit and affordable cafeteria and shopping facilities. Irrespective of what happens at Parc Cybi (which will be nothing to match that), the lorries will stil park up around Morrisons unless the facilities are better and cheaper at Parc Cybi. Buyers market.

Anonymous said...

Whinging business owners need to play their part. They're too busy critising all the time rather than contributing to the debate. And they are as guilty as anyone else of doing the same old thing and rather than looking to blame others should look a touch closer to home.

NR said...

why limit the Enterprise zone to just Holyhead - have a look at amlwch and llangefni for example-with business rate increase of over 150% (common), vat 5% higher than 12 months ago, business fuel costs up circa 28% in last 12 months and more red tape than other other european country would tolerate why would any sane person think of going into business at the moment.

The Red Flag said...

NR - Anglesey has a low enough and dispersed enough population to warrant arguing the case for the whole island to be made an EZ.

Anonymous said...

Prosperity won't come without a rise in population. Set free planning to allow more housing (not just more affordable housing). Build it and they will come....and spend money.

The Red Flag said...

anon, there's one flaw in your plan - oil.

Over the next decade the cost of motoring is going to soar in relation to earnings. People in ordinary jobs woill not be able to afford to commute. If you build lots of houses then you are also going to have to tempt in lots of decent-waged jobs close to where these houses are along with all the relvant community infrastructure other wise people will not be able to afford both a house and the cost of commuting.

Sustainable localisation is going to come very much to the fore and it's going to come a lot sooner than people realise.