Prosperity gulf opens between Wales and London

Dafydd Wigley says we need a new deal to tackle Wales poor economic performance

In the frenzy of debate about the Census figures on the Welsh language a few weeks ago, few people noticed  the annual tables for average income levels in Britain. These statistics reveal a continuing north/south divide.

Average income  is measured as ‘Gross Value Added’ (GVA) per person. The income gap  between Wales (or  Northern England ) compared to  Southeast England, is staggering. Wales has the lowest income per head of any nation or region in the UK.

West Wales and the Valleys –  including Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy and Denbighshire – had the lowest  average GVA of any sub-region in Britain (£13,573). This was under half the figure for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (£27,795). And it is and less than a quarter of that for Inner London (£62,398).

It isn’t Wales alone which suffers low incomes.  Cornwall was next to bottom at £13,848; and Teesside & Durham only slightly better at £14,627. There is a  chasm between prosperous Southeast England  and the old industrial areas.

On a local level, the disparity becomes even wider. The Wirral is  worst (£11,167); the Gwent Valleys  second worst (£11,626) and also in Britain’s poorest five areas is Anglesey (£12,624).

In contrast  ‘Inner-London-West’ – Kensington and Chelsea – have a staggering GVA of £111,519 per person. The richest areas of London  have ten times more income than the poorer areas of Wales.

Recently the relative gulf has closed marginally,  arising from  the slowdown in London’s financial sector. However, since 1997, the overall gap widened appreciably, with  the share of the UK’s GVA  attributed to London increasing from 18% to 22% now.  The share enjoyed by Wales and Northern England has fallen.

There are some hotspots away from London. Edinburgh grew from 53% above the UK average in 1999, to 64% above the UK average in 2011, a rich city indeed.

A week before Christmas I sponsored a Lords debate on the recent  Silk Commission proposals for stronger  financial powers for the National Assembly. Silk recommended unanimously, with all party support, that the  Assembly should have tax-varying and borrowing powers. Unlike the Scottish Parliament, it currently  has no tax-varying powers. Community councils have more fund-raising power than  the Assembly!

GVA figures underline the need for change. The National Assembly has  responsibility for economic development in Wales. Yet it doesn’t have the tools to do the job. It needs the capacity to vary taxes, provide incentives in enterprise zones and borrow to facilitate capital investment programmes which stimulate the economy.

Since 2000, Wales has benefitted from European Structural Funds to help  poorer regions. Rigorous appraisal is needed to see whether these funds have been  used effectively. Over the period 1999-2011 the relative GVA of Wales’ poorest parts has been stuck at 65 per cent of the UK average. European Funds have not closed the gap. In contrasts, Cornwall – which also received regional help from Europe – saw its GVA increase from 61 per cent to 66 per cent of the UK average over that period.

Wales needs a new economic deal, as an urgent priority. Time will tell whether Westminster gives the Assembly the necessary economic levers. But it’s clear that unless we help ourselves, no-one else will do so.

Lord Dafydd Wigley is Plaid Cymru’s spokesman in the House of Lords.

17 thoughts on “Prosperity gulf opens between Wales and London

  1. Well the EU is providing some funds and we get a net subsidy from England, albeit a proportionately smaller one than the Scots or Irish. But the Scots have oil and a successful national party and Northern Ireland has a history of violence so they will continue to get more. Dafydd Wigley’s final sentence is none the less right. To do better we gave to help ourselves. So far the Welsh Government has focused on public services and gestures like free prescriptions. There is no concrete strategy for development, only ad hoc measures. Surely that is the first requirement in helping ourselves?

  2. You are right Dafydd the GVA issues should not be forgotten and the focus on Welsh language in the format that has been portrayed on this site and elsewhere does take away many real and pressing issues that Wales is facing in the post devolution period.

    There is nothing new about the fact that South East of England is disproportionately rich compared to the rest of UK but that’s a market driven reality and unlikely to change and the questions should be asked by you and other Welsh politicians what can we do to make life for people of Wales better and what can be done to generate a healthy economy, improve the appalling standards of the Welsh education and the health service amongst other things?

    This is where again I have to bring up the Welsh language as it’s a mill stone around the Welsh political life and a self-made trap by the Assembly’s political establishment. We need a debate on the sanity of making the Welsh language equal with the English language where the compulsion has been introduced that the Welsh speakers have a ‘God given right’ to speak their language anywhere in their own country!?

    Welsh economic demise, appalling educational standards and a third world health service are not down to your premise that Wales needs more political powers, taxation and so on but it’s intrinsically linked to the Welsh language imposition in the last 10 years or so by no other than the Welsh Assembly Government – Think about it as evidence in the public domain is more than substantial to support my assertion!

  3. The figures are alarming, and unsurprising, but the conclusion is even more alarming – and wrong!

    Wales had the prospect of prosperity under a Tory government, initiated by Peter Walker as SoSfW who went out on a limb to argue the case for an economic revival based on inward investment in modern industries. For about a decade Wales was the second most successful NUTS1 Region in the UK in terms of development.

    But that opportunity was thrown away by devolution and by handing control of economic development to a collection of incompetent red-green political dinosaurs who grew the public sector unsustainably and who probably still think Fidel Castro made an economic success out of Cuba. Bad workmen usually blame their tools not the people using them… All the available evidence seems to suggest that the red-green state-control mentality advocated by Llafur and Plaid is only capable of using two tools – the hammer and the sickle.

    With the hammer they keep knocking nails into the economic and social coffin that Wales has become under their leadership and with the sickle they continue to reap what they sow.

    Wales does not need a new economic deal or any more tools or levers to be wielded by the incompetent – it needs to return to the system and the kind of management that worked well less than 30 years ago. Wales needs to return to an old economic and administrative deal…

  4. I couldn’t agree more; “If we don’t help ourselves then no one else will”. Why has it taken us this long to realise? Is it only now that we have that vestige of self-Governmnet that we realise at last that we as a people/community/team are responsible for our own destiny?

    We now need real intelligent strategic leadership to pull us all in the correct direction and I would say that the green economy is a fantastic chance for us to earn some real cash a bit like oil in Scotland. We are located in one of the best spots possible with ample wind and tidal resources and need to get cracking and capitalise on the cheep energy that we can derive from such resources and then use that energy as a vital resource to add value in all sorts of industries and services for that matter.

    Many thanks again for being that intelligent leader that we so desperately need.

  5. Mr Protic,

    You forgot to mention that the Welsh language is the main driver causing climate change and is largely responsible for sub-Saharan poverty.

  6. David, Let’s not worry too much about Sahara and Climate change as the Welsh reality is dire, real and present. Where in the democratic world can you find a ‘Government’ socially engineering the nation by imposing by compulsion a largely irrelevant language and its culture upon the vast majority who have no interest in the said language? Equally you should look at the hard facts in form of statistics available from the Welsh Education Department and where Welsh Medium education is substantially inferior to what’s left of English medium education in Wales, then look at the state of Welsh economy, NHS etc…

  7. I visit London on regular basis and always impressed by the sheer impression of growth, and bustle, whereas in socialistic/green Wales it’s slumbertime, and decay. We have created an inward looking government, and with worst media in world where is the dynamic leadership and attitude for dynamic change of attitudes needed to improve our situation? In Boris Johnson they (in London) have a world class leader, and publicist, whilst our leader, beside being a very decent human being, is unfitted for the task ahead. The problems have nothing to do with minor changes in taxation etc., but changing the whole structure of public services (which The Welsh Government funds), and fundamental changing attitudes of many of us Welsh people who seem to think that work is an option, not a requirement to put food on the table. There is plenty of money in the Welsh Government to make changes, however as like the Welsh Books Council the whole thrust of public policy is towards a) mediocrity, b) turning language useage back to 1722. We can succeed, like SCFC, however that requires top class management and capacity to compete in market, and not this nationalistic rubbish, for which Plaid Cymru has agitated for years.

  8. Boris a world class leader? He’s a world class self publicist and sh****r. But he’s been rubbish as London Mayor. Howell, I knew you had a jaundiced view of Wales but I didn’t know you were such a hopeless romantic about everything in England..

    Jacques you are obviously unaware that consultants asked by Cardiff city about how to raise its image said play up the use of Welsh, increase Welsh signage because it gives the city distinction, emphasises it’s role as a capital and goes down well with tourists. The state of Israel resurrected a dead language, Hebrew, to be their official tongue so why can’t Wales encourage a living one, Welsh, to be ours?
    You obviously don’t know that Welsh has been a written language for about 1400 years and still produces good literature. It would be criminal vandalism not to maintain it.

  9. “In contrast ‘Inner-London-West’ – Kensington and Chelsea – have a staggering GVA of £111,519 per person. The richest areas of London have ten times more income than the poorer areas of Wales.”

    Wales is unlikely ever to match inner London in terms of material wealth. That’s where all the thieving banksters are located. Of course, we could build our own little version of the thieving mile in Cardiff but do we really want that? In addition to this, the British parliament, devoid of any economic ideas, have decided that another means of ‘creating’ wealth is to allow Chinese, Russian, and Middle Eastern (amongst others) billionaires to set up home there and in doing so, causing massive disparities of wealth in London. See:

    “Across central London, mega-rich foreign buyers are pricing merely wealthy Britons out of the market.”

    Do we want this in Wales? Oh sorry… it’s already happening with people moving from English cities where salaries and property prices are so much higher to buy up businesses and houses in mainly rural Wales. In an economic system where you have fractional reserve banking, the first go get their hands on money are the bankers and the wealthy; the last are the rural poor. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a government in Cardiff or even Westminster which addressed this problem? No… our ‘socialist’ government in Cardiff, like their London counterparts, have only one economic policy and that’s to gather the crumbs under the table of those who’ve made their wealth elsewhere. Shame on you!

  10. Hi Tredwyn, As it happens I do know the literate and also the medical world exceptionally well… As far as the ‘wonderful Welsh language’ goes there has been only one Welsh author that has ever been translated: Kate Roberts’ novel “Traed Mewn Cyffion” was translated into English as “Feet in Chains” and French as “Treid Daouhualet” and this happened in early XX Century… In contrast minority language authors from all over the world have created masses of exceptional work and have won Nobel prizes for literature so please don’t patronise people and provide facts to help your arguments… NHS is struggling to employ quality consultants who simply do not want to work in Wales as a direct result of Welsh language imposition (Cost of private English education for their children) – check out Betsi Cadwaladr Trust…

  11. Strangely enough Jacques there was an article in the Daily Post today about poor recruitment of hospital doctors to Wales because of the widely held belief that all Doctors in Wales had to be Welsh speaking.

    The very high profile of the Welsh Language in Wales does damage that no one sees.

  12. Sometimes one doesn’t know where to put oneself.

    Mr Protic, you write:

    “As it happens I do know the literate […] world exceptionally well”

    but then go on to say:

    ” there has been only one Welsh author that has ever been translated”

    What, only one? Ever? In 1400 years of literature? I must have been misled – those translations of Saunders Lewis, Islwyn Ffowc Elis or the Mabinogi into English, even the translation of modern novels by Cynan Jones and Robin Llywelyn into French and Spanish must obviously be fake information pushed onto a gullible public by the awful langwich extremists who rule our poor, deprived land with a rod of iron.

    And then you follow that with:

    “Kate Roberts’ novel “Traed Mewn Cyffion” was translated into English as “Feet in Chains” and French as “Treid Daouhualet””

    Just because Amazon says it’s in French (which is where I assume you got this fascinating tit-bit from) doesn’t mean that it is. It’s in Breton.

    All I can add is, if you will excuse my plagiarism:

    “please don’t patronise people and provide facts to help your arguments”

    Finally, let me reassure you that anyone who knows anything about the subject will refrain from calling you an ignorant troll, but only because they probably recognise a superfluous act when they see it.

  13. Tredwyn. If Boris Johnson was such a ‘rubbish’ Lord Mayor why did he get re-elected in London, which is not particularly right wing in it demographics. I watched the question time on BBC Parliament when BJ is cross examined by members of the city authority, and he is in total control of all aspects of policy and it is quite rivetting politics! I compare with ‘our lot’ down the Bay of Irrelevance, which is less interesting/informative than the North Korean equivalent! As far as ‘jaundice’ is concerned I freely accept the condition, and I am not alone in expressing concern about public policy in Wales, which seems to many of us to be completely wrong, and misguided. Anybody who stands up against the ‘Welshification’ process, and in particular the language is ‘villified’ by the enforcers who unfortunately are now running the roost. As far as Israel is concerned it needed to develop a national language, because of the massive influx of refugees from all over the world after 1948, whereas we in little Wales have a national language, and understood by all, which is of course the ENGLISH language. Like trying to move water uphill, the process of uniformity is difficult to reverse, but we are attempting this as far as the Welsh language is concerned, with the perverse result that the real ‘Welsh’ get greater subsidies in educating their children in Welsh than poor English only speakers get in educating their children through the medium of the English language.

    Jaques/John. Well said and thanks for your contributions which are supported by about 75% of the population.

  14. Mr Protic,
    There are others too… but you are correct, there is definitely and un-tapped market there. I’m not sure what this has got to do with post being discussed.

  15. Nigel Stapley, You left me astounded by quoting Saunders Lewis the well known Nazi sympathiser as a Welsh great, perhaps Plaid Cymru should recommend him for Sainthood?! Incidentally my information came from reputable Welsh speaking academics and Welsh Library research services!

  16. Jacques Protic – Saunders Lewis was Saunders Lewis, and it’s not uncommon for the anti-Welsh lanaguge/pro-unionists to sensationalize his words/actions. However, similar things could be said for certain members of all major parties, or the Royal family even.

    Former Prince of Wales, Edward IIIV AKA The Duke of Windsor is claimed to have been a fascist before during and after WW2, he also abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, a well known fascist + Nazi supporter. Would you use such a thing to smear the Prince of Wales, or the royal family as an institution?

    The Daily Mail was editorially supportive of Hitler, Mussolini and Moseley’s British Union of Facists, but it’s now the anti-Welsh language campaigner’s ‘go-to’ newspaper. What do you want us to make of that?

    Your attempt to undermine Welsh language literature by clutching at such straws highlights your absolute anti-Welsh language zealotry, something you seem proud to flaunt. I truly wonder why you chose to live in Wales.

  17. Our friend Jacques certainly does seem keen to rid us poor Welsh of our language burden. We would have a better education, more wealth and English approval. I also wonder if living in England (naturally earning more and ensuring a top class education for his children) would not be the best option for him? I can probably condense the apparent argument to “stop speaking Welsh you’re putting off the English”. Yes, thanks for that insight gents. Is it still 1850 or something?

    I know I’m speaking out of turn, but isn’t stupidity, bigotry, inflexibility and a misplaced superiority complex the real problem and not the promotion, continued use and love for the language of the Britons?

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