As Wales enters a new era of regional governance, Plaid Cymru Assembly Members Adam Price and Sian Gwenllian will unveil their vision to transform economic development and linguistic planning in west Wales at the National Eisteddfod this week.
Ahead of the Welsh Government implementing a new map for regional local government next year, the Plaid Cymru representatives will present ideas for the creation of a West Wales region for which the authorities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Mon will form the building blocks.
Adam Price and Sian Gwenllian say the four western counties have a number of commons features for which give a new regional authority purpose:
- A high percentage of Welsh speakers
- Inflow of older people, outflow of young people
- Rural, dependence on agriculture, food and tourism
- Market towns and university towns
- A high percentage of public sector jobs
- Lowest wages in Britain, and among the lowest wages in Europe
"A new regional map will shape the future of economic development, transport and the delivery of public services for years to come", Adam Price AM said adding that it was "vital to create the structures which will make the prosperity and vitality of west Wales its focus, and not a literal side line of the traditional east-west regions."
The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM will use his contribution at the Eisteddfod to float the idea for the combined authority to have the powers to create a 'tourism tariff' with £1 per visitor night being reinvested in local language and economic development.
Actions the regional authority could take over time include:
- Propose a Growth Deal for the West to the UK Government
- Begin preparing for joint proposals to the UK Government's New Prosperity Fund
- Create a Strategic Development Plan for the Welsh West
- Create sector specific strategies, e.g. agri-food
- Create a Tourism Academy with a working Hotel teaching hospitality through the medium of Welsh
- Create a Community Bank for the Region
- Create a Comprehensive Language Scheme across the region and across the public sector within the region
- Create a scheme to connect the north and south, through lobbying and co-funding with the Welsh Government (via bonds) the re-opening of the Aber-Carmarthen and Pwllheli-Caernarfon railway lines, and invest in the A487, turning it into a fiber-optic corridor for Gig-a-byte connectivity (to compare with the success of the old Heads of the Valleys Committee)
- Significant devolution of powers from the Assembly - as in the case of devolution to the elected Mayors in England
- A model of a combined authority and elected Mayors as possibilities for debates on governance
- Create an agency or regional development corporation to be responsible for generating projects of work e.g. 'Dinas Menai Project'
Speaking ahead of his address at the Eisteddfod on Friday, Adam Price said:
"One could argue that the challenges faced in west Wales – the economy, housing, connectivity and planning – are applicable to the whole of Wales. But from an economic, political and linguistic point of view the west has reached a crisis point.
"There is clear pattern of economic decline and linguistic deterioration in the Western areas. The link between the two is clearly visible in the level of young people leaving the area. There is also evidence of a lack of public investment by the Welsh Government in areas South West and West.
"There is even recognition by Labour members that there is no focus on the unique needs of rural Wales in the current economic strategy of the Welsh Government, and there is a tendency to over-emphasize the West-Eastern and cross-border links with England in our national economic strategies which downgrades the links between the north and south. Now is our chance to create the conditions in which all of these can be addressed."
Sian Gwenllian AM, Plaid's spokesperson for the Welsh Language and Local Government, said:
"With the Welsh Government recently outlining in its Cymraeg 2050 proposals a commitment to tying efforts to strengthen the Welsh language with economic growth and government investment, a new combined authority for the western Welsh - areas which will perhaps play the biggest part in achieving 1 million speakers - is not just desirable, I would argue it is a necessity.
"Now is the time for us to be bold in delivering a successful future for the west. In our contribution to the Eisteddfod this week, Adam Price and I will set out how we can bring a dynamic edge to economic strategy in Wales, tying our national language and heritage with economic prosperity."
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