Plaid Cymru politicians have expressed both their anger and disappointment after the Labour Welsh Government announced it would not be proceeding with a job-creating 'strategic hub' in the Amman and Gwendraeth Valleys, despite Plaid Cymru securing a commitment last year.
Since 2016 the Welsh Government's Taskforce for the Valleys has worked to identify strategic locations across valley communities in order to create areas of focused public sector investment which then unlocks private capital, leading to jobs, opportunities and wealth creation across the region.
Having announced 7 hubs in Caerphilly, Neath, Ebbw Vale, Merthyr Tydfil, Cwmbran, Bridgend and Pontypridd, local Plaid Cymru politicians Adam Price AM and Jonathan Edwards MP made the case for the inclusion of the Amman and Gwendraeth, stating that "valley communities do not stop at Neath".
As part of Plaid Cymru's formal budget negotiations with the Welsh Government, and following a series of questions to the Cabinet Secretary at the National Assembly, written representations and one-to-one meetings, the former Cabinet Secretary Alun Davies AM, confirmed that an additional strategic hub would indeed be located in the Amman/Gwendraeth area.
The election of Mark Drakeford as the new First Minister of Wales saw the former Cabinet Secretary ousted, with Ammanford Valley-born Lee Waters AM taking over the project as Deputy Minister for the Economy and Transport.
In both written correspondence and questioning by Plaid Cymru AM Helen Mary Jones, Minister Lee Waters confirmed the Welsh Government had "no plans" to extend the Valleys Taskforce boundary to include the Amman/Gwendraeth.
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards blasted the u-turn, stating the Labour government in Wales was "once again showing complete disregard for anywhere west of Swansea."
Assembly Member and Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, expressed a more disappointed tone, questioning why a Minister who was born in Ammanford was prepared to "pull the rug from underneath the economy of his home town."
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM Adam Price said:
"There is no doubt that the decision to block a new Amman/Gwendraeth hub is a political decision by the new Minister and not one based on evidence. We know this because the Welsh Government has already produced an official paper which indicated all of the positive reasons to place a new hub in the Western Valleys.
"I personally met with the Cabinet Secretary on several occasions in which he recognised the merits of expanding the Valleys Taskforce boundary.
"We now have a situation where a formal budget agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government was made; the rationale examined and the preparations done; but the policy has changed at the whim of a new Labour Minister.
"What makes the decision even more disappointing is that the Minister himself comes from the Amman Valley. I cannot for the life of me understand why he is content to pull the rug from underneath the economy of his home town.
"I would urge him to reconsider as a matter of urgency, and give the Western Valleys the help it needs to help itself."
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said:
"Once again the Labour Welsh government is showing complete disregard for anywhere west of Swansea.
"The strategic hub was never going to solve all of our problems, but it was to be the catalyst for focused investment with exciting plans drawn up by both the County Council and Adam Price to boost our local economy, which also included the re-opening of Amman Valley railway as a passenger line as part of the Swansea Bay and Western Valleys Metro.
"The broader, positive economic impact the hub could have in the area was clearly not been taken into consideration when Lee Waters decided to throw the Amman and Gwendraeth valleys under a bus.
"I know my colleagues in the Senedd will be challenging the Welsh Government to honour the promise made to local residents."
Regional Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Helen Mary Jones, who also represents the Gwendraeth communities as Mid and West AM added:
"In one of his first acts as a Deputy Minister Lee Waters has gone back on the promise made by his Labour colleague, Alun Davies. It is bitterly disappointing that the Welsh Government is wiping Ammanford and Cross Hands off the Valleys Taskforce map.
"Let's not forget that the former Minister came to Ammanford and held a stakeholder event, searching for exciting ideas that can help transform the Amman and Gwendraeth economies.
"We even have correspondence from the former Minister's office wanting to coordinate a good news announcement to the media. Well there is no good news now after Lee Waters' u-turn.
"The Labour government must reinstate the plan to develop a strategic hub in the western valleys or confirm that Carmarthenshire and the west Wales economy means nothing to their party."