Labour Government ignores skills in the North

‘Shameful’ decision to locate new tax authority just 10 miles from Cardiff

Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM has described the decision to locate a new Welsh Government department a few miles from Cardiff as “shameful” after assurances .

Llyr Gruffydd has condemned the Cardiff Labour Government’s decision to locate the new Welsh Revenue Authority just 10 miles north of the capital city, despite assurances by ministers that they would consider moving it to Wrexham or other parts of the North. The new tax authority is expected to create 40 jobs initially with more to follow.

Mr Gruffydd said: “This Labour Government has, once again, ignored the North. This is despite there being more than 400 tax workers based in Wrexham and Porthmadog who are ideally placed to work for a new revenue authority. They’ve got the skills and expertise and they’ve been shamefully ignored. To make matters worse, just six weeks ago, a government cabinet secretary spoke of his desire to ‘share opportunities right across Wales’. That cabinet secretary, Ken Skates, actually represents a constituency in the North. Can he explain to his constituents, some of who work in the HMRC in Wrexham and will be losing their jobs in a couple of years’ time, how creating this new tax authority a few miles from Cardiff will help those skilled and experienced workers?

“Labour is failing Wales – and failing north Wales in particular. It is centralising institutions in Cardiff rather than sharing and all the warm words we hear about devolving and sharing power are just hot air. This was a wonderful opportunity to show that places like Wrexham could benefit from this new authority and they’ve blown it. Shame on them.”

Mr Gruffydd added that the same vague promises were echoed by First Minister Carwyn Jones on January 10 in an answer to Arfon AM Siân Gwenllian. He said that ‘where a new body is created, we should look beyond Cardiff and perhaps look beyond the south to see whether that body can be located somewhere else in Wales’.

He said: “Plaid Cymru is committed to the North, in particular over this issue. We have argued the case for devolving financial services here, to make sure that public spending is shared equally. We have made the case that the expertise we have in both Wrexham and Gwynedd should be utilised.

“It’s clear that ministers are saying one thing in public while their civil servants are working to another brief. The only locations on the WRA appraisal shortlist were in Merthyr, Pontypridd or Cardiff – none in the North or West of the country. How many more times is this Labour Government going to be allowed to get away with this sort of behaviour?”


Exchange between Adam Price AM (PLAID CYMRU) and Ken Skates (LABOUR CABINET SECRETARY)

Adam Price: Just finally finally, I welcome the fact that this important new national institution is not going to be based here in Cardiff but actually in north Wales. Plaid Cymru has previously referred to Wrexham as the financial capital of Wales. I’m sure he’d agree with that. But can we just have some numbers as well in terms of the number of people who will be based in the headquarters? And is this—. As we’re talking about new institutions—the Welsh revenue authority, why not put that in north Wales as well, and actually build up, both on the commercial funding side, but also on the fiscal side, some real expertise and build up a regional capital for Wales in the north?

Ken Skates: Can I thank the Member for his questions and say I would agree with him on many of the points that he’s made about the need to ensure that we do decentralise where we can and share opportunities right across Wales. I’d be more than happy to discuss with my colleague, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, the idea of also ensuring the Welsh revenue authority is located away from the capital, potentially in north Wales, potentially in Wrexham.

Exchange between Siân Gwenllian and Carwyn Jones 

Siân Gwenllian: “May I suggest Caernarfon as an ideal location because the Government has a half-empty building there already, which is ready for use? The establishment of the revenue authority there would be a great boost to the Welsh language, both locally and nationally.”

Carwyn Jones The First Minister: Well, that’s a very important question. Some have talked about Porthmadog as well, of course. I understand why the Member supports the Caernarfon bid. That’s something that I’ve asked officials to consider. The point that is raised is whether it would be possible to ensure that there is prosperity in terms of skills in those less urban areas. That’s an open question at the moment. But, I do understand that where a new body is created—a new public body in that regard—we should look beyond Cardiff, and perhaps look beyond the south, to see whether there is a way to ensure that  body can be located somewhere else in Wales. This is something that we are currently considering.

 

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