Welsh Secretary commits £55m to mid-Wales projects

Alun Cairns and Boris Johnson on an previous visit to Barry Island Credit: PA, Frank Augstein

The Welsh Secretary has announced that there will be £55m of UK Government spending available for projects to boost parts of mid-Wales.

The money is Wales' share of £300m announced by the Prime Minister in July for similar schemes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - which was described at the time as "thin stuff" by the Welsh Government.

Alun Cairns said a

He referred to the announcement in his speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester saying that only the Tories are committed to keeping the United Kingdom together.

"In 29 days time we will leave the European Union - and a new dawn will break across our union.

"I don't say this just because Wales voted to leave...something that Labour and Plaid choose to forget.

"As Conservatives we want the same thing - to get Brexit done and move on."

Alun Cairns will criticise Mark Drakeford for ''flirting with the nationalists'' Credit: PA

In that speech he also criticised the First Minister Mark Drakeford for ''flirting with the nationalists.''

In a sign that the party thinks a General Election is imminent, the growth deal pledge is also accompanied by a political swipe at the Labour Welsh Government's record of spending in that area.

Political opponents say it is far less than similar areas in the UK have seen and the move is being seen as a pre-election bribe for a part of Wales where the Conservatives are hoping to gain or hold onto seats.

Alun Cairns said, "Wales is a nation spread over a large geographic area - no more so than in Mid Wales. These communities have not benefitted from Cardiff Bay focused funding for decades. Today I am putting that right by committing £55m for people in Powys and Ceredigion."

Scrapping tolls, a more generous funding settlement and more powers for people in Wales are proud achievements for this Conservative Government.

The First Minister leads a Labour administration that has consistently failed to deliver for the people of Wales – a Labour party in Wales too focussed on constitutional arguments that don’t improve people’s lives.

The Prime Minister is committed to leading a government for the whole of the UK – a strengthened Union with real opportunity for people who work hard and do the right thing.

– Alun Cairns MP, Welsh Secretary
People were seen queuing outside the conference ahead of Boris Johnson's speech on Tuesday Credit: PA Images

As I mentioned, the Labour Welsh Government criticised the original announcement as "thin stuff" and insufficient to make up for years of lower funding generally from the UK Government.

And Plaid Cymru says this amount is too little, particularly when compared to similar schemes in other parts of the UK.

This is far from what was expected and need, and much less than similar deals across the UK.

When they needed a few votes from the DUP, the Tories found a billion. Mid Wales will get less than a tenth of that.

Yet again this is an example of the Tories over promising and under delivering.

– Ben Lake MP, Plaid Cymru

The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats echoed that and said the amount promised was 'frankly insulting.'

Alun Cairns’ announcement shows that, under this Conservative Government, Mid-Wales will never get the funding we truly need. The £55m promised is frankly insulting. Not only is it nowhere near enough, it is a fraction of the funding being provided for the Cardiff and Swansea City Deals.

– Jane Dodds MP, Welsh Liberal Democrats

Sian Jones, now a political consultant in Cardiff, used to be a special adviser to the former Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Although the focus of this conference is very much on Brexit, there are a whole host of policies being announced - so under the surface there is a shadow election campaign already going on.

Clearly there are a huge number of important target seats for the Conservatives in Wales and so it's hardly surprising they're going to be looking to target funding in those areas.

– Sian Jones, Newgate Communications
A number of Welsh independence marches have taken place around Wales this year

An imminent election might also explain why the Welsh Secretary used his speech to emphasise what he says is his party's commitment to the union of the United Kingdom and to criticise the First Minister for comments in which he suggested his support for the union is conditional.

Since those comments, Mark Drakeford has said he wants to see the UK reformed to be a partnership of equals.

But Alun Cairns seized on the original remarks to say:

The Welsh Labour First Minister, Mark Drakeford said that his support for the Union is conditional.

He wants further constitutional change and greater separation, when businesses are longing for certainty.

Labour’s flirting with the Nationalists is driving a wedge between our nations.

– Alun Cairns MP, Welsh Secretary