Opposition parties pledge economy agencies to help Wales recover from Covid-19

Credit: PA Images

Fifteen years after the Welsh Development Agency was scrapped the idea of a new agency is back on the political agenda.

At its virtual party conference this weekend, Plaid Cymru has committed to creating an organisation called 'Prosperity Wales' to coordinate investment if it's in government after May's Senedd election. 

The pledge follows the announcement last week by the Welsh Conservatives who said they would "bring back the best of the Welsh Development Agency."

Meanwhile at her party's virtual conference, the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader promised to set up an "Economic Recovery Council" to perform a similar role. 

The Welsh Development Agency was an arms-length government body which ran from 1976 until it was abolished by the then First Minister Rhodri Morgan in 2006. 

There had been controversies about the way it was run but the WDA still had supporters and those who thought the Welsh Government should not take on its functions. 

Credit: Plaid Cymru

In a speech to Plaid Cymru's virtual conference today, Economy Spokesperson Helen Mary Jones said if her party is in government after May's election it would create "an economic development agency with a difference."

She said Prosperity Wales wold have different priorities to the old WDA.

"We will task Prosperity Wales, with developing our economy in such a way that opportunities are created fairly across our nation with access to opportunity for all, there will be a strong emphasis on spatial approach, focusing attention where it is needed most on values communities, and on rural areas, and there will be an equally strong emphasis on addressing the patterns of historical discrimination that have led to the chronic injustice and inequality in the way our economy has functioned."

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Speaking last week, the Welsh Conservatives' Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies said a revived WDA would be part of his party's post-pandemic recovery plan.

“Labour are obsessed with more powers but are a party without a plan for our recovery. We would bring forward a Covid Bounce Back Package for Welsh workers and businesses that would include measures such as an extension to the business rates holiday, bringing back the best of the WDA and a commitment to no new taxes in the next Senedd term."The Welsh Liberal Democrats aren't promising to create an arms-length agency but instead a cross-party "Economic Recovery Council" to be led by a future Economy Minister.

Credit: Welsh Liberal Democrats

Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds used her virtual conference speech to say that its cross-party nature would be essential. 

She said: "The Economic Recovery Council will not only be cross party, but cross sector and it will ramp up our support to businesses, the tourist industry, hospitality and starts by scrapping crippling business rates and listening to what our businesses need and put it in to action."