The Welsh Government has welcomed the agreement on how the next £2 billion of European aid will be spent in Wales. The minister who negotiated the deal, Jane Hutt, says that it will deliver real economic growth and jobs.
This announcement is a significant milestone with the European Commission confirming Structural Fund allocations to Wales of over £2 billion. This is great news for Wales and this new EU funding will have a real impact on the Welsh economy and job creation. It will help us deliver more innovative and inspiring EU-funded projects.
There's been criticism that previous rounds of European aid have been spent on too many small projects, which though worthwhile in themselves did not improve the prosperity of West Wales and the Valleys. The area remains one of the poorest parts of the entire European Union.
Whilst this funding will be welcomed, we must not forget that it has only been granted due to the failure of successive Welsh Labour Governments to improve Wales’ economic performance in previous tranches. Back in 2000, former First Minister Rhodri Morgan described Objective 1 funding as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. Well here we are again, and under Welsh Labour parts of Wales remain amongst the poorest areas in the EU, never mind the United Kingdom
One of the main beneficiaries of the new funding will be the South East Wales metro plan to improve public transport, after the Welsh Government successfully argued in Brussels that some of the money had to be spent on transport if the aid programme was to achieve any lasting economic improvement.
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