Wales politics

City deal-type package for rural Wales call by Labour AM

Tractor is followed by gulls Image copyright PA

Rural Wales needs the equivalent to the city deals struck around Cardiff and Swansea, a Labour AM has said.

Eluned Morgan said a strategy is needed as a matter of urgency so rural areas can have the same kind of attention parts of urban Wales have had.

It is one recommendation in a wide-ranging report calling for a coherent rural economic strategy post-Brexit.

The Welsh Government said it would ensure rural interests were protected as the UK prepared to leave the EU.

The Labour AM for Mid and West Wales has worked with a group of business people to draw up the report, which she is presenting to Economy Secretary Ken Skates on Monday.

The Cardiff City Region Deal is expected to be worth £1.2bn to the capital and surrounding authorities over 20 years - while the Swansea Bay equivalent has been billed as potentially triggering £1.3bn in investment.

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Media captionIt is "essential" the Welsh Government acts on a Rural Wales report, Eluned Morgan said

"There are two major challenges confronting rural Wales today," said Ms Morgan.

"One is Brexit and the fact that we are not only going to be losing structural funds... but also we will be losing subsidies to farmers.

"Secondly, there is and has been a focus in Wales in recent years on city deals. That money is now being agreed with UK central government and there is as yet no such deal in sight for rural Wales.

"That's why we have to start to develop a strategy where we can catch-up and have the same kind of attention that those city areas have had."

"We now need a rural deal," she added.

The report said consideration should be given to establishing an independent rural commissioner, to be responsible for rural-proofing policy and to ensure rural Wales is considered in Welsh Government programmes.

It said a "plan must be in put in place... to ensure rural Wales has an ability to flourish economically in the future, and continue to be a viable environment for young people and old to live and work."

Image caption The report calls for work to build-up rural Wales' electric vehicle infrastructure

Brian Thomas, deputy president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, would also like to see a commissioner for rural Wales.

He said: "Having a commissioner would be an advantage, no doubt.

"The agricultural industry employs a lot of people indirectly and those indirect jobs are very good jobs usually, there are vets and agronomists, [but] you cannot say that for the tourist industry.

"What we need is better jobs and better well paid jobs."

The report calls for a "private-sector driven bid" to the UK government, supported by Welsh Government and councils, to fund initiatives in the report, which proposes among other recommendations:

  • Work to build up the provision of infrastructure for recharging electric vehicles
  • That Welsh Government delivers mechanisms that can be used to ensure super fast broadband coverage for all of Wales
  • Asks for an assessment to see whether rural Wales receives its fair share from national programmes of the Welsh Government
  • Calls for long-term planning for better north-south, west-east road infrastructure, dualling roads where appropriate
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Media caption'"Better jobs are needed in rural Wales," the deputy president of the Farmers' Union of Wales said

It also proposes possible pilot projects such as:

  • An obligation on councils to provide electric vehicle recharging points by the end of 2018
  • Eco-homes for older people
  • A scheme to teach Chinese nationals English

A Welsh Government spokesman said it welcomed the report.

"We are currently refreshing our economic priorities and, as part of this work, we will ensure rural interests are protected and feature strongly as Wales works towards a future outside the EU," he said.

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