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Dev-Bank Wales MBO
27 June 2024

Support Welsh Business Towards a Higher Growth Future


GUEST COLUMN:

Paul Butterworth
CEO
Chambers Wales South East, South West and Mid

Wales’ diverse business community has demonstrated its resilience since the last General Election.

Companies have weathered Covid19 and lockdowns, labour and skills shortages, inflation, business tax increases, and low economic growth. They have absorbed the impacts of global supply chain disruption and a huge energy price shock. So the stakes for business leading into this General Election and for the next UK government could not be higher.

Firms of all sizes and all sectors in Wales crave certainty on which to base their investment plans and growth strategies. They want to be better informed on key decisions on upskilling, hiring, creating new products or selling in fresh markets in the UK or internationally. It is essential that policy makers listen to business concerns and any new government hits the ground running with meaningful action for businesses to finally crack low productivity and put Welsh business on a trajectory to a higher-growth future.

The British Chambers of Commerce has put forward policy proposals in five key areas:

  • People and Work
  • The Local Economy of the Future
  • Global Britain
  • Green Innovation
  • The Digital Revolution

Alongside these, Chambers Wales asks that the next government focuses on fast tracking existing projects here in Wales and invests in skills and infrastructure.

We ask that it maintains momentum to accelerate Wales’ economy as it transitions from being a global leader in producing coal energy to go all-out and move forward to be a global leader once again in net zero power production. This is something which the Celtic Sea Offshore Wind farm promises.

We also want to see Wales positioned in the global trade route with the development of freeports in North and South Wales, and we want to see investment in our infrastructure that underpins these projects and accelerates the low-carbon economy in Wales’ industrial heartland.

Consistent, clear, and reliable policy measures are vital to enable businesses to plan effectively for the net zero transition. That reassures firms, their supply chains, and end-customers that their decisions fit into the long-term future economy.

We want to see an unblocking of the planning system through more skills and capacity to solve a problem that has bedevilled Local Planning Authorities. This lack of resource means approval for developments – from new homes developments to factories to grid connections as well as large-scale projects – takes far too long.

This is a major headache for firms; it ramps up costs, damages business confidence, and holds back investment and economic growth. A solution should be a significant opportunity for government to unlock economic potential. Greater planning capacity is key to supporting more investment into Wales’ regeneration and infrastructure.  More planners and more specialist planning skills will allow businesses to invest with more certainty and greater speed, boosting economic growth and make a meaningful difference to our communities.

Attracting and retaining people here in Wales with the rights skills is crucial for businesses and is a key objective of the Regional Learning and Skills Partnerships. But further collaboration is needed with government, business, colleges and universities alongside apprenticeship providers. These all need to work more collaboratively to advance higher skills development focussed on a local skills need, and individuals who are ‘workplace ready’. We need to ‘Plan Better for Skills’, aligning sector ambition and investment to prepare young people and job seekers for great jobs and also to train and reskill those already in work for the challenges and opportunities of a changing workplace.

Wales has so much variety of products and services to offer the world. The Chamber asks for further support in taking Wales to the global trading stage.

Wales is a place of innovation, creativity, a place where our people are our biggest asset, and our economy is on the cusp of some pretty remarkable largescale projects. As we head to the election booths on 4th July it is clear Wales is open for business.




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