Thursday, July 25, 2024

Gething calls Starmer’s plan to replace EU fund ‘positive’ – BBC News

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Image caption, The Labour party in Westminster is proposing sharing control with the Welsh government over replacement EU funds if it wins power

  • Author, Mark Palmer
  • Role, BBC News

Wales’ first minister has defended UK Labour’s proposals on sharing control over replacement EU funds if they win the general election.

Previously, party leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would restore decision-making powers to the Welsh government over millions of pounds of grants.

Now the party is proposing power over the fund be shared between Westminster and Cardiff, if Labour win.

Vaughan Gething said it was “really positive” but Plaid Cymru called it “a bit of joke”.

The Conservatives said they favour “real devolution” where local councils decide how to spend the cash.

Before Brexit, the Welsh government administered EU grants while the UK government and EU negotiated their level and how much went to Wales.

After Brexit, the UK government set up a the “shared prosperity fund” to replace EU cash which it, not Welsh ministers, controlled.

Welsh government ministers have argued they should control how the cash is spent.

Last year, Sir Keir promised the Welsh Labour conference that Wales would have control over its “economic destiny”.

He said: “The decision-making role for the Welsh government on structural funds, will be restored.”

BBC Wales was told Labour’s plans, if they win the election, would work like the EU scheme in the past.

On Friday shadow Welsh Secretary and Labour’s most senior Westminster politician, Jo Stevens, said: “It’s exactly the same as Keir Starmer said in Welsh Labour conference.

“Both the UK government and Welsh government under the old EU funding… had a role.”

She said control would not go fully to the Welsh government, adding: “It’s not a binary choice.”

Campaigning in Rhyl on Saturday, Mr Gething said he and his team had been part of the discussions.

“In the manifesto there is clarity about taking forward the pledges that have been made about former structural funds,” he said.

Image caption, Jo Stevens said the Welsh government would not have total control as it was “not a binary choice”

“That’s a really positive area and that does show that commitment being seen through.”

UK Labour were taking devolution forward, he added.

“The manifesto sets out the start of a plan for government, there’s lots more that a Labour UK government will do but can’t be in the manifesto,” he said.

Mr Gething was “optimistic” that by the next Senedd elections, if Labour is governing the UK, people will be able to see what can be achieved by having Labour governments in Wales and Westminster working together.

The shared prosperity fund is worth £343m a year to Wales, according to recent figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The Conservatives have suggested scrapping the scheme to fund its national service plan.

The IFS has said that would leave Wales £275m worse off.

Wales most senior Westminster Tory, Welsh Secretary David TC Davies, said: “We believe in real devolution, we believe that local authorities are the correct authority to decide on what is good for their area.”

Image caption, David TC Davies said the Conservatives believed in “real” devolution

He added: “If the Labour Party are now recognising the common sense of what we’re doing then I have to welcome it.”

Plaid Cymru’s economy spokesperson in the Senedd, Luke Fletcher, said: “Wording is really important.

“You look back to what Vaughan Gething has been saying in the (Senedd) chamber for example.

“He’s been very clear that Keir Starmer was committing to give those powers back to the Welsh government so that decisions could be made within Wales.

“It’s a bit of a joke really, and at the same time, I mean, is this surprising? It’s not really.”

He said if this happened it would mean Labour had “managed to shortchange” Wales.

The general election is on 4 July.

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