Wednesday, 2 January 2008

How Green Will Be My Valley? asks Leanne

Valleys ‘need help to emerge from the past’

Jan 2 2008 by Jackie Bow, South Wales Echo

CALLS have been made for a new strategy to help Valleys areas still struggling to cope with the legacy of the industrial past. It comes as new research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found former mining regions in England and Scotland have made a stronger recovery since the demise of the coal industry and people there have benefited more by commuting to cities or finding new jobs locally.
The study compared three areas – the Valleys and Cardiff, South Yorkshire coalfield and Sheffield, and Lothian Coalfield and Edinburgh. Cardiff had shown bigger employment growth but the report questioned the benefit for the Valleys.
From 1998 to 2003, jobs growth was zero for men in the Valleys and four per cent for women. In 2001, just 8.5 per cent of working Valleys residents commuted to Cardiff – the figure for Lothian to Edinburgh was 39.5 per cent.
Critics say there has been too much emphasis on temporary inward investment by foreign companies and too little on home-grown businesses.

Rhondda AM Leanne Wood said low skills in the Valleys meant people could only apply for low-paid jobs and could not afford the transport and childcare. This meant they were reluctant or unable to work more than a few miles from home or their children’s school.
“One of the things that will encourage more women into work is having employment on their doorstep and the flexibility to get around informal childcare arrangements,” she said. She said the report showed how grants for inward investment in the 1980s and ’90s had ultimately failed the Valleys.
“As soon as the benefits ran out a lot of companies packed up and left. I don’t know if that was worse than them not coming at all.
“It raised people’s standards of living and expectation and took them away again.”
Tony Chaplin, spokesman for the Merthyr Initiative Group, said: “They talked about the ripple effect for years where what is good for Cardiff can be good for the Valleys but that hasn’t happened.
“I believe probably it has reached Caerphilly and lower areas of Taff Ely but there is little evidence of it having benefited the upper Valleys area.Cardiff and Swansea, the M4 belt, will still be the major attractors of investment, whether it’s indigenous or otherwise, because of their locations and until the Heads of the Valleys road is dualled completely we are not going to have even cross-valley benefits.”

I have a kind of vested interest in the regeneration of the valleys as my tadcu (Caleb J, born 1855) came from Pontypool and left there in search of work in the steel industry.

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