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Action needed to stop Valley’s decline

The Western Mail reports on the annual Keir Hardie lecture by Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University, in which he warns that a superhuman effort is required to ensure the South Wales Valleys don’t have to commemorate 100 years of economic decline.

He said that Government intervention is essential to ensure job opportunities were made available to people living in the Heads of the Valleys. Adding, special attention should be given to creating employment for semi-skilled people, and it is important not to see the Valleys as a homogenous whole:

“The South Wales Valleys were the subject of the world’s first ever regional policy. Some people say regional policy began in Britain in the1920s with the establishment of the Industrial Transference Board, which arranged for unemployed workers to be sent to other areas to find work.

“Then in 1934 the Special Areas Act gave assistance to the areas of Britain with the highest areas of unemployment, including South Wales and Tyneside. Yet the Valleys have been in decline ever since. What we don’t want to do is celebrate 100 years of industrial decline – that would be the anniversary from hell.”

He continued: “What needs to be done is for house building, energy efficiency and other environmental jobs to be created to provide employment opportunities for semi-skilled people in the Heads of the Valleys. Jobs need to be provided in those communities – it’s simply not in the mental universe of people living there to seek work in Cardiff: it takes too long to get there and is too expensive.”

For those living lower down the Valleys, however, the development of the Cardiff city region concept could be of enormous benefit if developed properly, said Prof Morgan.

“Economic geography is vitally important, and we need to create the connectivity that enables people to move around. I’m a great supporter of innovative ideas like the South Wales Metro and the Valleys Circle Line [which for an estimated £30m could deliver a dual track electrified circle line linking Cardiff Central, Caerphilly, Ystrad Mynach, Treforest and Pontypridd at least four times an hour].

“In developing the Cardiff city region, we should take inspiration from Manchester and most particularly from Stuttgart, the most successful city region in Europe, where the vast majority of people live no more than 600 metres from a station and where development policies are strictly geared to public transport routes.”

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