Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Plaid should be championing regional pay

The election of Leanne Wood as leader of Plaid Cymru is expected by many to see to the Party moving further to the left. Her comments today confirm this as she looks to cosy up with Labour.  This shift should open the door for the Conservative Party in Wales to start appealing directly to disaffected Plaid supporters.

A policy which caught my attention recently was regional pay.  The suggestion led to immediate outcry form unions as well as all of the Welsh political parties.  I can completely understand this reaction.  The short term impact of this policy would be to see the pay packets of much of the Welsh workforce shrinking and this would probably lead to the Welsh economy weakening in the short term.  With elections almost every year, few politicians have the ability to think of anything but the short term hence the negative reaction.

In the longer term however regional pay has the potential to help re balance the Welsh economy and make the Welsh private sector more competitive.  Currently Welsh companies have to pay higher wages to stop staff leaving for the public sector.  If the wages were lower Welsh business could charge lower prices and undercut competition from abroad and other parts of the UK.  It would take many years but in the long term it could be a huge boost for the Welsh economy.  At that stage prosperity would increase leading to increases in pay for public sector workers as well.  

Most Plaid supporters admit their long term goal is independence.  Public support for this has recently been shown to be very low, mainly I suspect because Plaid cannot put forward a sensible way that they would fund an independent Wales.  Regional pay may be bad news in the short term but anyone would genuinely wants to see Wales being in a position to raise more revenue than we spends should be giving it careful consideration.

That should mean that regional pay is a flagship policy for Plaid as a key way to make the Welsh economy more competitive.  In reality Plaid's only policy seems to be complaining that the English hand out is not big enough.  This gives the Welsh Conservative Party the ability to offer a far more positive message to the people of Wales.  Rather than complain about the size of the English hand out we can offer a prosperous future for the Welsh economy but only if we are brave enough to look at the long term.  Regional pay should be the first part of that message and if Wales gets tax varying powers a reduction in Welsh Corporation Tax should be step 2.