Like the Abba song why did Welsh Government allow the 7,000 job Britishvolt project slip through its fingers

ABBA may not be one of my all-time favourite bands, but they did have some cracking tunes back in the day.

As I was driving to the Senedd the other day, the Swedish group’s hit Slipping Through My Fingers came on the radio.

I must admit, I did have a little chuckle to myself as it played because – as far as I am concerned – never has a song so accurately summed up the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.

Wales could’ve been home to the second largest industrial investment in UK history, but sadly the First Minister let the deal slip through his fingers.

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I am, of course, talking about the failed project to create a battery cell gigafactory in the Vale of Glamorgan – which would have created some 7,000 jobs, boosted the Welsh economy and put Wales at the centre of the UK’s green industrial revolution.

Britishvolt – the company behind the venture – had its sights set on St Athan to become home to its major gigafactory.

And it looked like things were going well, with the company and the Welsh Government entering into a memorandum of understanding – a promising step towards creating the factory.

But it turned out to be a short lived affair with both parties going their separate ways only a few months later because the factory would not be ready in time for Britishvolt.

Now Britishvolt has secured financial backing and will be opening the gigafactory in Northumberland – a staggering loss to the Welsh economy.

Maybe I am missing something here, but as far as I am aware, planning resolution and construction timeframes are no quicker in the north-east of England than they are here in Wales. Yet still this project has leaked out of Wales at a huge cost to our economy.

What went wrong to cause this major deal to fall through? Some media reports have suggested that the project was not a top priority for Labour ministers and that Britishvolt became frustrated with the lacklustre engagement.

I quizzed Mark Drakeford on the Britishvolt scheme during last week’s First Minister’s Questions.

Instead of giving Senedd members, and the Welsh public, the answers they deserve as to why 7,000 green jobs leaked out of Wales, the Labour leader took no responsibility for the project’s collapse – insisting Britishvolt simply decided to invest somewhere else rather than St Athan and that there was nothing to see here, move on.

I’m afraid this doesn’t wash. A joint statement, released by the Labour Government and Britishvolt, said the project fell through because the proposed St Athan site couldn’t be delivered in time, but miraculously in Northumberland the site could be delivered. This inward investment scheme – which would’ve pumped billions of pounds into our economy – fell apart on Labour’s watch, and there are still many questions left unanswered.

The fact that an investigation into what went wrong and how ministers handled the Britishvolt project is being carried out, goes to show there were some serious failings on Labour’s part.

It is vital the public, and politicians across the Senedd floor, are given full sight of the report’s conclusions so we can get to the bottom of this catastrophic economic blunder.

Thanks to Labour’s mismanagement, Wales has lost out on high quality, well-paid and environmentally friendly jobs – something they should be working tirelessly to attract.

Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long list of Labour failures which have cost the Welsh economy dearly.

One of the major economic slip-ups that springs immediately to mind, is the ill-fated Circuit of Wales venture, which would’ve created 6,000 jobs.

Expected to cost around £430m, private investors were unwilling to put money into it unless the Labour Government provided a loan of more than £200m.

Despite the expected huge benefits the scheme would’ve brought to one of the poorest areas of Wales, ministers decided not to invest – leaving the racetrack project high and dry.

Labour are more than happy to pump similar sums into propping up their failing Cardiff Airport vanity project, but couldn’t bring themselves to invest in a scheme which would’ve put Wales on the international stage and created valuable jobs in the process.

There was a catalogue of errors when it came to the project, with Assembly members – as we were known back then – concluding that government officials made “inexplicable decisions” when spending public money.

And sadly, nothing has changed in the years that have followed. Mark Drakeford and his Labour cabinet haven’t learnt any lessons and are still hampering our economic recovery.

It’s not just the lack of engagement from Labour ministers that is making Wales a nation hostile to business. Companies are also being put off from investing and setting up shop in Wales because of regular traffic jams and intolerable congestion.

There are around 30,000 traffic jams in Wales every year, costing the Welsh economy a whopping £300m.

Instead of investing in infrastructure to alleviate congestion, improve motorists’ lives and enhance business prospects, Labour ministers decided to deal a hammer blow to the economy with their knee-jerk decision to stop all road building in Wales.

Only last week, we saw Labour pull the plug on a huge road project earmarked for the 87-mile long A55, the main expressway through North Wales.

Plans had been afoot to remove roundabouts from the major route, which at the moment are huge safety concerns and cause lengthy traffic jams.

But after wasting £9m of taxpayer cash on the scheme, Labour ministers have decided to scrap the much-needed improvements – something residents will find a bitter pill to swallow.

Labour has been responsible for running Wales since the days of Tony Blair, but have consistently failed to improve our economy.

In 1999, when devolution began, Welsh workers and their Scottish counterparts took home the same amount of pay, but today a Scottish worker takes home £55 a week more. Imagine the difference this spending power would have across Wales.

Two decades of Labour running the show was quite accurately summed up by a member of the Labour government who said “we don’t really know what we’re doing on the economy.”

If they don’t trust themselves on the economy, why should we?

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