A port in Wales for our growing wind industry

Let's start with the good news. It's right that the UK government has decided not to cut the £60m fund earmarked for the development of ports from which to build and maintain offshore windfarms. There was definitely a question mark over whether this money would survive the spending cuts, so I'm very glad it has.

But the bad news is that the UK has decided that only ports in England can bid for this money, as we can read in these reports:

     Call for 'level playing field' on wind turbine subsidy
     Wind farm scheme biased, says Welsh MP

I was going to write something short and scathing about this decision when I heard about it on the news this evening, but soon realized that the matter isn't quite as black and white as it appears.

The first thing to say is that Wales, Scotland and the north of Ireland will get a Barnett consequential from this England-only spend. For Wales, this will work out to about £3.53m under the present arrangements. However it should be said that if the ConDem government introduces the "Barnett Floor" as recommended in the Holtham Commission report, we would get 117% of this, i.e. about £4.13m. This should be a timely illustration of why we cannot let the matter of fair funding for Wales continue to go unaddressed. In times like this, every half million counts.


But if we are going to get our share of the money anyway, why exactly are Ieuan Wyn Jones and Albert Owen making such a fuss? Well, they haven't made that clear, but I hope at least one of the two will have thought of it like this:

£60m is not a lot of money. Any sort of construction work in order to develop a port to be able to handle the size of wind turbines involved is going to cost many tens, if not hundreds of millions of pounds. So for any grant from government to actually make a meaningful difference, the £60m pot of money can only realistically be divided between two or three ports. £20m will be a significant investment which should be enough of a sweetener to attract the rest of the investment necessary, but £5m won't make any real difference one way or the other. So even if we were to get our full £4.13m, we could not use it for a Welsh port in such a way as to compete if the UK government chose to give that money to say Liverpool, Barrow or Avonmouth.

The second factor in the equation is that DECC only this week signed a letter of intent with the Crown Estate setting out a strategy for the UK as a whole, rather than one that recognized the devolved administrations. We can read the details here:

     The Crown Estate and Government
     Signal Boost for UK Offshore Wind Supply Chain

So we have the classic muddle of one department of the UK government (Energy and Climate Change) working on a UK basis, while another department of the same government (Business Innovation and Skills) just thinks about England, because the money is classed as industrial support ... or at least that is what the UK government is saying in order to justify its decision to invest the £60m only in England.

Where, we have to ask, was our Secretary of State for Wales when this was being decided? It's her job to make sure that this sort of muddle does not happen ... but Cheryl Gillan has once again failed to do her job.

The end effect of this decision is clear enough. There will almost certainly be one manufacturing and maintenance port on the west coast of England, and either one or two on the east coast. A glance at this map of the new Round Three wind farm zones should make it obvious why: the largest new wind farm zones are in the North Sea.



But on the west coast by far the largest Round Three zone is in the Irish Sea and, as the second map shows, the closest large port to it is Holyhead. So if the decision on where to provide money to help build new port facilities on the west coast is limited to England, it becomes pointless for us in Wales to provide a duplicate ... not that our £3.5m Barnett consequential could compete with the £20m or £30m that a port like Liverpool or Barrow could be awarded anyway.

That's why this decision is unfair. We have the potential to make Ynys Môn the nerve centre of the offshore wind industry in the Irish Sea, but Westminster seems determined to make sure that a port in England is given an unfair advantage over one in Wales, even though Holyhead is in a much better location for it. It's yet another example of the contempt agenda. Westminster simply concentrating on what's best for England, rather than working with the devolved administrations to develop a joined-up strategy.

Bookmark and Share


Tywodog said...

Also remember that Anglesey is the poorest region in the UK, and one of it’s key assets is the port ideally suited for such purpose. In addition to the turbines, you need support ships, and Holyhead has Holyhead Towing that already provides such ships and Holyhead Marine that could build and maintain them.

You see we are often told; by the conservative press and bloggers, why the local MP and Welsh Assembly have let down Anglesey. This was the Coalition Governments chance to show commitment to Anglesey a clear demonstration they could make a difference, and their reply - “Sorry nothing to do with us, go see Ieuan in the Bay.”

I suspect certain bloggers will be very quiet on this subject.

MH said...

I've just realized I made a mistake in the Barnett calulations. Wales would get about a seventeenth of any England-only expenditure under the current Barnett consequentials, i.e. about £3.53m, not £3m as I said before. But if a "Barnett Floor" of 117% were in place, we would get about £4.13m.

I've changed the post to show the correct figures. Sorry for any confusion.

Unknown said...

As every one of these offshore wind farms will be over the 50Mw barrier (they would not be economic otherwise) to their coming under the Assembly's responsibility, does it not follow that any infrastructure put in place to support them should come out of the common pot as well?

There is also the question of where the power come ashore. Now with the infrastructure that is already in place to support Wylfa, not to mention the proximity of Anglesey to the wind farms , surely it makes sense to bring the electricity ashore in Môn, and to have all the engineering support there as well, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Looks as if the Druid of Anglesey is trying to play catch-up:


MH said...

The little sneak. Always eager to reinterpret anything that's critical of his beloved Tory Party.

I suppose the only reason he doesn't call himself the Tory of Anglesey is to make him harder to recognize ... after all, there are far fewer Tories than Druids on Ynys Môn.

Paul Williams said...

"Always eager to reinterpret anything that's critical of his beloved Tory Party. "

As opposed to you, I suppose, who can see no wrong in Plaid Cymru.

"I suppose the only reason he doesn't call himself the Tory of Anglesey is to make him harder to recognize ... after all, there are far fewer Tories than Druids on Ynys Môn."

Is that the best you can do? Don't bother to engage with the argument - just attack the man instead? You surprise me, MH.

If WAG really believes that this is the sort of development it wants in Wales, then I see no difficulty in WAG stopping playing the victim and funding this themselves. They have enough money - just no competence. This Plaid/Labour controlled WAG spends more on economic development per capita than any other regional development agency, yet Wales continues to lag at the bottom of just about every UK-wide economic indice. Why? Is it because of the Tories? Is it because we are underfunded by £300m a year? Or is it perhaps because in Cardiff we are ruled by a coalition stuffed with second rate politicians who have by and large never had a wealth creating job in their life?

As for Ieuan Wyn Jones, we have now had him in Ynys Môn as either AM or MP for the past 23 years, yet I doubt if anyone on the island could point to a single development on the island and say that's what IWJ has delivered for us. You talk above about developing Holyhead - yet earlier this year IWJ was delivered the opportunity on a plate to secure a major clean-tech car manufacturer for the town, yet he let the opportunity slip through his fingers through inaction. Was that because the Tories "disrespect the welsh economy"? Is it because of some imagined "unfairness"? Or is the reason slightly closer to home?

MH said...

Does the Tory of Anglesey feel attacked? Following the tip off I was given, I've simply told people what you did, and they can either agree or disagree with me about what sort of person you are.

If you want to widen the issue, please go ahead when you've calmed down a little. It looks to me as if you're just throwing up handfuls of the dust in which you're now grovelling in an attempt to obscure something that you know, but can't bring yourself to admit. Namely, that your own government has just unfairly disadvantaged Wales by making a fund that was meant to be open to the whole of the UK open only to England.

Paul Williams said...

It is not my character which is being revealed - but yours. Whereas I suggest practical alternatives, you are content to merely wallow in victimhood. I know which approach will benefit both Anglesey and Wales more.

MH said...

I know my character is being revealed, Tory, and I'm perfectly happy for that to happen. In case you hadn't realized it, that's what happens when you write a blog. So I find it both strange and sad that you could be so blind to the fact that your character is also revealed by what you say and do.

You thought that you could hide your political standpoint and allegiances behind the pretence of being a disinterested neutral. That was a mistake. I've never made a secret of mine.

Paul Williams said...

Yet another reply dripping with vitriol.

"Character - noun - the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing."

How revealing that you should conflate 'character' with political allegiance.

Just as paranoids can also have enemies, 'disinterested neutrals' can have political opinions too. My opinions have been consistent and available for all to see - and have never been 'disguised'. Otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Unknown said...

"his Plaid/Labour controlled WAG spends more on economic development per capita than any other regional development agency, yet Wales continues to lag at the bottom of just about every UK-wide economic indice. Why?"

I'd wager, because of the geography and peripheral position of Wales, because of the composition of our population and because of high levels of illness and disability (higher than the UK average) due to our previous over-reliance on heavy industry. It's easy to bash Wales today as being over-reliant on the public sector, but we've been over-reliant on a particularly destructive form of private sector activity as well in the very recent past, and its effects are easily as damaging to the Welsh economy (if not more so) than our current perceived malaise.

Not quite on topic, but a valid riposte to your argument about "second rate politicians".

I suppose Welsh people can't possibly run their own affairs and are destined to be "second rate". The exact same slur you use there Druid informs the reasons why the Welsh private sector is so small.

Paul Williams said...

Ramblings - geography and infrastructure have indeed had an effect, but that is not the whole picture. Indeed the discussion we are having about wind turbines would suggest that in this case geography is actually working in our favour, but politicians (of all colours) are not.

I agree that we have all suffered because of the poor practices of the banking industry. And I do not excuse them by saying that the previous government was also partially responsible in not better regulating the mortgage industry or raising interest rates earlier to cool down an obvious housing price bubble (indeed Gordon Brown specifically changed the inflation index tracked by the Bank of England to one which did not include house prices, thus prolonging the boom and subsequent bust).

"I suppose Welsh people can't possibly run their own affairs and are destined to be "second rate". The exact same slur you use there Druid informs the reasons why the Welsh private sector is so small."

Those are your words not mine. I have consistently argued that Wales should run its own affairs and that WAG should be given more powers, including the ability to vary tax rates. However my issues are with the way WAG has been run - its remit should be to develop policies which meet Wales's specific needs, in a way which would not be possible in a Westminster "one-size-fits-all" approach. However, it has conspicuously failed to do this. There is nothing unique about Wales which demands that all prescriptions should be free, or that all Welsh children should be fed breakfast by the state. The WAG's failure is to not think more radically about developing policies which would create a more sustainable and better balanced economy here in Wales. That is why I called them 'second rate'.

MH said...

The Tory of Anglesey talks about vitriol. He should read his comment at 01:39 yesterday for an illustration of what vitriol actually is. As for his consistency, his claim to be a disinterested neutral before the election is quite at odds with what he has shown himself to be now that his party are in power in Westminster. And that, as if he hadn't realized it, is why we're having this discussion now.

WR has answered one point about economic development. I would simply add what I've said many times before, that "economic development" in Wales generally means giving public money to companies as an incentive to either bring work to or keep work in Wales. It is useful, but a relatively minor lever.

The levers that government in the UK uses to control the economy are very much more effective, but these are not devolved to Wales. That, for example, is the main reason Alun Cairns gave for leaving the Assembly (when he eventually does) to become an MP. All the big decisions are still made in Westminster.

So it seems rather silly for the Tory to cite statistics showing Wales' poor economic performance, but claim that this is because the Welsh Government "has conspicuously failed". We should either blame the ones who had their hands on the levers, or blame the way the system is designed, because the UK economy has only one set of levers. I think the second is a much more important factor, because the same centralization of wealth has continued under Westminster governments of different political colours.

But there are some signs that this might change, and interesting that the Tories seem to be more open to making this happen than Labour were, as I mentioned here. I only hope that people like Dylan Jones-Evans, who have a more direct line to government in Westminster than those in other parties, can convince their colleagues about it.

The best way for Wales to become more prosperous is for the levers of our economy to be in Wales. It is a structural issue that transcends party politics. Even the Tories have some good ideas, so although a Welsh Tory government would never be my choice, it would not fill me with dread either. How does the saying go? ... "They may be bastards, but at least they'll be our bastards." The fact that they're ours—and will therefore put Wales first—matters more. Though of course the Tories will have to travel quite some way to convince us of that before they'll get enough AMs elected to form a government.

Post a Comment