Proact Bingo

An insider tells me that there is a new game that is being played by attendees at any meeting with Assembly Ministers, namely ProAct bingo

i.e. how many times the Minister or his/her officials will actually mention the ProAct scheme during the meeting.

It should be funny but it isn't, especially when the Assembly Government has actually failed to come up with anything else of note to deal specifically with the recession since the ProAct scheme was announced over six months ago.

All of their other initiatives are either those that were planned years ago, such as the JEREMIE fund, or rehashes of previous schemes such as the "new" local investment funds which are a copy of the funds run by local authorities under the Objective 1 scheme.

It demonstrates, unfortunately, that the Labour-Plaid Assembly Government has completely run out of ideas only halfway through its term and that the recession will continue to hit the country hard over the coming months, despite billions of European funding and the so called 'devolution dividend'.

And if anyone doubts that things are not going to get worse, then the last week has demonstrated that companies are continuing, or are considering, shedding jobs all across Wales:

  • Anglesey - 500 staff at Anglesey Aluminium have all received letters warning them that their jobs at the Holyhead plant are at risk
  • Bridgend - 279 jobs are to be lost after the Dairy Farmers of Britain (DFB) closed its Bridgend plant
  • Cardiff - 100 jobs to go at Lloyds TSB
  • Denbighshire - more than 300 jobs go as the Indesit factory closes in Bodelwyddan
  • Wrexham- Air Products are considering closing their factory with the loss of 200 jobs
This, of course does not include, as this blog predicted months ago, thousands of more job cuts across the public sector in local authorities, further education, the health service and universities.
With unemployment set to hit 150,000 by the end of the year, it is time that we had a coherent strategy from the Assembly Government which does not consist of a one-trick pony such as ProAct, however worthy its intentions.

Some have argued that politicians' hands are tied by the fact that they have to operate within a "safety first" culture within the civil service in Wales.

Certainly, that case can be made with increasing evidence of delay and bureaucracy in the implementation of European funded projects, a complete breakdown in communications between officials and companies (so nobody knows which business is the next one under threat) and a reluctance to back major investment projects by blue chip companies.

Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, as the buck stops with politicians, not civil servants.

Indeed, if some of those top civil servants remain reluctant to help Ministers to get this country out of recession, then their political masters should have the courage to ask them to make way for those who will make a difference and create a 'can do' culture that can finally get this country out of recession.

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