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Last night, I received the following comment on the previous post relating to a piece I had written back in early 2007 about the state of the manufacturing sector in Wales.

"Dylan, you seem to be ignoring the fact that manufacturers in Wales have written the manufacturing strategy. Small and large manufacturers, all represented at the Manufacturing forum, have co-written this strategy. WAG has recently supported this strategy and have funded a co-ordinator with resources. Manufactures are happy with this progress as they are following the strategy they wanted. I know that the Conservatives have attacked the strategy as they seem to think that WAG wrote the strategy. They couldn't be more wrong. The Manufacturing Strategy was written by manufacturers, for manufacturers and is supported by WAG. If you don't agree with this, then I can invite you to the next Manufacturing Forum and you can explain to the manufacturers how their strategy is wrong....I appreciate that there is a need to keep the government in check, but please Dylan, stop trying to pull the wool over peoples eyes to make political are much better than that"

Whoever this anonymous commentator is, they seem genuinely concerned over the state of the manufacturing strategy but the fact remains that WAG has yet to publish a manufacturing strategy for Wales

So what is the truth of the matter and who is actually pulling the wool over whose eyes?

Let's consider the evidence.

At the Enterprise and Learning Committee on December 2nd 2009, there was a short discussion of the manufacturing strategy and a paper was presented by the Welsh Assembly Government on the issue. A full copy is presented here for those who wish to read it but the main points related to the Welsh Manufacturing Forum and the manufacturing strategy are as follows:
  • In November 2006, the Minister announced the creation of a Manufacturing Forum for Wales.
  • The Forum was constituted from a broad representation of invited members from industry, trade unions, representative bodies, sector forums, sector skills councils and WAG
  • The Forum met for the first time in March 2007, accepting as terms of reference that it should (a) develop, implement and keep under review a manufacturing strategy for Wales that addresses issues of generic concern to the sector; (b) assist in obtaining the best possible return on public sector investment in providing support to the manufacturing sector; (c) Endorse detailed sector strategies developed by those sector forums representing priority manufacturing sub-sectors in Wales and support, as appropriate, the implementation of those strategies
  • Through late 2007 and early 2008, the Forum concentrated its efforts on the development of a draft Manufacturing Strategy for Wales which was submitted, in draft form, to the Minister for the Economy & Transport in October 2008.
  • However, the overriding issues of the recession in late 2008 and the economic uncertainties that characterised the first half of 2009 meant that, instead of being able to drive forward towards finalising this document, it became necessary to engage in more immediate discussions linked to the creation of measures to assist the short term survival of companies such as ProAct.
  • The Deputy First Minister and Minister for the Economy & Transport then met with the Chair of the Forum in June 2009 to reaffirm the Forum’s important role in leading on the strategy with WAG committing to continuing to support its work in completing and then implementing the draft Strategy.
  • WAG asked the Forum to refresh its draft document taking into account new trading conditions relating to the availability of credit
  • It was noted that those leading the Forum would no longer be able to contribute at the same intensity due to the recession and therefore WAG would provide funding for the Forum of £50,000 per annum for a two year period to enable it to engage resource to drive forward its plans.
  • It is anticipated that the Forum will now complete its strategy by March 2010.
So there we have it.

Simply put, the Manufacturing Forum was established over three years ago and whereas it has delivered a draft manufacturing strategy for Wales, this was essentially rejected by WAG and a new one will not be ready until the Spring of 2010.

Given the thousands of jobs lost in the sector during this period, you can imagine the deep frustrations of AMs over the prevarication by WAG over this matter.

When the Minister for Economic Development was given the opportunity to come before the Enterprise and Learning Committee to discuss this vital strategy he did not turn up and sent senior officials instead.

I have read through the transcript of the Committee last night with total incredulity.

The only word I can use to describe the response from officials is shameful. They offered no real explanation as to why the manufacturing strategy was not implemented and one even has the audacity to claim full credit for suggesting ProAct as a tool for the recession.

I urge everyone to read pages 1-11 (link here) as it demonstrates the complacency, prevarication and total incompetence that is at the heart of this government's response to the recession and their complicity in helping to destroy what is left of the manufacturing sector in Wales.

Their response is an insult to the hard work put in by the manufacturing forum for Wales to develop the strategy back in 2008. I know, because I attended one of the sub-groups.

If that is the level of strategic thinking within the upper echelons of WAG, then we might as well all give up now.

Indeed, for the first time ever, I actually have sympathy for the Minister in having to work within such an environment in which there is no sense of urgency and managing the status quo, rather than growing the Welsh economy, seems to be the main concern of civil servants.


Anonymous said…
I would simply like to re-direct you to my prrevious reply to yourself, Dylan....

"The simple fact of the matter is that we were not happy that WAG took so long to support the strategy. We argued that in this economic decline, the strategy was more important than ever. However, we were happy with the actual strategy.
WAG have finally listened. Although belated, they are supporting the strategy.
I recall conservative AMs questioning evidence givers at committee last year. Asking if WAG had taken action on the manufacturing strategy. If this helped in pushing WAG to act, then I'm grateful. But, now WAG are actually acting upon the strategy lets see how this develops.
There's no point in calling for a new strategy when there's one already there. It was written by the manufacturing sector and the sector is happy with it. I would rather this approach than WAG writing one for us!
The main problem was the time WAG took to support the strategy. Now they have, lets support it - at the end of the day, it was written by manufacturers as a way to support the sector"
as I said,

can I thank you for taking the time to respond.

If other people had the same passion about their sector, then this country would be in a far better state than it is today.

My frustration is not with the manufacturing forum - far from it - but with WAG's continuing prevarication and delays over this issue.

You say that there is already a manufacturing strategy and that WAG is supporting it.

However, according to senior WAG officials, this is having to be rewritten to take into account of "credit conditions" and won't be ready for publication until March 2010 and will only be implemented as part of the economic renewal programme.

If that is the case, then can I urge you to send a copy not only to me but to all the members of the Enterprise and Learning Committee.

I believe they would be fascinated to know exactly what the Forum has planned for the manufacturing sector in Wales as, to date, they have had no real information whatsoever.

Indeed, it would be good to know why WAG refused to implement the original draft strategy - the recession seems to be a convenient excuse more than anything else.

Only then will ordinary AMs whose constituents have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector be able to press the Government to make sure that your strategy, which has been written by manufacturers for manufacturers, will be implemented.
Mac said…
WAG has been sitting on the strategy for YEARS. It has been 'fit for purpose' according to WAG officials for YEARS.

Ieuan Wyn Jones repeatedly attacked opposition members when they questioned him about it. He said they should work with WAG constructively rather that criticising the lack of a strategy, despite a WAG undertaking to publish it. He said it wasn't the time to bring forward a strategy during the recession. He said at various points that WAG was writing it, that the forum was writing and Rhodri said that the Ministerial Advisory Group to Ieuan was writing it. We can hardly be surprised that members who questioned WAG on it were in the dark themselves when WAG couldn't give a straight answer about what was going on.

As it turns out it is left to WAG officials to let slip that such a strategy was ready. But why didn't a single WAG Minister ever say so?
Anonymous said…
It just gets worse,someone needs to take these officials to task.Is this the job of the Perm Sec or Gareth"teflon " Hall.
I am stunned , if this is what gets repeated in all things economic ,then we have no hope of a vibrant economy.
Is there any hope of Melding and Randerson taking this up
Or one of the scruting committees?
CAI said…
VM> well, I'm not the least bit surprised. The WAG is run by Plaid and Welsh Labour - neither of which seem to grasp the urgency of the situation. Wales should be on a 100% tuned up to help job creation in the private sector, but alas, we hear WAG prevaricate and obfuscate at every turn and complain when anyone asks them why.
Anonymous said…
this is shocking but not surprising, be honest when was the last time any Opposition politicians or journalist really unsettled WAG over anything, it doesn't happen because of the cosy nature of our political class.

This needs urgently to be followed up by Opposition politicians and the media as Valleys Mam said.

Is there any chance Nick Bourne and Kirsty Williams will use FMQ's on Tuesday to question Carwyn Jones over this matter, well see?

One bright note about this mess it seems Tomos Livingstone picking up on some of your points about WAG's role over Bosch in yesterdays Western Mail, long may it continue.
Anonymous said…
I note that in the report to the committee at the end of last year, they didn't seem to know the difference between the UK and Great Britain! Which statistics are they? Frightening.
Disappointed said…
I have read the committee reports and it is shocking. How on earth could Ieuan allow civil servants to delay the implementation of a manufacturing strategy that could have potentially saved hundreds of jobs? When is he going to get a grip on this.
Anonymous said…
'Any chance of someone taking this up?' you asked.

This from the Assembly plenary record (December 8 2009):

Nick Bourne
I have a question on the manufacturing strategy, which is a subject on which we have locked horns in the past. We learnt last week, on 2 December, from Welsh Assembly Government officials that the manufacturing strategy has been in draft form, or so they say, and fit for purpose since the autumn of 2008. I find that amazing because I have asked on no fewer than 10 occasions this year—on 21 January, 4 February, 19 May, 3 June, 9 June, 30 June, 1 July, 14 July, and on two occasions in September—what has happened to the strategy. I was not told that the strategy was fit for purpose and in a form that could be published. Could you enlighten us as to the latest state of this strategy?

On the manufacturing strategy, I do not think that one should get too hung up on those very words. The key question is: is a manufacturing policy being formulated and how exactly does it fit into the overall economic strategy? The Deputy First Minister recently announced an economic renewal programme, and we must be sure that the manufacturing strategy fits into that. The economic renewal programme is out to consultation. Its broad thrust, as I have mentioned previously, is that Wales should move in the direction of the Singaporean strategy. What is the Singaporean strategy? It is a combination of high-end manufacturing that is not in competition with the Chinese or other low-wage economies, and of services, such as financial services among others...ETC ETC.
Thanks for all your comments.

The conclusion seems to be that we are all astounded that WAG has not implemented the manufacturing strategy for Wales at a time when the sector needed as much support and guidance as possible.

AS the last commentator noted, the Welsh Conservatives have asked for the strategy for the last year and WAG has prevaricated and, as the quote above shows, now essentially admitted that it does not exist.

You have to ask why on earth did WAG bother with the establishment of a manufacturing forum for Wales if civil servants have simply ignored its recommendations.

Will such window dressing be true pf the economic renewal programme?
Dewi apCaradog Jones said…
Having had a look through the Manufacturing Forum documentation, there seems to be a huge elephant in it which nobody is pointing at.

Manufacturing isn't about the private sector finding employment for people, its about making things as cheaply as possible.

If the main complaint about Welsh manufacturing is that there are less people employed in it than there used to be, you seem to have missed this point.

Maybe the simplest conclusion is to not wire up the electricity and get everyone doing everything manually - I'm sure that would quickly increase the number of employed back up to 1970's levels - even if it isn't profitable - but who cares about that? - That's a management issue!

Ok, so I'm being flippant. My point though is that this whole strategy is an attempt to find work for WAG and related bureaucrats - it is also a wonderful way of making them feel that they are adding value - and doing something. In reality though, the real wealth creators are ignoring them.

Manufacturing today is about high quality, efficient and profitable processes which are not too labour intensive - its not a dumping ground for the semi skilled - that is what the public sector is for!

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