‘Golden thread’ should be sought to support region’s economy

One of the main thrusts of a new scoping report on the north Wales economy suggests that regional stakeholders are seeking to ensure that a 'golden thread' runs through the supply chain to enable local small firms to benefit from incoming economic opportunities.

The report also identifies that Welsh Government have the opportunity, through the potential for devolved powers on procurement rules, to ensure quality jobs and good terms and conditions for workers on inward investment projects.

Dr Alexandra Plows, of Bangor University’s School of Social Sciences has delivered the scoping study to the National Assembly’s recent Infrastructure and Skills committee meeting. This work, with the National Assembly’s Research Service supplements the existing evidence base for Assembly Members to contribute to the scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s approach to developing the North Wales economy.

Dr Plows is one of only two university academics, both at Bangor University, who are involved in a pilot project to share their expertise with the Assembly’s Research Service under new Academic Fellowships being piloted by the National Assembly.

Dr Alexandra Plows was keen to get under the skin of current economic challenges facing North Wales, in particular the proposed North Wales Growth Deal. She interviewed a range of stakeholders to explore ideas for alternative, complementary economic approaches with the aim of improving the north Wales economy.

She says:

“Having sought opinions and critiques which are often ‘under the radar’, other recommendations I’m making include a targeted ‘action research’ agenda to fill knowledge gaps, especially in relation to micro-businesses and the self-employed. This significant group makes up two-thirds of the north Wales labour market. More information is needed about what these businesses do, what they need, how they can scale up to meet the forthcoming Growth deal opportunities; and whether other policies are needed to help sustain these businesses outside of the growth deal.

We also need to “periphery proof” all policies and initiatives. What that means is that policies should ensure that benefits should accrue to the whole region. This would respond to the concern being voiced that is it unclear whether the current planned Growth Deal initiatives will provide evenly spread economic benefits across the region; it is possible that the north east will benefit more than north west Wales.”

Dr Plows also draws attention to the fact that large scale schemes are dependent on outside factors such as fluctuations in the market; delays to some initiatives have already affected plans by stakeholders to develop supply -side responses to forthcoming demand-side opportunities.

Dr Plows adds:

“Several stakeholders have identified that it is also important to focus on developing jobs quality within the sectors which underpin the regions' labour market- sectors such as care, tourism, agriculture- it is important to develop jobs quality and quality of service provision, in sectors of what has been termed the 'foundational economy'.”

Dr Plows will also be co-authoring a blog with National Assembly research service staff,  in order that some of these ideas are shared and discussed more widely.

The Pilot Scheme is funded by Bangor University’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA).

Publication date: 7 July 2017