With Welsh Labour winning exactly half of the seats in the Senedd last week, what can Wales expect over the next five years?
Apart from the obvious need to recover from the pandemic, more of the same is likely to come from the Senedd. The election pledges of Welsh Labour were generally focused on social policies with individuals at their heart, rather than a clear spotlight on businesses in Wales. However, Welsh business is key to attracting talent to Wales and boosting the economy alongside public sector expenditure. The concentration of efforts on key sectors such as life sciences and Fintech can be expected to continue.
Will there be a greener approach to policy making?
An important topic for all governments is the frequently mentioned “climate emergency” which many would say has been reached. A common theme running through the sixth Senedd is likely to be a greener approach to policy making. In particular, investment in rail and other public transport is to be expected over road transport links. Alongside this will be a continued focus on staying local and remote working which will reduce the need to travel at all.
A point to watch will be the extent to which the Welsh and UK governments can work together. Mark Drakeford has described his relationship with Boris Johnson as “remote”, and the pandemic seems only to have exacerbated the dividing line between Cardiff and Westminster. A push for devolution of more powers to Wales can be expected.
One area which is already partially devolved is the setting of income tax rates. Whilst an imminent rise in Welsh rates is unlikely, an increase is a definite possibility as recovery from the pandemic takes effect. There will be a difficult balance between raising funds to meet the Welsh Government’s spending plans against the desire to attract and retain business and talent in Wales.
Whilst the balance of power in the Senedd has not seen a great deal of change, standing still will not be an option. Let’s hope for a desire for all political parties to work together to ensure a sustainable future for Wales.