Sunday, October 23, 2011

Welsh government kills high-value jobs prospects for bay area

South Wales West Liberal Democrat Assembly Member, Peter Black has written to the Welsh Government’s Business and Enterprise Minister, Edwina Hart seeking an explanation after a potential investment that would have brought 100 high value jobs to the Swansea area was lost following her decision to end a research-based funding scheme without proper consultation.

Mr. Black has raised with the Minister reports in this morning’s press that the her decision to end European funding to University of Wales’ POWIS scholarships without putting any alternative scheme in place has led directly to a proposal to establish an IT development centre, which could have created up to 100 jobs in the Swansea area, being withdrawn.

The Western Mail reports that New Zealand-based software development company Pingar had been planning to set up a Centre for Knowledge Engineering here, but that it is now likely to choose the east of England instead.

John Beer, who was responsible for the project and who is himself a POWIS scholar is quoted as saying that there was a “lack of transparency” over the end of the POWIS scheme and that companies that had benefited from the project had learnt about its demise through the media rather than from government.

In his letter, Mr. Black asks the Minister to outline what contact her officials have had with this company and what communication the Welsh Government had with companies benefiting from POWIS about the decision to end funding. He asks how the Minister reassured these companies about funding for future research?

“From an outsider’s viewpoint it certainly seems to be the case that Mr. Beer’s suggestion that the future of collaboration has been wiped out in one fell swoop is correct,” said Mr. Black. “I am very concerned that the Swansea area is potentially losing one hundred much-needed high value jobs and I want to know what contact Welsh Government officials have had with this company to persuade them to change their mind.

“I am not questioning the assertion by Ministers that there were problems with the way that European funding was being used, they are in a better position to judge that than me. However, the way that the decision was put into effect has impacted upon a number of businesses and the future prosperity of Wales. The Minister needs to say when an alternative scheme will be up-and-running to address this imbalance.”
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