Tuesday, 24 May 2011
On the same day that the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond was meeting senior members of the UK government to put the case for more financial powers to safeguard jobs, Wales gets confirmation that 150 jobs are to be lost at the Newport Passport Office.
Unemployment in Wales is higher than the UK average. In difficult economic times, Wales fairs worse. Higher than average unemployment levels in the late 1960s led to a "regional policy" which devolved civil service jobs out of London. The Passport Office, the DVLA in Swansea and the Mint in Llantrisant were set up in Wales as part of this regional policy, creating hundreds of jobs. And now, because of the ConDem's public spending cuts, many of those jobs are at risk.
Every single job in Wales is worth fighting for, especially jobs which pay more than the minimum wage. Every job lost means less money circulating in our already weak economy, leading to job losses in the private sector too. As the PCS Union have argued, it makes no sense during a recession to enforce more people to take benefits from the public purse instead of paying in to the taxation pot.
Dependence on a Westminster government to either give or take away jobs is unsustainable for Scotland and for Wales. With his demands for more fiscal autonomy, the Scottish First Minister aims to ensure a long term income stream. Cuts to the Scottish budget from Westminster will continue to be savage. More fiscal autonomy will provide an element of resilience, a buffer to Westminster's cuts. Income from excise duties, energy revenues and more borrowing powers will come in handy over the next few years.
Meanwhile, Wales's First Minister was yesterday reported to be open minded about the Assembly gaining financial powers, having been decidedly lukewarm before the election. The cuts in Wales are savage too, and Labour have just won an election on the back of a promise to protect people in Wales from the Tories cuts, to act as a shield against them. Without powers over finance, they can't.