#BarryIs – the aftermath

#BarryIs – the really good news, is that we’re gonna do it again!!

I’ve just got back from a lovely afternoon, talking all things #Barry with friends. Some of whom, I’ve only just met today, but friends nonetheless. We covered a lot of ground, and over the coming week or so, we’ll get to writing it up (I’ve a co-conspirator Emma Evans, who managed magnificently to keep us on track, and on purpose….

There were four things that immediately came to mind, and I wanted to share them with you;

1 – first and foremost, the regeneration that really takes hold and matters means something to people. Barrians who joined us today (whether they’ve been here a lifetime or a couple of years), described their affinity to the town with sincerity and passion. They love Barry!

2 – secondly, there was recognition that Barry’s history is still quite young. It essentially didn’t exist 150 years ago, but is now Wales’ largest town. I loved it being compared to a forest that has grown up very quickly. Regenerating such a forest needs some strong trees to help new saplings grow…

3 – we (collectively) need to become ambassadors for the town and spread the good news about just how good the place is. There seemed to be a real opportunity to do more shouting about the best things in the town. I’m going to start this by shouting out about the fantastic group of people who got involved today – you (Graham, Louise, Dai, Nick, Shirley, Emma, Gareth, Richard, Andy, Phil, Ian & Martin) are top Barry Bods – bendigedig!

4 – finally, it is clear we aren’t starting from a blank sheet of paper. They’re are loads of good things going on, and the final parting shot comes from Louise who said “I’m convinced it’s not about money.” I agree with that entirely. The future of Barry’s regeneration will be about the spirit of the people – the pioneers.

As I said at the start, we’re going to meet again. Next time we’re putting on our walking boots (well trainers or daps if I’m honest), and will be walking around the town, together. Keep your ear to the ground to find out where and when, and please do join us.

You can follow us on our brand new Twitter feed @barry_is_ and please do use the hashtag #BarryIs when you spread the news (which I hope you will). I’ve also just set up a blog page at http://www.barryis.wordpress.com

How to waste public money – let the Welsh Government Economy & Enterprise Minister invest it for you

We’re chasing the wrong Dragon in Wales at the moment, and it’s high time it stopped.

Today we’ve heard of yet another business in Wales that had recently announced a major funding injection from Welsh Government and is now on the brink of going ‘pop’. Universal Engineering in Llantrisant announced with great Ministerial fanfare that they had negotiated £2M of public funding to support their expansion as they were so confident of the future. That was the middle of February this year. They have called in the administrators and it’s only August.

This raises two important points. Firstly, what, if any due diligence was undertaken by Welsh Government officials in making this decision, and how honest the grant applicant was in relation to the health of the business at the time of the application.

When I’ve previously been critical of this type of investment, I’ve been chided by some who suggested that this risk taking by government is what they should be encouraged to do, not be cowed into a risk averse corner.

The investments are wrong for two key reasons:

1- more often than not the public money is not being invested alongside risk capital, from private investors or institutions. These guys get it wrong too, I agree, but they’re often risking their own money in the deal; they have ‘skin in the game’. Their reputation or kids inheritance will depend on them choosing winners over losers.

2- the investments are made on the basis of jobs created. This may create PR opportunities for the Minister, but do very little to generate wealth in our communities. Jobs will be developed on the basis of wealth being created, not the other way around.

Those who follow these public investments will have noticed a number that have gone to the wall recently. These failures are dreadful news for the employees of the Companies themselves, and the local area in which they’re situated. The fact that our public monies are also being lost alongside the jobs just makes matters worse.

Mrs. Hart, you prided yourself in being an interventionalist when you announced your impending retirement recently. Well it doesn’t look like it has worked. You’ve either got an incompetent team of senior officials in your department or you’re making over-riding judgements from your high office. Either way, save us some money between now and May 2016, and go now. And on your way out take the bureaucrats who made these godawful decisions with you.