'Self-Defeating' Economic Policy in Wales under Fire; WAG 'ANTIPATHY' TOWARDS PRIVATE FINANCE ATTACKED

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Byline: GRAHAM HENRY

A LEADING economic expert has criticised the Welsh Assembly Government's economic development policy and called on it to relinquish control of stimulation policy to the private sector.

Professor Brian Morgan - director of the Creative Leadership and Enterprise Centre at Cardiff School of Management - claimed that WAG's "antipathy" towards private finance was "self defeating" if it was to make Wales a place to do business.

He also argues in an article for the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) Agenda magazine that there was "wide agreement" that the business support function in WAG - currently being delivered by FS4B - should be drastically slimmed down and its main services delivered by an arm's-length, private sector-led, delivery model.

Prof Morgan said: "The internal performance measures used by WAG are undemanding and almost meaningless. Moreover they are used to assess activities rather than outcomes and it seems that economic policy is being driven more by politics than economics.

"The lack of transparency in WAG expenditure means that an independent 'Office for Budget Responsibility' - along the lines of the new Whitehall body - is needed in Wales even more than the UK."

Prof Morgan also called for an extension to the Innovation Voucher scheme to allow "demand-led collaboration between the private sector and universities." In England, innovation vouchers have already been in widespread use in regions, where vouchers of typically up to pounds 5,000 can be granted to a business to invest in university research.

A Universities UK survey revealed in May that 88% of English higher education institutions said that the scheme had fostered new relationships with SMEs and 86% said it had stimulated future collaborations. …