'Scandal' Valleys Are as Poor as Eastern Europe; Row over European Union Statistics

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), March 15, 2010 | Go to article overview

'Scandal' Valleys Are as Poor as Eastern Europe; Row over European Union Statistics


Byline: Abby Alford

THE Valleys is the poorest region of the UK and as impoverished as parts of Eastern Europe, official statistics reveal.

The European Union figures were today branded a "scandal" by Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne, who accused Labour of complacency over the economy.

But First Minister Carwyn Jones said the statistics are misleading and that prosperity in the Valleys is growing following the economic problems left behind by the Tories.

According to the European Union the Valleys still qualify for the highest level of financial aid alongside Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

It is the only area of the UK where the gross domestic product per person - a measurement of wealth - is low enough forConvergenceFunding (formally Objective One money) to be paid out.

Mr Bourne said: "Under Labour, Wales has become the poorest part of the UK.

"We have the highest unemployment rate of any UK nation - and higher than countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia."

Mr Bourne pointed to comments made by AssemblyGovernment Business Minister Jane Hutt, First Minister Carwyn Jones and Welsh Secretary Peter Hain as evidence of what he claims is Labour's complacency over the economy.

Mr Hain shocked MPs when he said despite the recession, Wales is still better off than the African republic of Rwanda.

When challenged by Mr Bourne in the Senedd over the latest EU figures, which show theValleys are as poor as some parts of Eastern Europe, Ms Hutt said: "It is not amatter of shame."

But Ms Hutt added: "Let us try to put this into perspective. …

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