As the debate around the EU referendum continues on the national stage, we at the Port Talbot Magnet decided to ask one simple question. What does the outcome of the referendum mean for us in Port Talbot?
Over the course of five weeks, we’re running a series of articles, asking a wide range of local politicians and organisations what they think either ‘Brexiting’ or ‘Bremaining’ might mean for our town. We kicked off last week with a look at how the referendum might affect women, with a guest contribution from Port Talbot and Afan Women’s Aid. In part two, we looked more closely at immigration and how EU membership might affect the issue of borders and migrants.
This week, part 3 takes us deep into the world of EU funding and its impact on the town. Councillor Anthony Taylor is our guest contributor, as he has responsibility for economic development in the county, with much of his work centring on EU funding.
Over the coming weeks, we will look at the steel industry and the local economy. If you would like to suggest a topic, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How significant is EU funding for Port Talbot now, and how might Brexit affect the town?
Organisation: Welsh Labour
Role: NPTCBC Councillor (Taibach Ward) & Cabinet Member for Economic Development
Port Talbot benefits massively from EU funding – providing an antidote to Tory Government austerity and serving as a valuable resource for supporting skills, infrastructure and attracting private investment.
Due to the EU having a strong record in targeting areas suffering social and economic deprivation, South West Wales receives hundreds of millions pounds that would not be easily replaced.
From Jobs Growth Wales, which helped 15,000 youngsters into employment, to ProAct which invested £50m into manufacturing supporting training and wage subsidies, EU funding has been vital here. Only recently, £7.5m was confirmed for Workways+, a scheme that will offer training and paid work experience to 4,000 local, long-term unemployed people to get their lives back on track.
There is also a long list of regeneration projects made possible only with EU support – the redevelopment of Parkway Station, the new Swansea University and Harbour Way Distributor Road as well as Aberavon Seafront.
Any similar future plans would be far more difficult to deliver without access to EU funding.
Title: UKIP Wales Campaign Manager
There is no such thing as “EU funding” it is British taxpayers cash. If you gave me £100 and I gave you £50 back and told you how to spend it and put my logo all over it doesn’t make that £50 my funding when it came from you in the first place. For every £2 we put into the EU we get £1 back. When we leave the EU there will be more funding available across the UK as we are a net contributor.
Perhaps another question should be asked as to how significant is EU funding to China? £80 million given to Chinese steel industry recently in “soft loans” to help it lower emissions, or the £167 million loaned by the EU just 5 years ago (and still not paid back).
Organisation/ political party: Labour
Role: MP for Aberavon
Title: Member of the European Parliament for Welsh LabourThe EU has played a significant role in Port Talbot, funding projects such as Harbour Way, Port Talbot Parkway Railway Station, Croeserw Community Enterprise Centre, Aberavon Beach improvements, Town Centre improvements, Jobs Growth Wales, Workways Plus and the new Bay Campus which falls within the Aberavon Constituency.
Wales is a net beneficiary of EU funding and receives far more than we pay in. This EU investment encourages new businesses, and helps sustain and support existing jobs in the area.
Title: Member of the European Parliament for Welsh Labour
In Neath Port Talbot in the last budget round alone, EU support helped create 420 new businesses and empowered 670 existing ones to safeguard and develop their future, bringing 1,120 new jobs to local people. Using EU funding 6,680 residents were helped back into work and a further 3,490 returned to education.
EU money plays a key part in local regeneration projects and many would not have been possible without it. Harbour Way (£55m from the EU), the redevelopment of Parkway Station, the new Croeserw Community Enterprise Centre, the Cognation Mountain Bike Trails in the Afan Valley – these and many more would not have been possible without EU funding. Similarly, the new Swansea University Innovation Campus on Fabian Way was built with £95m of EU investment.
The UK Government is clear that there are no guarantees this level of support here in Wales would be replaced under Brexit.
Organisation: Plaid Cymru
Role: Regional Assembly Member for South West Wales
It is an incontrovertible fact that Wales – and particularly areas like Port Talbot – benefit from membership of the EU. The Wales Governance Centre recently estimated that Wales’ proportion of the contribution the UK makes to the EU was £414m in 2014. In the same year, Wales received £658m in structural funds and agricultural subsidies, meaning a net gain of around £244m, or £79 extra for every person in the country.
As with all the arguments advanced by Brexit campaigners, disquiet over how European money is spent – predominantly by the Welsh Government, local authorities and other non-governmental agencies – has been conflated with a discussion over how useful European membership is at all. Consequently, the argument appears to be – we’ve spent billions of European money on attempting to reverse the legacy issues facing our poorest communities, and because that hasn’t worked then there is no benefit to belonging to the EU.
In fact, anyone not happy with the impact that European funding has had (and I’m one of them) should address their concerns to the agencies responsible for ensuring they do work, rather than argue that we should cut off the funding stream altogether. That surely is a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
People in Wales shouldn’t fall for the claims made by those from usually more affluent areas, where they are putting in more than they receive. We should remember that it was the toil of our forefathers and mothers during the Industrial Revolution that allowed places like London to become wealthy, and that addressing the economic imbalances in the UK through European aid makes for a better country all round.
Title: Welsh Labour Assembly Member for Aberavon
Port Talbot has benefited over the years through EU funding for many projects and programmes that have helped our most deprived communities. We have seen investment in housing, employment programmes, roads to name but a few: The European Investment bank part funded the new Science & Innovation campus of Swansea University on Fabian Way; the EU helped fund Harbour Way;
In addition we have seen hundreds of young people gain employment opportunities through the Job growth Wales scheme which is part funded by the EU. It is clear from the Prime Minister’s previous statements that we cannot be guaranteed we would receive equal, if any, funding to such schemes from the Westminster government if we left the EU.
Title: Member of the European Parliament for Plaid Cymru
As part of the West Wales and the Valleys region, Port Talbot and surrounding areas receive far more funding from the European Union than we pay in, per head of population. Harbour Way (the Peripheral Distributor Route) received £56m from the European Regional Funds. Many European projects help people into work or involve town centre regeneration, but specific projects include at Aberavon Beach, Margam Country Park and the Cognation cycling centre of excellence. The current 2014-2020 European Social and Regional Development Funds for West Wales and the Valleys are worth around £1.6bn.
Who we asked
Ali Thomas – council leader (declined)
Dave Jenkins – former prospective conservative AM / Area Chairman, Welsh Conservative Party (South Wales West) (no response)
Kay Swinburne – Conservative MEP (no response)
Helen Jones – Plaid Cymru (no response)
Age Cymru – (no response)
Callum Munro, Community Union Press officer – (no response)
Nigel Cahill – Aberavon parish rector (no response)
Michael Cosker – Port Talbot Chamber of Trade (no response)
Glenda Davies – prospective UKIP AM (no response)
Jonathan Tier – prospective Green Party AM (no response)
Peter Black – former Welsh Liberal Democrat AM (no response)
Suzy Davies – Welsh Conservative AM (Declined)
Stephen Kinnock – Labour MP (too late)
Caroline Jones – UKIP AM (no response)
Dai Lloyd – Plaid Cymru AM (no response)
John Bufton – former UKIP MEP (no response)
Darren Nichols – immigration and Leave campaigner (too late)
Additional research by Teresa Davison, Beverley Simmonds-Owen and Tom Stephens.