Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Blast from the Past: Wigley on Morgan

Slow-retiring First Minister Rhodri Morgan made two big mistakes during his near decade in office, according to former Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Wigley.

In an article written for Ninnau, the North American Welsh newspaper that is largely complimentary about Mr Morgan, Mr Wigley singles out the scrapping of the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) and the first NHS reorganisation as serious errors.

Mr Wigley stated:

To my mind, one of the decisions taken by Rhodri Morgan back in 2004 undermined
the process of securing economic renewal. He decided, with support from all four
parties in the National Assembly, to axe the WDA. This body, at arm’s length from government, had been leading the work to secure economic development.

Since 1975, wrote Mr Wigley, the WDA had gained for itself a very significant international reputation and a brand image that was helpful for Wales.
Many of us feel that it was a disastrous decision to abolish the WDA and to integrate its work into the civil service of the National Assembly. There are no two ways about it: this decision was down to Rhodri Morgan himself. He had been highly critical of the WDA’s lack of answerability over a couple of decades. That decision, to my mind, was fundamentally flawed and Wales will continue to pay the price until some similar structure is recreated.

Writing about what he sees as the other major mistake during Mr Morgan’s period in office, Mr Wigley stated:

The other disastrous decision was to create 22 Local Health Boards in Wales, a bureaucratic nightmare in a country of only three million people.

It is good that the Labour-Plaid coalition government has recently seen the folly of that decision and has replaced those 22 boards with a slimmed-down seven region structure which came into force in October this year.

Writing about the challenges facing the new First Minister, Mr Wigley states:
The new First Minister will have his or her time cut out in living up to the popularity of Rhodri Morgan. There will be huge economic challenges arising from the recession. The Assembly, as with all UK public sector bodies, will face a financial squeeze.

There will be tensions if, as expected, the next UK Government at Westminster is Conservative, with a very different agenda to that of the Labour-Plaid coalition in Wales.

All this will inevitably lead to calls for an early referendum to give the Assembly full parliamentary powers.

We are entering a new era of uncharted waters.

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