Today, the Welsh Conservatives launch our manifesto ahead of the most important Senedd election in a generation.
Over the past 12 months, the coronavirus crisis has tested our communities and public services beyond recognition, but we’ve seen the very best of Wales when everyone has worked together in the national interest.
As we move out of lockdown the next big challenge awaits, and we will need to undertake another critical national mission to get the economy on the road to recovery and create new jobs.
The pandemic has created an array of economic challenges, with Wales likely to be worst hit, and it has exposed what 22 years of Labour Government has done to our country.
It’s a relatively unknown fact that the Welsh economy was in decline before the pandemic hit – at the start of 2020 GDP fell by 2.4% in Wales.
In 1999, a Welsh worker took home the same wage as their Scottish equivalent. Today, an average workers’ annual salary in Wales is £2,600 a year less than a worker in Scotland or England.
Scandalously, ten Welsh towns are in the top 20 most economically vulnerable in the UK, because under Labour whilst we’ve been in a hard and fast lockdown for the past year, we’ve experienced a slow and deliberate lockdown for the last two decades.
That’s why it’s imperative we change course. There must be a ruthless new focus on job creation and business expansion, supported by the right physical and information technology infrastructure.
We must grow our economy at a pace that Labour has never been interested in and never achieved. Our recovery plan for Wales will deliver more jobs, hope and security for everyone in Wales.
It will rebuild and rebalance our economy, so that we can level up across the whole of Wales with new technology and new investment.
At the heart of our manifesto will be the creation of a new “national mission”, which aims to deliver 65,000 new jobs to power our economic recovery, with Welsh and UK governments, businesses, entrepreneurs, and education providers working together to achieve it.
Like our fight with coronavirus, our economic recovery will require a truly national effort, and if we are successful in delivering on our commitment of creating 65,000 new jobs it will be down to a true Team Wales approach.
For our part, the Welsh Conservatives will stop at nothing in our drive to create the first business-friendly economy in Wales for a generation and ensure we recover from the pandemic and 22 years of Labour rule.
We will implement our roadmap to recovery with a clear timetable and ambitious vaccine targets for the full re-opening of our economy and society, with a joined-up UK-wide approach.
We will prioritise the survival and revival of vital tourism businesses by subsiding a VAT cut, as well as creating business rate free zones and scrapping business rates for small businesses.
We will boost opportunities for workers hardest hit by the pandemic with our Covid “Retrain and Gain” programme to get people into key sectors to kickstart the economy.
And we will urgently review and start funding businesses immediately based on need, ending the first come, first served nature of current Labour government support.
After two decades of failure in the halls of Cardiff Bay, Welsh Conservatives will place delivery at the heart of our manifesto and when we meet our commitments, we will ensure hardworking people in Wales benefit with a cut in income tax at the end of the next Senedd.
Providing we have grown the economy through this national mission by 2025, we will implement a cut of at least 1p in the £ to the basic rate of income tax to support hardworking families.
Nothing in this Senedd election demonstrates the difference between Welsh Conservatives and Welsh Labour than this policy.
Labour’s manifesto gears it to introducing a tax hike once the pandemic is over.
They talk about tax rises once the time is right, without daring to spell out exactly or by how much – they don’t even know that any changes in tax will be necessary, they just feel it’s the right thing to do.
Wales has a huge economic challenge in front of us and working people can’t afford tax rises and another five years of Labour propped up by the nationalists.
It’s time to turn the page on the same old Labour Party that has allowed Wales’ economic problems to fester over the past two decades and have no plan to fix things.
We will put an end to Labour’s plans for a tax offensive on staycations, on driving and on parking your car at your workplace, all of which are not in Wales’ best interests.
Instead, the Welsh Conservatives will get Wales on the road to recovery with a relentless focus on growing our economy so we can deliver a better Wales that benefits hardworking people and their families in Wales.
Andrew RT Davies is the Leader of the Welsh Conservative Senedd Group and the Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central.