Speeches

High Street Debate

The Welsh Conservatives have never been shy to debate our high streets in Wales and, of course, as recently as September, when this was halfway through—the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places programme—we did look at what we felt had been achieved or otherwise. Now, at the time, the Minister denied that vacancy rates were rising here in Wales. But, there is no denying that they are. We’ve seen an increase in vacancy rates as detailed in the Local Data Company’s recent report, with nearly one in six of our shops standing empty and it is the highest rate in the UK. But, there are some positives to come out of a debate like this and I was only pleased recently to know, in my own constituency, that Conwy has been named as a very successful town in terms of high streets. And, I will actually go on to elaborate a little bit further as to some of the reasons why.

Stronger Futures Cymru

I’m really proud to contribute to our debate today and highlight, once again, our new Stronger Futures Cymru policy. This will certainly boost relevant apprenticeships, and I will support training for people without any age barrier across Wales. Here we have some of the biggest barriers to work for young and older people, and these are, fundamentally, lack of opportunity, lack of confidence, lack of qualifications and lack of experience. It is really concerning, though, to note that 72 per cent of our Welsh businesses themselves have experienced difficulty in recruiting the right staff for them, and that 61 per cent fear that they will be unable to recruit enough high or skilled workers to meet their own demands, which would enable them to grow further.

A Vision for the Welsh High Street

The Welsh Conservatives have always supported our local High Streets, so imagine our disappointment to read the High Street vacancy statistics, published on Thursday, which showed that Wales has the highest vacancy rate in the UK – 4 whole percentage points higher than England!