Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I am happy to deal with that question immediately. Bricklayers, masons and carpenters are being employed. It is curious, however, that most of the houses are not being built by local builders. Building is taking place but local builders are not getting anything out of it. As I have said, the houses are being built by Wimpey and other large companies. I accept, of course, that some people are being employed while the houses are being built.
It is strange that the building work is not market driven. No great strategic plans have emanated from the Welsh Office. It may sound parochial, but often the house building is the result of clearance by the Welsh Development Agency of old industrial land. Whatever critics of the WDA have said, and irrespective of the problems that have surfaced, the agency is extremely good at clearing and cleaning old industrial land.
It is unfortunate that in the early 1980s the Government stipulated that for every £1 of public money spent by agencies of the WDA, £3 or £4 had to be contributed by private industry. That sounds fine but there is a problem. The easiest way of finding £3 or £4 in south Wales nowadays is to approach national companies, such as Wimpey, which build houses.
Ever since the war, if there has been any money around, it has usually gone into property or house building, rather than into wealth-creating investment. That has been the history of the British economy under both Labour and Conservative Governments. That still happens. The £3 or £4 usually comes from the house builders. Nobody has an imaginative use for the land, so people say, "Let's put houses on it." No analysis is made about whether the houses should be there. No infrastructure questions are asked. Nobody asks whether schools and shops will be there to service the two and three-bedroom houses. Nobody thinks about the effect that the investment will have on the town centre down the road. Yet, public money is used.