I’ve just spent a weekend in West Wales and heard a lot of people talking about a proposal to regenerate part of Aberystwyth. It involves the compulsory purchase of 15 surviving, and therefore probably reasonably successful, small businesses and their premises so that they can be bundled in with the empty Woolworths and converted into a new branch of Debenhams and a multi-screen cinema.
At first glance this might sound a good move. After all a store like Debenhams probably employs a good number of people, and jobs are good aren’t they?
But what message does this send to potential entrepreneurs that their business can be destroyed in pursuit of satisfying a large retail chain?
How can this be a means of creating local wealth when all the profits from the development will go out to shareholders and not to the local economy?
And now that the businesses are under threat of compulsory purchase how can they develop, secure funding or even see a return on their investments through a sale when the sword of Damocles is hanging over them?
It is all crass stupidity from a local authority that is excited about courting a “name” into the area, whilst not realising the impact their announcements – all pre contract – will have on local businesses in the short and long term.
It came as a bit of a surprise to many people in Wales to hear about the proposed refurb of the old Welsh Office in Cathays Park. It’s an old building, a bit like some old Lufftwaffe buildings of yesteryear, quaint, functional but definitely not modern.
But it’s probably “OK” as an office block. It certainly would be OK for many a business, and indeed could make a good site for multiple businesses now.
However, despite a plan to distribute the Civil Service throughout Wales, a proposal is growing to undertake a refurb of these offices that will cost £42 million – that’s a cost of £14,000 a head.
When I recently equipped an office that really needed updating, the planning figure was £450 per head. So why on earth does the public sector need nearly 30 times that amount as a multiple?
Surely the answer is easy to see: it’s public sector waste. No clear control, no prioritisation and no understanding of the true challenges faced by businesses.
The WAG would do well to put the brakes on this idea as soon as possible. Wales may need to spend its way out of recession, but spending like this is waste of an almost criminal nature.
Somebody got it wrong with both his salary and pension plan, but to hear the Chancellor on the radio this morning suggesting that Fred could make it alright by waving his pension is like expecting all the turkeys to vote for Christmas and Thanksgiving on one day. It just won’t happen.
And why should Fred do the right thing. He surely has a duty to himself and his family both now and in the past and it is clear that he placed that duty above the duty he had to shareholders and the nation. Otherwise we wouldn’t be in this mess and have a 70-80% ownership of a bank.
Whilst the Govt may or may not be able to do something about his pension, I would be delighted to see him stripped of his Knighthood, probably given for “Services to Banking”. That would be both humiliating and more importantly: it is in the Govt’s gift to do so.
So – Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown – stop dithering, don’t expect Sir Fred to bow to pressure of any sorts, just strip of something that he probably holds very dear. And let it be known that the Knight Formerly knows as Sir Fred is now to known as Fred for services to nationalisation.