Thursday 21 May 2009

Did we get it wrong?

A couple of months ago, Plaid published a consultative document on the economy, called Recover, Reform, Renew. It was our attempt to set out a series of actions which governments should take in the current circumstances, but we also recognised that we do not have all the answers, and asked for responses.

Of course, there's no point asking for responses unless we're prepared to listen carefully to what is said. Governments may well run meaningless consultations, but it isn't a path we should follow.

That doesn't mean, of course, that we should automatically change our minds, just because someone says something different; but we should be prepared to do so if a good case is made. I have to admit that there are one or two things in the document which we produced about which I'm no longer convinced.

One very good example relates to the car scrappage system which the government has now actually introduced. It seemed like a good idea at the time – stimulating a major industry, and at the same time encouraging a move towards less polluting transport. And it had already been introduced in France and Germany as well.

It has since been pointed out that around one quarter of households in Wales are carless, rising to 36% in some of our most deprived communities. A scrappage scheme may well benefit the motor industry, and those who work in it. By so doing, it will, no doubt, help the economy to recover.

But using taxpayers' money to reduce the purchase price of new cars is effectively a subsidy to those who can afford to run a car anyway – and if we have money to invest in greener transport, might not investing that money in public transport do more to deal with social inequalities and transport deprivation? Would that also do more to reduce the environmental impact of transport systems – and if the investment being made in the right way, would it also do just as much to stimulate the economy?

As with many issues involving environmental considerations, it can sometimes be difficult to work out which is really the best option overall - and it underlines the value of more open discussion on policy options.


Sweet and Tender Hooligan said...

Interesting post as ever.

It is a difficult one in my view, I can certainly see that many carless homes will not benefit. Also that the wider ‘market’ around used cars (mechanics etc) may also suffer due to more new cars being on the road.

I do however think it is a blunt instrument that provides very naked and lucid benefits to an industry and wider economy. Sometimes the measures any Government can make during such hardships can seem removed and bogged down in economic jargon.

Spirit of BME said...

The word "Consultation" should come with a health warning - like the words "I love you". It can mean anything from a polite listening, to this is what we are going to do.
The Renew document is a sad little thing.There is no salvation for Wales in the English Parliament and trying to save it is not Plaids job.- John saw your picture ,you should lose wait ,I have lost all mine.