Archive for December, 2013

Breakfast ClubThis month we were joined by Derek Jones who became Permanent Secretary for the Welsh Government in October 2012. At this morning’s Cardiff Breakfast Club he reflected on his role, the Welsh Government, and the ‘fantastically busy year’ since his appointment.

Derek began by describing to the club his career development, and experience of working both in and outside the civil service. Derek was born and educated in Cardiff, but moved away to work at the Treasury and Department of Trade and Industry, returning home to Wales to join the Welsh Office as Head of Industrial Policy. Following the creation of the National Assembly in 1999, as Senior Director, he was a central figure in the operation of devolved government in Wales. He then became Director of Business and Strategic Partnerships and an Honorary Professor at Cardiff University, until his appointment as Permanent Secretary, an opportunity he explained he ‘couldn’t resist.’

Although Derek no longer works at Cardiff University, he remains to have a ‘passion to develop Wales as a place where Higher Education and business intertwine’. He continues to believe in the importance of improving employability, and highlighted the need to secure investment in jobs as one of his fundamental priorities.

Derek Jones, Permanent Secretary

Derek Jones, Permanent Secretary

Derek shared his ideas on his inheritance of the Permanent Secretary role, discussing how historically it has tended to be an anonymous role. However, he explained that he believes this should not be the case, and so he takes every opportunity to interact with the business community. In the past there has been a tendency by his predecessors to be overly precautionary, ‘with risk management procedures not always properly aligned with the potential risks.’ He instead strongly believes in the need for ‘appropriate degrees of risk taking’.

Derek also highlighted some of the challenges which have faced Wales in the last year, citing flooding problems, and the measles outbreak in Swansea, praising that ‘we coped well with the events thrown at us.’

He finally concluded with a discussion on Wales’s position in the recently announced school league tables, and accepted that the Welsh Government has lots of work ahead of them to improve these results, although while they tell some of the story, ‘they don’t tell the whole story’. Focus shouldn’t be taken away from a culture of educational enjoyment and creativity, which will help nurture the business entrepreneurs of the future.

The next Breakfast Club will be held on January 29th 2014 with guest speaker Roger Lewis, Chief Executive of the WRU. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.

While there is a public consultation exercise going on in regard to the options available for the relief of traffic congestion around Newport, I believe that Professor Cole’s (University of South Wales transport expert) alternative scheme to that of building a six lane motorway right through the heart of Newport Wetlands is a far better  alternative.M4 Newport

As BBC presenter, Iolo Williams explained, the potential damages to wild life, grasslands, much of it unique in Wales, could be disastrous if the new motorway route is accepted. Professor Cole’s scheme or ‘blue route’ makes use of existing roads i.e. upgrading the A48 and also part of the industrial road going through the Llanwern Steelworks. The difference in costs between the new motorway of approximately £936 million and Professor Cole’s scheme of £380 million is significant.

Let’s hope that the Welsh Government considers the views of all parties and makes a decision which is best for Wales and its environment.

George Osborne, Chancellor

George Osborne, Chancellor

In yesterday’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne stated that he would introduce a new tax allowance to encourage investment in shale gas that halves tax rates on early profits!

Such encouragement is to be welcomed everywhere, especially here in Wales. Our dependence on fossil fuels, coal in particular, is still of great concern as our supplies reduce and we are actually importing coal from other countries, whereas 100 years ago we were exporting high-grade Welsh coal around the world. We have below our beautiful landscape enough reserves of gas to satisfy our nations needs for many decades.

There are many opposed to this form of gas extraction which does involve drilling and causing possible water contamination as chemicals are used during the fracking process. However, in the UK there are very stringent requirements and safeguards to ensure that the gas is extracted safely and with minimum disturbance to the environment.

Indeed one of our clients, Cintec International has developed a range of products to mitigate many of the concerns faced. From strengthening of bridges with access to drilling sites, to water tight lagoons to carry the vast quantities of water needed during the fracking process , to actually producing a water-tight fabric sock to go around the drill holes. Cintec are already in discussion with exploration companies in the UK and Canada who are very interested in Cintec’s solutions.

With a tightening of regulations and safety of paramount importance, open, honest discussion with all parties concerned can surely only result in fracking taken very seriously as an answer to Wales’s energy needs in the future. Let’s embrace the opportunity and not kick it into touch through ignorance and vested interest.