A Problem of Economics
If you were going to build a large factory these days, you probably wouldn’t start in Presteigne.
It’s a very beautiful, very small town, right on the border of Powys and Herefordshire. And seventy years ago, when Presteigne had a railway line, the government built a munitions factory there.
And when the war ended, that factory stayed: providing work for around 200 people for decades – that’s two hundred people in a town of two and a half thousand.
Well, today, some of the people who took over Kaye’s Presteigne are set to meet inLondonwith what one shareholder described as ‘a major firm of insolvency practitioners’. It could possibly be the end of the story for a factory where many of the workers have spent their entire working lives.
Over the past few days, the main noise coming from the works has been the low rumble of lorries as they come to pick up what they call materiel – the heavy machinery that has enabled Kaye’s to make car parts that have gone all over the world.
According to their current owners though, it’s the world out there that’s the problem: they’ve lost around seventy per cent of their orders to companies who’ve moved production away fromBritainand our comparatively high labour costs. No one’s ever questioned the quality, or the product, or the workforce: Kaye’s are just part of a trend.
But that’s to put the problem into the coldest economic terms. Try cold economics when many people in this small town are dreading the effect of seeing one of their largest employers possibly go. To put it into context: Presteigne is around a hundredth the size ofCardiff, in terms of population. So the impact here would be the same as if one single employer decided to make ten thousand staff redundant inCardiff.
Add to that the difficulty of finding other work nearby; the rural transport links that make commuting particularly difficult; the flags and the bunting are fluttering in Presteigne’s streets just as they are in most high streets acrossWales; but the uncertainty surrounding Kaye’s makes a sad counterpoint for the town.
And Elegant Economics
What do you give the couple who’ve got everything? And by everything, we don’t just mean a happy relationship, promising careers and a very nice cottage inAnglesey: let’s face it, Prince William has prospects. He won’t be short of a country house or two.
So very sensibly, people who want to gift something to the royal couple have been asked to give to their charitable fund instead. I went off to see one example of just what could benefit from people’s patriotism and kindness – the drop in centre and support work for young carers in Llanfyllin.
There we found 17-year-old film-maker John whose editing skills put me to shame, and who showed me the film he and his friends had made about the problem of being a young carer in one of the most isolated places inWales. To meet the youth worker there – ‘Dux’ (it’s Latin for leader) – is to meet someone who loves his job. And how many jobs are there where you get to try and bring the best out in people?
You can never measure the effect of a place like this in statistics: no-one will ever give you a percentage mark for inspiring people, or helping carers as young as six years old. You can just enjoy the enthusiasm; and hope that they – and other Welsh caring charities like them – benefit from a bit of reflected Royal largesse.
And it makes for very elegant economics.