Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Elfyn Llwyd: 'Rural poverty is just as grinding as in urban areas'

The writer is MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, where 40 per cent of people in full-time work are paid less than the living wage

"Home to the once-bustling slate quarries which won Britain its name as the workshop of the world, Dwyfor Meirionnydd is scarred by decades of low wages and relatively high unemployment. The area is mainly an agricultural and tourist economy, with factors such as soaring fuel prices and poor broadband services hampering connectivity. Rural poverty is often just as grinding as that in large urban areas.

"The problem is the lack of high-quality jobs, not just the quantity. There is a knock-on effect that also impacts housing, affecting young people as incomes are not high enough to buy local homes.

"The UK is the most unequal country in the EU, in terms of individual wealth and regional disparity. Here in Wales, we are at the bottom of the UK economic league table.

"However, there is certainly no lack of ambition among local people. This week I hosted Parliament's first Meirionnydd Day alongside the Farmers' Union of Wales – a showcase of the constituency's small businesses which are thriving in a time of austerity. Cutting business rates, lending to businesses, and apprenticeships for young people lie at the heart of our plan for a Welsh economic recovery.

"Plaid Cymru has long called for a living wage to ease the squeeze on people's pockets. With the recent hikes in food and energy prices, it is more important than ever that we generate meaningful employment and reward people with fair pay. This would make a substantial difference to living standards in constituencies such as my own."