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Present

  • Rt Hon First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS (until 11am)
  • Ken Skates MS (Chair)
  • Lesley Griffiths MS 
  • Rebecca Evans MS
  • Julie James MS 
  • Jeremy Miles MS
  • Hannah Blythyn MS
  • Dafydd Elis-Thomas MS

Leaders of North Wales local authorities – item 3 onwards

  • Cllr Mark Pritchard, Wrexham
  • Cllr Sam Rowlands, Conwy
  • Cllr Llinos Medi Huws, Anglesey
  • Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn, Gwynedd
  • Cllr Hugh Evans, Denbighshire
  • Stephen Jones, WLGA
  • Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary
  • Andrew Goodall, Chief Executive NHS Wales and DG H&SS
  • Carys Evans, Deputy Director, Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister
  • Paul Griffiths, Special Adviser
  • Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser
  • Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
  • Alex Bevan, Special Adviser
  • Ian Butler, Special Adviser
  • Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
  • Christopher Morgan, Cabinet Secretariat 
  • Gwenllian Roberts, Chief Regional Officer, North Wales
  • Bryn Richards, Head of Regional Planning, North Wales
  • Simon Dean, Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Wales
  • Andrew Sallows, Delivery Programme Director, NHS Wales

Apologies

  • Vaughan Gething MS
  • Julie Morgan MS
  • Cllr Ian Roberts, Flintshire

Item 1: Latest Position in Relation to COVID-19 in North Wales – Oral update

1.1 The Sub Committee agreed that the efforts made on testing in North Wales were phenomenal, more tests had been carried out than anywhere else in Wales. In addition, TTP had routinely managed to track over 85% of contacts and the vaccination rollout was proceeding at pace. It was agreed that the region had been at the forefront of delivering Wales’ achievements during the pandemic and Betsi Cadwalader UHB in particular should be praised.

1.2 In thanking officials for the update, the Sub Committee also noted the vital role played by the Strategic Co-ordinating Groups, which was a good example of an effective multiagency approach that covered a large and diverse area.

Item 2: Latest position in relation to Wylfa Newydd and Trawsfynydd

2.1 The Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales introduced the item and asked the Chief Regional Officer for North Wales to set out the latest position.

Wylfa Newydd

2.2 Wylfa was regarded as the best site in the UK for large scale nuclear development. The site, which could significantly contribute towards the 2050 zero CO2 emissions target, was supported by a strong, committed and well-established local partnership. Over the last 8 years, Hitachi had spent £2.5bn on the site.

2.3 Despite this investment, Hitachi announced in September that it would end its business operations on the Wylfa Newydd nuclear project and that it would take steps to close down all its current development activities. However, it also stated that it would keep the lines of communication open with Welsh Government and other key stakeholders regarding future options at Wylfa, and assist in seeking alternative development solutions for the site.

2.4 The Wylfa Newydd project Development Consent Order was due for determination at the end of December 2020. Much of the DCO development work was undertaken over the 5 year period between 2014 and 2019, incorporating 3 consultation phases. Horizon had made two formal requests to UKG for the DCO determination to be deferred to December 2020 initially and more recently to April 2021. Both deferrals were granted. However, the decision was taken recently (28 January) by Horizon taken to unilaterally withdraw the DCO.

2.5 The UK government stated in its recent Energy White Paper that it would support at least one new large scale nuclear project by the end of the government term and that was likely to be located at Sizewell C, but the case for Wylfa would continue to be pressed as the next project in line for consideration.  This would be essential to unlock the site’s future potential.

Trawsfynydd – Cwmni Egino and Decommissioning

2.6 It was noted that a business case had been developed as part of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone, to establish a Trawsfynydd Site Development Programme, which had been approved during August 2020.

2.7 The Trawsfynydd Site Development Programme had a number of key elements, including: establishing a site development company to negotiate land development leases with the site owners, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority; deployment of small modular reactors to generate low carbon electricity;  constructing a medical research reactor to generate radioisotopes for the purpose of cancer diagnostics and treatment; and pursuing potential opportunities under the UK Government’s STEP fusion research programme.

2.8 Work had been ongoing to establish the site development company, Cwmni Egino, and significant progress had been made.

2.9 In terms of decommissioning, the announcement by the NDA that a continuous decommissioning approach would be piloted at Trawsfynydd was good news for the supply chain in Wales.

2.10 Decommissioning work should now continue on site until the late 2030s with both reactor buildings being fully demolished and the reactor cores removed using advanced robotic technologies.  

2.11 The Sub Committee agreed that the established workforce expertise had significant export potential and this expertise should continue to be developed in Wales. It was noted that the Welsh supply chain should be given every opportunity to be involved in this exciting new approach from its genesis and each department could play a supporting role for its own supply chain areas.

Local authority leaders joined the meeting.

Item 3: Oral update in relation to the Stimulus package for the North Wales economy

3.1 The Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales welcomed the Local Authority Leaders to the meeting and thanked them for their significant contributions during the pandemic, particularly in relation to ensuring funding was distributed to businesses in need quickly. The Minister invited the Chief Regional Officer for North Wales to provide the latest position on the stimulus package.

3.2 It was reported that the North Wales Economic Ambition Board (EAB), jointly funded by the Welsh Government, had commissioned  an independent study to provide an objective assessment and situational analysis of the impacts of Covid-19 on the region and its localities. 

3.3 The study formed the basis of a Recovery Prospectus tailored to the needs of North Wales that would ensure economic resilience and which laid the foundations for the Regional Economic Framework. It would also ensure the Growth Deal continued to have maximum impact. 

3.4 The final draft of the stimulus package was currently being reviewed by the EAB and officials to ensure that the breadth of rapid response, recovery and growth phase activity outlined at the last Cabinet Committee on North Wales were fully addressed prior to publication.

3.5 It was suggested that much work was now needed to deliver on the North Wales Growth Deal, but agreeing the final deal on 17 December was a significant milestone. The £1 billion, 15 year deal would be an important component of future regional recovery. The total investment in the deal over the 15 years included £240 million joint Government funding, along with over £500 million of private sector investment.

3.6 The North Wales Economic Ambition Board were responsible for delivery of the deal and authorising the funding of individual projects, under the agreed Programmes, with relevant fiscal surety for the Welsh Government provided by ongoing monitoring, evaluation and governance processes.

3.7 The Sub Committee turned to the Mersey Dee Alliance (MDA), the aims of which included: providing an enhanced profile and identity for the North Wales / North West border region; maintaining and developing the area’s competitiveness; supporting key business sectors alongside skills, employment and inclusive growth; and continuing to exert influence to bring about improved economic infrastructure for the region.

3.8 It was noted that the package of support would seek to bring forward a coherent set of projects that promoted economic growth in the MDA area in both the short and longer term.

3.9 Consultancy support had been procured by the alliance from Hatch Regeneris, who were working on a proposition document with a pipeline of viable projects that could be delivered in the current UK Parliamentary term, with both short and long term economic benefits.

3.10 The Committee noted the MDA was a significant economic entity, encompassing a Manufacturing Powerhouse in the UK; £22 billion of Gross Value Added; 956,000 people; 404,000 jobs; 2,900 companies that each turned over more than £1 million per year including a roll call of household names – Airbus, JCB, Astra Zeneca, M&S Money, Cammell Laird, Unilever, Kellogg’s, Toyota, Vauxhall; and 3 Enterprise Zones - Cheshire Science Corridor, Deeside Northern Gateway and Wirral Waters.

3.11 The 4 main strands being worked on were: enabling re-employment and future employment growth through improving skills; decarbonisation of production and transport; improving productivity and employment opportunities through investment in connectivity infrastructure (digital and transport) and business research and innovation; and the transformation of town centres.

3.12 The Sub Committee welcomed the vast amount of work ongoing across the region to provide stimulus and economic recovery and agreed as a Committee to continue monitoring delivery of the programmes as they progressed.

Item 4: Holyhead Port and border issues

4.1 The North Wales Minister invited the CRO to provide an overview of the situation on ports and border issues in the region.

4.2 It was reported that the issues faced were both complex and multifaceted, but there was strong multi-agency cooperation including the Welsh, UK and Irish Governments, Ynys Mon Council and ferry and port operators through the Cybi Communications Board seeking to resolve the problems.

4.3 It was clear that traders and hauliers were facing significant extra pressures and additional bureaucracy following the end of the transition period and this may well have added to the increased demand for direct EU sailings from Ireland.

4.4 This situation was inevitable with the approach taken by the UK government to the new trading relationship with the EU, but it was now necessary for all partners to work together to mitigate the economic harms this could cause.

4.5 The work completed on business readiness had succeeded in reducing the number of turn backs at ports to less than 10%, although lower volumes than usual at this time of year could be a factor and there could be a future deterioration in the figures as the amount of freight gradually increased.

4.6 The establishment of border control points was moving forwards, but the unrealistic target of July 2021 set by the UK government was particularly challenging.

4.7 It was suggested that the challenge over the longer term would be to maintain the attractiveness of Holyhead as a port and ease of use for hauliers would be a key determinant in that.

4.8 The issue of export health certification was raised and, whilst there did not appear to be any immediate issues, this again could be as a result of the lower trade volumes in January. A watching brief would need to be maintained, as there was no simple solution to providing sufficient numbers of trained Environmental Health Officers at short notice, and retraining vets to deliver this work came with its own difficulties as they would be removed from other vital environmental and animal health and welfare work. It was agreed that the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs and the Leader of Anglesey Council would discuss the matter further following the meeting.

4.9 The Sub Committee noted the update.

Item 5: Key Issues from LA leaders

5.1 The recent impact of the flooding across North Wales was raised and the Sub Committee noted that Welsh Government officials were in liaison with local authorities to assess the damage and the work required to rectify.

5.2 Members were reminded that there were resources available to assist with flood defence work also, and bids to strengthen those defences should continue to be made.

5.3 The point was made that the vaccination centre at Venue Cymru was making excellent progress, with some 1100 vaccinations per day taking place.

Cabinet Secretariat
February 2021

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