Edwina Hart, Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science
This statement updates Members on the actions I am taking in regard to City Regions.
In October, I led a debate in Plenary to discuss the City Regions approach with Members. I explained that we will be supporting this approach and using the findings of the Report to inform policy. I was pleased that we were able to achieve such a high level of support across the Chamber.
Successful City Regions depend on buy-in across the regions themselves, with the region having as important a role as the city
Adopting this approach will take consensus and genuine partnership.
In order to get this work underway, I have agreed interim arrangements for each of the city regions to encourage an integrated approach and promote the joint working required to make city regions a success in the longer term.
For each, there will be a small task and finish group established. Each group will be co-Chaired by a Leader of a Local Authority and a senior representative from the private sector to ensure that there is a clear focus on economic development benefits.
For the South East Wales City Region, the joint Chairs will be Cllr Bob Wellington, Leader of Torfaen County Borough Council and Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and Rob Lewis, Regional Chair of PwC. The Lead Chief Executive will be the Monmouthshire County Council Chief Executive.
For the Swansea Bay City Region, the joint Chairs will be Cllr Ali Thomas, Leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and Deputy Leader, WLGA and Steve Penny, Chairman of JCP Solicitors. The Lead Chief Executive will be the City and County of Swansea Chief Executive.
These Task and Finish Groups will start work immediately with the task of developing the concept of the City Regions in Wales and the regional structures. I have asked that the Chairs report back to me with their views on the most appropriate mechanisms and arrangements for engagement by the end of January.
There are two substantive matters which require immediate and sharp focus. The first of these is European funding. The forthcoming round of EU Structural Funds requires consideration now in order to shape the future deployment of funding. The Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and European Programmes, Alun Davies AM, will therefore attend both Groups for the first 12 months to help shape this work. In addition, I have written to Commissioner Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, to inform him of our emerging City Region approach.
I have also asked these Task and Finish Groups to focus on tourism because the City Regions report identified this as a key regional priority. I am keen that the partners come together regionally to develop our offer. I believe there are some early wins for the Regions from a more integrated approach.
The recommendations concerning economic development in North East Wales remain a key focus for me. I have already commissioned Dr Elizabeth Haywood to undertake further work in this area and her work is already in train. Dr Haywood met a range of partners from both sides of the border in late-October. Arrangements are being made for Dr Haywood to hold a discussion session with North Wales Members and I encourage you to participate in this.
I will make a further Statement to update Members in February.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.