Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
This Written Statement provides an update on the progress and future of the Welsh Enterprise Zone Programme and the possible effect of leaving the European Union on Welsh Enterprise Zones.
Much has been achieved through the efforts of the Enterprise Zones to date and I have been pleased to note progress in each Zone since inception. Each Zone is unique and is at a different stage of development, yet achievements in each Zone have been significant. Since its inception to the end of March 2017, the Wales Enterprise Zone programme has contributed to the Welsh economy by supporting more than 10,000 jobs through a competitive package of financial and other incentives including business rates support, tailored skills support, apprenticeship schemes and bespoke infrastructure projects.
Key targets for the Enterprise Zones in 2016/17 were either within the set target range or exceeded. During 2016/17 1,744 jobs were created, safeguarded or assisted, against a target of between 1,400 and 1,900. In addition, the latest Wales Enterprise Zones Key Performance Indicator annual report shows £123m of public and private sector investment was secured and more than 150 enterprises were supported by the Welsh Government. I am pleased to confirm that up to end of 2016/17, over 10,000 jobs have now been supported through the Enterprise Zone programme and over £300m of investment secured from the public and private sectors. The full 2016/17 Enterprise Zones KPI report and the detailed breakdown by each Zone will be published at the link to the right of this page.
Against the backdrop of uncertainty caused by the vote to leave the European Union, it is important to ensure that the Enterprise Zone programme continues to contribute to the Welsh Government’s objectives in our Programme for Government, Taking Wales Forward, to drive improvement in the Welsh economy. The Enterprise Zones have much to contribute to our Prosperous and Secure commitments, in particular those to create new jobs, reduce business rates bills and create apprenticeships. I place great importance on a place-based approach which is tailored to local needs and circumstances and I am reviewing the Enterprise Zone offer to ensure that it will continue to deliver against a more regional approach to economic development.
One extremely important example of the role of Enterprise Zones has been at Ebbw Vale. There the Enterprise Zone board has already done a substantial amount of work to identify the most appropriate investment and support for the Zone and the Ebbw Vale area and this advice is being built into plans for the new Business Technology Park that I recently announced. The Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone board will continue to be actively involved in providing further advice regarding the delivery of this support.
We are working closely with our anchor and regionally important companies, and speaking directly to medium sized companies, about the issues they face as a consequence of a UK exit from the EU and about what can be done to support them; workshops have been undertaken with our Anchor and Regionally Important Companies to explore the risks and opportunities arising from Brexit, and my officials continue to review and consider further intensive pieces of engagement with businesses and other stakeholders to complete analysis as issues emerge.
I have been reviewing the Enterprise Zone governance arrangements as part of my broader review of advisory boards. I met with the Enterprise Zone Board Chairs on 12 June to have an initial discussion around Enterprise Zone governance and the future direction of the Enterprise Zone programme in Wales. I plan to meet the Chairs again at the end of the summer to continue these discussions focussed on ensuring future arrangements meet the merging requirements on for example the Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute on Deeside and recommendation of the Valleys Task Force. I will update Members as appropriate as the current Board reach the end of their current terms in July 2018.
We remain committed to the existing 8 Enterprise Zones located across Wales.