Carl Sargeant, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
I am pleased to announce that the Welsh Government is launching a new programme of targeted regeneration investment. I have today published guidance for local authorities on how to apply, along with partner organisations, for up to £100 million of capital investment which we are making available to promote the economic regeneration of our communities and serve the aims of wider sustainable development.
Targeted regeneration investment has a crucial part to play in driving prosperity and building resilient communities in all parts of Wales, rather than simply in those areas that offer the best commercial returns. There are particular challenges around tackling inequality and developing well-connected and sustainable communities in areas which are economically disadvantaged or blighted by earlier heavy industries. We also recognise there are different challenges in rural areas.
In line with the aims set out in Prosperity for All my intention is that local authorities and regional partnerships should harness these funds to complement and reinforce the other investments we are making to widen prosperity. We are committed to developing joined-up solutions and projects submitted for regeneration funding will need to be integrated with Local Well-being Plans, the work being pursued under the City Deals, our investment in the Metros, proposals from the Valleys Taskforce and with preparations for Wylfa Newydd. I am also keen that this new capital investment should support other programmes seeking to build more resilient communities, including our employability and skills programmes. Projects need to emerge from real engagement with communities and I will be looking at the economic development partnerships now emerging all over Wales to determine which will achieve the greatest impact.
The success of the programme will be dependent in part on building strong regional partnerships able to identify and deliver these priorities for investment. But these partnerships must not operate in isolation. Our aim must be to ensure that the process of identifying regeneration priorities is informed by as comprehensive as possible an understanding of the other sources of funding available. My challenge to our partners is to be ambitious and innovative in developing new opportunities to drive regeneration and spread prosperity. We need to ensure that our resources are focused on a limited number of investment proposals with a strong and clear economic basis for regeneration and that the creation of employment opportunities and enhancement of skills and employability are at the heart of proposals and targeted where support is most needed.
My immediate priority is to ensure that the new programme makes a real difference for communities over the period up until 2021, but our guidance to local authorities makes clear that we also want to begin to identify priorities for the longer term. It is not too soon to be thinking about our approach to regeneration following our departure from the EU and the end of Structural Funds. I want this programme to achieve the maximum possible impact but I also want it to set the foundations for the longer term actions required in our most disadvantaged communities.
A key feature in the design of the new programme is to ensure there is a robust and transparent mechanism in place to support decision-making around funding investments. To this effect, I will be establishing a National Regeneration Investment Panel. The Panel will have a Wales wide view of regeneration and will be charged with ensuring that the investment available is utilised as effectively as possible across the country and will also provide advice aimed at ensuring a degree of coherence across regional programmes and at ensuring that budgets are utilised in a manner which make best use of other possible funding sources to deliver maximum regeneration outputs. Every project put forward for consideration will need to demonstrate value for money and this will be central to the scrutiny applied by the Panel.
With the support of our partners the new regeneration programme will be able to invest in projects from April 2018 onwards. We will operate a rolling programme of approvals recognising that some projects will take longer than others to scope and prepare. But the challenges we see in our communities underline the need for us to progress this work with energy and pace. I will report to this Assembly on emerging regional plans in due course.