The Leader of Flintshire County Council has joined forces with the heads of five local authorities to promote “one North Wales” as the region aims to secure a £1.3bn growth deal.
Flintshire, Denbighshire, Wrexham Anglesey, Gwynedd and Conwy, – are united behind the North Wales Growth Bid.
Driven by the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, which consists of all six councils, Further Education, Higher Education and the private sector in partnership with the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), The Wales Office and UK and Welsh Governments, the Bid is chaired by Flintshire leader Cllr Aaron Shotton, supported by vice-chair Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn, leader of Gwynedd council.
All council leaders share the Ambition Board’s aim of investment in the strategies through capital funding, making land and assets available, and seeking private sector support and engagement.
Wrexham Council Leader Mark Pritchard agrees dissolving county boundaries is the right approach in order to make this a reality. “We are working together as one North Wales, taking locality and politics out of the equation,” he said.
“We can achieve so much working in true partnership and have already made a lot of headway by showing our commitment and focusing on the bigger picture, which is vital if the Bid is to be successful.”
The 10 Things you need to know about the North Wales Growth Bid
1. WHAT IS A GROWTH DEAL BID
Originating from within a region, a Growth Bid is a formal proposal for Government investment and the conferment of devolved powers that results in a Growth Deal if successful.
Alongside financing by the UK and Welsh Governments, regions are expected to invest in their own strategies through capital funding, sharing in capital borrowing, making land and assets available, and seeking private sector support and engagement.
North Wales was invited to develop a Bid by the UK Government in 2016, and this commitment was restated recently by both the UK and Welsh Governments.
2. THE NORTH WALES GROWTH DEAL
The North Wales Growth Deal would create thousands of jobs, boost the economy, improve transport and communication links, focus on renewable energy, support tourism and more.
The proposals would enable investment of £1.3billion in the economy from Growth Deal monies totalling more than £380m.
This is the first time the Welsh and UK Governments and North Wales stakeholders have come together as one entity with the aim of developing the region’s economy and infrastructure.
3. WHAT WILL THE MONEY BE SPENT ON?
The Bid consists of 26 projects under eight programmes. These are Land and Property Development; Smart Access to Energy; Smart Technology and Innovation Hubs; Regional Growth Business Fund; Pathways to Skills and Employment; Skills Centres of Excellence; Digital Connectivity; and Strategic Transport.
Not all of the projects will form the Growth Deal. Those that don’t become part of the Deal will fall under the wider Growth Vision for for the Economy of North Wales, dependent on funding and government priorities.
Initial projects include a plan to support the development of a strategic mixed use site at Bodelwyddan; primary infrastructure, to include new road access and on site access, electricity drainage and other services at Warren Hall, Broughton; the Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Programme at Trawsfynydd; the Morlais marine energy scheme on Anglesey, and a North Wales Tourism and Hospitality Centre of Excellence in Rhos-on-Sea.
4. THE AIMS
These fall under three themes – Smart, Resilient, Connected.
Smart: Lead innovation in low carbon and nuclear energy, advanced ‘smart’ manufacturing and the digital and creative sectors, building on existing initiatives and strengths to increase investment and employment in these sectors.
Resilient: Retain young people and reduce outward migration by offering a positive future, increasing employment levels and lowering the number of workless households.
Connected: Improve transport infrastructure, specifically road and rail, to facilitate economic growth and the movement of people, goods and services, including integrated transport hubs to connect localities to employment centres and the regional and national transport infrastructure.
5. THE FACES
The Bid is being developed and governed by the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, comprising of the leaders and chief executives of all six local authorities, the Vice-Chancellors of Bangor and Wrexham Glyndwr universities, the chief executives of Coleg Cambria and Grwp Llandrillo Menai, and North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council.
Flintshire leader Cllr Aaron Shotton (pictured above) is chairman of the North Wales Growth Bid, supported by Vice-Chairman Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn, leader of Gwynedd council.
Speaking at the North Wales Economic Ambition Board and North Wales Business Council stakeholder event at Bangor University last week, Cllr Shotton said the Bid has given the region a “once in a generation opportunity”.
“When preparing for our Bid we were very conscious about learning lessons from Growth and City deals across South Wales and the North West of England and seeking out best practice,” he said.
“We recognised very early on there was an overwhelming need to unify all six councils around a collective vision for the whole of North Wales and I am proud that we have come together with one clear voice – we are all united in backing the Bid.
“We are in advanced negotiations with the UK and Welsh Governments alongside the Wales Office and Ken Skates (Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Infrastructure and Skills) and these talks are progressing well.
“The Deal won’t become a reality unless the Bid is approved, so we really need the people and businesses of North Wales to join us – and Back the Bid – so we can take our economy to the next level.
“The people of North Wales can also play an integral part in the success of the bid, so we are seeking their support.
“This is the opportunity of a generation to transform our economy and we must do that together, united as a region.”
6. WILL THERE BE NEW JOBS?
Yes, an estimated 5,000 permanent jobs and tens of thousands of temporary roles (construction etc) if the Bid is accepted, making this the largest single driver of employment in North Wales’ recent history.
7. HOW WILL IT HELP ME?
There is a clear message from the Ambition Board. The Bid is to unite and connect all six counties as ‘One North Wales’.
A vital programme is the Regional Business Growth Fund, a targeted, dedicated suite of business support aids that will lever in significant private sector investment and accelerate the rate of decarbonisation within the area’s business base.
The Fund would complement existing services and strategic projects across North Wales, adding substantial value to the area’s current offer and ensuring that support and advice is much more co-ordinated and coherent. It would be a huge resource and increase knowledge transfer and collaboration, as well as strengthening supply chains to international businesses.
8. WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Significant progress has been made towards reaching a ‘heads of terms’ for a North Wales Growth Deal, which will lead to a more detailed planning stage over the summer.
The advanced development of each strategic project takes place between now and October.
The ambition is to complete the full Deal by the end of the year, and the current focus is on gaining as much momentum as possible and getting all of North Wales behind the campaign.
The stronger the voice the more people will understand this is a programme of work that will benefit the entire region.
9. WHEN WILL WE KNOW?
The Autumn Budget and Chancellor Philip Hammond’s spend allocation to Welsh Government will have a major impact and ultimately decide how much, if not all, of the Deal will be secured. There is a chance that projects will not be implemented as part of the Bid, but they could still form part of the wider Vision for North Wales going forward, driven by the Ambition Board.
10. THEN WHAT?
The Boards responsible for each of the programmes will come together and begin leading the projects, if successful, from April 2019.
To deliver the full benefits of the Deal and to maximise impact, the region will need certainty that the UK and Welsh Governments follow through on commitments and deliver key strategic policies and schemes, including the Taking Wales Forward broadband initiative, the Prosperity for All strategy, and Growth Track 360, specifically improvements along the coastal line, Wrexham to Bidston, and Chester to Wrexham.
Significantly, the Ambition Board aims to increase North Wales’ economy to £20bn a year by 2035, which they say will be achieved through growth in ‘high value’ sectors.
Visit www.northwaleseab.co.uk for more on the North Wales Growth Bid.