Venue: Via Microsoft Teams
Contact: Chloe Plowman - Email: email@example.com
Welcome and Chairs Announcements
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting.
Declarations of Interests
There were no declarations of interests received.
The Committee were presented with the Terms of Reference of the Economic Well Being and Regional Economic Development Sub Committee of the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee.
It was explained that the Terms of Reference were presented to the Corporate Joint Committee, along with the other Sub Committee Terms of Reference, in October 2022.
Members were informed that the document set out the overarching aim of the Sub Committee; along with the functions and makeup of the Committee.
RESOLVED: That Members note the terms of reference of the Economic Well Being and Regional Economic Development Sub Committee.
Regional Economic Strategy Update - Verbal Update
The Committee received a presentation from SQW, an economic development consultancy firm appointed to carry out work on the South West Wales Regional Economic Delivery Plan (REDP). It was noted that in 2013, SQW worked with colleagues in South West Wales on the Economic Regeneration Strategy; and were re-appointed in 2021 to carry out work on the REDP, which replaces that earlier strategy.
The presentation provided Members with an overview of the content and purpose of the REDP, as well as an update on the Regions position 18 months on from the start of this work stream.
Members were informed that the REDP was developed in 2021, and approved by the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee in March 2022. It was noted that when SQW were appointed to carry out this work, they were asked to prepare a document that looked towards 2030. The following statement was included within the plan to capture the purpose:
‘Set out the region’s ambitions for a resilient, broad-based and sustainable economy, and where efforts should be focused in the next few years to realise them’.
It was mentioned that SQW produced the plan in parallel with the Regional Economic Framework that was led by Welsh Government; the REDP largely informed the Regional Economic Framework, as it references the strategic content of the plan.
The Committee were informed of the approach taken from evidence to delivery of the plan:
· Evidence and Landscape Review – this work started in early 2022 to capture issues, context, policy themes and a SWOT analysis of the regional economy. It was important to gather new evidence for the development of the REDP, due to the fast changing nature of evidence based work. This review was captured and published in its own document.
· Regional Economic Delivery Plan – the evidence base work fed into the core strategy document and framework for action.
· Project Pipeline Supplement – following the publication of the REDP, a third document was produced named the ‘Project Pipeline Supplement’. SQW had collated a series of project proposals, all of which were at various stages of development; the document set out a short summary business case for each project, on the basis that they could be reviewed and developed in response to future funding opportunities and the like.
When developing the REDP, three broad, overarching ambitions were set for the Region to be resilient and sustainable, enterprising and ambitious, and balance and inclusive; and within that content, three missions were set out within the plan:
1. Establishing South West Wales as a UK leader in renewable energy, and the development of a net zero economy
2. Building a strong, resilient and embedded business base
3. Growing and sustaining the experience offer
It was noted that SQW consciously focused on the three missions, rather than taking a more traditional approach, in order to capture something that was distinctive to the Region; and to actively respond to the consultation, and the steer received from the four Local Authorities.
Members received ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Overview of Existing Regional Programmes - Verbal Update
A verbal update was provided in regards to two of the key regional programmes that were assisting to deliver the Regional Economic Delivery Plan (REDP).
It was noted that it would be key to keep in mind the three missions within the REDP, as they were important in guiding the way that the programmes were being deployed; particularly the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) and the Transforming Towns Programme.
Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF)
Officers explained that there were a series of anchor projects on the key themes linked to the REDP; the principle among these were the business development and employability strands.
It was highlighted that the programme was planned at a regional level, however delivery was being tailored within each Local Authority area; this meant that each Local Authority could move at a pace that was most appropriate to them and the scale of budget allocation that they were granted by UK Government. Officers stated that the regional dimension was there, however it was equally important to ensure there was the flexibility to scale the pace and design according to local need.
Members were reassured that the nature of the projects were broadly following along the lines of the REDP; the advice and documentation that was given early on in the programme were being acknowledged, and the projects that were coming in were consistent with the delivery needed to start the implementation of the REDP.
The Committee was informed that the anchor design enabled existing staff, within the teams at each Local Authority, to make a start on the work reasonably quickly; particularly for the creation and distribution of grants to small businesses, and in the area of community development.
It was stated that the level of commitment across the programme was very high, and the Local Authorities were almost fully committed between the anchor projects and open calls; with part of that being allocated to grant schemes that were open on an as needs basis. Officers confirmed that there were still some open calls to be concluded, particularly in Pembrokeshire; however, this exercise was due to be completed by the Christmas period.
Officers added that funding was moving quickly, and Local Authorities had worked well together in getting this work to the point that it was currently at; this arrangement had also allowed for smaller organisations to be the first to benefit, which hadn’t always been the case in the past.
In regards to future meetings of the Economic Wellbeing and Regional Economic Development Sub Committee, Officers explained that they will be able to provide a comprehensive overview of all of the finances in details, and the outputs that were being achieved. It was explained that the system for this this had been built, and the first claim period would end on 17 October 2023; once the submissions were in, Officers will collate the data and produce a regional report which will capture the performance of the programme across the Region.
Transforming Towns Programme
It was explained that the ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Freeport Update - Verbal Update
The Committee received an update in regards to the current position in respect of the Freeport, and the processes involved with this work.
It was explained that the Celtic Freeport bid scored highest of the three Welsh bids submitted to UK Government, and since then Officers had been making progress in terms of the delivery element.
After some delays, it was confirmed that the Department for Levelling up Housing and Committees (DLUHC) and Welsh Government had issued draft guidance for this work; and Officers were awaiting for the final detail to be agreed.
Members were informed that the Freeport Team (consisting of representatives from Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Associated British Ports and Milford Haven Port) were currently working with KPMG and the interim Celtic Freeport Chief Executive to draft the outline business case; with hopes to submit at the end of this calendar year.
In terms of floating offshore wind, it was stated that there were no bids submitted by developers in the recent auction process; whilst this raised concerns, Officers had been assured that the process was being revised. It was noted that the process, which included agreeing the contracts for difference, will provide more consideration to the developers next time around.
As previously mentioned, Officers were currently working through the outline business case; part of this included looking into a number of areas particularly around skills, innovation and planning. It was noted that from this, Officers will be drawing up some draft segments to fit within the outline business case.
A discussion took place in regards to the next steps, which were highlighted as follows:
· Formal submission of the outline business case, and approval from DLUHC and Welsh Government;
· Treasury approval and tax site designation – Officers had engaged with over 20 land owners across Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire in order to get the tax site agreements in place;
· Proceed with full business case, with the potential for the Freeport to start trading in late 2024;
· Release of capital from UK Government to allow Officers to undertake a range of works to infrastructure and feasibility studies
It was explained that the money will be spent across both Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire, however the benefits generated by the Freeport would not be restricted to the two County Boroughs. It was emphasised that the benefits would be realised across the whole of South Wales.
The Committee were presented with the following current challenges associated with the Freeport development:
· High level discussions between Welsh and UK Government were taking place in regards to the non-domestic rates, and the proportion of which would end up with the Local Authorities in Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire.
· The timescales were noted to be quite challenging, as there was a lot of responsibility to deliver heavy documentation in a short period of time. Whilst Officers had the support of consultant teams, there were certain elements of work that could only be carried out from within the Local Authorities themselves.
· The upcoming General ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Investment Zone Status in Wales and the Regions Position - Verbal Update
Officers provided the Committee with an overview of the investment zone status in Wales, and the South West Wales Regions current position.
It was stated that earlier this year, UK Government announced that 8 investment zone areas has been allocated in England. Officers highlighted that although there had been no confirmation in regards to potential investment zones in Wales, discussions were ongoing between UK and Welsh Government; with a suggestion that there will be at least one investment zone in Wales.
Members were informed that Carmarthenshire and Swansea Councils would be developing and submitting a prospectus document to Welsh Government, indicating what could be achieved in the South West Wales Region. It was noted that this would include links to the Freeport status, adding value and addressing the displacement issue, as well as opportunities to connect the energy generation potential; along with building research and innovation capacity, and linking major sites and industries.
It was concluded that the green growth investment prospectus was being finalised, and would be brought to the Corporate Joint Committee on 24 October 2023 to provide further detail on this matter.
Corporate Plan 2023/2024 Priorities - Proposals for future Work Programme
A discussion took place in regards to proposals for the future work programme of the Economic Well Being and Regional Economic Development Sub Committee.
It was highlighted that there was opportunity to present some of the priorities raised from the Officer Workshop, which took place on 3 October 2023, alongside reacting to the priorities the region was facing.
Following the discussion, it was confirmed that Officers would populate the Forward Work Programme.
Any urgent items at the discretion of the Chairperson pursuant to Section 100BA(6)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).
There were no urgent items received.