Deals are beneficial but the Government must provide adequate funding
The Cardiff Capital Region and Swansea Bay City Deals have received funding from the UK and Welsh Governments and are currently in their implementation stage.
The North Wales Growth Deal and Mid Wales Growth Deal have had some funding pledged but are yet to be agreed.
The Welsh Affairs Committee has considered the success of these Deals and found that they are beneficial for Wales and the Welsh economy, but that the Government must continue to provide adequate levels of resources and funding.
The Cardiff Capital Region City Deal
The Committee found that the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal was being managed well and was optimistic about the positive effect it would have on the area. They did, however, find a number of areas for improvement, and the Report recommended that the UK Government should proactively support the deal by participating in co-investment propositions of shared interest.
The Report also found that the Cardiff Deal's gateway review should be changed so it better reviews the performance of the deal as a whole. Finally, MPs suggested that the UK Government should devolve Air Passenger Duty to the National Assembly for Wales.
Swansea Bay City Deal
The Committee noted the challenges and criticisms the Swansea Bay City Deal had faced, and stressed the importance of lessons being learned and acted upon.
The Report emphasises the importance of the portfolio approach as recommended by the Independent Review and suggests that this approach should be followed by all the City and Growth Deals across Wales.
The Report also recommends that the UK and Welsh Governments should accelerate the release of funds for certain projects so as to minimise any associated risks to council finances. MPs also recommended that further projects should be added to the Deal, including those for a Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon or Swansea Bay Metro if cost-effective proposals were brought forward.
North Wales Growth Deal
The Committee were pleased that £240 million in funding from the UK and Welsh Government had been pledged for the North Wales Growth Deal, but noted this was less than had been asked for and called for better communication from the UK Government.
The Report recommended that all partners should continue working toward a Heads of Terms agreement by March 2020. MPs also suggested that there should be close working with partners across Wales and in England through, for example, cross-border infrastructure or skills development projects.
The Committee also reasserted recommendations made in a previous Report concerning the suspension of work at Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Power station, and the potential impact this may have on the North Wales Growth Deal in this sector.
Mid Wales Growth Deal
The Committee was pleased with the announcement of an initial £55 million for the Deal from the UK Government and urged the Growing Mid Wales Partnership to continue working toward submitting detailed proposals by March 2020.
The Committee also concluded that areas outside of Powys and Ceredigion, but with strong local connections, should be permitted to feature in Growth Deal projects, where appropriate.
UK Government support
The Committee also considered the role of the UK Government and concluded that they should co-ordinate closely with the Welsh Government and appoint a senior civil servant to oversee this relationship and to coordinate with the City and Growth Deal teams.
MPs also suggested that the UK Government provide some initial "seed funding" for councils that have been invited to bid for a deal.
Chair of the Committee, David T.C. Davies, commented:
“Growth and City Deals have the potential to transform the Welsh economy.
“However, we identified a number of areas that need improvement. I am particularly concerned about the way the UK Government announced that less funding than requested was to be provided for the North Wales Growth Deal. Strong relationships are key to the success of these deals, and I hope the UK Government set out their concerns more clearly in future.
“I would also like to see the Government take our other proposals seriously to ensure the success of these deals, such as accelerating the release of funds, adding new projects to the deal, and working closely with the Welsh Government.
“I look forward to seeing these deals succeed in years to come and working with the Government to ensure Wales gets the support it needs for economic growth.”
Image: Elliot Brown via Flickr