To receive an update of Step 10: ‘to develop a strong brand to promote and attract inward investment into Powys’.
The Corporate Director (Economy and Environment) gave a presentation on the Growing Mid Wales (copy filed with signed minutes).
Powys County Council and Ceredigion County Council are working together on Growing Mid Wales. These areas face similar challenges one of which is the lowest GVA in Wales at £16,910 some £9,268 less than the UK, share a similar geography and either have a lengthy coastline or border with England.
This is the fourth development deal in Wales following on from the Cardiff City Region Deal, Swansea Bay City Deal and North Wales Growth Deal. There are pros and cons of going last not least that lessons can be learnt from the other City and Growth Deals which include the importance of getting the governance right. Whilst the speed of progress may appear frustrating much work has been ongoing behind the scenes to ensure that the governance is correct. It is not intended to limit ambition and the aim is to provide a series of interventions which link to objectives rather than projects which have more invested in them.
An Inter Authority Agreement has been signed and a Joint Committee set up supported by an Economic Strategy Group, Regional Learning and Skills Partnership and Partnership Forum. A series of regional sub-groups exist below the main forums which can cross over into other areas (such as the transport sub-group which covers part of south Gwynedd).
Does the transport group link to the aims of Step 3 ‘work with an influence others to improve our transport infrastructure, our existing transport links and develop a sustainable and integrated approach for planning and delivery’?
These link to an extent.
Transport issues are of high importance to the Powys Teaching Health Board as access to health appointments for patients can be challenging.
Opportunities exist here for co-ordination of transportation and infrastructure improvements.
The key points for this programme are that it is over a 15 year period, unique to this area and intends to grow the foundation economy. This will need a skilled workforce and the right infrastructure. There has been engagement with the private sector as it is important that this is not too public sector orientated.
Will the education and skills programme include skills needed for all sectors including the health sector?
The education and skills programme will focus on meeting the skills gap locally.
Will the education and skills programme include school age children and offer a path locally so that young people can continue their education without having to leave the area to attend university where they tend not to return.
This is an issue and it is understood that the Mid Wales region produce proportionally more university level entrants who are not then retained.
A number of ambitions have been expressed including:
· Radio spectrum
· Food innovation
· Agriculture and grassland innovation
which are supported by the following business ambitions:
· Broadening the economic base
· Strengthening the economic base
· Connecting our economy
The aim is to increase GVA by 5% as the Mid Wales region has the lowest GVA nationally. The region has a high employment rate but many of the jobs are low paid or part time.
Scrutiny Members noted the report notes a declining working population due to outmigration and a target of 23,000 skilled full-time jobs to increase the GVA. This gap affects both the working population and volunteer workforce due to changes in the pension age.
Step 10 with its focus on branding to promote and attract inward investment to Powys is not an appropriate step. The additional information contained within the Growth Deal papers show that a more ambitious step should have been agreed.
It is accepted that this is narrow definition.
The information provided is concerning as it appears there is a disconnect between the baseline for the Growth Deal and what is currently on the ground.
Welsh Government are taking an interesting stance with a focus on achieving a good foundation economy from which there will be opportunities to grow. There is space within the programme for all concepts and whilst other programmes within Wales are further ahead than the Mid Wales Growth Deal the other programmes are yet to spend any money.
If the private sector are involved there will be some realism within the programme and there are innovative firms in the region. The programme should build on these at an appropriate pace to succeed.
This is intended. For example there is a lack of available property in the north of the region but a simply property programme would not work under the Growth Deal. It is intended to link this to the infrastructure, low carbon and digital programmes. The process is iterative and it will be necessary to get support from Welsh Government and Westminster. The area would not want to be left behind whilst other regions are supported in their City and Growth deals.,
Powys is known as a county of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and the self employed. Is this a sufficient base from which to develop the economy as described?
It was acknowledged that Powys is a county of small businesses.
Does the programme know what skills existing employers need?
Comments relating to the connection with other steps within the PSB arena are welcomed.
What milestones and goals are defined in the intention to increase the GVA?
The PSB have a working group arranged for August which will populate the milestones for the steps.
· That observations and recommendations are produced and provided to the Lead Officer in respect of Step 10