2020: A Year of Coming Together and Delivering

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Thought Leadership

As a year unlike any other draws to a close, Anthony Hunt, Chair of Cardiff Capital Region Cabinet (CCR), pays tribute to the progress and results delivered by CCR through the collective focus of a regional leadership and widespread collaboration with businesses and communities across South East Wales…

“2020 has been an extraordinary year. But in amongst all the change and uncertainty caused by the impact of COVID, the big standout point for me is that the hard and often unseen work of the past few years – where we’ve nurtured trust and understanding between the 10 leaders and councils from a diverse Region – is beginning to bear fruit as we move into the delivery phase. It shows we have a strong foundation for what’s ahead.

“We took the time to build strong foundations. Now we’ve moved into the delivery phase.” 

“The time we’ve taken to build a firm foundation on a shared common purpose has not been without its critics. That’s understandable, as there’s always a temptation with any project to rush into delivery, to show that you’re making a difference as quickly as possible.

We took time to build relationships and the right culture, rather than having different cultures rubbing up against each other. That meant investing the upfront effort to understand different points of view and different perspectives, each of which brought something valuable.

Having those honest conversations with the different leaders – and partners such as Frank Holmes – and bringing together those divergent opinions has served us well in a year when no one individual or council or political party has had all the answers.

My role as Chair is all about facilitating this cohesion and those conversations, building on the tremendous work of Andrew Morgan and the other leaders who have turned the CCR vision into a positive reality since 2016. If the pandemic had hit us in previous years, it would have been easy to splinter into a coastal belt versus valley, town versus rural or even valley versus valley mentality. The fact that we have all stood behind our shared Regional strategy at a time of extreme and often contradictory pressures bodes really well for the future.

 “Bringing together diverse experiences and divergent views has been incredibly valuable.”   

“COVID has, if anything, validated our belief in devolving power to the businesses, communities and people who live the day-to-day realities of our Region. The results of our approach are starting to be seen on many levels, including the world-leading developments being made at the Compound Semiconductor Cluster,

I want us to help build on the stregths of our region. We need to get behind quality, grounded companies in our region like Flamgard Calidair in in Pontypool, who are world-class providers of dampers in markets such as oil and gas, nuclear power and marine – typifying the Better Jobs Closer to Home ethos that’s at the heart of our commitment to the foundational economy.

“Getting the balance right to build indigenous businesses on latent local talent” 

That focus on building indigenous businesses, listening to their needs and giving them the capacity to grow – rather than just relying on inward investment and brand new start-ups – has given me particular satisfaction this year.

It feels like we are working towards getting the right balance in terms of tapping into the latent talent of our region – and that’s been the case right down to the grassroots level.

There’s lessons for us to learn from beyond economic development about how we should see our role as a facilitator and catalyst rather than the whole solution ourselves. In my own borough of Torfaen I’ve witnessed the community in Griffithstown take it upon themselves to look after the local Fishponds Park, with amazing results. The Park looks better than ever, the people responsible feel empowered; and the local authority is learning from the positives of knowing when to ‘let go’, to be the catalyst for change rather than always trying to be the change itself. It proves that if you’re willing to let go, you’ll achieve far more than if you try to micromanage – and that sometimes it’s worth giving up some ‘power’ to get much more impactful influence.”

“Our role is being the catalyst for change and inclusive growth.” 

“Our role is to be that catalyst for change and inclusive growth. It’s not about us acting as a superhero. It’s about working behind the scenes to identify and prioritise where investment would be best placed to create the environment for our future growth – bringing together all the parts to create a whole, making sure we don’t miss out on the opportunities as we may have done in the past.

That ethos has seen us investing in medical diagnostics tech businesses that can help us defeat COVID and grow high-value jobs in the local supply chain, through to most recently investing in Zip World on the site of the old Tower colliery to create an adventure tourism facility that will preserve and regenerate one of the most iconic sites in the region whilst creating significant economic benefits for the whole area.

We’ve been doing all that and much more this year, focusing on the specific sectors where we have a pre-existing strength or opportunity. We’ve not been diverted by the pandemic from our strategy to build a sustainable and resilient economy for all our citizens.

“We’ve not been diverted from our strategy to build a sustainable and resilient economy for all our citizens.” 

“Looking forward into 2021 and beyond, it’s clear that each of our key sectors – from compound semiconductors, the creative industries and cyber security, through to fintech, medtech and transport – are vitally important for our region. COVID has simply reinforced the demand for all those sectors. And 2020 has seen us distil and refine these specialisms still further – so we now know that we have a real competitive advantage specifically in a segment of “insurtech” rather than the wider ‘fintech’; and we have a real opportunity within medical diagnostics and medical manufacturing rather than a blanket approach across the whole of medtech.

“If we really focus in on where we are strong, we can help create environments where local supply chains will grow. Our Challenge Fund is another example of how we’ll achieve that – putting data and problems out there, inviting organisations to work with us to solve issues and grab opportunities to improve our provision of fundamental public services across all areas, including those such as non-domiciliary care where the weaknesses in the existing model are obvious. It’s that coming together of coherent regional political leadership and business acumen, unleashing our region’s nascent ingenuity, which will help create a truly sustainable and resilient region.

“We’re now one Region with a united sense of purpose”

“We also need to focus on the fact that we’re one region and are committed to bringing the whole of that region forward. That means continuing to be grown up and honest in our conversations, accepting that part of our togetherness’ means we’ll have different opinions around the Joint Cabinet table; and using that blend of views, skills and experience for the benefit of everyone. It also means involving and utilising all the knowledge and expertise we have around the Region, to make the best investment decisions. We are not just the cities of Cardiff and Newport; we are the valleys towns and the rural communities too, with markedly different socio-economic groups living side-by-side. We need to be mature enough to understand that different areas need different types of support.

“Beyond all else, we need to make it clear that we’re not just here for the people earning high wages in cutting edge technology businesses, but also for the people living in less affluent communities, from Brynmawr to Maerdy to Maesteg or Grangetown. Our aim is to spread prosperity across the region, and to make sure we deliver to the whole region, not just the areas that are on the up anyway. That’s our focus now, and it remains our focus for 2021 and beyond.”

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