Nine months ago, we interviewed Philippa Marsden to find out how Caerphilly Borough County was managing at the height of the pandemic – and explored Philippa’s own vision for building back better, through a re-imagined high street, a regenerated community and re-purposed borough focused on creating an inclusive prosperity. Philippa’s commitment to her role and passion towards her community shone through – and with her recent appointment to Deputy Chair of the CCR Regional Cabinet, we thought it an opportune time to revisit the conversation and hear Philippa’s latest thoughts on Caerphilly and also on the Region….
“Moving from managing COVID-19 to driving ‘The Recovery’”
“The last time we spoke was an extraordinary time”, confirms Philippa “when we were focused on managing COVID-19, while at the same time aligning as much of our effort as possible with the bigger picture of building the infrastructure and opportunities needed for South East Wales to come out of the pandemic and be able to prosper. It was a real rollercoaster to say the least, but I’m proud to say that the plans we put forward then have received overwhelming support across all parties – giving people a real uplift. We were almost frozen in time at that point of the pandemic; and seeing the proposals go through the budgeting process to become a reality said to me that people across the spectrum shared our vision for the area. It also told me ‘we’re now in Recovery’. And everyone has pulled together to make sure the Recovery has continued apace.”
“The plans we put in place inspired everyone and received support across all parties”
“Many things stand out in my mind from last autumn: the huge collective effort being made by everyone in Caerphilly, the solidarity and determination right across CCR to make sure that this time of great sacrifice and sorrow could became a positive watershed moment for us as a region – and small but precious insights into how the potential to empower our communities was there before us. I remember Anthony Hunt talking of how his local community at Griffithstown had taken it upon themselves to regenerate the local park for the benefit of everyone – and was inspired as Kellie Beirne introduced the first of the Challenge Funds, empowering individuals and smaller organisations to help answer some of the biggest challenges we face.
“I’m delighted to say that this spirit of working together to solve problems and grasp opportunities has developed even further this year. My new CCR colleague, Richard John, Leader of Monmouthshire Council, summed it up beautifully when he spoke of the Community Capital that is there to be tapped into in his borough. And I see that togetherness and pride in making a difference through the county of Caerphilly and across our whole region.
“Our Community Empowerment Fund is one of the acorns I’m proud to see grow”
“Our very own Community Empowerment Fund is one of the acorns that I’m proud to see grow. It has set aside just over £4,000 for each Councillor, giving people the opportunity to use their own ideas and efforts to make their community a better place through capital projects. It’s a great example of how we’re looking to involve and inspire local people to build back better – whether it’s by putting some new park benches in place, replacing some railings, commissioning a mural, or anything else that will make a practical difference to the places where we live. We’ve also introduced a Premier Parks Fund that empowers people to become custodians of the wonderful green areas that we enjoy in this part of the world – and I see these Funds as more than great examples of innovation. They show us at our very best, believing in our own creativity and backing ourselves by investing to succeed.
“Why can’t Caerphilly become the Cowbridge of the Valleys?”
“Backing ourselves means creating more and better employment of course – and in the past few months we’ve brought new jobs to the Rhymney Industrial Estate and to Nelson, as well as seeing a £5 million investment by Cadw in Caerphilly Castle. But this is just the start. We need a different offer than what’s gone before and that means looking at everything through a new lens. If we bring better employment, better housing will follow. With greater prosperity, better housing stock, higher attaining schools – and the natural beauty on our doorstep – why can’t Caerphilly become the Cowbridge of the Valleys? People may laugh at that, but with hybrid working now becoming part of life and our borough offering such great potential for work/life balance, why can’t that happen?
“We need a different offer than what’s gone before, looking at everything through a new lens”
“The Recovery is now well underway – and with it comes the opportunity to rebalance our local economy, attracting more employers who can provide high-quality sustainable jobs – opportunities for people who are looking to skill, skill-up or be re-skilled. When I next speak with you I’m looking forward to scoping the progress we’re making towards this better, greener economy, a sustainable future with Caerphilly as a growing centre of a new eco-system that’s powered by our people.”