Kellie Beirne, Director, Cardiff Capital Region City Deal
In the Cardiff Capital Region we have some of the fastest growing and most competitive places in the UK cheek by jowl with some of the least competitive and most deprived. It’s not only the difference between Cardiff and Blaenau Gwent, it’s the difference between north Cardiff and some parts of south Cardiff.
Out of 300 local authority areas on the UK Competitiveness Index, and after 25 years’ of receiving European funding year on year, Blaenau Gwent is still one of the poorest places in the UK. And the evidence shows that will not shift soon.
That’s why in the Cardiff Capital Region we’re not just about economic growth in isolation, because we can’t win the same race as everyone else. We’ve got to build resilience into our economy, and that means an element of diversification. It means looking to the key industries of the future and understanding where we can have a real comparative advantage.
Our political leaders understand that if people are in work and we enable them to move up the value chain, they’ve got more money in their pockets and more options and choices. They not only generate tax yield to pay for public services, they become less reliant on those services, so the money we have in the pot can go to those that will never have the same options and choices.
I’m passionate about making a real, lasting difference to communities throughout the Cardiff Capital Region. For me the City Deal is not only about getting a good return on investment, more importantly it’s about building resilient, sustainable communities, about economic inclusion and spreading the prosperity we hope to create as widely as possible throughout the entire Capital Region.
We can set ourselves targets for investment and growth, and we can hit those targets and miss the point. Because the point is not getting the right figures on a balance sheet, the point is to create sustainable, resilient communities so in 20 years’ time our people are not still struggling near the bottom of the UK competitiveness table.
Our priority sector analysis shows where the region is particularly strong in key sectors of the economy. In advanced manufacturing, for example, south-east Wales has a world-leading presence in the making of compound semi-conductors, a key component in the global smartphone industry.
In life sciences, we are strong in diagnostics and devices, and so our Capital Region business plan focuses on them. In the creative industries, south Wales has recognised strengths in TV and film production.
People talk about a level playing field, but what we need and want to do is to tilt the playing field so we have the biggest impact in those areas where we need it most. In the Capital Region we are developing a suite of tools to help us tilt the playing field towards businesses in those areas where we think we can help most. We have funds we can use, including a Challenger Fund to help small businesses and start-ups in the foundational economy.
Metro Plus is an opportunity for local authorities to bring forward their own transport schemes that will help achieve the Metro’s goal of making it easier for people to travel around the region on public transport.
Our Housing Fund is another way we can help build resilience in our communities. It’s aimed at tackling the market failures in our housing sector, helping provide homes fit for the future in places where they would not otherwise be built.
Resilience, sustainability, inclusion – these are the key ideas that will prove whether our Cardiff Capital Region is a success. If we achieve them, we will have got the point