On Wednesday, BCBC councillors will be asked to vote to approve the business plan for the Cardiff Capital City Region as well as the first major tranche of money (pdf).
The city region is a jointly-governed body made up of 10 local authorities in south east Wales, including Bridgend. It’s being part-funded by the UK Government, Welsh Government as well as proportional contributions from member local authorities.
The single biggest commitment to date is a £38.5million loan to develop a semiconductor cluster in Newport – the fifth semiconductor hub in Europe and the first in the world for compact semiconductors. It’s hoped it will secure a further £380million in private sector investment and support 2,000 jobs.
The wider city deal is expected to attract £4billion in private sector investment and create 25,000 jobs across the region.
The key elements of the business plan (pdf) are:
- The South Wales Metro – £734million has been committed for the Metro scheme, which could see some of the Valley Lines converted to trams/tram-trains, a major redevelopment of Cardiff Central Station and bus rapid transit along certain routes. The only serious projects mooted for Bridgend county to date are Brackla station and an enhanced bus link between Bridgend and Porthcawl.
- Regional Housing Fund – The idea is to bring forward housing developments that have currently stalled for whatever reason, with a particular focus on making sure smaller, local building companies get an opportunity and support to develop plots of land.
- Digital Strategy – The semiconductor hub is the first step in this, but it also includes the creation of a National Software Academy, a Tech Venture Fund and using the public sector as a test-bed for new and emerging technologies.
- Skills – This includes working with businesses to highlight skills shortages and work to address them through training and education, widening access to apprenticeships and graduate internship programmes that are extended to include smaller companies.
The business plan itself will be reviewed in 2021 to determine its progress.
Bridgend town is earmarked as a “strategic hub” which is – alongside Barry, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Pontypridd, Cwmbran and Caldicot – “in transition to accommodating high value-added activity, renewed resident populations and university expansions”.
The council report says Bridgend will be expected to contribute just over £11.3million in capital funding towards the city deal in total.
Councillors will be asked to authorise the business plan as well as a payment of £2.3million for the 2017-18 financial year. The £2.3million payment is £1.7million higher than first anticipated and will come from under-spends in other council department budgets – which given the current situation regarding bus subsidies and toilet closures is unlikely to be a popular move.
It will, however, mean that BCBC won’t have to contribute as much in future years.
There are questions due to be asked on this at the full council meeting; if it’s webcast I’ll return to it later this week.