Call for 'growth deal' for Mid Wales from Russell George AM backed by businesses

Reporter:

Keri Trigg

Mid Wales needs the same sort of funding that other parts of Wales benefit from in city region deals, according to a National Assembly committee headed by Russell George AM.

Mr George has called for the Welsh government to “complete the jigsaw” by committing to a growth deal for our area in line with similar ones being planned for other areas.

The Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee has been examining the potential of deals covering Swansea Bay and Cardiff, each worth more than a billion pounds in funding over the next 10 to 15 years. There are plans for a similar arrangement in north Wales.

The deals between Welsh Government, UK Government, local authorities and private investment will see money ploughed into better transport, internet connectivity, business development and innovation, as well as other programmes aimed at providing jobs and raising living standards.

But the committee found that, while a partnership body has been established and charged with identifying themes and investment priorities, there are currently no plans for a similar deal covering Mid Wales. Local authorities and business leaders in the area told the committee they felt left behind and ignored.

“These new regional deals, worth billions of pounds, are re-shaping the economic development priorities of South Wales, and have the potential to do the same for the rest of Wales,” said Mr George, chair of the committee.

“A Mid Wales deal would complete the jigsaw for an ambitious vision. We believe that funding aimed at improving transport infrastructure, digital connectivity and developing new job opportunities would be of huge benefit both to the area and to the country as a whole.

“We also want to see the benefits of these deals reach the most disadvantaged in their areas.

“It is heartening to see that leaders of the deals are mindful of these issues, but it is not clear whether that will be enough to ensure that deals can avoid the creation of winners and losers.”

The prospect of a growth deal for the area has been backed by businesses including Newtown-based Station Couriers, who want to see infrastructure improvements like the Newtown bypass used as a foundation for further developments in things like transport and broadband.

“The bypass is really great for us as a haulage company, we were really desperate for it,” said Station Couriers director Sian Jenkins.

“The time is takes our drivers to get through Newtown some days is ridiculous.

“We have had customers that have left the area and gone towards Shropshire because of the better infrastructure there.

“For us there would be a huge impact if the growth deal was accepted. It may well encourage companies into the area but if it would stop companies moving out of the area and that would be great.”

The committee makes 11 recommendations in its report, which will now be sent to the Welsh Government for consideration.

Email:

keri.trigg@nwn.co.uk

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