THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

Minutes of a Special Meeting held on 28th March, 2017.

 

Present:  Councillor Janice Charles (Mayor); Councillors Julie Aviet, Jonathan Bird, Bronwen Brooks, Lis Burnett, George Carroll, Christine Cave, Millie Collins, Geoff Cox, Robert Crowley, Pamela Drake, Vincent Driscoll, Stewart Edwards, Ben Gray, Owen Griffiths, Stephen Griffiths, Sally Hanks, Nic Hodges, Hunter Jarvie, Gwyn John, Dr. Ian Johnson, Gordon Kemp, Peter King, Kevin Mahoney, Kathryn McCaffer, Neil Moore, Michael Morgan, Jayne Norman, Rachel Nugent-Finn, Andrew Parker, Bob Penrose, Sandra Perkes, Andrew Robertson, Leighton Rowlands, Ruba Sivagnanam, John Thomas, Neil Thomas, Margaret Wilkinson, Edward Williams and Marguerita Wright.

 

 

831            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors Vincent Bailey, Rhiannon Birch, Anthony Hampton, Matthew Lloyd, Anne Moore and Mark Wilson.

 

 

832            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

833            CARDIFF CAPITAL REGION CITY DEAL: JOINT WORKING AGREEMENT BUSINESS PLAN (REF) –

 

In presenting the report, the Leader reminded Members that the agreement of the City Deal 5 year Business Plan was a matter that had not been delegated to the Cardiff Capital Region Cabinet and required each of the 10 constituent Councils to agree. 

 

Although there was considerable detail in the body of the report, the only matter that required a decision was that of the Business Plan.  Much of the detail within the report was included for context and the Leader alluded to the following elements.

 

The report set out the background to the City Deal and provided context by referring to the early work on the City Deal, which led to the signing of the Heads of Terms by the 10 constituent Councils in the Spring of 2016.   The Joint Working Agreement (JWA) was signed on 1st  March 2017. 

 

The Leader referred to the Business Plan as being deliberately high level and visionary.  Whilst there was some detail in the Plan, there also had to be flexibility because, as a region, there had to be a need to respond to new and emerging challenges.   The Business Plan did not allude to site-specific projects, given that any projects would have to be assessed against detailed assessment criteria in order to be considered for City Deal funding.  The City Deal Heads of Terms was compiledaround thematic interventions, not site-specific projects and that was the reason why site-specific projects had not been factored into the first 5 year Business Plan.  The exception to this had been the investment decision taken to enable the City Deal Cabinet to invest in the compound semi-conductor cluster in Newport, given the Regional Cabinet decision made to support that cluster.

 

The Leader referred to the following sections of the Business Plan.

 

Pages 8/9 set out the aims, which were high level for the next 5 years, envisaged as part of the Business Plan.  The first investment had already been made in the semi-conductor cluster, with other high level investments, including digital, innovation, skills, metro and strategic sites as well as a housing fund to kick start housing investment.

 

Page 10 set out the strategic regional objectives, which were as follows (and which were detailed further on pages 12/13) : 

  • Prosperity and Opportunity,
  • Inclusion and Equality
  • Identity, Culture, Community and Sustainability.  

Page 18 set out spatial priorities identified in the Business Plan and Page 19 identified Barry as a strategic hub and identified the presence of the Enterprise Zones (including the Airport/St Athan).  In terms of Strategic Objectives, the Business Plan followed the strategic objectives as set out in the Heads of Terms agreed on 1st March 2016.

 

Page 20 dealt with the Skills agenda and this was deliberately non-spatial, being all cross-cutting in nature and policy-based. 

 

Page 22 related to Innovation – reference to investment around semi-conductors and also public sector test bed, given the region’s reliance on public sector employment.  It also focussed on regional business support.

 

Page 24 referred to the Transport and connectivity agenda, referring to ongoing work on a Regional Transport strategy, with mention of strategic opportunities around the airport, the Great Western main line and also the ports including Barry. 

 

Page 25 referred to Metro Plus and made reference to the proposed investment in Cardiff Central, given the need to improve sustainable access into and out of the capital. 

 

Page 26 referred to other future initiatives, including access to the airport and strategic access to the M4 in the context of the airport.

 

Page 27 referred to the Digital strand, referencing fibre connectivity – both regionally and internationally. 

 

Page 28 referred to the Housing & Regeneration objective, including regional housing fund and this also included reference to the visitor economy and

P33 mentioned Barry Island. 

 

The Business Plan also referred to other potential funding opportunities and the review process, to be undertaken by the regional Cabinet.

 

The Leader formally moved that the Business Plan be approved.

 

Councillor Driscoll asked the Leader whether he could reassure Members and the people of Dinas Powys and the wider Vale that the Dinas Powys By-Pass would be one of the Council’s bids.

 

The Leader reminded members that, as with Junction 34, the Council was currently carrying out WelTag appraisals for the Dinas Powys By-Pass.  A report would be submitted to the next Cabinet meeting regarding extending the scope of the Dinas Powys study at the request of the Dinas Powys Community Council.  The Leader stated that the City Deal was unlikely to fund this project in full but that, if the preferred option for the WelTag process was a by-pass, then there might well be a role for City Deal in enabling the scheme with additional Welsh Government funding.

 

Councillor Neil Moore, Leader of the Labour Group, formally seconded approval of the Business Plan.  He referred to himself and certain other Members as having been heavily involved in setting up the deal originally.  He considered it to be the right way forward and very important to the Council.

 

Councillor Dr.Ian Johnson, Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group, thanked the Leader for the briefing given to Group Leaders, which he considered had been very helpful in setting the context for the discussion.  He alluded to the Plaid Cymru group as having previously voted against the City Deal for the following specific reasons:  

  • firstly, it had been felt that the project had no democratic mandate as it had been considered by a Council which had only had three months left to run, but which was signing up for something that was some 25 years beyond the      political life of many Members at that time; 
  • secondly, and a reason that still concerned him, was the amount of money involved and how effective it would be.  He      suggested that the figure involved of £495M was not, in fact, a great deal of money when spread across 10 Local Authorities and a period of 25 years.  Councillor Dr. Johnson suggested it was necessary to reign in some of the “spin and rhetoric” involved. 

Notwithstanding the above, the Plaid Cymru Group would be supporting the approval of the Business Plan.  He referred to there being 11 sites named in the Spatial Plan, 2 of which were in the Vale of Glamorgan, which he hoped was a positive indicator for the area.  He acknowledged the fact that the Business Plan was a very high level document, perhaps necessarily so at this stage, but that “the devil would be in the detail”.

 

Councillor Dr. Johnson asked the Leader to undertake to seek cross-party consensus and requested that Members be kept fully informed, and involved as appropriate, as the various schemes came forward.

 

In concluding, Councillor Dr. Johnson continued to have a number of concerns moving forward, but confirmed the Plaid Cymru Group would be supporting approval of the Business Plan itself.

 

The Leader, in responding, thanked Councillor Neil Moore for seconding the Motion and for the original work that he had undertaken in terms of the City Deal.

 

He failed to see the thinking behind the fact that the original City Deal decision had been so close to the election and, indeed, pointed out that it was, indeed, a 25 year Plan, albeit there were only 4 years left to run of existing Councils prior to the next elections.  The Leader accepted the point made regarding the actual sum of £495M., but reminded Members that it largely comprised investments which would be repaid, with very few grants being given out.  The cost to the Vale of Glamorgan Council would be a total of £17M.

 

He referred to the semi-conductor cluster project as having secured some 500 jobs (which were available to people in the Vale) that would had been lost had there not been City Deal investment.

 

The Leader referred to the idea of the Metro as being to link up areas within the City Deal Region so that jobs anywhere within the region were available to people anywhere else within the region.  The whole point of City Deal was not simply about what could be obtained for the Vale, but about benefits for the region as a whole.

 

He assured Members that regular reports would be submitted (i.e. to Cabinet and/or Scrutiny Committees as appropriate) on the progress of City Deal.  He would also be happy to brief Group Leaders on a reasonably regular basis.

 

Councillor John, Leader of the Llantwit First Independent Group, confirmed the Group’s support for the Business Plan.  He considered it important that the Vale of Glamorgan played a big part in the project.

 

Councillor Neil Moore pointed out that City Deal had never been meant to represent the “means of solving all the problems”; it represented the use of pump-priming monies.

 

He also alluded to the semi-conductor project and the saving of some 500 jobs.  As far as the Vale of Glamorgan was concerned, he cited the Port of Barry, the Airport and the Enterprise Zone as pump-priming areas.

 

Councillor Burnett alluded to the re-emergence of the debate on potential Local Government Reorganisation.  However, at the same time, the 10 constituent Local Authorities continued to collaborate on various initiatives, with City Deal being the largest.    She had been pleased to have played a part to date and also pleased that many of the things that the previous Administration had argued for (i.e. the themes and priorities) were still included in the Business Plan.

 

In summing up, the Leader thanked all those Members who had contributed to the debate.  Referring again to the semi-conductor cluster, he commented that the 500 jobs involved represented approximately double the average salary of jobs in the area.

 

As far as potential Local Government Reorganisation was concerned, he felt the fact that the 10 constituent Local Authorities were working together so well on City Deal was a really good argument against any mandatory reorganisation. 

 

In conclusion, the Leader expressed his hope that Members would vote unanimously in favour of approving the Business Plan.

 

Upon being put to the vote, it was unanimously

 

RESOLVED  - T H A T the Joint Working Agreement Business Plan  (Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) Strategic Business Plan  for the Wider Investment Fund), attached at Appendix A to the report, be approved.