Cardiff Civic Society – Position on the City Deal for Cardiff Capital Region (CCR)

Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Local Development Plan, News | No Comments

When the Cardiff Civic Society began to get interested in the Local Development Plan (LDP) in 2008 we were particularly inspired by a speech by Sue Essex that Cardiff should remember and respect the historical links with the Valleys, and make sure it’s LDP took full account of the needs and capabilities of these communities. Since then we have been constant advocates of the need for a regional component of the LDP and have ensured that it is at the forefront of our responses to each of the consultations. We have always believed that it is not sufficient to plan housing and jobs growth without providing the means for residents to get to work in a city that is already, at the council’s admission, at peak congestion now. This principle is most clearly embodied in the Metro, a proposed coordinated transport network for the whole of SE Wales to connect the city and its hinterland that would include a state of the art tram system. The finance for such a project being beyond the capability of the city alone, it needed a regional structure to be created.

During 2010 the relevance of city regions as the engines of growth was becoming apparent, and in November 2011 the IWA ran a conference on the subject that gave us much encouragement. We documented the conference, see attachment, and were delighted when the Welsh Government initiated a review of the relevance to Wales, under the chair Elizabeth Heywood. Their report in 2012 was positive and convincing, and put substance to the benefits that might accrue to us, as so clearly demonstrated in Manchester. As a result, Welsh Government appointed a city region board under Roger Lewis to plan the way forward. Meanwhile, in parallel, Cardiff council were pushing ahead with the LDP and planning to grow the city more or less in isolation from its hinterland.

The 10 Local Authorities in SE Wales eventually agreed in principle that they should combine forces to develop a Cardiff Capital City Region, and this became government policy during 2014, along with further city region initiatives in Swansea Bay and another in North Wales. Meanwhile the concept of economic devolution to city regions throughout the UK was taking shape and cities the length and breadth of UK sought to extract powers and funding from London. Thanks to the efforts of the leaders of the 10 local authorities in SE Wales we succeeded in March 2016 in establishing a City Deal for the CCR. The deal as documented and attached to this paper, covers several elements:

1. Setting up a Cardiff Capital City Region cabinet to manage the change with a 6-18 month initial time frame; setting up a series of projects, objectives and targets. This is a committee of the 10 local authorities, not an executive cabinet to run the region.
2. A funding package over 20 years of £1.229 billion, of which;
3. £734 million is allocated to developing the South East Wales Metro (SEWM), and
4. £495 million is allocated for a package of other transport and economic projects ‘yet to be agreed’ – The Investment Fund’.
5. Shared funding, from Welsh Government and UK government (£0.5M each), the rest split between local authorities and some European grants.
6. A 5 year review process for the Investment Fund with the UK government contribution dependent on targets being achieved.

The CCR cabinet will comprise a plethora of boards, partnerships and committees including
. A non-statutory Regional Transport Authority.
. A CCR Skills and Employment Board.
. An employment support partnership.
. A CCR Business organisation.
. An Economic Growth Partnership, and
. A Growth and Competitiveness Commission.

CCS believes that these governance arrangements are too complex to be effective and lack the direct legitimacy and leadership/responsibility necessary to drive the city region programme forward. Getting the 10 local authorities and others to move beyond the initial scoped agreement will require an executive structure to determine who will do what and who will pay.

Meanwhile, the Cardiff LDP had been approved and adopted by the Cardiff council in January 2016, with little reference to the Metro or the city region. The plan has been passed as ‘sound’ despite not having an up to date Infrastructure Plan to deliver the growth desired. This Infrastructure Plan was due to be re-issued within 12 weeks of the plan adoption, it is now overdue and is needed desperately. The City Deal at last allows the Metro plan to be finalised and to address this glaring omission from the adopted LDP.

Also, during 2014/15 the governments Williams report recommended the merger of Welsh local authorities to create larger and more efficient service providers. These mergers did not respect the city region groupings, and are still being discussed. Also in parallel the LDP process is being changed to provide a more centralised control over large/national level projects, regional strategic development plans and a more localised LDP structure. Thus we have planning and administrative processes that are moving in several different directions at once. Meanwhile, Manchester powers on with a unified management structure and a Transport Executive to manage expansion and operation of the transport network as well as taking more responsibility for health services and many other aspects of daily life with a funding package to match. The still developing Manchester region ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is the model upon which economic devolution will take place in the 21st century. London continues to grow, cities like Birmingham and Bristol are showing ambition for change that promises a massive devolution of power to elected Mayors throughout the UK. The list of cities and regions seeking deals such as these is long, and it is excellent news that Cardiff Capital City Region has joined the initiative.

What next for the Cardiff Capital City Region? The authors of the deal have chosen not to create a City Region Executive, so will rely on strategic direction from 10 local authorities each acting together and separately to create and operate a connected transport network and manage what is currently the largest growth region in the UK. Similarly, they have not chosen to amalgamate the 10 local authorities under an elected mayor, and It is not at all clear how the proposed collaborative approach will work. Each LA currently has its own LDP which commits it to housing and economic development within its boundaries for the next 15-20 years and cooperation so far has been very limited. No doubt this will be a subject on which we will hear more, particularly after the election.

Cardiff Civic Society welcomes the City Deal but is sceptical of its ability to deliver the terms of the deal under the present arrangements. We urge the partners in the deal to:
1. Get on with the implementation of the Metro project without delay – it need not be held up while the details of the rest of the package is sorted out.
2. Identify a leader for the programme, responsible for and capable of driving it forward. This will need an executive authority over regional projects, not just a co-ordination role.
3. Commit to creating the proposed Strategic Regional Plan by 2020 and reviewing all the local authority LDPs in that context.
4. Commit to creating the proposed Economic Strategy for the whole region within the next 12 months. Every city in UK is after the same growth, this is a very competitive market.
5. Ensure that the deal is captured in the updated Cardiff LDP Infrastructure Plan as a matter of urgency, the city growth plans will not be achieved without a substantially upgraded transport network, and projects to create the attractive business and working environment demanded in the 21st century.

Thank goodness the City Deal arrived just in time to give substance to the missing LDP Infrastructure Plan, how else would Cardiff have done it?

DAVID EGGLETON & ROGER TANNER
CARDIFF CIVIC SOCIETY
April 2016

Getting Ahead Together City-region conference notes

City Deal Councils 15 March 2016

Cardiff Capital Region City Deal