NORTH WALES ECONOMIC AMBITION BOARD ANNUAL REPORT 2022/23
To consider a report (copy attached) from the Corporate Director: Environment and Economy which details the work of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board (the Board) during the financial year 2022/23.
10.15 – 10.55 am
Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Economic Growth and Tackling Deprivation, Councillor Jason McLellan introduced the annual report (previously circulated) to the Committee. The report provided members with an opportunity to scrutinise the work of North Wales Economic Ambition Board (NWEAB) and its progress in delivering its work. He confirmed quarter 1, 2 and 3 reports were submitted to members for information with quarter 4 and Annual Report presented to Committee for further discussion.
He thanked the Head of Operations for the Portfolio Management Office of Ambition North Wales and Digital Programme Manager for attending the Committee meeting to present to the Committee.
Hedd Vaughan Evans, Head of Operations for the Portfolio Management Office of Ambition North Wales, presented members with a PowerPoint presentation. He introduced to the Committee Stuart Whitfield the Digital Programme Manager for the Board.
Members were provided with background information on the Board and advised that the Programme Office reported directly to the Board which set the direction of the work and took any decisions required. The NWEAB had been in existence since 2016, setting a vision for North Wales. Members heard the Board had secured £240m investment into North Wales. With a total investment target of £1billion over a 15 year period, creating 4200 new jobs. Members were guided through the aims of the Board including building a more vibrant, sustainable and resilient economy in North Wales. Building on strengths to boost productivity whilst tackling long term challenges. It was hoped this would be done in a sustainable way that was in line with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
Members were provided with information on some of the challenges the Board had faced over the previous 12 months. It was stressed progress in some areas had not been as quick as had first been hoped. A number of project delays had been encountered and a number of challenges around cost inflation had impacted some projects.
Further business cases had initial outline cases approved by the Economic Ambition Board. This allowed projects to complete procurement processes and return to the Board for a final investment decision. These were:
- Enterprise Engineering and Optics Centre
- Last few %
- Smart Local Energy
Members heard funding had been acquired from Welsh Government to deliver Local Area Energy Plans. The team were co-ordinating the delivery of those plans.
A mobile connectivity survey on the quality of 4G connectivity across the region had been conducted, data received would feed into a digital programme in the plan. Members were guided through further highlights detailed in the presentation.
Reallocation of funding had been agreed redirecting monies from projects which had been withdrawn due to a change in Welsh Government (WG) roads infrastructure policy. This had resulted in an additional £7million being allocated to some mature projects to support them with cost associated inflation. The remainder of the funding available for reallocation was then made available for projects to bid for. A total of 26 project applications had been received, ongoing review of those projects was taking place.
The Digital Programme Manager provided members with further information on the growth deal projects under the Digital Connectivity stream. Within the Growth Deal, there were 3 infrastructure based projects that were to be introduced across all counties. Details of the projects was provided to members. The Digital Signal Processing (DSP) Centre was the first project that had progressed to the delivery stage. A full 12 months of delivery had been observed with a number of jobs being created both at the centre and on a wider range.
The Corporate Director Economy and Environment thanked the representatives for the detailed presentation and for attending the Committee to present to members and answer any questions.
In response to members’ questions the officers and representatives provided further detail on the following:
· A number of changes had been observed since the Growth Deal had been original agreed. The agreement with Government on the North Wales Growth Deal was at programme and portfolio level allowing for some flexibility for the projects. A review was conducted post covid to review the interventions in the growth deal were correct for the North Wales economy, which was supported by external consultants. It concluded the programme areas identified continued to be the right areas for intervention. The individual projects were subject to significant scrutiny and challenge.
· Flexibility within the deal to withdraw and select replacement projects. The project in Bodelwyddan had been withdrawn. The funding which had been originally allocated had been set aside to allow for alternative projects to bid for the funding. 26 project bids had been submitted across the region. It was hoped a recommendation of a project would be proposed at the next Board meeting. As the Growth Deal was a regional programme of work the proposed new project may not lie within Denbighshire.
· The Growth Deal did not allocate projects or funding to each authority. Each project had to go through a vigorous process to assess their suitability and viability for inclusion in the Deal’s programme portfolio. The projects were regional and would benefit the whole of North Wales economy not just the area they were based in.
· The Llysfasi Net Zero Farm project had originally been part of the Growth Deal. However, this project had since been identified as an educational project rather than an agri-food and tourism economic growth project. The project had been withdrawn and the college was seeking different funding streams to fund the project. It was understood that the project was still progressing with WG support
· Resources and capacity would always be a challenge for the regional team. The first three years of operation been funded by a split of local authority contributions and a significant contribution from European funding. The European funding had since ceased which created a gap. The Board was committed to sourcing alternative sources of funding without seeking extra contributions from the partners. It had been agreed by both governments that the Board could top slice a proportion of the growth deal funding to support staffing costs with the aim of pursuing and securing alternative funding sources.
· Members were pleased to note the additional funding being made available for the North Wales Hospital project in Denbigh. Whilst officers echoed the thoughts of members and were pleased the project could progress, they did stress that this was a high risk project.
· All of the projects did have a contingency budget included in the original budgets. Due to the scale of the cost inflation it was noted some of those budgets may not be sufficient. Unfortunately, the scale of cost inflation could not have been predicted. It was hoped that construction costs were stabilising. Projects were being asked to source any funding gaps from the project sponsors or identify any savings. The risk was constantly monitored and reviewed.
· The Growth Deal would not be delivered with just the funding from Government. Investment from the public and private sector was vital for the delivery of projects. It was a significant risk at the wider portfolio level and for each individual project. When seeking market investment, extensive engagement with the private sector took place with a view to leveraging in private investment.
· £35million had been allocated from the North Wales Growth Deal for the Holyhead Gateway project. The funding was essentially required to facilitate the expansion of the port, including land reclamation that would future proof the port’s operations. The additional £20million announced by UK Government for the breakwater project was additional funding and not part of the Growth Deal. The funding would support the work on the breakwater. It was an important additional investment to support the project.
· Corporate Joint Committees (CJC) were in existence and had been created by legislation; a lot of activity was currently taking place in respect of a creating the governance arrangements and constitutional arrangements for the CJCs. This was being led by the Monitoring Officer in Gwynedd. All partner authorities had in principle agreed that Growth Deal should eventually be governed by the CJCs.
At the conclusion of an in-depth discussion the Chair thanked the Leader, Corporate Director: Environment and Economy and officers from the North
Wales Economic Ambition Board’s Portfolio Management Officer for attending the meeting and answering members’ questions. It was:
Resolved: subject to the above comments and observations to –
(i) receive the North Wales Economic Ambition Board’s Quarter 4 report and its Annual Report on its work and progress during 2022/23; and
(ii) recommend to officers that the aims and objectives of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board be communicated to Denbighshire’s city, town and community councils in order that they may actively engage with the Board and its work for the benefit of the county’s communities.
- NWEAB Reports 060723, item 5. PDF 123 KB
- NWEAB Reports 060723 - App 1.docx, item 5. PDF 768 KB
- NWEAB Reports 060723 - App 2.docx, item 5. PDF 8 MB