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13 September 2019
On Tuesday, 17 September, there will be a Welsh Government debate in Plenary on the Ministerial Taskforce for the South Wales Valleys.
The Taskforce was established in July 2016, and published its plan – Our Valleys, Our Future – in July 2017. This was followed by a delivery plan – Our Valleys, Our Future: Delivery Plan – in November 2017.
This blog post will provide an update on the Taskforce’s work since November 2017. If you want to find out more about the Taskforce’s early work, read our blog post from January 2018.
One Year On – Progress Report
In July 2018, the Taskforce published Our Valleys, Our Future: One year on – Progress Report 2018, which gives an overview of the progress made in reaching the Taskforce’s targets for 2021. This overview is grouped under the three overarching priorities listed in the Taskforce’s original delivery plan:
- Good quality jobs and the skills to do them;
- Better public services; and
- My community.
Actions listed in the 2018 progress report include:
- More than 1,000 economically inactive people living in the Valleys Taskforce area have started work through Welsh Government-led employment programmes since September 2016;
- Nearly 1,000 people and small businesses have been helped through advice and business support, and more than 100 new enterprises have been created within the Valleys Taskforce area during 2017-18;
- More than 5,000 apprenticeship programme starts by those living within the Valleys Taskforce area in the 2016-17 academic year;
- Between May 2017 and May 2018, 21 offers of Business Finance support have been accepted by businesses in the Valleys Taskforce area; and
April 2017 and May 2018, the Business Wales advisory and accelerated growth
- Helped 996 individuals and small businesses;
- Created 112 new enterprises; and
- Invested £10,639,222 in enterprise.
Updated Delivery Plan
In November 2018, the Taskforce published an updated delivery plan, which emphasises that it will focus on those actions which relate only to the Valleys Taskforce area, and will not include actions from the original delivery plan if they relate to Wales-wide projects and schemes.
The updated delivery plan also reiterates the Taskforce’s three over-arching priorities, as well as emphasizing three areas where its attention will be focused – strategic hubs, the foundational economy and community hubs. These three, along with business growth and start-ups, employability, the Valleys Landscape park and digital, make up the seven individual workstreams for the delivery plan.
Seven priority areas
In July 2019, the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters AM, announced that while the Taskforce will continue to work to deliver all the actions included in the Our Valleys, Our Future: Delivery Plan, its efforts will focus on seven priority areas:
- The Foundational Economy;
- Entrepreneurship and business support;
- Strategic hubs;
- The Valleys Taskforce Innovation Fund; and
- The Valleys Regional Park.
The statement also noted that the boundaries of the Valleys Taskforce area will be extended to include the Gwendraeth and Amman Valleys. The Deputy Minister stated:
[…] these area are very much culturally part of the south Wales coalfield, with their distinctive heritage around anthracite mining, shared with the adjacent Valleys located to the east.
Prosperous Valleys, Resilient Communities
Later in the same month, the Bevan Foundation published Prosperous Valleys, Resilient Communities, which reflects on the work of the Valleys Taskforce to date. It recommends that the Taskforce should base its work on a Strategy for Economic Resilience that addresses the specific spatial, sectoral and labour market circumstances of the valleys. It believes that the strategy should include:
- Evolving Strategic Hubs into “Anchor Towns”, which will be a focus for stimulating the local foundational economy as well as continuing to act as a focus for wider regeneration;
- Adopting a multi-sectoral approach that does not rely on a simple or single solution;
- Maximising the potential of the A465 road to reinforce the substantial economic activity that takes place along it;
- Concentrating action and resources in areas that require the most action, including the heads and “hearts” of the valleys; and
- Building on the many strengths in the valleys and combating negative and outdated stereotypes.
Ways of working
The Bevan Foundation’s paper also recommends that the Taskforce should continue to develop its ways of working, ensuring that it:
- Scales up successful actions to meet the size of the challenge, ensuring that they are tailored to local circumstances and designed for the long-term;
- Ensures its governance is transparent and accountable;
- Partners with local institutions and empowers them to have strong, pro-active roles; and
- Adopts a long-term and consistent approach that delivers throughout.
It is expected that the Deputy Minister will provide a further update on the Valleys Taskforce, and its priorities, during the debate in Plenary on 17 September.
Article by Megan Jones, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales