An open capital, HMS Dragon and exploring new options for our leisure and arts centres

Last weekend I welcomed the Indian High Commissioner to Cardiff Castle. Mr Mathai, who is a former Indian Foreign Secretary, was visiting Cardiff as part of a three day visit to strengthen ties between our two countries. During his visit Mr Mathai also met the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, and representatives from the city’s universities and the local business community.


Mr Raj Aggarwal, Honorary Consul of India in Wales; Cllr Phil Bale, Leader, City of Cardiff Council; Mr Ranjan Mathai, High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom and his wife, Mrs Gita Mathai

Cardiff, as our capital city, connects Wales to the world, and has always been an open and welcoming city. Between the beginning and the end of the 19th century Cardiff grew from a population of 6,000 to over 170,000. This staggering growth was the result of a booming economy and immigration from across Wales and beyond. 

Attracting international talent – in particular international students from major economies like India – remains important for creating a vibrant economy, as is highlighted in the latest work from the Centre for Cities.

In Cardiff overseas student numbers have trebled since 2000, and now make up over a quarter of the city’s total student population. It is hard to underestimate their importance in helping develop international business and academic links, supporting local retail and tourist markets as well as contributing to the cultural life of the city.


Over recent weeks I’ve posted about how the Council will need to manage and deliver services differently in the future.

The Council’s Cabinet has since approved an important report on the future management options for leisure centres, St David’s Hall and the New Theatre. We will now be undertaking an exercise to determine the level of interest in managing the facilities. We know from best practice in Wales and across the UK that leisure and arts venues can be managed in a number of different ways. Our challenge is to design the best way of managing these facilities in Cardiff which will allow the Council to reduce costs and ensure that an excellent and accessible service is delivered.


Finally, many of you will have seen HMS Dragon has docked in Cardiff Bay. Her Majesty’s Ship Dragon is to be given the Freedom of the City of Cardiff in a ceremony at City Hall this weekend.

Since 1886 only 62 people and 9 organisations have been awarded the honour, which is only bestowed on ‘persons of distinction’ and persons who, in the opinion of the Council, rendered eminent services to the City of Cardiff.

Granting HMS Dragon the Freedom of the City is a fitting tribute to the dignity and bravery with which the ship and its crew serve our country.

The ceremony will take place at 11am on May 18 with music from the Royal Marines Band from 10.45am. This will then be followed by a Freedom Parade through the city. I look forward to seeing you there!