The City of Cardiff opens a high-quality ‘Marketing Suite’ in Assembly Square

With Edwina Hart

With Edwina Hart

Last week the City of Cardiff’s Marketing Suite in Cardiff Bay officially opened.

I was joined at the launch event by the Welsh Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart, Matthew Leach, from Aviva Investors and via video by the Chair of the Cardiff Business Council.  The event marked the culmination of lots of hard work by Cardiff Business Council, the City of Cardiff Council, Welsh Government and Aviva Investors, who are jointly providing the space.

The Marketing Suite will be used by businesses and organisations promoting the Cardiff Capital Region to potential investors or businesses looking to locate in Cardiff and the Capital Cardiff Region.  The suite is also home to an impressive interactive scale model of the City of Cardiff which has been used in exhibitions in the UK and abroad.

The timing of the opening of this facility really couldn’t be better, with Cardiff bouncing back strongly from the recession.  The city today employs more people than it has ever done, and over the last year 8,000 jobs have been added to the city economy whilst business start-up rates have increased by 40%. What’s more, unemployment is at its lowest level for 6 years, and is amongst the lowest of all the core cities.

This facility will help in our efforts to attract and create more – and crucially, better paid – jobs for the people of Cardiff.

But this is not just about promoting Cardiff.  We need to make sure that the benefits of the jobs created in Cardiff are felt across the towns and communities of South Wales, making this a resource for the whole Cardiff Capital Region.

Cardiff Capital Region – “Powering the Welsh Economy”

Also held at the new Marketing Suite last week was the launch of a report by the Cardiff Capital Region Advisory Board detailing how local authorities, Welsh Government and local businesses might work more collaboratively to develop and promote the Cardiff Capital Region as a great place to live, work and to do business.

The Cardiff Capital Region includes the ten local authority areas of: Cardiff, Monmouthshire, Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend which collectively has a population of 1.5 million.

The report recognises that cities are where businesses want to locate, new jobs are being created, and where more and more people want to live.  For example, in the UK, cities take up just 9% of the land mass but account for 58% of jobs and 72% of high-skilled workers.  The same dynamics are at play here in South East Wales.  Over the last 10 years the capital city has accounted for nearly 2/3rds of all new jobs created in the city-region.

The report entitled “Powering the Welsh Economy”, identifies four key themes:

  • Connectivity
  • Skills
  • Innovation and Growth
  • Identity

With over 100,000 people moving in and out of Cardiff each day for work, to shop or to visit friends and family, it’s essential that we plan for faster and more accessible transport links, enhance connectivity for people and businesses, build quality housing and create meaningful employment opportunities for people across the ten local authority boundaries.

With the development of the Cardiff Capital City Region, membership of the UK Core Cities network, and with the recent launch of our Great Western Cities initiative with Newport and Bristol – which was specifically named and welcomed by the Chair of the Advisory Board – I’m confident we are putting in place the partnerships which can deliver long term economic growth for Cardiff and across the wider region.

The Great Western Cities

Alongside Cllr Bob Bright, Leader of Newport City Council (left) and the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson (right)

Alongside Cllr Bob Bright, Leader of Newport City Council (left) and the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson (right)

This week, I joined the Leaders of Newport and Bristol to launch the ‘Great Western Cities’ which aims to ensure our three cities work more closely together to compete economically with other regions, like the “powerhouse” city-regions of northern England.

This builds on the finding of the influential City Growth Commission report, which identified 6 ‘power-house super city regions’ upon which future economic growth in the UK will increasingly rely. One of the six consists of the cities’ on both sides of the Severn estuary – the Great Western Cities – representing a genuine Western ‘powerhouse’.

It really makes sense too. The Great Western Cities are some of the most successful in Britain – the figures are compelling:

• Over 2.5 million people live within the Cardiff – Newport – Bristol Region, bigger than all but one of the major urban areas in the UK (excluding London).
• Total GVA of £58bn which is more economically productive than Greater Manchester, Merseyside and any of the northern regions.
• Our closer proximity to London and our excellent quality of life.

In short, the Great Western Cities are a national economic asset. Through working together we can be even stronger. That’s why we issued a statement of intent on Wednesday which identified 3 priority areas where our three cities need to work together.

Our first priority is to be much better connected. We need to be connected to our regions, and that’s why the Cardiff Metro project remains a top priority for us here in South Wales building on the commitment to electrifying the Valley’s lines. And we need to be better connected to London – the £1.1bn electrification of the Great Western Mainline is now underway – and internationally, which is why the proposals for a new rail line to better connect with Heathrow from the West is also welcome.

We also need to be even more connected to one another, to enable a free flow of talent, ideas and knowledge between our cities. The proposed High Speed Rail link (known as HS3) between Manchester and Leeds could cut journey times from 48 to 26 minutes. The travel time from Cardiff to Bristol is 48 minutes and so a similar reduction here would be transformational. We cannot stand back and wait to be HS6 or HS7. That’s why improving the rail link between Cardiff, Newport and Bristol is a top priority for us.

We also have a big opportunity around renewable energy, with one of Britain’s most important natural resources on our doorstep. Together we need to find the right way to unlock the power of the Severn Estuary. This is a big agenda, and is of both national and international significance, and so it’s right that the three cities on the Severn are working together on this issue.

Our third priority is inward investment. On the face of it, our three cities are in competition with each other, but I see three cities with complementary strengths, that together have the scale to make an impact and attract even more international investment.

And ultimately, this is what it’s all about – working together as three cities to attract more investment and create more jobs for the people of Cardiff, Newport and Bristol and those who live in their surrounding areas. And this work is entirely complementary to the work our three cities are doing on building our own city-regions. This is not about creating a new city-region, it’s about connecting the Cardiff Capital Region with Bristol’s city-region to help make both more successful.

As Leader of a capital city, I want Cardiff – and Wales – to be outward looking and networked to the world wider. Joining the UK Core Cities Group last year was a statement of intent for Cardiff.

So is the creation of the Great Western Cities. #GreatWesternCities



Make the ‘Diff to your Community

Make the ‘Diff to your Community

Cardiff now has its own civic crowdfunding platform called ‘Make the ‘Diff’.  The website has been created to help individuals, community groups and organisations raise funding and help support positive change in local communities.

Crowdfunding was created to allow people to raise money for their project, product, or other idea through the use of specific crowdfunding platforms such as ‘Make the ‘Diff.’ People or businesses can pledge as little or as much as they wish to causes that appeal to them. If you have a project, initiative or idea that needs backing or investment, this may be the right platform for you to showcase it!

Anyone can propose an idea or initiative. Whether it is big or small, the idea can be uploaded on to the site to try and encourage of people to donate some funding.

With specialist crowdfunding sites and the fast-paced nature of social media, crowdfunding has really taken off and people’s ideas can reach a large audience very quickly. A recent example of this in Cardiff involved a night shelter run by homeless charity, The Wallich. Using a crowdfunding platform and social media, the charity successfully raised £21,000 to enable them to support their activities.

Crowdfunding is another way to kick start projects which in other parts of the country have ranged from free public Wi-Fi networks, street art and community food growing schemes.

If you have an idea that you would like to take forward, visit Make the ‘Diff or email with information about your project to find out more. You can also tweet at @MaketheD1ff.

Designing better public services

SPIDER Leader 2

Last week I was invited to speak at the SPIDER project’s ‘Service Design for Public Services Conference’ here in Cardiff’s Millennium Centre. SPIDER – which stands for ‘Supporting Public Service Innovation using Design in European Regions – is an international project co-financed by the European Union and the Welsh Government. The project involves cities and universities from Ireland, France, Belgium and Wales working together to improve the way complex but vital public services are delivered.

Given the financial challenges facing our public services, we now have little choice but to innovate.  We will need to be creative, to come up with and have the courage to experiment with new ideas.  Most importantly, we’ll need to work with partners – with the people who use the services to understand from perspective, with other public service bodies to make sure that we’re providing a joined up service which makes sense to the people using it, and with universities and international cities to share better practice and how we can learn from this here in Cardiff.  The SPIDER project ticks all these boxes, and I know that the work of the project team has already led to changes in the way we in Wales tackle youth unemployment and how we support people suffering with dementia.

In the photo above, I’m stood with Paul Thurston, Head of Service Design at PDR – the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research at Cardiff Metropolitan University – who helped organise the event.

New Heritage Trust

Cabinet have agreed to look at establishing a new heritage trust to manage Cardiff’s most iconic buildings including; Cardiff Castle, The Old Library, Mansion House and Norwegian Church. Under the proposal, the City of Cardiff Council will remain the owner of the venues, collections and content, but the premises would be leased to a trust.

Establishing a Trust may help secure the long-term future of highly valued cultural assets.  With tourism in Cardiff contributing £1.5bn to the Welsh economy, it is imperative that we protect these landmarks for future generations.

Creating a heritage trust would mean that these historic facilities would be eligible for more grant funding from bodies such as the; Heritage Lottery Fund, Welsh Government and the Arts Council for Wales and could also attract more donations and sponsorship than an in-house model. Under this approach, income generated by the venues would be controlled by a board of trustees and would be invested directly back into the facilities.

It is hoped that the trust could be fully operational by April 2016 with the potential to create a stronger brand on behalf of the capital’s heritage, translating into real benefits for the city and for Wales.