Cardiff ‘City Deal’ gets green light

I was pleased to hear the Chancellor announce in the budget that Central Government has formally entered into negotiations with the City of Cardiff Council over a ‘City Deal’ for the region. This represents the culmination of a lot of hard work behind the scenes and offers an exciting opportunity for Cardiff and the wider city-region, with potential funding for key infrastructure priorities including transport, regeneration, housing and renewable energy.

This funding has been available to English cities for a number of years and last year Glasgow secured a £1.13bn funding package, the first city to have done so in a devolved nation.

The Government’s announcement opens the door for us to press ahead with further detailed discussions. Collaboration will be key to success, and we have been in positive discussions with Welsh Government about the Deal and will continue to work with local authority partners across the city region.

There is still much work to do.  However, it is hoped that a formal proposal can be submitted to Central Government towards the end of this year.  I will keep you all updated on progress.

Breaking the Barriers to access in Cardiff

Last week City Hall hosted a special conference entitled ‘Breaking the Barriers’, as part of the Cardiff Debate – an ongoing programme of citizen engagement and events on the future of public services in our city.  The conference was organised by a number of disability organisations, including Diverse Cymru, and provided an opportunity for a range of people, including senior councillors, to listen and better understand the difficulties faced by disabled people when accessing public services.

At the event with Cabinet Member, Cllr Peter Bradbury, Cllr David Groves and Charles Willie, Chief Executive of Diverse Cymru.

At the event with Cabinet Member, Cllr Peter Bradbury, Cllr David Groves and Charles Willie, Chief Executive of Diverse Cymru.

According to the Annual Population Survey, over 18% of the working aged population of Cardiff are registered as disabled.

As a Co-operative Council, our approach is all about listening to the people who use our services, and working with them and with partners to make sure these are designed as much as possible around their needs.  That’s why events like this are so important, bringing as they do, together disabled people and carers, the Council, and other organisations, to talk through the issues which are so important to them.

Great Western Cities

Last week I participated in a panel discussion organised by the Insider Magazine on our Great Western Cities initiative which was attended by over 200 of the region’s business leaders. I was joined on the panel by Cllr Bob Bright, the Leader of Newport City Council, the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson and Ben Lucas, Director of the 2020 Public Service Trust.

Great Western Cities- Panel Discussion

Great Western Cities- Panel Discussion

 

It was an interesting discussion – it’s not often you get three city leaders, a representative from the business community and a respected commentator on cities in absolute agreement!  It makes sense for us to work together on issues which affect us all.

People often ask me if this initiative is in competition with the Capital Cardiff Region, which of course it is not.  We’re working hard to strengthen our relationship with neighbouring councils here in South East Wales, and Bristol will be doing the same in their own city-region across the Severn.  This is all about better connecting these two city-regions, working together to make the most of our shared natural assets, like the Severn Estuary, and creating a ‘Western Powerhouse’ as a compelling alternative to cities in England’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

 

Leaders in the world’s property market gather in Cannes for MIPIM

One of our priorities as a Council is to do more to grow our city and regional economy, to deliver jobs and opportunities. Cardiff and the Vale’s economy accounts for 21% of the total economic output of Wales, meaning that a successful capital city is vital in attracting investment into Wales and creating more job opportunities for our residents.

To do this, we need to be working with the private sector to raise the profile of our city.  This is why a delegation from Cardiff attended the 26th MIPIM held in Cannes recently. MIPIM is the world’s leading property market conference, bringing together influential players from all international property sectors – office, residential, retail, healthcare, sport, logistics and industrial.  Through attending this event the Cardiff delegation were able to showcase some of our capital city’s major developments to potential investors from around the world.

The star of the show from the Cardiff delegation was undoubtedly the 350 square foot city model which was unveiled for the first time at this major international event.

Mipim UK 2

The model, which is normally based in the new Marketing Suite in Cardiff Bay, highlights the key regeneration projects within our city, including developments to the north and south of Cardiff Central railway station.

In addition to major property development, one of the most talked-about innovations at this year’s MIPIM was the decision to focus attention on the Digital Revolution. This was great to hear, as Cardiff is making great progress in becoming a ‘Smart City,’ with the highest broadband penetration for residents of all UK Core Cities. Recently launched initiatives like free access to WIFI in public buildings, on the city-centre streets and on buses in Cardiff are also important developments and add to the city’s offer.

Another set of discussions were focused on urban alliances. In an increasingly competitive market, neighbouring cities around the world are working together in partnership to develop joined-up development strategies in transport and infrastructure. We have seen this happen in the UK already with cities including Liverpool and Manchester marketing themselves with their neighbours. Here in South Wales, we are working with our city region partners as well as Newport and Bristol as part of the recently launched ‘Great Western Cities’ initiative. More widely, through the Core Cities group of 11 of the largest UK cities outside London, we are lobbying Government on the issues that can help us deliver local priorities.

CELSA Barcelona

Last week I travelled to Barcelona to meet with the Chairman and CEO of the Celsa Group, Francesc Rubiralta, and the Managing Director, Javier Echávarri. The purpose of my visit was to understand how we could better support what is a major employer within the city.

The Celsa Group have a company in the UK (Celsa Steel UK), based here in Cardiff, that employs over 500 staff and several hundred subcontractors from the Cardiff region.

From its Cardiff base, around 1.2 million tonnes of finished product is produced and delivered to UK and Irish markets.  Celsa has in recent years invested in new technology and Cardiff boasts a “state of the art” steel making plant with one of the EU’s most efficient Electric Arc Furnaces (EAF).

One of the current issues impacting the sustainability of Celsa (and indeed the steel sector as a whole in the UK) is the levels of non-EU imports that do not meet the British Standard (BES6001). Steel that meets this standard is not just better quality, but also produced and sourced more sustainably.

The City of Cardiff Council is looking to support the Welsh and UK Steel industry by including the need to meet the relevant British Standard in future procurement tendering, where steel is a major component of the project.  That is why we recently wrote to every local authority in Wales calling on them to support the Welsh and UK steel industry by signing up to UK Steel’s Charter for British Sustainable Steel and supporting the BES 6001 standards.

St David’s Day Agreement, Renewable Energy and Digital Success

Last Friday marked some interesting announcements on potential new funding arrangements and powers for the Welsh Government – including the establishment of a ‘funding floor’, i.e. a minimal level of funding, for Wales. This formed part of the so-called ‘St David’s Day agreement’, and it will be interesting to see more detail on what these proposals will mean for Wales in practice.

We know that a fair funding agreement for Wales needs consideration. The work of an independent commission concluded that, under the current arrangements, Wales is underfunded by some £150 million per year according to the most recent estimates.

In Cardiff, we have been working hard to build the case for a city growth deal, in order to lobby for additional infrastructure investment for Cardiff and the wider city-region. We will continue to work hard to push for further funding and to identify what the implications of the St David’s Day agreement might be for Cardiff

Tidal lagoons, renewable energy and Cyd Cymru

Plans for the World’s first tidal lagoon power plants to be hosted in Wales were recently released to the press. Whilst there are significant steps to be taken before any of these projects could become a reality, we should welcome the growing interest in Wales as an international centre for new sources of renewable energy. I have blogged previously about Cardiff’s Great Western Cities initiative with partners in Bristol and Newport. One of the key reasons for us to work together is to unlock the potential of the Severn Estuary, which has one of the largest tidal ranges in the World, and is a potential source of renewable energy on our doorstep. A memorandum of understanding is being prepared by local authorities bordering the Bristol Channel to collaborate in the development of marine energy, with Bristol, Cardiff and Newport playing a lead role.

On the topic of energy, it is worth noting that the next round of the Cyd Cymru collective energy switching scheme closes on the 22nd March. This scheme has previously saved those taking part on average £185 per year on their energy bills. The scheme helps promote a fairer Cardiff, so why not register and see whether you can save money on your bills?

http://www.cardiff.gov.uk

Following a redesign of the Council’s web-site last year the site has now received a maximum 4-star ranking and been recognised as one of the top 20 local government sites in the UK following a review by professional IT organisation, SOCITM. This is a significant improvement on the 1-star ranking achieved last year and it is only the second time a Council has jumped from having a 1 to a 4 star website in a year. The Council’s digital offering is hugely important in providing responsive, efficient services. My thanks go to all involved in this project!

We will need to continue to improve our website and online services in future, giving people the opportunity to do more online, so please get in touch and let us know if you think there are things we can do better.

Finally, many of you will have read about the difficult budget setting process last week. A budget has now been set for next year and work will now start on preparing for the £119m budget shortfall from 2016/17 – 2018/19, holding conversations about what this will mean for the city.

Diolch,

Phil