The project advisory group recently reviewed A Framework for Regional Investment in Wales: Securing Wales’ Future, a consultation by the Welsh Government on its proposed approach for investing replacement funding promised by the UK Government once we leave the European Union.
The consultation document proposes a simplified and flexible National Framework, linked closely to the Well-being of Future Generations goals, focussing on four broad investment priority areas covering business productivity, healthier and more sustainable communities, the zero-carbon economy, and reducing income inequalities.
The Welsh Government may rightly have concerns about the future levels of regional investment once EU funding is no longer available, but there is also an acknowledgement that as some of the specific requirements associated with EU funding fall away, there are opportunities to work differently and develop new and fresh approaches.
The proposal to integrate local, regional and national delivery approaches, includes a commitment to devolving decision making right down to local areas. Rooted firmly in the belief that local people and organisations are best placed to determine their needs, opportunities and strengths, the approach could initiate new and dynamic partnerships and some fresh thinking.
Carmarthenshire certainly has the capability and capacity to benefit from this flexible approach and the priorities identified. The county has a successful history of accessing regional funding, made possible by skilled and knowledgeable organisations and individuals. Many of the priorities and themes identified will also play to Carmarthenshire’s strengths, including the focus on growing start-ups, transitioning to a low carbon economy, and nurturing the Welsh language – identified as a ‘horizontal’ theme – as a positive regional development tool.
There is clearly a role for Arsyllfa, too, not just in terms of analysing and commenting on the consultation (which closes on 22 May), but in providing the fresh and flexible thinking that is required in future, as we adapt to life outside of the EU.
A word of caution, however, as regional investment in the future comes with a heavy caveat: whilst Welsh ministers have repeatedly made the case that EU funding levels and Wales’s autonomy should be maintained in their ‘not a penny less, not a power lost’ argument, it remains to be seen how the UK Government will put this into practice.
To view the full feasibility assessment and accompanying reports see below: