Many thousands of residents and businesses throughout South West Wales will benefit from a funding boost worth £132m over the next three years.
The UK Government has now approved a regional investment plan for Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea, helping unlock Shared Prosperity Fund money that had already been earmarked for the region.
The region’s local authorities are now working at pace to develop projects linked to the key themes of the funding, which include improving urban and rural communities, boosting people’s skills and supporting small businesses.
Grant schemes are also being developed to enable businesses and other organisations to benefit from the funding, with application details to be announced as soon as those schemes are finalised.
The Shared Prosperity Fund is the main source of UK Government funding replacing the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund that are no longer available following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, although it is not a direct like-for-like replacement.
Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said:
“This funding had been set aside for the region for some time, but a regional investment plan was needed to unlock it.
“Taking on board feedback from across South West Wales, this plan has now been approved but we’d ask for people’s patience while we continue to develop projects and grant schemes that are linked to the funding.
“We know how important this funding is to our businesses and residents throughout the region, which is why we’re working at pace to put schemes in place that residents and businesses can benefit from as soon as they’re finalised.
“Further announcements will be made in the coming months as soon as those schemes are live.”
Cllr Gareth John, Carmarthenshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said:
“Following the approval of the regional investment plan, we look forward to rolling out the Shared Prosperity Fund to businesses and communities in Carmarthenshire to encourage economic growth.
“The regional investment plan also looks to build on the potential to make South West Wales a UK leader in renewable energy and grow the region’s visitor economy to make the most of its scenery and culture.”
Cllr Steve Hunt, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, welcomed news of the approval of the regional investment plan.
“We will use our share of the funding to stimulate economic growth across our towns, valleys and villages. The money will complement strong economic activity already taking place here with exciting projects such as the £250m Global Centre of Rail Excellence at the top of the Dulais and Tawe valleys, the £300m Wildfox Resort in the Afan Valley and our involvement in the regional Freeport bid.”
Cllr Paul Miller, Pembrokeshire Council's Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Place, the Region and Climate Change, said:
“This funding is welcome news and will be used to facilitate and drive further economic investment across Pembrokeshire. We’re investing in a wide range of projects and businesses and included within that will be significant investment to ensure Pembrokeshire is positioned at the heart of Wales’s renewable energy.”
The regional investment plan was informed by local investment plans in each local authority area that followed feedback from residents and businesses. Views were also sought from the Welsh Government, business representative groups and strategic partnerships made up of public, private and voluntary sector organisations.
The Shared Prosperity Fund is part of the UK Government’s levelling-up agenda.