The time has come “for turning discussion into delivery” over the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal.
That is what Neath Port Talbot Council leader Cllr Rob Jones had to say after a fruitful meeting of the Swansea Bay City Deal Joint Scrutiny Committee in Pembrokeshire last week.
The committee invited Cllr Jones and Steve Phillips, the Chief Executive of Neath Port Talbot Council, to expand on much publicised serious concerns about the progress of the City Deal which were set out in advice to Neath Port Talbot Council in April this year.
Cllr Jones gave the Committee a clear assurance that the Council wanted the City Deal to work for Neath Port Talbot and the wider region.
However, he said, there had been frustration about the length of time it was taking to get the business cases of City Deal projects signed off, enabling the money pledged by the Welsh and UK Governments to start being drawn down.
Cllr Jones went on to give examples of how councillors and officers were working constructively within the joint committee arrangements to put in place improvements recommended by Actica Consulting Ltd – which was commissioned by the two governments – as well as the recommendations arising from the Joint Committee’s own internal review of arrangements.
The Committee heard proposals to appoint a City Deal Managing Director with suitable experience were well developed and that the recruitment of this post was anticipated to be finalised in the near future.
The Council had already proposed changes to the Joint Working Agreement and was now in active dialogue with other councils with a view to finalising necessary changes to strengthen the regional office by the end of July.
The leader added that Neath Port Talbot Council was due to bring forward changes to some of the City Deal projects it was leading on with the aim of completing most of the changes by the end of the Summer.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Jones added:
“I was very pleased, as was the Chief Executive of Neath Port Talbot Council, to have this opportunity to put the record straight about the Council’s commitment to the Swansea Bay City Deal.
“If successful, the deal has the potential to create many, much needed jobs across South West Wales – however we all acknowledge progress has been frustratingly slow and now Neath Port Talbot Council is playing a full part in helping to resolve these frustrations.
“The time has come for turning discussion into delivery and we look forward to the Welsh and the UK Governments approving the business cases and in so doing helping us to do just that – deliver these projects.”