LEADERS of a £1.3 billion deal to boost the economy of the Swansea Bay City Region have agreed to submit two projects to Government for approval.
And they have also accepted all the recommendations of two reviews of the City Deal.
The City Deal’s ruling joint committee, which includes the council leaders of Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire, considered the findings of the reviews – one on behalf of the UK and Welsh Governments; the other an internal report.
The internal review, in particular, identified flaws in the way the City Deal was being run, but both reviews said all parties remained committed.
The joint committee has now asked a City Deal sub-group called the programme board to come up with a plan regarding the recommendations.
These include the appointment of a portfolio director to oversee the delivery of the 11 City Deal projects, all of which had been agreed in principle when the deal’s heads of terms were signed two years ago by Prime Minister Theresa May and former First Minister Carwyn Jones.
Joint committee chairman Rob Stewart said: “The joint committee have expressed a will to accept all the recommendations of the independent and internal reports.
“In doing so, we wish to find a way to implement and address those recommendations as quickly as possible.”
Cllr Stewart, who is the leader of Swansea Council, also urged all local authorities to bring forward business cases for their individual projects as fast as possible.
He added: “I want to make it absolutely, explicitly clear that no projects are on hold.”
Cllr Stewart also said that flexbility was being built into the process, meaning elements of the projects could change and new ones potentially brought in.
The first two projects being sent to Cardiff Bay and Westminster are the £168 million Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District project and £24 million Yr Egin scheme in Carmarthenshire.
Elements of the former include a “digital village” for tech businesses on The Kingsway, and a “box village” for start-up companies at the new University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) campus in SA1.
Carmarthen’s Yr Egin development, phase one of which has already been built, is a digital and creative cluster concept.
All projects must be signed off by both Governments, which will contribute £241 million of the £1.3 billion investment.
The private sector is contributing £637 million, while the eight councils, universities and health boards involved will contribute £396 million.
The project which has come under the most scrutiny to date is the £200 million Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village after Carmarthenshire Council cut its ties with a private sector partner and Swansea University.
Separate reviews into this project found that the council had acted appropriately and that public money had been protected.
The council is looking at alternative ways of delivering the wellness and life science village, although it can still work with the private sector partner – Sterling Health Security Holdings – and the university.
Carmarthenshire Council leader Emlyn Dole said the project would be brought back to the joint committee in a revised form, and that it remained in the first tranche of projects.
Neath Port Talbot Council chief executive Steve Phillips told the meeting that the council was looking at remodelling and adding in some new elements of projects it was leading: factory of the future, steel science centre, and centre of excellence in next generation services.
Mr Phillips added: “We have had problems in getting the land transferred for two sites off Fabian Way.”
Meanwhile, Pembrokeshire Council chief executive Ian Westley said the council could not make further progress on its £76 million Pembroke Dock Marine project unless certain issues were resolved, including how a City Deal-wide business rate relief was to be apportioned.
Cllr Stewart said an “urgent” meeting was needed to decide this business rate matter.
“We need to decide how we allocate those funds out,” he said.
The governance arrangements of the City Deal took a long time to set up in the form of a joint committee agreement, and a spokesman for the City Deal told the Local Democracy Reporter Service after the meeting that it was not clear at this stage whether this agreement would need to be altered as part of the acceptance of the review recommendations.