The responsibility for this week’s short debate fell to Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent).
Tech Valleys should remain a government priority
Alun Davies said the Heads of the Valleys region had to be looked at as a whole and despite previous efforts to focus economic investment in Blaenau Gwent. There was a clear market failure that requires government investment to support the businesses that are already there.
Key to this is the project to dual the A465L
“We knew that it wasn’t a significant piece of infrastructure that was required that would serve our needs in the future. But we also knew that if we were able to persuade the government….that this investment would take place, then it was always seen as part of an industrial strategy to deliver the connectivity that we require in the Heads of the Valleys, to link us to markets and to link us to ensure that we’re able to deliver the sort of economy and economic activity that we require.”
– Alun Davies AM
The potential of the project had to be maximised as part of a wider Tech Valleys initiative – a £100million, ten-year initiative focused on advanced manufacturing and research – but there are no clear timescales or detail yet on how the Tech Valleys initiative will be delivered other than a few specific announcements such as the TVR factory in Ebbw Vale.
Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) noted his disappointment at delays to the A465 project but also wanted to know how the Tech Valleys initiative would tie in with the semiconductor cluster at Newport?
Many projects are still in the mix
Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport, Lee Waters (Lab, Llanelli), said many projects under the Tech Valleys initiative were still in the mix – including TVR – though conversations are ongoing and live discussions were taking place with other potential inward investors.
He made clear the government’s “frustrations” around procurement, technical challenges and capacity within local government to deliver economic development as part of the Tech Valleys programme.
“….we are doing our best to overcome the current difficulties we’re having with the contractor and the engineering complexities of the Clydach Gorge, and we’re still working very hard to complete, at the very minimum, the Gilwern to Brynmawr section as soon as possible before going on to complete the rest of it. But, as I say, as important as building the road is then making sure that we make the most of the road that is there.”
– Deputy Economy & Transport Minister, Lee Waters
He stressed the need to support businesses already based in Blaenau Gwent too, who are owed a “moral debt”. Work is underway to identify companies within Blaenau Gwent that can be supported to grow and improve productivity.