June 22, 2024

Economy Minister vows to ‘smash’ perceptions of a North/South Wales funding divide

Economy Minister Ken Skates is pledging to answer critics who say there’s a North-South divide in investment and funding to support businesses.

Mr Skates, who is also the AM for Clwyd South, will tell business leaders in Wrexham that he will guarantee that North Wales gets its fair share of his budget.

He will make the promise at the next meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Thursday, July 4.

The group made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professionals working together to promote regional prosperity and the enterprise and expertise that exists in the region.

The other keynote speakers will be Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns MP and Ian Bancroft, the chief executive of Wrexham County Borough Council.

According to Mr Skates, setting up the headquarters of the Development Bank of Wales in Wrexham was a statement of intent.

It was recently revealed the bank had invested a record £80 million in Welsh companies over the past year, with £17 million of that coming to North Wales.

Mr Skates said:

“For many years people in North Wales have questioned whether they have had a fair share of investment and funding.

“The decision to headquarter the Development Bank of Wales in Wrexham was a deliberate one to make sure that we get fair funding and fair investment spread across the whole of Wales and also to address both the perception and, if there is one, address the reality as well.

“What we have found with the first full year of performance since the bank’s headquarters was opened is that investment in North Wales is more than 21 per cent of overall Welsh investment which is a bit higher than the amount would have been per head of population.

“However, it is on an upward trajectory as well so it’s clear that putting the headquarters in Wrexham has had huge benefits for North Wales as a whole in making sure that investment and support for businesses is spread fairly and equally across the whole of Wales.

“This is part of the regionalisation of economic development in Wales. We’ve already set up in the past 12 months regional units in North Wales, Mid and South West Wales, and South East Wales which are designed to drive economic development in a fair way across the nation.

“In July  I will be publishing the first ever regional budgets for economic development which are designed to complement investments in growth deals, in city deals and to make sure that businesses across the region of North Wales are able to access the support they need.

“North Wales will definitely get its fair share. The fair share will be guaranteed.

“Our next concern deals with what is called the missing middle, making sure we support as many smaller sized businesses to grow to become middle sized and then large companies if possible, making sure their roots remain in Wales and those decisions are taken locally.

“We have the Accelerated Growth Programme that is operated by Business Wales, working in tandem with the Development Bank of Wales which is there to ensure that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) grow in a safe and sustainable way.

“We have a huge number of jobs that are dependant on a small number of businesses and those businesses are the anchors of our economy which drive supply chain opportunities for thousands upon thousands of smaller businesses.

“We have a record number of micro businesses and SMEs and what we need to do is create pathways so that they can grow to become middle sized without having to sell out to international interests.”

Gill Kreft, the chair of Wrexham Business Professionals, said:

“We are delighted that we have once again been able to attract such high calibre guest speakers.

“I am sure it will be particularly helpful for our members and guests to have an insight into the thinking of Ken Skates, Alun Cairns and Ian Bancroft because we are all in same business of powering regional prosperity.

“Ken Skates has always been a staunch champion of North Wales and it’s good to hear he will be continuing to ensure that this important region gets its fair share in economic support.

“The companies and organisations represented by our members employ thousands of people in the Wrexham area and beyond and the support of the Welsh Government is invaluable in ensure we thrive and prosper as an economic powerhouse.”