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17.04.19

Neath Port Talbot Council threatens to pull out of £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal

A council has threatened to pull out of Swansea Bay’s £1.3bn city deal unless it starts delivering projects in the next six months.

Neath Port Talbot Council asked the other authorities involved and the UK and Welsh Governments to radically change their approach to the Swansea Bay City Deal last week, after multiple reviews have raised concerns over progress and transparency.

A report to the council’s cabinet has today said that leaving the city deal may be the “only logical course of action.”

At the council meeting, the authority’s leader Rob Jones was granted the power to remove the Neath Port Talbot from the deal if no agreement to persuade it to stay can be reached.

The Swansea Bay City Deal, signed two years ago, will see investment into 11 major projects across Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

The package includes funding from both the Welsh and UK governments, the public sector and the private sector, but Neath Port Talbot Council said it was “essential” that the authorities involved made major changes to its approach.

Two recent reviews, one from the government and another by a joint committee internal review, found that progress had been “unduly slow”, and also raised concerns over transparency and trust.

Concerns have also been raised about the suspension of five Swansea University staff in connection with a proposed project in the city deal, and the report from council chief executive Steven Philips said recent events “hardly instil confidence” in its governance system.

The report added that with only limited resources, Neath Port Talbot Council could not continue to support city deal projects when it had other priorities, and due to the excessive bureaucracy involved, there was a “case for abandoning it completely rather than attempting to refine it.”

“Not a penny has been spent” of the £1.3bn funding, the report said, and whilst “we want the city deal to deliver…we do not believe it will without a radical overhaul, of the projects in particular.”

Rob Jones said: “The last few months have been difficult for the city deal. The council now believes that a different approach is essential to securing real progress two years after the deal was signed and four years after work on it commenced.”

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