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Welsh secretary announces vision for ‘Western Powerhouse’

Secretary of state for Wales Alun Cairns will today outline his vision for the Western Powerhouse at the Policy Forum Wales seminar in front of an audience of local leaders.

The Welsh secretary will lay down the challenge to local government, education and business leaders to come forward with ideas on how to bolster existing relationships and develop new partnerships, working to make the Western Powerhouse concept a reality.

Opening the Policy Forum in Newport, Alun Cairns will say: “The cities on the western side of the UK are individually strong, but collectively, we are not strong enough.

“We need to light the blue touch paper and make a real step change to the way businesses, people and industry from the cities and towns from both sides of the Severn work together when the tolls are removed.

“And I’m not talking about one city taking the lead, but a collection of cities, of communities, of businesses, sufficiently close to each other that, combined, they can take on the world.”

At the end of the year, the tolls to use the Severn Crossings will be removed, taking away one of the greatest economic barriers between Wales and England.

Companies on both sides of the border are already benefiting from the removal of VAT in January, and when the tolls are completely abolished, the UK Government wants to see businesses pool their expertise to deliver the ideas and projects.

Tim Bowles, metro mayor of the West of England; and Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas, are also attending the event.

The Western Powerhouse will aim to benefit the cities of Swansea, Cardiff, Newport, Bristol and Bath, but also the wider South Wales and South West regions.

Cairns will say: “We need to seize the opportunity to create an economic region on the Western side of the UK that can compete with the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine and with the economy of the South East.

“This is not a marketing campaign or a one-off event. It’s got to be a serious, long-term strategy to make this part of the UK greater than the sum of its parts.

“For far too long, the physical barrier of the Severn tolls has prevented businesses and people in Wales and the South West from working together in a way that they could have been.

“This has got to be driven by you, the experts. It’s got to be about your attitude and about your ideas.”

Cairns first called for a ‘Western Powerhouse’ similar to the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine agreements back in January.

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Image credit - Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment


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