Welsh secretary to call for ‘Western Powerhouse’ to rival other devo deals

The government’s Welsh secretary Alun Cairns is set to table plans for a “Western Powerhouse” similar to the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine agreements already in place.

Encompassing an area between Bristol and South Wales, the plans would be aimed at improving economic circumstances and creating growth.

The catalyst for the move is the end of tolls on the Severn Bridge, which the government describes as “one of the greatest economic barriers to Wales’ prosperity” because they limit the movement of people between cities like Bristol and Cardiff.

Cairns will announce the idea at the Severn Growth Summit, in Newport – an event organised to capitalise on the economic advantages available to areas in the west of England.

The secretary is expected to say: “One of the key drivers behind the Northern Powerhouse was the volume of people commuting between Liverpool and Manchester.

“However, there are more people commuting between Bristol and either Cardiff of Newport. This shows that this region has the huge potential to rival the Northern Powerhouse or Midlands Engine. “

He will go on to urge greater collaboration between local government and business in the region, calling for the “biggest commercial conversation for the west of the UK in a generation.”

Currently, details of any ‘Western Powerhouse’ are unclear, but Cairns is expected to provide more information at his speech later today.

Responding to the plans, James Durie, chief executive of business at Bristol Chambers of Commerce & Initiative said: “In the past the Bristol City Region has largely tended to look east to London and the south east instead of also forging closer links with its close neighbours less than an hour’s drive away.

“Bristol and its wider city region and south Wales will have more in common than ever before and this is a great opportunity for the business community to make the most of those shared interests.”

Alex Minshull, innovation, sustainability and civil protection service manager at Bristol City Council, appeared in the last edition of PSE, explaining the future plans for the city.

He went through the city’s ‘smart’ initiatives, and detailed the digital innovations which have driven growth in Bristol.

Top image: matthewleesdixon

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