Welsh councils have met in Powys today at the WLGA Rural Forum to discuss the future of the rural economy particularly in light of Brexit. They discussed with Eluned Morgan AM her proposals for a specific plan for economic development in rural Wales and the revitalisation of rural communities.
For councils, this is about squaring the circle. There are economic development plans for the city regions of Cardiff and Swansea plus the emerging North Wales Growth Bid. The development in terms of the Growing Mid Wales Partnership has kick-started a process for rural Wales. It aims to draw together local business, academic leaders and national and local government to create a vision for the future growth of rural areas and influence and champion future expansion.
The WLGA Rural Forum brings together the leaders and chief executives of the nine rural local authorities across Wales. The Forum published a manifesto titled “Realising the Potential of the Rural Areas of Wales” in January 2016. This provides a vision for rural Wales, identifies key priority areas for action and calls for robust rural proofing of all Welsh Government policies and strategies.
A similar vision has been forward by Eluned Morgan, the regional AM for Mid and West Wales, who has argued that the development of a bespoke economic development strategy in rural Wales must take on board a wider range of issues including strategies for "quality tourism" and providing more affordable homes.
Recognising that rural Wales has a number of unique features is fundamental since it makes growing its local economy a challenge. Issues include deep rurality, over-dependence on SMEs and peripherality. On the other hand, these features provide many opportunities for future expansion, an entrepreneurial and self-reliant culture, space to expand, infrastructure enhancements and similar.
Councillor Rosemarie Harris (Powys), Joint WLGA Rural Affairs Spokesperson and Joint Chair of the WLGA Rural Forum said:
“Across the public, third and private sectors in Mid Wales, we acknowledge the need for developing consensus on priorities for our region, and for sharing our vision to progress jobs, growth and the local economy. We need greater impacts and better results from working together across the region with diminishing public resources.”
“The Growing Mid Wales Partnership will provide regional leadership on our vision and will be effective, ‘light touch’ mechanism that will scrutinise, challenge, identify opportunities and shortcomings and so initiate and propose interventions to achieve more and better results for our region.”
Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn (Gwynedd), Joint WLGA Spokesperson for Rural Affairs said:
“All local authorities contain areas that could be considered rural. It is important that we take coordinated measures across all regions that collectively support rural communities.”
“I welcome the efforts to get rural issues higher up on the agenda. These need to be taken forward in a collaborative way so that everyone pulls in the same direction.”
Eluned Morgan AM said:
"I think it's a critical time for the rural areas at the moment, there's a huge amount of insecurity in all areas but in particular in rural areas because of the Brexit vote. In light of this work needs to be undertaken now to secure the future of our rural communities especially through a clear economic development strategy for rural Wales. At the heart of this is ensuring that there are sufficient and varied employment opportunities to offset the loss of many of our brightest young people who feel they need to leave in order to find work.”
“Bringing together central, devolved and local government to work with relevant stakeholders and business is vital. I am delighted to see that local government is prepared to take a leading role in this and to develop approaches which secure wider collaborative and transformational working with key partners organisations and the business community”.
Following today’s rural forum meeting, WLGA has been tasked with developing the potential for a total growth bid covering rural areas across Wales. The Forum intends to meet UK and Welsh Governments to progress this.
Notes for Editors
Growing Mid Wales is a regional partnership, which seeks to represent Ceredigion and Powys’ interests and priorities for improvements to the local economy. More details can be found here: http://www.powys.gov.uk/en/democracy/how-the-council-works-in-partnership/growing-mid-wales/