Minister for North Wales

I READ with interest the column from Askar Sheibani at the start of the year. I agree with many points, including the significant talent, world-class companies and impressive potential for economic development and growth North Wales offers.

Our Programme for Government includes a number of commitments specifically for North Wales, including the establishing of a North Wales Medical School and progress with the North Wales Metro. Investments such as the £20m Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Broughton, which was funded in full by the Welsh Government, and M-Sparc on Anglesey ensure the region is on the cutting edge of the latest developments which benefit businesses and the economy.

Read more: Economic outlook in 2023 for North Wales

We are key partners with Ambition North Wales, which is working with local authorities and businesses on the North Wales Growth Deal, to which we have committed £120m. North Wales is also at the forefront of low-carbon energy generation, with great potential to progress further. This is something we have supported from the outset, and is crucial as we face the climate emergency.

I also agree with Mr Sheibani's view in relation to strengthening the region's links with Manchester and Liverpool. As Minister for North Wales I have met with the mayors of Manchester and Liverpool to strengthen these links. There is also great potential for building links with Ireland, particularly in the field of renewable energy, which is something we discussed when I travelled with the First Minister to Ireland last year. I have also met with the Irish Consul to discuss joint opportunities.

Read more: Wrexham and Flintshire high streets welcomed and lost businesses in 2022

We are a founder member of the Mersey Dee Alliance (MDA) to ensure cross border co-operation to benefit both our regions. Whilst the MDA has yielded numerous successes over the years, I would particularly reference the speed with which partners on both sides of the border were able to react swiftly to the challenges facing companies in the face of the covid-19 pandemic. Without doubt, our collective engagement with employers provided us with real-time intelligence which helped shape our policies and support, which in turn safeguarded jobs in the cross-border area and beyond.

Read more: North Wales business school unveils free courses for 2023

As a proud North Walian and as Minister with specific responsibility for North Wales, I do hear about the north-south divide from time to time and it's my role to represent the region in the Cabinet.

I also chair the Cabinet Sub Committee for North Wales which meets every quarter and includes every cabinet member and local authority Leaders. This is a very valued forum which allows the challenges and opportunities facing the region to be raised and discussed at the very highest level.

We are facing a challenging time and it is only by working together, all of us, will we ensure North Wales continues to maximise on its great potential and goes from strength to strength. That is my priority, and what I'll continue to do.