By Lesley Griffiths

MS for Wrexham

During its Spring Budget, the UK Government announced it intends to create 12 Investment Zones across the UK. Each zone will receive approximately £80m over five years, including 'generous tax incentives', which can be used to improve skills, provide specialist business support, improve the planning system, or provide local infrastructure, according to the UK Government.

As with many UK Government announcements, it is often unclear exactly how the proposals will work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and discussions with the respective devolved administrations have been ongoing and constructive.

Wrexham and Flintshire sensed an opportunity early on and started working on a joint business-led bid. The campaign is headed by a consortium consisting of the North Wales Business Council, Wrexham and Flintshire councils, Wrexham University and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Broughton. It is chaired by Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Wrexham-based outsourced communications provider, Moneypenny.

The key to regional success is working collaboratively and Wrexham and Flintshire’s bid has cross-party support. A member of my team recently attended a MS/MP briefing event at Moneypenny which was attended by local and regional politicians representing Labour, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru. I fully support the campaign, wrote to the Welsh Government’s Economy Minister and have been in close communication in recent weeks.

Last week, there was a significant and positive development as the Welsh Government confirmed it supports a Wrexham and Flintshire Investment Zone, believing there should be two created in Wales – ours in the North East and one in the South East.

The decision on whether to provide the funding and reserved levers to support Investment Zones in Wales now rests with the UK Government. The Welsh Government has indicated a willingness to work towards ensuring devolved and local tax levers are available to Investment Zones and to work in partnership with the UK Government.

Wrexham’s profile is increasing. Creating an Investment Zone in North East Wales would balance nicely with the freeport in the North West on Anglesey and lead to even more exciting opportunities. Our region’s bid looks set to specifically focus on the creative & digital and advanced manufacturing sectors. Securing the funding will not only strengthen existing businesses and safeguard jobs, but also attract new investment to the area.

The Welsh Government is backing Wrexham and Flintshire and the latest announcement is a promising step in the right direction. It’s now up to the UK Government to fully commit and decide what support it will provide to Investment Zones in Wales as part of the Autumn Statement process.