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Enterprise Zones to be reorganised

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Enterprise Zone: 'Little to show for the money', claim Conservatives

ECONOMY Secretary, Ken Skates has announced an intention to streamline the operation of Wales’ eight Enterprise Zones while increasing their focus on delivering prosperity for Welsh communities.

During an appearance at the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, Ken Skates announced the conclusions of his review of the governance of Wales’ Enterprise Zones while stressing his commitment to the continuation of all eight of the zones.

Speaking after Committee, Ken Skates said: “I am very proud of the achievements and success of our Enterprise Zones and grateful for the hard work and commitment of the Chairs and Advisory Boards in driving their success.

“Collectively our Enterprise Zones supported over 10,700 jobs to the end of the last financial year at a cost per job of less than £6k per job, and whilst the pace of delivery has varied between the Zones, this very much reflects each Zone’s economic context and starting position.

“All eight Enterprise Zones have made significant progress, and are continuing to deliver value for money by laying the foundation for future prosperity and creating the right environment to support the development of sustainable job opportunities in communities right across Wales, both in the short and longer term.

“The changes I have outlined are about streamlining bureaucracy and utilising other governance structures where I believe that represents the most sensible way forward. They have also been made as part of a wider review of advisory architecture across my portfolio.

“The views of the Chairs of the Enterprise Zones have been invaluable in shaping my decisions.”

Mr Skates announced that f​our of the eight boards that advise the government on Wales’ enterprise zones are to be wound up this summer. The boards overseeing the zones in Cardiff, St Athan, Deeside and Ebbw Vale will cease to exist from July 31. But the zones themselves – designed to support business growth with some tax incentives – will continue to exist.

Boards in Port Talbot and West Wales will continue, while those for Snowdonia and Anglesey will merge.

Mr Skates also said more enterprise zones could be created, in places such as Wrexham.

Responding to Ken Skates’ comments, Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies, said:​ ​“Labour’s enterprise zones have cost the Welsh taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds – with very little to show for the money and Welsh workers still receiving the lowest average weekly wage in the UK.

“The Cabinet Secretary’s comments indicate the Welsh Government might well continue down the road of Enterprise Zones, potentially throwing good money after bad.

“The approach outlined by Ken Skates seems haphazard at best, utterly shambolic at worst and certainly does not fit into the rhetoric of the Welsh Government’s recently launched economic action plan. Some new enterprise zones are to be created, some boards are to merge, and some wound up altogether!

“The Welsh Government must now make clear its long term plans for the zones and ensure that any future funding produces tangible economic results for Wales and our local communities.”

Wales’ eight Enterprise Zones were first launched in April 2012. The then Cabinet Secretary for Business, Edwina Hart, stated that “My aim in developing enterprise zones is to strengthen the competitiveness of the Welsh economy.​”​

Since the creation of the zones, £221 million of public funds have been allocated to support that policy initiative. Despite huge injections of public funds however, serious questions remain as to whether the Enterprise Zones have delivered their key objectives:
In the Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone £94.6 million has been spent to create, safeguard or assist just 390 jobs (at a cost of around £250,000 per job).

In the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone £2.1 million has been spent to create, safeguarded or assist just 20 jobs (at a cost of £108,333 a job)

A further issue is the question of whether or not Enterprise Zones have come close to fulfilling their original intent.

Enterprise Zones were set up by the Welsh Government to ‘grow the local economy and provide new jobs’.

However, while Mr Skates claims that over 10,700 jobs were ‘supported’, Welsh Government figures suggest that, in practice, the zones have not been used to create new jobs.

The average cost of each new job created by Enterprise Zones has been £74,000

The St Athan Enterprise Zone was supposed to deliver 10,000 jobs by 2025 – but in five years the number of new jobs actually created was 137.

In Ebbw Vale, £94 million has been spent on just 175 new jobs, the equivalent of £500,000 a head.

In Snowdonia, £2.1 million has been spent on creating 6 new jobs.

Looking at the figures revealed for the Haven Enterprise Zone, reveals that 356 jobs have been created, 561.5 safeguarded, and 196 assisted: 1,113.5 jobs.

Using a crude measure – the total number of jobs involved came at a cost of under £8,500 each. However, under one third of those jobs are the sort of new jobs the Enterprise Zone was supposed to create.

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Carmarthen Partner celebrates 30 year anniversary with Ashmole & Co

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SHARON GEORGE, one of Ashmole & Co’s Partners in Carmarthen, is celebrating a significant work anniversary this month having been employed by the firm for 30 years.

A lot of changes have taken place during Sharon’s time with Ashmole & Co. When she started as a Trainee Accountant in 1992 there were just five offices in Haverfordwest, Carmarthen, Newcastle Emlyn, Swansea and Ammanford compared to the current 13. Accountancy has also drastically changed from being an almost completely paper system to these days being massively computerised.

Sharon, who is from Pendine, said, “I started working as a trainee for Ashmole & Co in 1992, straight out of school. I then worked at the same time as studying for my HNC. I remember being told at the time I started that 80 had applied for the trainee position so I felt very lucky to get the job.  A lot has changed over 30 years. It was a very manual job at the start. We had to hand deliver tax returns in big carrier bags to the tax office in Carmarthen!  Nowadays the technology has improved the role of an accountant considerably.”

Sharon has been a Partner with Ashmole & Co since 2011 and as well as managing a team in Carmarthen she also manages the Pontardulais and St Clears offices. She lives with her husband and two sons in Pendine. In her spare time Sharon loves walking along the beach or practising her baking and is an avid Strictly Come Dancing fan. 

Ashmole & Co, Chartered, Certified Accountants, has been established for 125 years this year. It is one of the largest accountancy and auditing practices in Wales, operating from thirteen offices throughout south and west Wales including Swansea, Haverfordwest and Llandeilo.

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Welsh Government partnership brings new office development to Cross Hands

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT, in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council, is supporting the construction of new high-quality office space in Cross Hands, which will help create new jobs in the local area, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething announced today.

Carmarthenshire County Council has provided a £492,000 Property Development Grant to Sterling Developments, a local company, to support the delivery of the commercial offices at the Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site.

The Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site has been delivered via a joint venture between the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council, comprising a large programme of infrastructure works. A total of 17 commercial development plots have been created for sale, with a number of plot sales already completed. Delivered in two phases, the second phase has been supported by £2.4m European Regional Development Fund investment through the Welsh Government.

As well as boosting the local economy, the office development will also contribute to the Welsh Government’s aspiration of providing more ready-made commercial space for businesses – which will help create new jobs in communities across the country.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Businesses of all sizes across Wales need modern sites and premises that will enable them to expand and grow. This is a key part of our Economic Action Plan, which sets out our vision for inclusive growth built on strong foundations, supercharged industries of the future and productive regions.

“Today’s announcement will help us do just that, providing a boost to the regional economy in south west Wales as we all continue to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.

“This project is a prime example of a constructive partnership that’s delivering for the benefit of local people. I wish Sterling Developments well with their new Cross Hands scheme.”

Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism, said: “Carmarthenshire County Council is committed to providing businesses with the best facilities, at the best locations, to thrive. That is why we have been working with the Welsh Government, through the Cross Hands Joint Venture, to secure £2.4million of EU funding to match our own £2.5 million contribution and develop the second phase of Cross Hands East, a 19-hectare employment site that provides serviced plots within a thriving business environment.

“This development has already seen new businesses establish themselves here and begin to flourish with the potential for the site to create hundreds of quality jobs. This second phase of developing Cross Hands East will deliver more sustainable economic growth that will have a positive impact on people, businesses and communities in the area and wider region.

“The Property Development Grant awarded to Sterling Developments by Carmarthenshire County Council stimulates private sector investment at the employment site and will deliver high-quality commercial space to the market.”

Simon Thomas, Director of Sterling Developments, added: “We have designed a building that is architecturally appealing and will deliver high-quality office space in Cross Hands. The new building will provide businesses with modern facilities that they require to grow and prosper. The support from Carmarthenshire County Council and the Welsh Government has been key to the progression of this scheme. Sterling Developments are delighted to be playing a role in the development of this excellent employment site in Cross Hands.”

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Carmarthen grassroots music venue CWRW wins £10,000 PRS for Music Back to Live Music Venue Prize

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L-R: Gem Griffiths (Winger Records, CWRW Promoter), Michael Hilton (CWRW Owner)

PRS for Music, the UK-headquartered organisation that represents the rights of over 160,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers around the world, announces beloved Carmarthen grassroots music bar CWRW (pronounced koo-roo) as the winner of its Back to Live Music Venue Prize of £10 000 for the Welsh region.

The recovery-focussed nationwide competition was launched by PRS for Music to give independent live music venues across the UK the chance to win one of six regional prizes of up to £10,000 and inject much-needed financial support into venues who are dedicated to improving live music experiences in their local communities.

Community advocate and music fan himself, CWRW owner Michael Hilton, plans on using the £10 000 PRS for Music prize money to upgrade the venue’s lighting, add recording capabilities and create a more inclusive space so audience-goers with disabilities can participate and access live music events.

“Winning PRS for Music’s Back to Live Music Venue Prize is incredible” explains Michael Hilton, “incentives like these are fundamentally important for grassroots venues like ours to continue to provide creative spaces for the community and emerging talent to develop their skills. The funds will be used to develop the audience experience, inclusion and continuing to support the next generation of artists”. 

Phillip Deacon, co-owner of The County Music Bar, said: “We are hugely thankful to PRS for Music for this initiative and of course for the recognition in winning this award. We as a venue had barely survived the pandemic and know of many that didn’t. However, we did. This is a testament to the support from bands and fans alike who rallied around as soon as we could provide entertainment again. We now, however, face the perfect storm. Recovery from the pandemic, facing a cost-of-living crisis and a frankly ludicrous energy bill hike of nearly 550%.  This money will provide a significant breathing space to repair and replace equipment and better facilities for all while we focus on our further survival in these difficult times. We want to continue to be a local music hub for all and provide access to up and coming as well as more established bands.” 

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the live music sector has been well-documented; between 2019 and 2021, PRS for Music saw an 84% decline in the number of live performance setlists reported to the organisation, falling from 124,000 in 2019, to 19,300 in 2021. 

Tony Barton, Head of Writer Relations, PRS for Music, said: “Independent live music venues are pivotal within local communities, providing spaces that inspire the next generation of songwriters and performers. Congratulations to The County Music Bar for keeping live music at the forefront through a very difficult time.” 

Andrea Czapary Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, said: “Venues like The County Music Bar in Chesterfield are so vitally important to the health and growth of music in the UK. We’re proud to find ways to support local scenes with projects like the Back to Live Music Venue Prize and thrilled that Phillip and Lauren Deacon are working to keep the music going.” 

PRS for Music’s Back to Live Music Venue Prize competition launched in March 2022 as the organisation’s direct response to the devastating effects of the global pandemic on live music venues in the UK. Open to independent live music venues who are not part of a national brand whose offering included music prior to pandemic closures, winning venues were determined by a judging panel made up of leading representatives from across the music, arts, and hospitality sectors. Complete prize terms and conditions can be found here. Four more UK regional Back to Live Music Venue Prize winners will be announced over the coming months. 

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