On Tuesday, 9 January, there will be a Welsh Government debate in the Siambr on the Ministerial Taskforce for the South Wales Valleys’ Our Valleys, Our Future: Delivery Plan.
In July 2016, Alun Davies, the then Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, announced the establishment of a Ministerial Taskforce for the South Wales Valleys. Members of the Taskforce include Welsh Government Ministers, academics, and representatives of the private, public and third sectors. The group meets quarterly, and minutes are available online.
Our Valleys, Our Future
The taskforce’s plan – Our Valleys, Our Future – was published in July 2017, and lists three priorities, along with the taskforce’s vision for 2021:
Priority 1: Good quality jobs and the skills to do them
‘We will close the employment gap between the South Wales Valleys and the rest of Wales – this means helping an additional 7,000 people into work and that thousands of new, fair, secure and sustainable jobs will be created in the Valleys. People living in the Valleys will have access to the right skills to gain work. Businesses will be fully supported to grow and thrive in the South Wales Valleys.’
Priority 2: Better public services
‘Public services will be working with the third sector and local communities to respond to people’s needs. Support will be available to help people lead healthier lifestyles, improving their physical and mental wellbeing and addressing health inequalities. Public transport will be joined-up, affordable and help people get to work, school or training and to leisure facilities. We will improve education outcomes for all children and close the attainment gap.’
Priority 3: My community
‘A Valleys Landscape Park will have been set up to help local communities celebrate and maximise the use of the natural resources and heritage. Valleys town centres will be vibrant places, with attractive green spaces, which support local economies. The Valleys will be a recognised tourist destination, attracting visitors from across Wales, the UK and beyond.’
In November 2017, the taskforce published its delivery plan – Our Valleys, Our Future: Delivery Plan. The delivery plan explains what actions will be taken to meet the priorities listed above.
Good quality jobs and the skills to do them
The actions to be taken to encourage good quality jobs, and ensure that people have the required skills to do those jobs, include:
- Creating seven strategic hubs across the South Wales Valleys, to focus public money and provide opportunities for the private sector to invest and create new jobs;
- Relocating more public sector jobs into the South Wales Valleys, including at the seven strategic hub locations, where appropriate;
- Supporting the creation of more digital jobs in the South Wales Valleys and developing two entrepreneurship technology hubs to help new business start-ups in the sector;
- For the Valleys businesses with the greatest growth potential, there will be access to a bespoke, integrated package of recruitment, training and business development support to create jobs, increase the skills levels of existing staff and boost productivity; and
- Rolling-out Better Jobs Closer to Home in the Valleys to create real opportunities and decent jobs where the need is greatest. This includes using public procurement to support local business and supply chains.
Better public services
The actions to be taken to ensure better public services, include:
- Using existing – and creating new – community hubs, in which the NHS, social services, schools and job centres work together with the third sector to provide services for local communities. Welsh Government will work with local communities and local councils to develop these hubs, and decide where these will be based;
- Building on the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools programme to co-locate services and focus on the community use of school buildings. This will allow schools to be used in a more flexible way, so they offer a wide range of public services outside school hours;
- Working with rail and bus providers to ensure public transport throughout the South Wales Valleys is more frequent and affordable and that it links to active travel – cycling and walking – as part of the development of the South Wales Metro; and
- Establishing food and fun clubs to provide vulnerable children in the Valleys with two nourishing meals each day during the school summer holidays and engage with a range of agencies to collaboratively provide enriching, stimulating educational activities.
The third priority will be fulfilled by undertaking various actions, including:
- Ensuring that national and local government regeneration strategies challenge the traditional model of the town centre, based on what communities want and need. Supporting initiatives which promote a mixture of housing, retail, business and green spaces;
- Supporting the development of locally-owned community renewable energy schemes in the Valleys. The Welsh Government will identify the best opportunities by bringing together local and national agencies to deliver projects;
- Developing a new, positive narrative for tourism in the Valleys and identify projects to meet current and future tourism demand, focusing on the landscape, heritage and people; and
- Improving the physical environment of communities by investing in green infrastructure.
Article by Megan Jones, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Image from Flickr by Simon Rowe. Licensed under Creative Commons.