Public and Private Partnership Is Key to Success of City Region; Managing Director of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce David Russ on Why Private Sector Input and Quick Decision-Making Are Key If City Regions in Wales Are to Be Successful
ALTHOUGH city regions may only recently be on the political agenda in Wales, they are not a new concept.
In England, places such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham are all examples of city regions emerging. In Germany they are known as "motor regions" - named as such because they help to drive the economy. And that's precisely what they can do for Wales.
Wales has been performing below the UK average in terms of economic indicators for a long time, with higher unemployment, higher levels of inactivity, fewer private sector initiatives and low levels of entrepreneurship.
It's clear that we now need a new model for sustainable growth based around a more connected approach to secure economic prosperity.
City regions can provide that, but we need to fast-track it to make this happen. It's no good this taking three to five years to set up; it needs strong political commitment to make swift decisions on the key questions that hang over it.
One such question is that of governance. Firstly, whatever vehicle is used to drive this approach forward, it must be free to make decisions and not be tied down by bureaucracy.
A good blueprint of how this was done successfully is the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, which had the license to make quick decisions and move projects forward.
Unless we devolve real power to city regions, the whole thing could quickly lose momentum.
I echo the sentiments of the report from the Task and Finish Group (commissioned by Business Minister Edwina whose report has recommended two city regions in Wales; the Cardiff City and Swansea Bay regions). We need to look at existing arrangements in areas that already operate like a city region so we can answer the vital question of what the appropriate levels of governance would be.
Do we set up regional development agencies for example? I believe we should - or at least set up local partnerships.
And what about putting multi-governance agreements in place? Whatever is eventually decided, it is absolutely essential that there is a strong representation from the private sector in any proposed model.
That's the key to making this work. This absolutely must be a collaboration between the public and private sector.
To date, the private sector hasn't been consulted, and there is a risk that if it is not engaged soon then it will quickly lose interest. …