These are exciting times for Cardiff. If success breeds success, then Europe’s youngest capital city is starting from a strong base.
Cardiff was recently named the best city in the UK in which to live - with low unemployment, rising living standards and relatively low living costs.
And the wider world is standing up and taking notice too. From the Six Nations, the FA Cup, Test Match Cricket, the Ashes, the ICC Champions Trophy, the Rugby World Cup and now the 2017 Champions League, Cardiff is increasingly being recognised as a first-class destination for hosting major events. When you add the Ryder Cup and NATO summits into the mix, it’s clear that the Cardiff Capital region really packs a great punch.
But Cardiff is about much more than major events. It is home to a burgeoning creative industries sector which has seen successful TV shows like Hinterland sold around the world. Cardiff is the backdrop for successful shows from Doctor Who to Pobol y Cwm. In Wentloog, Pinewood Studios is projecting Cardiff around the world.
Cardiff and the Capital Region are increasingly acknowledged as a leading centre for high-tech investment for start-ups and major investors. As a capital city, it is also a significant centre for financial services.
These are just some of the strengths that already make the Cardiff Capital Region unique.
A City Deal provides the opportunity to move Cardiff into the premier league of European cities.
When City Deals were first launched in 2011, local leaders were cautious. There has been a long history of governments telling communities what to do under the guise of localism.
The Deals, however, marked a new approach – of Government asking local leaders to set the agenda. City Deals work when local council leaders, the private sector and other significant partners came together to present central Government with a vision of how to run the region. A combination of local and central Government funding is frequently the cue to unlock new investment in big capital and infrastructure projects.
Within six months of the announcement of the City Deal concept, eight Deals were confirmed. Three years on, 28 City Deals have been agreed with cities ranging from Plymouth to Glasgow.
The leader of Glasgow Council, who agreed a City Deal with the Government last year, said:
Meaningful devolution cannot merely be about transferring powers between one parliament and another.
The Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal is a game changer, creating 29,000 permanent jobs, 15,000 construction jobs and unlocking £3.3 billion of private sector investment. I would love to see more city deals across the UK, in particular in Scotland and Wales which have some catching-up to do.
The purpose of devolving to city-region level is to better grow the economy, tackle inequality and enhance place-based reform of public services.
The momentum around decentralisation to local areas is building across the country. There is increasing recognition that everywhere is different and what works in one place will not work as well somewhere else. This seems obvious to anyone who has visited the great cities of the country. Cardiff mustn’t miss out on this revolution.
Successful City Deals are built on big ideas to unlock growth across cities and their wider economic areas. They work best when everyone in the local area, including civic, business and higher education leaders, come together to tell Government what needs to change and what can be done better.
There is no fixed budget or Whitehall master plan for Cardiff. Rather, this is a genuine negotiation with an agreement dependent on the strength of the ideas coming from the city itself.
Earlier this month, the Budget announced that government is working towards devolution with the Sheffield City Region, Liverpool City Region and Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities.
Cardiff must act now to make sure that it is not overtaken by these other ambitious cities. Today we have written to the First Minister to encourage him to play a full part in seizing this opportunity.
The moment for action is now. Make government an offer it can’t refuse and seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to agree a City Deal for the Cardiff Capital Region.