The UK economy is increasingly driven by regional ‘powerhouses’ – clusters of cities supported by overarching strategies aimed at driving economic development outside London. Areas attracting funding from government include the Northern Powerhouse, the Midlands Engine, and, more recently the Anglo-Scottish Borderlands. This is a pledge to support cross-border economic development between Wales and “the rest of the UK”.
Probably the clearest evidence of “linking economic development between Cardiff, Newport and Bristol” under this government has been the scrapping of the road tolls to cross the Severn bridges linking south-west England and Wales in December 2018. In terms of whether this represents action to “foster opportunities between cities in Wales and the rest of the UK”, scrapping the tolls means giving up a monthly income of some £10 million, so is certainly a significant commitment by the UK government. The increase in traffic is predicted to be six million vehicles per year, a very real manifestation of enhanced economic links.
Following the scrapping of the bridge tolls, in July 2019 the councils of Bristol, Newport and Cardiff published a report outlining the rationale for a Great Western Powerhouse, a potential strategic area covering 7 cities across the border. Interventions to unlock the economic potential of the area include developing common industrial and ‘internationalisation’ strategies, as well as planning road, connectivity and rail improvements.
The Great Western Powerhouse is at the early stages of planning. However, scrapping the Severn bridges road tolls has already improved economic links between the cities mentioned in this pledge, so this policy is ‘done’. We’ll keep tracking progress towards establishing the Powerhouse, so follow this policy for updates.
Foster informed debate!
- Severn bridges: M4 Severn crossing reopens toll free – BBC
- Wales and South West England’s joint innovation strengths highlighted in a new index produced by Data City – Gov.uk
- A powerhouse for the west – Metro Dynamics
- Swansea to Swindon – How Realistic is a New Great Western Powerhouse? – BusinessNewsWales.com