Wales

Welsh Government action urged on enterprise zones

The Welsh Government is being urged to finalise its plans for enterprise zones with fears those in England may attract businesses away from Wales.

As the UK government revealed a list of English zones, Flintshire council warned jobs would cross the border.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has previously pledged £10m to create themed Welsh zones but officials are still looking at options.

Flintshire council is working on an plan for a site near England's border.

Council officials are urging the Welsh Government to push ahead with its policy because of developments taking place nearby.

Some of the zones designated in England are close to the border with Wales including sites in Bristol, Birmingham and The Wirral, near Liverpool, 10 miles from Flintshire's proposed site.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Budget in March that he would be establishing 21 such sites across England.

The special status means tax breaks and planning rules will be cut back to attract new businesses and create jobs.

Conservative councillor Matt Wright, executive member for economic development at Flintshire, is calling on the Welsh Government to push ahead with the policy in Wales.

Consequences

He said: "We know that the economy is having difficulties... but if we don't push ahead and make decisions on these things, the jobs will go to England and other areas.

"We need to start acting and get jobs for the Welsh people."

Former Conservative assembly candidate Prof Dylan Jones-Evans, director of enterprise and innovation at the University of Wales, believes unless action is taken soon there could be consequences for the Welsh economy.

"I'm sure that business people will be worried that if the assembly government doesn't move very quickly on this it could be this time next year before they are even a proper consideration," he said.

"That will mean that the English regions will have had 12 months in which to contact and develop their links with companies and attract the investment to those areas."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said it was looking at options and had received correspondence from a number of people regarding their potential structure and location.

It said Business Minister Edwina Hart would outline her policy when the assembly returns in September.

"However, we don't want people to see the zones as a solution to all the challenges facing the Welsh economy especially as the consequential provided by the UK Government is exceptionally modest at £10m in total over five years," it added.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said it had been known since March that the UK government would be promoting English enterprise zones, including in Bristol and Liverpool.

"Today's announcement by the UK government that they will create further zones, including one in Hereford, makes the need for Welsh Government action all the more urgent to ensure that Wales can compete in attracting investment and creating jobs, particularly near the border.

"The Welsh Government must urgently develop a strategy to help businesses set up in deprived areas by creating preferential business rates and incentives for training and capital investment or risk Wales falling further behind England."

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