Finance committee's mystery over enterprise zones

Money The big criticism of the original enterprise zones was that it simply led to companies relocating from one area to another of the city

There is a lot depending on Wales' enterprise zones so how concerning is it that the assembly's finance committee has said in a report today that there's an air of mystery about them?

Wales has seven zones and unlike in England where they accommodate all types of businesses, the Welsh ones are not only focused on geographical areas but on particular sectors as well.

Here's a reminder: Cardiff City centre is for financial services, Cardiff Airport and St Athan is for aviation, Blaenau Gwent and Deeside are for advanced manufacturing, the Haven Waterway in Pembrokeshire, Anglesey and Snowdonia are for energy.

They offer a variety of tax breaks to companies looking to expand.

Wales had one of the first enterprise zones in Swansea in the 1980s. The big criticism was that it simply led to companies relocating from one area to another of the city, rather than actually leading to genuine job creation.

Times have changed but they're back in fashion.

When I've spoken to business leaders in the past about the Economy Minister Edwina Hart's Welsh version of enterprise zones, the concern some of them have is that they are too prescriptive.

The argument goes that it's difficult enough as it is to create jobs so why should the Welsh government specify exactly what type of job should be created in a particular area.

That said there is an advantage in trying to build a cluster of companies with shared business interests.

Within the seven, there are some more likely to succeed than others. I'd say Cardiff's financial services zone and Deeside's manufacturing zone are most likely to succeed because they already have a track record.

The new battleground in inward investment appears to be financial services companies relocating out of London so there's plenty of focus on Cardiff as it competes against cities like Leeds, Glasgow and Belfast.

So what do we make of what the assembly's finance committee had to say?

The committee was told that all seven enterprise zones have strategic objectives, but not what they are. It was told they have bid for investment, but not exactly what they have bid for, and that they will be expected to deliver results, but not how that success will be measured.

Sorry to use a cliché but the proof will be in the pudding for enterprise zones.

Opposition parties at the assembly have tried to use an apparent lack of progress on them to try to criticise the Welsh government.

But it's probably too early to come to any definitive conclusions. Comparisons with England are difficult because probably like in Wales, there will be some that perform better than others.

And to bring things round a full circle, I suspect many of the debates on the success or lack of success with the zones in future years will come down to whether they genuinely created jobs or simply led to displacement, that is to say they tempted companies to move in from other parts of Wales.

Nick Servini Article written by Nick Servini Nick Servini Political editor, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    John.a man can dream...

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    ... viewer, that's quite a concept in political circles, " taking responsibility", I don't believe it's possible to be responsible on the one hand, and operate standard pork barrel politics on the other.

    Politics is a poor bedfellow to responsibility !

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    always waiting for or denying the outcome of a review, 'plans are being planned', changes been made but taking time to work through etc etc. The political class simply cannot (do not wish to) understand, tolerate, see the viewpoint of the man in the street. Admitting fault, taking responsibility and implementing meaningful change are the ways to gain the electorate's respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    ... come now Indy, it's always been the strategy in Cardiff Bay ...

    ... "If in doubt or if the mud is above the ankles - rename ! "

    The other game played by our slippery friends is to find a crisis to hide poor judgement ........

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I see they are tinkering with the name of the Ambulance Trust, no amount of renaming will improve the service except for the correct resources to be provided to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    "Cardiff as it competes against cities like Leeds, Glasgow and Belfast."

    I would have thought that Cardiff's most dangerous competititor was Bristol. Established finance centre, nearer to London and the Continent, no toll charges on M4.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    There is an air of mystery about the Assembly. What has it achieved? What use is it?

    As for Hart she is perhaps the most incompetent Minister in the WAG.

    Enterprise zones as used in England are beginning to show success - Hart who initially refused to contemplate zones( she said EZ were an English invention) has created yet another WA mess -when will she be sacked?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Same evasivness from Hart when questioned on BBC news about the "new jobs" at meat plan in Ceredigion, would they go to local people?

    It seems the other plant is staffed by quite a few EU migrants.

    The racing track in the BG enterprise zone has gone quiet? maybe someone has twigged that their business plan which was forecast better than Siverstone operates might be a little optimistic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Is the Scarlets Rugby ground one of these enterprise zones by any chance??
    Well, its had £20 million of our money, so I am assuming this was the best option for such funding and there were no other services that needed such support. Just a thought!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    ... I wonder whether WAG will do as we'll with the enterprise zones as they have with fish farming ?

    ... would our politicians consider an economics refresher I wonder, consider the economics of the real world, or just blunder about as they have this last decade or more !

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    This seems fairly typical of Ms. Hart who is hardly known for her communication skills. After the last ministerial debacle the real mystery is how is she still a minister! I can't see this post lasting long, the WG doesn't care for any form of criticism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    There is something missing; the WAG need to take control of planning for these target businesses within the enterprise zones. There is little point in Ynys Mon being a centre for renewable energy generation while the population and their petty representatives block every development.



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