Mixed picture for Welsh government enterprise zones

By Brian Meechan
BBC Wales business correspondent

image copyrightBusiness Wales

Only seven jobs each have been created at two of the Welsh government's enterprise zones in the last year.

More than 1,000 jobs were created at the Cardiff and Deeside zones but just seven each at Ebbw Vale and St Athan, showing a mixed picture.

The seven zones were set up by the Welsh government to provide business support including financial help.

A spokesman said progress had been made but each zone was unique, and like-for-like comparisons were "unhelpful".

The figures show a mixed picture.

  • Between April 2014 and March 2015, Cardiff more than doubled the number of jobs created since being set up in 2011. Five hundred and 36 jobs were created in those 12 months compared with 465 prior to March 2014.
  • Deeside was the other success story with 473.5 jobs being added in 2014-15 to its previous total of 779.
  • But Ebbw Vale's enterprise zone, which focuses on advanced materials and manufacturing, only had 7.5 jobs created in the latest period to add to its 172 total.
  • St Athan has a similar focus and also only saw 7.5 new jobs added to its 94 previously created ones.
  • Milford Haven Waterway had 49.5 new jobs in 2014-15 on top of the 208 from the years prior to that.
  • Anglesey created 37 jobs to add to its 435 created up to March 2014.
  • In Snowdonia, the Welsh government said two businesses were supported compared to only one during the previous years. No job figures were provided.

More than £70m has been spent on enterprise zones since 2011.

The Welsh government, supported by the chairs of the enterprise zones, initially refused to release figures for the number of jobs created at each one.

The Information Commissioner supported Plaid Cymru's challenge to that position and ordered ministers to make the details public.

The latest figures show jobs created in the 2014-15 financial year.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We have always said that any like-for-like comparisons between the seven enterprise zones are unhelpful and misrepresent the local economic conditions and priorities within each unique zone.

"From the start, we expected each zone to have its own timetable and objectives, but good progress has been made in the zones and all have met individual key performance indicator targets."

'Drifting aimlessly'

Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru AM for Ynys Mon and a member of the assembly's enterprise and business committee, said better performers like Deeside might be expected to do well anyway.

"We've been demanding this data not to name and shame those not doing particularly well but to highlight where the focus is needed," he said.

"Enterprise zones have to be more than just a name; they have to be places which deliver growth and secure jobs."

For the Welsh Conservatives, Shadow Economy Minister William Graham said progress on the zones had been "painfully slow, and the "failure to make progress" in St Athan and Snowdonia needed looking at.

"With over £70 million having been invested so far, at more than £21,000 per job created, it's quite optimistic to describe these zones as having been a mixed success.

"Sadly the whole scheme seems to be drifting aimlessly and the minister must take this opportunity to reassess and refresh a project which has clearly lost its way."

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