North Wales Growth Deal: Successive Welsh ministers 'caused obstacles'

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Britannia Bridge over to AngleseyImage source, FatManPhotoUK/Getty Images

Successive new Wales Office ministers have caused "obstacles" for an economic regeneration scheme in the north, MPs have heard.

Kevin Foster is the fifth person in the past 17 months to take up the junior role to Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.

Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn, chair of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, described the situation as "unusual".

The North Wales Growth Deal aims to create 5,550 jobs and has been given £240m by the UK and Welsh Governments.

"Ministerial changes have in no way affected our commitment to the deal," a Wales Office spokesperson said.

Mr Siencyn appeared in front of the House of Commons' Welsh Affairs Committee on Monday at Bangor University.

He told MPs: "Every time we have a change of minister there is some new obstacle that we are greeted with.

"We had Mims Davies and we thought we've got to a very positive place and we thought that we were making progress. Then Nigel Adams - his appointment, to me, my perception was that it set us back."

He was also asked whether the changes in the Wales Office had any impact on negotiations for the deal.

Mr Siencyn said: "We are aware the situation politically is unusual to say the very least. We've asked to sign heads of terms by end of July and it appears that that is a possibility.

"That is a very significant step forward and I think the attitudes of both ministers, Alun Cairns and Kevin Foster, have been helpful in getting us to where we are at this current moment, in the hope that neither leaves very quickly before we sign things."

Image source, AlasdairJames/Getty Images

The committee also heard that the £120m offered by the UK government was "disappointing" as the bid had requested £170m.

Iwan Trefor Jones, lead director of the North Wales Growth Bid, said: "We haven't heard the rationale for the £120m - the figure came out of nowhere.

"We have now requested £140m from each government and the business case for the 14 projects is based on £280m."

He added: "The Welsh Government have confirmed that they would provide the additional £20m if the UK government do so."

The additional money is "vital" to some of the projects, he said.

A Wales Office spokesperson said: "The UK government's approach to the North Wales Growth Deal remains unchanged and the region should work at pace to make effective use of the £240m we are providing alongside the Welsh Government.

"The Secretary of State for Wales has been continually engaged with the decision-making process and has been providing any steer as required.

"Ministerial changes have in no way affected our commitment to the deal."