The Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) has agreed to allocate funds to support the development of projects and ideas which can stimulate and help future-proof the economy of Bridgend following the announcement the town’s Ford engine plant is to close.
The Welsh Government has announced that it will ‘match fund’ the £50,000, to fund feasibility works and develop robust business case proposals which have the potential to have the greatest impact on Bridgend.
Responding to the proposed closure of the Ford Bridgend plant next year with the loss of 1,700 jobs has been a key priority for the Cardiff Capital Region’s Regional Cabinet, which comprises the leaders of the ten local authorities in the CCR.
The Regional Cabinet has agreed the allocation of £50,000 of developmental support to Bridgend County Borough Council to enable the creation of proposals which enhance local regeneration, stimulate economic activity, and increase confidence in the town.
As Members of the Ford Bridgend Taskforce, CCR will look to invest the £50,000 alongside the ‘match’ amount from Welsh Government of £50,000, generating a ‘seed fund’ totalling £100,000.
This ‘seed fund’ will ensure Bridgend Council has initial resource to begin developing proposals for projects that can help mitigate the impact of potential job losses and stimulate growth of new future-proofed industries.
Some of the areas identified by Bridgend Council which could be developed as competitive strengths include innovation in clean growth and renewable energy; incubation space for start-up businesses in priority sectors; and, continued town centre improvements.
Councillor Andrew Morgan, is Chair of the CCR Regional Cabinet, and Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, a local authority area where hundreds of the Ford plant workers live.
Cllr Morgan said: “These are challenging times for Bridgend and the wider region and we stand together in addressing these difficult issues.
“The potential loss of 1,700 jobs is a blow to the local and regional economy, and the supply chain impact will affect economies and communities on a wider scale.
“The Ford workforce is highly skilled and we want to ensure that given our focus on growing key technology and advanced manufacturing industries in the region, we do all we can to retain that talented workforce.
“This seed fund is a catalyst and shows how we can work with Welsh Government and meaningfully fulfil our role on the Ford Bridgend Taskforce to provide some initial stimulus for projects that can give confidence now and build hope for the future.”
Leader of the Bridgend Council, Cllr Huw David said: “I am thankful to my colleagues in the CCR and Welsh Government for prioritising seed investment that could activate opportunities to help alleviate some of the impact of the prospective Ford plant closure and to advance the prospects we believe could emerge as key local economic strengths.
“This is not the answer in itself and there aren’t any silver bullets, but it’s a show of strength and solidarity and as we have seen with the City Deal itself, small seeds can grow big potential.”
He continued: “I know this does not guarantee access to larger City Deal or government investment funds. Accessing these will be about the persuasiveness and strength of the investment proposals we use this seed money to develop.
“But it certainly gives us the boost we need and the means to kick things off and be ambitious in our quest to lever in the investment – public and private – to build a strong economic future for Bridgend, especially after the exciting news that, with Welsh Government support, Ineos Automotive is to build its new 4X4 vehicle here in Bridgend.”
Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates said: “When we announced Ineos is moving to Bridgend, I said work to support the area in the wake of Ford’s proposals would not stop there.
“This joint initiative by the Welsh Government and Cardiff Capital Region will be vital in further accelerating new business opportunities which will support Ford workers and boost efforts to secure an exciting future for the town.
“A key aim of the Ford Taskforce is to identify and promote economic opportunities of the site, the area, the workforce, and supply chain to create viable and sustainable commercial options for Bridgend moving forwards. I am confident this funding will help to do that, and build on the economic and social resilience of the local community as we work to maintain, promote and grow economic confidence.”