Establishing a company and investment board to begin delivering the Celtic Freeport, which promises to create 16,000 jobs in south west Wales over the coming years, is one of a number of key priorities for Neath Port Talbot Council’s Rainbow Coalition for 2023/24.
The Strategic Change Programme provides a direction for travel for the council over the coming year and is part of the council’s Corporate Plan 2022 to 2027 which focuses on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, resetting affected services, adapting to new ways of working and dealing with increasing demands on services and functions.
Council Leader, Cllr Steve Hunt, said: “As a new administration we have concentrated on getting external and new funding into the county borough balanced against an increasingly challenging financial background for maintaining core services to support day to day life.
“We managed to set a fair, balanced budget for this financial year and with our partners have been successful in gaining Freeport status – something that could be truly transformational for this region.
“But the financial challenges continue and we are also committed to improving the way we communicate with residents and businesses. We will be launching a new initiative – Let’s Keep Talking – this summer so we can explain what we are focusing on and taking on board suggestions, feedback and concerns to inform our future plans in what are extremely difficult times for our budget setting.”
The bid for a Celtic Freeport comprising Port Talbot and Milford Haven docks won Government approval in March 2023 and will involve supplying huge floating offshore wind turbines for a site in the Celtic Sea as well as green energy research and tax advantages for inward investors.
Further priorities include continuing to deliver other major programmes Shared such as Prosperity Fund (SPF) and Levelling Up Fund projects (including £17.7m for the Vale of Neath Corridor), the £400m GCRE rail testing centre in Onllwyn, the £300m Wildfox resort in the Afan Valley and £4.5m of public realm improvements.
Also, improving town centres, completing the insourcing of Celtic Leisure services by March 2024 and completing the NPT Culture and Heritage Strategy intended to capture the unique spirit of Neath Port Talbot will be at the top of the coalition’s agenda.
Over the coming months there will also be a focus on maintaining educational standards in the Swansea Valley where plans for a new school in Pontardawe to replace local primary schools was turned down following the results of public consultation. In particular, a permanent solution will be sought for pupils from Godre’rgraig who are currently in temporary classrooms.
There are also plans to refresh the council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy (DARE) strategy to include a fully costed action plan to enable the transition of Neath Port Talbot to carbon net zero by 2030.
The Strategic Change Programme will also now incorporate the principles of a Climate Emergency motion the council approved last year. This will involve a review of current strategies for addressing Climate Change, publicising the issue and working with experts to identify further policy changes or actions that could meet the Climate Emergency challenge.
Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Alun Llewelyn, said: “The Strategic Change Programme reflects the determination of the Rainbow Coalition, working across the whole council, to improve opportunities for all our residents and communities.”