Wales is set to get more than £90m of investment to “turbocharge” the country’s recovery from the economic devastation of Covid-19.
Ahead of the 2021 Budget, which goes before Parliament on Wednesday, the Treasury has outlined plans to put a green future at the fore to help the economy “snap back into shape”.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, will plough £5m into a new hydrogen hub in Holyhead while nearly £60m will be shared between the three City and Growth Deals and £30m will go towards the Global Centre of Rail Excellence in Neath Port Talbot.
In all, Welsh businesses are set to receive more than £93m of investment with the promise of nearly 13,000 new jobs at the Budget on March 3.
The Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, said the cash will help build Wales back “better and greener” from the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Sunak said he is “looking ahead with more optimism to an investment-led recovery” for Wales and the rest of the UK.
The money is being earmarked for three distinct projects in Wales over the next few years.
1. Hydrogen hub in Holyhead
The Chancellor will promise £4.8 million for a new hydrogen hub in Holyhead which will create high-skilled jobs and drive a “green transition”.
Based in Anglesey the initial phase of the development, which already has Welsh Government funding, will pilot a hydrogen hub in the area, subject to business case approvals. The hydrogen production centre will be designed to produce and distribute green hydrogen made using renewables for use in HGVs, helping to decarbonise high carbon-emitting transport.
It has the potential to create up to 30 new high skilled green jobs and indirectly support a further 500 jobs as well as helping the UK reach net zero by 2050.
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2. City and Growth Deals
Over the next five years, £58.7 million in funding will be pumped into faster investment in the three City and Growth Deals across Wales, accelerating the creation of nearly 13,000 jobs.
The Swansea Bay City Deal will get an extra £5.4 million per year from 2021/22 for the remaining seven years of the Deal. This will enable deal projects, including digital and urban regeneration infrastructure projects, to be delivered faster and will support the Deal to create up to 9,000 new jobs and to support an uplift of £1.1 billion for the economy.
The North-Wales Growth Deal will get an extra £4.4 million per year from 2021/22 for the remaining nine years of the Deal, supporting the Deal to create up to 3,800 new jobs and to support an uplift of £2.2 billion for the economy.
The Mid-Wales Growth Deal will get an extra £1.8 million per year from 2021/22 for the remaining 10 years of the Deal. This will lead to faster investment once projects are agreed, such as those focusing on transport, agriculture, skills and employment.
3. Global Centre of Rail Excellence
Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates with a map of the proposed layout of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence
(Image: Welsh Government)
A planned £100m Global Centre of Rail Excellence on the border of Neath Port Talbot and Powys was announced by the Welsh Government in 2018 and will involve a new facility to test trains in the UK.
The Chancellor has promised £30m funding toward the project which is also supported by the Welsh Government. It is hoped up to 120 skilled jobs will be created at the new rail and infrastructure testing facility in Neath Port Talbot which will showcase Wales as a hub for research and development and cutting-edge low-carbon rail technology.
Ahead of his Budget, the Chancellor said: “We have protected jobs and supported businesses throughout this pandemic and now we are looking ahead with more optimism to an investment-led recovery for the whole of the United Kingdom.
“These measures will help Wales pave the way to a greener future, create new high skilled jobs and build the infrastructure needed to drive growth in key sectors and build back better.”
Mr Hart added: “As well as bringing thousands of skilled jobs, the plans for the Centre for Rail Excellence, hydrogen hub and investment in growth deals show the UK Government’s determination to make sure that Wales is a centre for innovation and the industries of the future.
“We have provided support for thousands of individuals and businesses across Wales through the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic. These announcements and others in the Budget will pave the way to brighter times ahead.”
The UK Government has also promised it will match fund up to £30 million, subject to business case approval, with the remaining £128 million from the Welsh Government and private sector investment.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses across the UK, said the money would make a “real difference” to communities across Wales.
Ian Price, CBI Wales director, said: “The Chancellor is committing to an investment in Wales’ green future with hydrogen and rail to the fore.
“Meanwhile, extra monies for the city deals will enable all parts of Wales to bring forward projects that will make a real difference to communities.
“The UK government has stepped in to support business throughout the crisis and many firms will be looking for much of that to be extended into summer. If the economy is to snap back into shape, then Wednesday’s Budget will also need to incentivise businesses to get spending on jobs, skills and innovation.”