Brexit, city deals and social businesses

 

Brexit, city deals and skills were important items at last week’s meeting of the Council for Economic Development (CED). The CED is Welsh Government’s business council, bringing together business and trade union representatives with Welsh Government ministers and officials, to discuss matters relating to the Welsh economy. The Wales Co-operative Centre attends the meetings on behalf of the social business sector in Wales.

The impact of Brexit is increasingly occupying the minds of business leaders. It was one of the main challenges identified by social businesses in the recent survey of the sector which was raised by the Wales Co-operative Centre’s CEO Derek Walker at the meeting. Social businesses are concerned that their future trading environment is going to be affected adversely by leaving the EU, in particular from the loss of European funding and from the wider impact on the economy. The First Minister proposed to establish a working group to focus purely on the business impact of Brexit and to report back to the Council. It will be chaired by Economy and Infrastructure Secretary Ken Skates. Derek will represent the social business sector on the working group.

The First Minister and other Welsh Government cabinet members provided the Council with an update on Brexit from their perspectives. They outlined the UK Government’s engagement with the devolved governments, and also provided updates on developments such as the Welsh Government’s priorities for Single Market access, migration and social, environmental and economic protections. The First Minister also described his recent visit to Brussels, where he met Michel Barnier and presented the Welsh Government’s White Paper, Securing Wales’ Future.

On the EU Withdrawal Bill, the First Minister expressed concern that the Bill attempts to take back control over devolved policies such as the environment, agriculture and fisheries, not just from Brussels but from all three Devolved Administrations, which he said was unacceptable.

As well as Brexit the Council received an update on City Deals and Growth Deals in Wales. In south Wales, there are two City Deals, one in the Cardiff Capital Region and another in the Swansea Bay City Region. There is an evolving Growth Deal proposal in north Wales, and in mid-Wales partners are discussing interest in a Growth Deal approach. These deals are intended to develop and deliver proposals that will create local economic growth. Whilst welcoming the Deals, Derek outlined how challenging it has been for businesses to engage with the new structures. Businesses, including social businesses, have found it difficult to know who to speak to and to understand what was happening.

The Minister for Skills and Science provided on update on the subject of skills, employability and apprenticeships. On the subject of the latter there are plans to establish an Apprenticeship Advisory Board of employers to ensure that the development of Apprenticeship Frameworks meets the needs of Welsh employers and the Welsh economy. The Wales Co-operative Centre asked for a seat on this board for a social business representative, which the Minister agreed to at the meeting. If you would be interested in taking up this role please contact the Centre at the contact details below.

Finally, business members were also given notice that Welsh Government is exploring how to better align the work of Careers Wales and Business Wales in the interests of clients of these two services. This initiative is at an early stage. The Wales Co-operative Centre will provide further updates as the work progresses.

To give your views or for further information about any of the issues discussed in this blog, please comment below.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Stuart Miles

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