Enterprise Zones are yet to prove their value says committee
Six years after they were announced, there is insufficient evidence to fully evaluate the value of Enterprise Zones in Wales, a National Assembly committee has said.
The Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee says the evidence it has received during its inquiry on Enterprise Zones in Wales paints a mixed picture of the performance for the eight zones established by the Welsh Government. The Committee concludes that this had made it challenging to come to a broad conclusion as to the effectiveness of the policy as a whole despite over £220m being spent on the zones between 2012 and 2017.
As a result of its inquiry the Committee calls for more information to be published by the Welsh Government with a return to annual reporting for the Enterprise Zones with clear data provided on the support provided to each zone and details of the direct and indirect assistance provided to them. The Committee also recommends that the priorities and annual targets for the performance of each zone should be provided.
The Committee believes this would allow for better scrutiny of the performance of each zone in Wales.
Chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee Russell George AM, said:
"The Committee has concluded that on the whole, the Enterprise Zone concept has not proved itself to date in Wales despite the Welsh Government spending over £200million on them. The lack of available evidence has made it challenging for us to fully analyse their contribution to the Welsh economy.
"The Committee recognises the good work of the Zone Boards and the expertise and commitment of those involved to deliver their work locally. We also believe that there is merit in a regional approach to economic development and that focusing on deprived areas is a good thing.
"However, any future regional approaches to economic development will require clear and realistic goals accompanied by detailed, transparent and approriate data for monitoring. Enterprise Zones have been a series of place-based experiments and we believe they will continue to merit further study over the coming years."
The Committee also received evidence that suggests those zones that have achieved the Welsh Government's stated aims were those that were already best placed to do so, and that the incentives provided to them played only a minor part in their success. Those zones that were starting from a different place in terms of the challenges they faced found the incentives available to them to be of some benefit only and were yet to achieve the stated aims of the Welsh Government.
The Committee made a total of ten recommendations including:
That the Welsh Government should take a strategic look at the availability of commercial and industrial units and work with local government to ensure that money is available in areas of need to develop suitable units;
The Welsh Government should reconsider its proposed merger of the Anglesey and Snowdonia Boards;
The Welsh Government should set a clear direction of what it expects the Port Talbot Enterprise Zone to achieve, and a clear timetable to achieve it, so that the Board can be wound up once its work is completed.
Read the full report:
Enterprise Zones: Boldly going? (PDF, 702 KB)