Is developing city regions the answer to improving economic life outside Cardiff and is enough being done to encourage Welsh students to take up places at Oxford and Cambridge?
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Will the creation of city regions help spread wealth around Wales?
With four months to go until the Scottish referendum on
independence, could today's Queen's Speech have been the last ever to
And why are so few Welsh students applying to
Good evening and welcome to the Wales Report.
The latest figures show the Welsh economy is lagging
behind the rest of the UK, so what can be done to reverse the decline?
The Welsh Government thinks that the creation of city regions is key.
Such a scheme, they say, will make sure that the benefits
of economic growth, usually centered around a city,
can be spread out across a wider area, boosting several communities.
So far two city regions have been created, the Swansea Bay Region
and the Cardiff Capital Region, which is headed by Welsh Rugby
We'll be speaking to him in a moment.
But first, our economic correspondent Sarah Dickins takes
With Wales getting steadily lurk in period to the UK average city
regions have been hailed as a way of kick-starting the economy. --
getting steadily Puller compares to the UK average.
There is a strong argument that as the world changes and emerging
markets manufacture what we used to make, wheels need to seek more
knowledge intensive jobs. -- Wales needs to seek more knowledge
intensive jobs. The former head of CB I Wales was
asked to find out if a city region policy would work. None of our
cities punch their weight, let alone above their weight.
The Cardiff Capital Region spread out from Newport to Bridgend and up
to the heads of the valleys. It is proposed that our transport network
be built to connect people with new jobs and opportunities. This easier
has high and employment. For more than 20 years initiatives have tried
to create jobs. Communities were based on coal, which is long gone.
If they feel to get communities like this to drop local rivalries the
project will be weakened. How do you get a capital city to thrive without
people living here feeling left behind? There are some people with
real expertise behind this. There is the danger that we rely on the
trickle-down effect. That does not work. If we are to adopt the city
region approach it must be on a different model. For city regions to
work strong leadership is vital. Different councils and to political
parties have two pooled together. But is there a figurehead? We need a
person who will help to deliver it. We do not have a Boris or a cane as
they do in Manchester or London. -- in Ken.
It is a different arguments to persuade people who live outside the
city region that their lives will be better if more money is spent miles
and miles away in Cardiff. Joining me now is Roger Lewis, the
chair of the Cardiff Capital Region. What difference should the people
feel of the city region is a success? They need to feel that
there is a future for them, that there is an equality of opportunity.
At the heart of what we are trying to achieve with the Cardiff Capital
Region is something that is transformational, that will give a
real economic benefits to everyone. But when it comes to jobs and money
surely those will be concentrated in the capital. That will not trickle
down. We are trying to achieve collectivity. We need to link up the
ten authorities throughout the region. At the heart of that
proposition is the Metro project which was referred to within the
film. That Metro project is transformational. It'll make a
fundamental difference to the region. The latest estimate is that
it will cost ?5 billion. Where is the money going to come from? The
total cost is an eye watering sum of money. But we have to start
somewhere. Considerable work has been undertaken by the Welsh
Government and by some local authorities. We are presenting that
work to the minister later in the year. There is a sense of journey
and destination as to how we can source the money. I am confident it
will happen because it has to happen. The money would come from
central Government and also the local authorities. But money is
tight. The key thing is unity of purpose. We are working with
Government. I was with their Minister of Finance today. Working
with the Welsh Government, also with Europe, also with London.
Many people see the needs to be a minister dedicated to this if it is
to work. Our strength is that we are small. It is also a weakness. We
have a unity of purpose. There is a unity of purpose in Government. It
is important to emphasise the nature of the project is that it must
survive the political cycles. That means we have two had ties to remove
it from the political arena. What is the model? Vancouver has been
suggested. Edinburgh, Manchester. What is the model? How do you break
down tribalism? There are lots of great models. Stuttgart as the
exemplar. That has huge support from European funding. In the UK the best
model is Manchester. To address the tribalism point, around the table we
have four of the leaders of ten of the authorities and we are regularly
talking to the other authorities. If you live in Cardiff live in
Cardiff, if you live in the valleys you live in the valleys. What
difference will we see data di? There will be an overarching --
there will be an overarching strategic approach. The ten
authorities will come together to align their strategies. We have two.
We need to figure out where people work and where people live and where
people play. We need to plan that on a regional basis. We need to make
sure that people are truly connected. Economic growth is never
equally distributed, so we need to give people the equality of
opportunity to connect with that growth. It has been said that we
need charismatic leaders. Are you that charismatic leader? No. I am
the cheer of the board. We are not doing this for political ambition.
We are doing less because we want to make a difference. When we feel we
have got the governance right, when are metal project is right, we as a
board needs to ask if we are the right people to take this forward.
We may well step back and make sure there is a leader, statutorily
authority, that can drive us forward. This is not paid. You are
doing it in your spear time. -- in your free time. I have no particular
mission. We need to do the right thing for Wales. If we do not step
forward heaven help us all. We all debts two wheels. This is time to
pay it back. Thank you for joining us.
Earlier today the Queen delivered her annual speech to Parliament,
setting out its legislative agenda for the coming year.
Headlines were made by policy announcements on pension
reform, tax-free childcare and performance reviews for MPs.
But today could be the last time the Queen's Speech lists legislation
With the Scottish referendum on independence now only 16 weeks away,
And how will the result, whether a yes or no to independence,
Joining us now are two Welsh leaders on either side of the debate.
From Westminster is the Shadow Secretary of State
for Wales, Labour's Owen Smith and here in the studio I'm joined by
the Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood. Whatever the result in the
referendum, the status quo will have to change, won't it? Yes because all
parties have committed themselves to change it. Other parties in Scotland
want further change other than the Scottish Nationalist party. You
other party offering released devolution because the curve --
conservatives have overtaken you, haven't they? If you take a narrow
perspective on tax, and even then, it is very unlikely that rates will
shift by more than 15p. There would be a -5% starting rate if Labour
come to power so there is not that much between us. There is a clear
recognition there is dire for -- desire for greater autonomy in
Scotland and Wales and England and we are committed to that.
Whatever the result there will be an impact, won't they? It is a matter
for us in Wales to decide how much we can be involved. It is essential
that we make sure we are part of that debate. Aren't we pretty much
ignored in Scotland? We not as involved as we should be and there
is an opportunity for a rebalancing of power throughout the United
Kingdom, economically, socially and politically. It is an opportunity
for Wales to take powers we need to transform our economy. We have a
government in Cardiff Bay who are turning down opportunities to have
control over the levers that can affect our economy.
Owen Smith, when you talk to people involved in the negotiations in
Scotland they say our voices not heard. There is talk of a veto on
the pound in Scotland but that is cuckoo land as we are not stuck in,
are we? It is properly Owen Jones's fault, isn't it?
I don't think that is true. The debate in Scotland as to whether it
wants to be independent is essentially a question for Scotland
so there is no prospect of Wales having an equal voice in that
debate, nor England. But the impact on the rest of the UK is potentially
massive. What would it look like? Of course it is but it is massive for
England and English people but English people do not have a say. It
is a slightly false premise. I have been to Scotland on two or three
occasions and have spoken on a platform with Gordon Brown and we
held a Labour Party shadow cabinet a few weeks ago. The notion that Wales
is not being listened to is not true. They are keen to hear Welsh
voices in Scotland, but they don't want to hear an unreal view from
Wales as Plaid Cymru suggest. We are not in favour of an independent
Wales. It is looking like a "no" vote. What
would that do to nationalism in Scotland and here in Wales?
If you are right, it is likely it will be a narrow margin and I should
imagine there will be an appetite on the part of people in Scotland to
take more autonomy and Maude decisions. Independence won't
necessarily be off the agenda. If it is close, people might still want to
make sure it remains on the agenda. But if the SNP can't get it through,
surely it is pie in the sky here? Of course they are going all out for
a win and there is a long time before the vote takes place and
momentum is on their side. They are running a positive campaign compared
to the "no" campaign. What I would say to people like Owain Smith is,
what other benefits for Scotland for being part of the union? That been
spelt out, nor for Wales. You want to Scotland to go but where
would that leave Wales? Just part of England?
That is the question people here will need to seriously consider and
we have to make sure we have a strong voice in the negotiations.
Couldn't Wales be subsumed? Or you could take the view that the
power could be dispersed across Britain and there is the opportunity
to rebalance. The sacking of everything towards London will be
relocated to Edinburgh and that opens up opportunities for Wales, I
think. The latest phase with John Smith and
Tony Blair and the whole idea was to stem support for the SNP but that
has backfired. That is a miserably ten -- misrepresentation of the
history. The whole point of devolution was about decentralising
power and amplifying the voice of Wales at Westminster whilst giving
us more local accountability and autonomy and control over power and
the levers of power in Wales, which is what it has done. Health,
education and local government, all these things that are determined in
Wales. Now we talk about going further so that Wales is more on the
same sort of fitting as Scotland in respect -- in respect of powers and
the model of powers and that has been consistent through Labour 's
policy on devolution. What other benefits for Wales? Being part of a
shared market, a shared society, shared history and a shared future.
There practical benefits. Let me bring this to a close. With one
quick question to each of you. When will the people of Wales get to vote
on independence, if at all? It is different -- difficult as we
are on a different stage of the journey but I would like to see is
get to the point where there is a temp one macro that can build
institutions -- Plaid Cymru government. Why should we have a
vote on it when nine or 10% were in favour. Plaid Cymru are the fourth
most popular party in Wales and support is declining. They are not
the answer and nobody in Wales once independence.
Thank you. We have to leave it. The number of Welsh students who
apply to study at Oxford and Cambridge Universities
is in decline. Figures show that four of the ten
areas in the UK with the lowest application rates are here in Wales.
Why? Well, a year ago, the Labour MP and
former welsh secretary, Paul Murphy, was asked to look into the fall
in numbers and his report is due to But, what are the benefits of an
Oxbridge education and should we be Yes, says 20-year-old Shelby Holmes
from Towyn in North Wales, who is in her second year studying
English Literature at Oxford. I do fairgrounds with my parents for
some of the year. We used to do a fair in Oxford and it is a really
nice place. I liked the vibe of the city. When I thought of applying I
thought, I like Oxford. At the bottom of the Trinity lawns there
are gates and we walked past. I looked in and they said, you won't
get in there, love. For me to get in, it was... My mother was barely
literate so to go from that to going to Oxford doing English literature,
it was so weird for them. There was a precedent in other schools. Oxford
and Cambridge, we always send one or two. But for us, there was no one I
knew personally from the school or anyone I had ever met who had been.
I didn't know what I was expecting. Misconceptions pull people back. You
come to this very impressive building that has stood here for
hundreds of years and you kind of thing, what am I doing here? I think
that most of the people who come here feel like they are not good
enough or they are just good enough. It is a long time before you finally
realise that, no, I worked really hard for this and put the effort in
and I really wanted and I got it. They wouldn't let me in if I
couldn't do the work. There is a reputation about Oxford being
quintessentially English but it is really open for everyone. More Welsh
people should come and study because it seems like there are not many of
us here. We have Russian people, Chinese and Indian people, why not
Welsh people? What I would say to a seven year is -- 17-year-old who is
not really sure but thinking about it, it is just a normal University
for normal people who really like their subject and who really want to
learn more about the subject. If you feel passionate about it and you
want to do more with your subject, then apply. You haven't lost
anything by applying. You can't let the misconceptions put you off. We
are just a group of normal kids at university.
Joining me is the Oxbridge ambassador for Wales. Why are there
so few applications from Wales? They are not always as inspirational
as Shelby and a lot of people haven't got the confidence to go.
They have misconceptions about what Oxford and Cambridge are about. That
they are full of people from public schools punting on the rivers. In
the interview, it was pretty clear that it is very different from that.
Part of my job has been to try to persuade young people in Wales that
the old-fashioned images of Oxford and Cambridge are very much
old-fashioned and that it is an up-to-date University, both of them,
and two of the best universities on the planet.
It seems that there are two issues - confidence and attainment. What does
it say about our education system? A lot of it boils down to the fact
that the two universities require very special techniques for
interview and in Oxford's case, a separate aptitude test. In many
ways, youngsters have to be made aware of the different entrance
processes. It is not the very fact that there are people who haven't
got high A-level qualifications, sometimes we have found schools
where they have high A-level qualifications but they still are
not getting in. Part of my role is to find out why not.
We know that children from about this high are primed for Oxbridge
and they stay behind after school. Do you want to see that happening
here? There is a case for looking
specially at our most able and talented children. Most schools and
tertiary colleges in Wales have a system where they give special
attention to the most able students by giving them extra lessons and
various talks from visiting professors and dons from the
universities and by stressing, as far as they can... The reality is we
do have very, very clever young people in Wales, but very often they
are not stretching themselves as far as they could do. Often, it is the
question of giving them the information and knowledge of how to
apply to these universities. The other issue is brain drain. Why
should they go? Some would argue, let us keep them in Swansea or
Cardiff Aberystwyth. Encouraging them to go is a bad thing. What
would you say to that? Firstly, there is nothing wrong with
Welsh universities. The reality is only 50% of the intake of Welsh
universities come from Welsh people. About 50% of Welsh students go
outsize -- outside Wales and that will not change. My view is that
there are two outstanding universities, two of the best on
earth, so we shouldn't deny the opportunity to our brightest
children to go to them. That isn't to say bright students don't go to
Welsh universities. Of course they do. How can the Minister get more
students into Oxbridge? I will present my report in a few
weeks time. I have spoken to the education minister about these
issues and I will have positive representations to make as part of
the overall policy to make sure we raise standards in Wales. Is anyone
getting it right at the moment in Wales?
Yes, Gower College near Swansea and the school near Newport. Lots of
others. They are doing excellent work and I hope the best practice
from those places will spread to other places as well.
As a former student there, what would be your one word of
encouragement to anyone thinking about it?
It stretches you enormously and if you have a passion for your subject
you can go to one of those two universities.
That is it for tonight. Thanks for watching.
Bethan Rhys Roberts asks the questions that matter to you about your job, your health, your future. Calling to account the decision-makers here in Wales and beyond our borders too, each week the team bring you in-depth reports on pressing issues that matter to the lives of everyone living in Wales.
Is developing city regions the answer to improving economic prosperity outside Cardiff and is enough being done to encourage Welsh students to take up places at Oxford and Cambridge?