To submit a report by the Head of Regulation and Economic Development.
Submitted – a report by the Head of Regulation and Economic Development in relation to the above.
The Portfolio Member for Economic Development, Leisure and Tourism gave a detailed overview of the Arfor 1 Programme which was a £2m revenue funding provided by Welsh Government in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 to Anglesey, Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire County Councils. On Anglesey, £468k of Arfor revenue funding was afforded to Business Grants, Language in Business Grants, ‘Llwyddo’n Lleol 2050 and Funded a Welsh language promotion booklet and one specific to businesses together with promotion the creation of a new Welsh language section on the Council’s website. Anglesey further received £160k from Welsh Government at the end of 2020/2021 to provide a number of ARFOR capital grants. Gwynedd Council led the wider programme, however, elements of the work on Anglesey were administered by Menter Môn. Details of the projects that received funding was noted within the report. The Portfolio Member referred to the ARFOR 2 programme proposal which Welsh Government has now announced; a further £11m will be afforded to deliver the second phase of the ARFOR Programme until March 2025. In April 2022, the ARFOR Board (the Leaders of the four counties) submitted an ‘outline proposal’ for the second phase of the programme to Welsh Government setting out the rationale, purpose, strategic objective and principles for ARFOR 2. In consultation with Welsh Government, officials from the four counties have developed proposals for translating the strategic objectives into deliverable projects. The proposed main components of ARFOR 2 were highlighted within the report.
The Regeneration Manager reported that a total of 75 grants were awarded to support 42 existing businesses, 18 new businesses, 60 new jobs, 108 existing jobs, 36 new products or services, and £750k of private investment. The implementation phase of the programme was disrupted by the pandemic, but despite this, the programme evaluation reported that it had made a difference in supporting a significant number of new businesses and jobs, and establishing useful collaboration between the four counties. He further said that the ARFOR programme has given the opportunity for businesses to benefit from the grant funding. The next phase of the ARFOR programme will give an opportunity for businesses to benefit from the funding available.
The Committee considered the report and raised the following main points:-
· Reference was made that it has been reported over the years that young people have left the island seeking employment. Questions were raised as to whether the ARFOR grant funding has attracted young people to return to work on the island. The Regeneration Manager responded that the ‘Llwyddo’n Lleol’ model within the ARFOR programme is identified as good example in attracting young people back to the island. The Chief Executive said that data has not been collected during the ARFOR 1 programme and the Scrutiny Committee could request that data is collected during the monitoring model which will need to be undertaken by the 4 counties during the next 2 years of the ARFOR 2 programme.
· Reference was made that 18 new businesses have been created through the ARFOR 1 programme. Questions were raised as to the where the businesses have been created on the island and as to whether technology has supported these businesses. The Regeneration Manager responded that there were a variety of different businesses created through the ARFOR 1 programme such as:- food a drink businesses, technical and consultancy and design businesses.
· Questions were raised as to what extent the first phase of the ARFOR programme successfully planned and delivered on Anglesey and to what lessons have been learnt to the next phase of ARFOR 2. The Regeneration Manager responded that the ARFOR 2 programme will afford extra funding towards marketing and promotion which was lacking within the first phase of the programme due to the pandemic. A number of businesses who have been supported by the ARFOR 1 programme have also invested low energy machinery to address the increase in the energy prices. He further said that grants will be also available through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and work will be undertaken to the possibility of funding energy saving plans in support of local businesses.
· Questions were raised as to how the ARFOR Board decides which businesses are to be supported. The Regeneration Manager said that there is significant funding through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to support businesses and it is important that the ARFOR programme does not duplicate the funding process. The ARFOR funding will be targeted towards projects that will result in success for those businesses supported. Further questions were raised as to whether the businesses that have been supported will continue after the grants funding comes to an end. The Regeneration Manager said that the two year ARFOR 1 programme was to support in-business investment and the businesses would provide funding themselves toward specific projects; grant funding was not towards running costs of the businesses. The projects that were supported as still ongoing with only one business having ceased.
It was RESOLVED :-
· To note the delivery of the first phase of the ARFOR programme on Anglesey in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.
· To note the proposal to deliver a second phase of the ARFOR programme up to March 2025.
· The need to monitor the data of young people returning to work on the island following the grant funding towards businesses from the ARFOR programme.
ACTION : As noted above.