UK Government levelling up investment is bringing significant benefits to Welsh communities with more to come in 2023, Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has said.
Funding for levelling up has now reached £1.6 billion in Wales, the equivalent of more than £520 for every person, with the total set to rise with millions of pounds of further investment in 2023.
In a New Year message, Mr Davies said 2022 had been difficult for many across the country with cost of living challenges following the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
But the Welsh Secretary said that the UK Government would continue to support millions of people across the UK with the cost of living while working to deliver jobs, prosperity and investment in Wales over the coming year.
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said:
During 2022, the impact of the pandemic on our economy and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine which intentionally pushed up energy prices, have resulted in huge financial challenges and have meant that we needed to step in as a government – as we did during the pandemic – to support millions of households and businesses.
We are totally committed to helping people across Wales – we said we would protect the most vulnerable, and we have done that by announcing a package worth £26 billion in the next financial year, directly helping hundreds of thousands of households across Wales as we face the challenges ahead together.
But we will also continue our key mission to level up the UK. Wales has so far benefitted more, proportionally, than other areas of the UK from the new funds we have created and which have seen money allocated to projects ranging from improvements to road infrastructure in the Rhondda to money for Gwynedd locals to help buy their community pub.
Every part of the Wales is covered by a growth deal and 2022 saw many of the things the UK Government has invested in alongside the Welsh Government and others come to fruition.
The regeneration of Swansea city centre is a fantastic example of how the growth deals are delivering real results and I’m looking forward to seeing more transformative projects across the country this coming year. The Swansea Arena, part of the Swansea Bay City Deal, opened in March 2022 and has already attracted 175,000 visitors to the venue and created 100 jobs.
The new £585m Shared Prosperity Fund will also drive further investment in our communities. Altogether, UK Government levelling up funding has now reached £520 per head in Wales and with further rounds of these funds are due to be announced in 2023, communities across Wales will be transformed over the coming years.
The Welsh Secretary also looked back at significant events in Wales and the UK during 2022.
2022 was a sad and unforgettable year for our country as the UK came together to mourn the passing of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who provided so many years of service.
The new King has a well-established and strong relationship with Wales as the longest-serving Prince of Wales and I know the links between the Royal Family and the people of Wales will grow still further with Price William succeeding him in that role.
It was fantastic to see the new King in Wales so early in his reign to confer city status on Wrexham and mark this important landmark for North Wales.
Mr Davies added:
We have much to be optimistic about and 2022 saw a huge amount delivered in Wales. Welsh lamb is now being exported to the USA after we secured the lifting of the 20-year-old ban on exports and Wales now has a dedicated Veteran’s Commissioner for the first time who is working to improve the lives and champion the interests of veterans in Wales.
Protecting and growing the Welsh language is hugely important and S4C received a 9% increase in UK Government funding and a further £7.5 million per annum to support its digital development into the future. This will enable S4C to continue to reach more Welsh language speakers, including younger audiences.
And, of course, 2022 was the year we saw Wales finally play at a football World Cup. It was a privilege to travel to Qatar to support the team and while I was there I met Qatari ministers and others to discuss subjects like energy infrastructure, renewed flights from Cardiff, increasing exports and other areas which are so important to the Welsh economy.
Looking ahead to 2023, we will announce a new Freeport in Wales in the New Year. The aim of the Freeport programme is to create jobs in new and exciting industries and I am very much looking forward to it getting up and running in Wales. I also hope to see progress on securing investment in nuclear power in Wales over the coming year.
I am certain that we have a bright year ahead in Wales and I look forward once again to travelling to every part of the country to see the UK Government investment in our communities and the delivery of our ambitious plans.