Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Welsh Local Government Association


  1.1  The Welsh Local Government Association welcomes this opportunity to submit evidence on the role of UK Government Departments and UK Public Bodies in promoting Wales internationally. The main thrust of our evidence focuses on a desire to see better dialogue and collaboration between UK Government departments/bodies, the National Assembly for Wales, its agencies and Welsh local government in promoting Wales as a modern, dynamic and vibrant region in the international arena.


  2.1  Welsh local government has its own distinct, important and legitimate role to play in promoting Wales both on the European and international stage. As leaders of their Communities, local authorities deliver many of the policies and programmes of the European Union on the ground, and as such offer a wealth of experience to key policy-formers during various development stages.

2.2  European Affairs

  2.3  The European Union affects every individual, family, business and organisation in Wales. It affects the standard of goods and services that we buy, it influences the quality of the environment, and is a major trading partner for Welsh businesses.

  2.4  Welsh local government recognises the increasing effect of EU programmes, policies and legislation, and is embracing these through active involvement with other European countries, seeking European funding for innovative projects and by taking its rightful place in the institutional framework to influence important decisions.

  2.5  Welsh local authorities:

    —  raise awareness of the EU amongst businesses and communities at a local level;

    —  are fully committed to the principle of partnership in promoting Welsh interests in an EU context;

    —  constitute the tier of government responsible for delivering many EU policies and legislation eg protecting the public from inferior quality products and services;

    —  play a leading role in the delivery of structural fund programmes; and

    —  have valuable and well established links with other European regions which provide economic, social and cultural opportunities;

    —  contribute to the development of EU legislation and policy through the Committee of the Regions and links with MEPs.

  2.6  The Welsh Local Government Association supports and promotes the role of Welsh local authorities in European and International Affairs, engaging with Europe's key institutions over important issues such as transport, the environment regional policy and funding.

  2.7  The Association encourages partnerships between local government and other bodies, promoting organisational, legislative and policy changes at a Welsh, UK and European level, continually working to address the needs of local citizens.

2.8  The EU Committee of the Regions

  2.9  The Committee of the Regions (CoR) was established by the Maastricht Treaty and exists to represent the legitimate voice of local and regional authorities in the EU legislative and policy-making process. The European Commission is obliged to consult the CoR on a wide range of issues and accordingly it is structured into eight different subject based Commissions responsible for developing the Committee's views.

  2.10  Since the advent of devolution, local government shares equal representation with the National Assembly for Wales on the CoR (ie one full and one alternate member each). A partnership working structure is now in place to brief Welsh CoR members who operate within the UK delegation which is co-ordinated by the Local Government International Bureau.

2.11  The Council of Europe

  2.12  The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 to promote understanding and co-operation between European countries after the Second World War. Its objectives include the protection of human rights (through its European Court of Human Rights), promoting awareness of European cultural identity, seeking solutions to problems such as xenophobia, assisting partnerships with new democracies, observing and overseeing fair elections.

  2.13  Welsh local government is represented on the Council through the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE), which is split into two chambers for representatives from local and regional governments. A Welsh Councillor holds the post of Vice-president in CLRAE.

2.14  The Wales European Centre

  2.15  The Wales European Centre (WEC) is Wales' collective presence in Brussels. It is a limited company owned by a range of partnership organisations in Wales. The WLGA is a core and founding member, along with the Welsh Development Agency and more recently, the National Assembly. WEC is the profile and shop window of the Welsh partnership or "Team Wales" in Brussels, and provides Welsh local authorities with an "eyes and ears" information and intelligence service on the activities and policy developments of the EU's institutions.

  2.16  The Centre provides an important link between Welsh authorities and the European institutions, facilitating relationships and communication on local government's needs, proposals and responses to key EU decision makers.

  2.17  WEC also plays an important role in helping local authorities create strategic trans-national partnerships.

2.18  The Local Government International Bureau

  2.19  Welsh local authorities contribute to the Local Government International Bureau (LGIB) which acts as the European and international arm of the Local Government Association for England and Wales. The LGIB plays an important, pro-active role in developing and setting the EU policy agenda as well as influencing the existing policy agenda. Urban policy and governance are cases in point.

  2.20  The WLGA and LGIB work in partnership to promote local government interests in European legislation, funding and policy, with an LGIB member of staff permanently located at the WLGA's Cardiff based secretariat.

  2.21  Local Government issues—eg employment, training, social inclusion, environment and transport—are increasingly part of the European agenda, and the Bureau plays a central role in promoting good practice by local authorities in these policy areas. It also acts as the UK member of International organisations, in particular the Council of the European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), a pan-European association of national local authority associations.

  2.22  LGIB develops relationships with Europe's institutions, key decision makers and opinion formers. It has a Brussels office providing on the spot contacts keeping track of the EU legislative process from inception to completion, allowing local authority influence to be brought to bear at key stages. The Brussels office plays a further role in bringing together representatives from local government offices in other EU regions.

  2.23  The Bureau also co-ordinates UK local government input into relevant united National agencies and Commissions, often as part of national delegations.


  3.1  Traditionally, Welsh local authorities have been very successful in the wider international domain by developing international town and community twinning programmes. The emphasis now is progressing more towards the creation of international strategic alliances to develop expertise in the exchange of best practice and promotion of, for example tourism, sporting, cultural, educational and economic links (inward investment and export) through partnerships with foreign counterparts.

  3.2  Newport County Borough Council for example, has well established international links in several countries, including most notably Georgia and China. As well as activities involving exchange of experience in the fields of education, policy and fire services, Newport assisted in the setting up of an enterprise office aimed at increasing business start-ups in the Georgian town of Kutaisi with the assistance of the EU's TACIS programme. Many other local authorities have developed similar links, with countries within and outside the EU, often supported by European initiatives such as the Interreg or Know How programmes.

  3.3  The WLGA itself helps nurture international links and last year, with assistance from the LGIB contributed to a high level International Relations conference in Tokyo. This annual event is organised through the Council of Local Authorities for International Affairs (CLAIR) and the Association's representatives made a valuable contribution in promoting Wales and Welsh local government as a dynamic force in international relations. The Association regularly welcomes return delegations from other countries, with recent notable visits from the President of the Galician region of Spain and the Moldovan Environment Minister.

  3.4  The Local Government International Bureau (LGIB) plays a central role in co-ordinating and facilitating international local government links. It co-ordinates and advises on European and Central Government programmes for technical links between local authorities in the UK and in select countries in Europe. LGIB also co-ordinates the town twinning programme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and serves as the UK member for the European twinning network of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. International development issues and relations with the United Nations and other international institutions are also monitored from the Bureau.

  3.5  The Association, through the International Bureau is also a member of the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) which works to promote and unite democratic local government worldwide. A Welsh Councillor now holds the senior position of Vice-President of this organisation.


  4.1  The Association welcomes the National Assembly's recent decision to post a Welsh diplomat in Brussels under the umbrella of the UK permanent representation and co-located in the Wales European Centre. This is a significant step for Wales, providing a strong diplomatic foundation with clear links to and from Welsh partnership organisations and could potentially be used as a template for promoting our identity elsewhere in key parts of the world.

  4.2  It is important that every opportunity is fully capitalised upon to promote Wales abroad and as such we would welcome closer liaison between the Assembly, the Wales Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on matters of diplomatic representation to promote the unique identity of Wales, both in Europe and globally.

  4.3  Enlargement of the European Union brings into sharp focus the need to establish strong diplomatic links, setting a platform for Wales to sell itself and what we have to offer as a distinct European region. Closer engagement between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Wales Office and the Wales European Centre would facilitate a greater understanding at UK government level of what gives Wales that distinctive international edge. This includes, for example. Promoting our unique culture, heritage, language and economic partnership approach particularly to the EU accession countries, but also at a wider international level.

  4.4  The Association already has a constructive dialogue with the Wales Office through shared briefings and we have recently agreed to meet the Secretary of State for Wales to discuss specific issues and opportunities of interest as and when they arise. We further intend to build on work with UK government colleagues at political and official levels to provide any additional input required in the process of providing the Cabinet Office, Foreign Office diplomats and officials with briefings on specific matters where local government has expertise to offer. The LGIB in London has already established contacts with the FCO and Cabinet Office with this aim in view and the Association wishes to enhance this from the Welsh perspective.


  5.1  Local authorities are a significant contributor to culture and sporting facilities and activities across Wales. These are central elements in combating social exclusion with local authorities providing leisure centres, libraries, and support for drama, dance and theatre companies to name but a few examples.

  5.2  At an international level, sporting events and culture sharing activities often provide an excellent platform to build further strategic links and exchange of experience between countries. This is something Wales does well, and which Welsh local government proudly plays a key role in promoting. Examples of such events include the Rugby World Cup, the Wales International Soccer Contest (Ian Rush Competition), the Brecon Jazz festival, the International, National and Urdd Eisteddfods, literature festivals and International Agriculture shows. International sporting and cultural links between Welsh schools with overseas counterparts are a further example of how important an activity showcasing our skills abroad is.

  5.3  In this context, the Association would welcome a more comprehensive level of dialogue between the Department for Culture media and Sport, DfEE, local government (through the WLGA), the National Assembly and its key agencies such as the Sports Council for Wales and the Arts Council for Wales. This again would facilitate a greater awareness and level of understanding within the UK government departments as to the needs of Wales in promoting our Sporting and cultural priorities abroad.

  5.4  The Association recognises the value of the British Council's work. We would welcome a more distinctive approach to promoting a stronger Welsh dimension within the Council's work. It is important that in its role as the United Kingdom's international organisation for educational and cultural relations, the British Council promotes as a strength the diverse nature of education and culture within Wales with particular emphasis on the Welsh language.


  6.1  Tourism is very important to the Welsh economy as a whole and is particularly significant in some parts of Wales where it is well established and is the main source of income to local businesses. As such, Welsh local authorities invest significantly in tourism, promoting and supporting its development within local communities.

  6.2  All Welsh authorities contribute resources, financial material and staff to the "TRAMOR" European Tourism Exhibitions programme in partnership with the Wales Tourist Board. The TRAMOR partnership has also assisted wider promotion of Wales within Europe through supportive attendance at certain inward investment and product promotion events organised by the National Assembly.

  6.3  The Wales Tourist Board makes a considerable contribution to the development of tourism in Wales, and the Association works with the Board to the framework of our jointly agreed Memorandum of Understanding.

  6.4  Promoting Wales as a tourism destination on the international stage is a very important business. The Association also recognises the stated role of the British Tourist Authority in building the value of tourism to Britain, with its aim of generating additional tourism revenue, throughout Britain and throughout the year.

  6.5  We would however, welcome a clearer definition of the relationship between the roles and responsibilities of the WTB and the BTA in promoting Welsh tourism overseas, and particularly how the BTA's work reflects WTB strategies and priorities (eg Achieving our Potential).

  6.6  The Association is concerned that the BTA's overseas work in promoting Britain may be causing confusion in key market areas which are also targeted by the WTB, particularly relating to the perception as to whether Britain is actually synonymous with England. We are further concerned that such promotion of a "monolithic" Britain overseas by the BTA does not adequately allow Wales to promote itself as its own distinct region and tourism destination with unique qualities.

  6.7  The Association is also keen to understand what targets if any are used by the BTA for regional distribution (ie Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland) of incoming overseas visitors to the UK. The Association suggests that quantifiable targets and objectives are essential if we are to judge the success of the BTA's activities in and for Wales as distinct from Britain and/or England.

  6.8  In budgetary terms, the Association is concerned that there may be unnecessary constraints affecting the WTB's capacity to make more effective use of its overseas marketing powers, due to its continued close financial and strategic links to the BTA. When powers to engage in overseas marketing were granted by the UK government to the Scottish Tourist Board, a corresponding additional budget settlement was awarded to them. The WTB curiously received no additional funding when it was granted similar overseas marketing powers.

  6.9  There is clear potential for better collaboration between Welsh agencies in terms of linking the promotion of Wales as a tourism destination with other Welsh strengths in key overseas markets through partnership action eg between the WTB and the WDA in the field of Welsh food promotion. The Association is unclear as to what, if any role the BTA might have to play in such a domestic re-alignment. It does however, raise the issue as to whether or not the BTA should become a net funding partner in a Welsh context, rather than a delivery mechanism where there are clear and unambiguous tourism benefits to be gained (together with measurable targets). We believe that regional targeting of incoming overseas visitors as mentioned would complement the effective implementation of this approach.


  7.1  Inward investment has played a very valuable role in regenerating the economy of many parts of Wales. At a time of significant decline in traditional Welsh industries, inward investment projects have provided jobs on a large scale in a relatively short period of time which would have been difficult to achieve in any other way. With many parts of Wales continuing to suffer acute economic difficulties, inward investment will continue to be an important component in our economic regeneration.

  7.2  The Welsh Development Agency (WDA) plays a leading role in seeking new overseas inward investment, with Welsh local authorities providing essential support for the successful delivery of projects as well as pursuing inward investment projects in their own right. Local authorities can provide a great deal of information about their locality and act as advocates for it during promotion and negotiation stages with prospective inward investors. As such, Welsh authorities are often closely involved in all stages of securing inward investment projects and the Association's Memorandum of Understanding with the WDA provides for close co-operation at the earliest possible opportunity.

  7.3  A further vital role which local authorities are developing, is taking steps to "embed" inward investing firms into their localities. For example by providing effective and targeted follow-up support to such firms, as well as encouraging indigenous support activities such as supply chains, spin-off companies, and building up clusters of innovative firms in partnership with bodies such as Chambers of Commerce, venture capital companies (eg Finance Wales) and the Universities of Wales.

  7.4  The Association recognises the role of the DTI in helping UK exporting companies succeed in world markets through British Trade International. We warmly welcome the establishment of our own Wales Trade International by the National Assembly and intend to play our full part as a partner in this organisation aiming to increase numbers of businesses exporting from Wales overseas.

  7.5  The Association is concerned that the inter-relationship between the DTI and the WDA concerning provision of support for inward investment projects and export business is unclear. We must have a clearer indication on whether DTI services are available to Welsh businesses looking to export their products and services or whether the WDA is the main point of contact for providing these services to businesses in Wales.

  7.6  Greater collaboration between the DTI, the National Assembly and the WDA should be a priority to ensure that both inward investors and prospective exporters alike are not confused about their source of advice and support. We suggest that this should be considered as part of the National Assembly's current review of Business Support Measures in Wales.

  7.7  The Association also suggests that a more comprehensive dialogue is needed with the Treasury to ensure that this most key of government departments fully understands our requirements in terms of supporting prospective inward investors and businesses looking to export. This includes of course our "home grown" Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. National fiscal policies in particular have a major impact on the competitiveness of Welsh firms engaging in overseas markets.

  7.8  Moreover, the Welsh partnership has successfully secured a range of support measures from the European Union to assist in vulnerable areas over the next seven years, not least of which is the derogation of West Wales and the Valleys as an 87(3)a area under EU State Aid law. This allows us to deliver a whole range of financial benefits to companies in that area which would normally have been deemed illegal under European Competition law.

  7.9  We would urge a closer level of dialogue between the National Assembly and the Chancellor, through the office of the Secretary of State if this is appropriate in the first instance. In order to explore complementary domestic and EU policies, as well as methods of implementing highly effective financial engineering tools, such as operating aid.


  8.1  The Association:

  8.2  Recommends that there should be closer collaboration between the Foreign Office, the Wales Office, the National Assembly and the Wales European Centre on matters of diplomatic representation in Europe and internationally;

  8.3  Stands ready to build on the initial contacts we have established with UK government colleagues at political and official levels, in order to provide briefings from Welsh local government and social partners for Cabinet Office and Foreign Office diplomats and officials where we have clear expertise to offer;

  8.4  Would welcome improved dialogue between DfEE, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, local government, the Assembly and its key agencies in promoting sport and culture abroad;

  8.5  Would welcome a more distinctive approach to promoting a stronger Welsh dimension within the British Council's work;

  8.6  Would welcome a clearer definition of the relationship between the roles and responsibilities of the WTB and the BTA in promoting Welsh tourism overseas;

  8.7  Urges the BTA to introduce quantifiable targets for regional distribution of incoming overseas visitors and a review of how the WTB's overseas marketing functions are funded and how its relationship with the BTA affects this;

  8.8  Would welcome greater collaboration between Welsh agencies in terms of linking the promotion of Wales as a tourism destination with other Welsh strengths;

  8.9  Recommends, as a matter of urgency, a clearer definition and better collaboration concerning the inter-relationship between the DTI and the WDA. This includes detailing precisely what each offers for Wales in terms of supporting export opportunities, inward investment activity, and initiatives to encourage indigenous economic growth;

  8.10  Urges a better level of dialogue between the National Assembly through the Wales Office with the Treasury to explore all avenues of supporting inwardly investing firms as well as prospective and existing Welsh exporters.

Huw Bryer

Policy Officer (European and International Affairs)

24 October 2000

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