Memorandum submitted by the Welsh Local
1. GENERAL COMMENT
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
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 issueseg employment,
training, social inclusion, environment and transportare
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
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
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. CULTURAL AND
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
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
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
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
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
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. EXPORT AND
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
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
8.5 Would welcome a more distinctive approach
to promoting a stronger Welsh dimension within the British Council's
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
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.
Policy Officer (European and International Affairs)
24 October 2000