Michael Gove: What levelling up means for Wales
The glories of Wales speak for themselves. A proud past as a crucible of the industrial revolution and, with growing strengths in aerospace and advanced manufacturing, exceptional universities, a world-renowned sporting and cultural heritage and a spellbinding landscape, a future full of promise.
We know that times are challenging, at home and abroad. But this only makes our mission to level up opportunity and prosperity across the whole of the United Kingdom more urgent. Wales has all the core strengths a nation needs to thrive in the years ahead. Its natural resources and human capital are second to none.
For too long, though, in common with communities across the UK, the potential of many parts of Wales has been undervalued and untapped. That is changing.
The Welsh Government today has the biggest block grant in the history of devolution.
Communities from Rhyl to Raglan are getting £121m from the Community Ownership Fund and the Levelling Up Fund, alongside £790m for city and growth deals.
Local leaders in Wales, too, are being empowered as never before.
The £585m that Wales is receiving from our new £2.6bn UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which replaces old EU structural funds, is going directly to them to spend on local priorities. They are also being armed with greater powers and more funding through our levelling up agenda.
But it is clear we need to go further, drawing on the success of close collaboration between the Welsh and UK governments through the pandemic and particularly the vaccination programme.
And it is in that spirit of shared purpose and partnership that the Welsh and UK governments have come together to bring a new freeport to Wales – a designated zone with tax breaks and rebates for local investment and regeneration.
This means more good jobs for local people, more inward investment for businesses and infrastructure, and more opportunities for growth and global trade – for putting Wales’s ports and people on the international map.
The UK Government is backing a Welsh freeport with up to £26m of funding. Crucially, both governments will have an equal say on the successful bid and are leaving the door open for second freeport in Wales if we receive a truly exceptional proposal.
This is just the latest example of levelling up in action and a vote of confidence in the strength of the United Kingdom.
It follows the announcement, earlier this year, of two new green freeports for Scotland and the conclusion of the revitalised ways of working to make it easier for the UK and devolved governments to work well together on common challenges and shared goals.
I know many communities will be keen to grasp this exciting opportunity and I look forward to seeing ambitious bids that really deliver for the people of Wales.
Welsh ports have glorious heritage as undisputed titans of global industry, free trade and innovation, helping propel the United Kingdom to unseen heights.
With a new freeport and both the Welsh and the UK governments united behind levelling up Wales and the whole of the UK, they can and will be so again in a new era of opportunity and prosperity for all.
- Michael Gove is the UK Government Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.