Council Leader unveils Capital Ambition for Cardiff


Council Leader unveils Capital Ambition for Cardiff


The Leader of Cardiff Council spoke to a packed audience about his new administration's ambitious five year plan for the city.


Talking to guests from the worlds of business, politics, education, charity, arts, hospitality and media at the event hosted by Cardiff and Vale College City Centre Campus, Cllr Huw Thomas described how he believes Cardiff has an opportunity to become a leading city on the world stage.




Unveiling the five year plan - called Capital Ambition - Cllr Thomas said: "Cardiff has so much potential, and we - all of us here tonight - we have the chance to make Cardiff a truly great world capital, where the benefits of growth are felt by all our citizens, our region and our nation."



Here is the full text of Cllr Thomas' speech:


Capital Ambition


Let's get straight in to it.


I believe that Cardiff is facing a historic opportunity.


A generation ago the city was grappling with the challenges of deindustrialisation, which brought with it recession, mass unemployment and the dereliction of many communities.


How times have changed.


Cardiff is now a true economic, cultural and political capital.


The city economy now ranks among the most competitive of the UK core cities


Employment growth and population growth is the fastest of all the Core Cities;


Business growth in Cardiff is faster than the UK average;


And, for me, the recent Champions League final underlined the extent to which Cardiff has arrived as a front-ranking European Capital City.


What a show our city put on in front of a global audience of billions.


As Aleksander Ceferin, the Uefa president himself, said: "We delivered nothing short of excellence."


Cardiff's profile has never been higher, and visitor numbers are growing every year.


Our capital city is home to world class universities, sporting and cultural institutions and creative start-ups; major companies, entrepreneurs and innovators.


Many of you are in the room tonight.


Undeniably, Cardiff is Wales' strongest economic asset and its brightest hope to secure economic success.


That is why I believe that we are on the cross roads of a historic opportunity.


Cardiff has so much potential, and we - all of us here tonight - we have the chance to make Cardiff a truly great world capital, where the benefits of growth are felt by all our citizens, our region and our nation.


But the challenges too, are clear and numerous.


For starters, the gap between rich and poor has for too long been allowed to grow.


Income inequality in Cardiff is higher than in any other British city.


And so we need to be honest - the rising tide of Cardiff's economy has not lifted all boats.


And the idea that we can ‘grow now and redistribute later' has left too many of our communities feeling isolated from opportunities and too many people in Cardiff - many from working families - struggling to meet their basic needs.


It cannot be right that in the nation's commercial engine almost a third of households are living in poverty, one in four children are living in poverty.


Indeed, if the ‘Southern Arc' of Cardiff, from Ely in the West to Trowbridge in the East - an area of over 60,000 people - was considered a single local authority, it would be far and away the poorest in Wales.


This poverty casts a long shadow over too many people's lives. It scars their prospects, damages their health and too often, shortens lives.


In Cardiff there is a healthy life expectancy gap of over 22 years between the richest and poorest communities.


This cannot be right.


And it cannot be right that there will be people sleeping rough on the streets of our city tonight.


Tackling poverty and addressing inequality must therefore be at the heart of my Administration.


We must recognise too that there are some - a tiny, tiny minority - in our city who do not share our values of freedom, tolerance and democracy.


Recent events - across Britain and here in Cardiff - are surely an exhortation that we must do more to foster understanding, strengthen communities, and build equality- for it is the absence of these that start people on the journey, from fear and jealousy to hate and extremism.


Cardiff has a fantastic reputation for being a diverse and welcoming city - but we can't take this for granted.


It is one of the great challenges that our city - all cities - are facing right now.


We will also face up to the challenges that growth will bring.

It puts pressure on both the city's physical infrastructure- our roads and public transport system, our energy and water infrastructures.


It will put pressure too on public services.






More school age children will mean that we will need more schools and more teachers.


And though Cardiff is a young city, growth will mean that the number of citizens over 85 years old is expected to nearly double by 2030. Rates of dementia alone will double over the next 20 years.


In Cardiff, and across Britain, we have an emerging social care crisis to which there are no obvious and easy solutions.


And, of course, these growth pressures - or ‘growing pains' as the BBC have chosen to call them - are set to increase a time of rapidly reducing resources.

These challenges - of inequality, of growth, of sustainability - must be met with bold solutions and big ideas.


Our Capital Ambition for Cardiff, that the Council's Cabinet approved earlier today, sets out a programme of action which I am confident offers just that.


Firstly, we are committed to driving the economy forward and making sure that all our citizens can contribute to, and benefit from, the city's success.


Attracting, retaining and generating investment to grow the economy will therefore be a first order priority. And it is thus because of our belief that the surest way of tackling inequality is to get people into work, so they are empowered to lift themselves out of poverty.


The regeneration of Central Square underlines the extent to which Cardiff is entering a new cycle of investment.


And our immediate priority is to continue to grow the city centre as a location for businesses and investment. We will complete the new business district and gateway to Wales to the north and south of Cardiff Central Station. And we will deliver a new transport interchange which will be at the heart of the Cardiff Metro.


We will also prioritise the delivery of a new 12-15000 seat Multi-Purpose Indoor Arena.


The Arena will be the final piece in the jigsaw of our leisure and cultural infrastructure, allowing us to continue to attract the biggest and best international sporting and cultural events to Wales.


And it is my intention also to bring forward exciting new plans for the continued regeneration of Dumballs Road to link up the City Centre with the Bay, whilst rebuilding lost momentum around the Sports Village.


We will work with our universities and the partners in Health to continue to upgrade the city's innovation infrastructure.


And we will develop a new Industrial Strategy for the East of the city.

Now on this, the opening of the first phase of the Eastern Bay Link represents the first major transport investment into the Capital City since devolution - we want to see it completed, as the cornerstone of the new Industrial Strategy and a catalyst for a transformation of some of our city's most disconnected and deprived communities.


This is important and will build on the positive developments that are taking place on the east of the city, including the exciting proposals for the delivery of a next generation business park - St Mellons Parkway - which will be based on better rail connections between the city centre and South Wales Valleys.






Our cultural sector is another string to our city's bow.


We have the infrastructure; we have a world class cultural and creative sector; and as capital city - a bilingual capital city, too - we have a point of difference which sets us apart.


As a city, it's one of our strongest cards.


That is why I want to explore a bid for European Capital of Culture. Delivering bold, ambitious projects like these is what Cardiff does best.


I would say that no city does them better.


So I want to quickly bring the city's cultural and creative community together to decide whether this is the right idea, at the right time, for Cardiff.


And regardless of the final outcome, we will continue to support the grass roots of cultural life in the city.


I can tell you that we are working closely with Clwb Ivor Bach to find a solution that will secure the future of live music in Womanby Street, and I am looking forward to sharing some good news with you all on this issue at some point over the coming weeks.


Of course, all these plans, we cannot do this alone.


The city's success has been built on a bedrock of a strong relationship between the Council and private, public and voluntary sector partners.


This needs to continue.


In particular, a strong relationship between the Council and the business community is a pre-condition of city success - and I look forward to working with colleagues in the private sector on the development of a new City Business Forum for Cardiff over the year ahead. If you are an entrepreneur with an idea, a transformational innovation, a vision for growth, then this Council's wants to work with you to help make it a reality


But while growth is necessary, it is not sufficient on its own.


Can I be clear - yes, we need economic growth, but this needs to be growth that benefits everyone.


Every project we take forward must translate into jobs and opportunities for the people that need them most. Now 5 years ago, Cardiff Council voted to become a living wage employer - it was the proudest vote I've cast so far. Today, far too many of Cardiff's citizens are beset with the issue of low wages. Where the Council has led, I expect others to follow, so that growth translates into good jobs which offer a fair day's pay for a fair's day's work.


And a strategic focus on job creation must go hand in hand with a focus on removing barriers to getting and keeping a job - whatever they may be.


Alongside good jobs, we believe that a good education remains the surest route out of poverty.

Five years ago, in one of Britain's smartest cities, the school system was failing.

Not anymore. Over the last 5 years GCSE results in Cardiff improved by over 12%. We should be rightly proud of this improvement. But we have much more work to do.

Too many schools are still underperforming, particularly in the city's most deprived areas. And the gap in attainment of pupils from low-income families, for looked-after children and for pupils with English as an additional language remains unacceptably wide.


Narrowing this gap will be a measure of the success of this administration.


To do so we will continue to invest in and improve our schools.


In the face of austerity we have invested £169m in our schools.

We have opened new primary schools across the city.


In the New Year Eastern High School will move into a brand new building, jointly developed with Cardiff and the Vale College, as the Eastern Learning Campus.


And in the West of the city we will be opening the new Cardiff West Community High School in September, and starting construction on a new £36m building for the school to move into.


We now need to turn our attention to the future.


We intend to take full advantage of the next phase of the 21st Century Schools programme - working with Welsh Government to deliver a new generation of schools that will help to accelerate further the improvement in the performance of local schools.


But it's not just about building new schools.


We face a severe maintenance backlog, arising from years of underinvestment in the school estate.


My administration will do all it can to ensure that our children are educated in schools that are fit for purpose and provide a focal-point for the wider community.


This is important.


We intend to strengthen the role that every school plays at the heart of their community; and seek to build bridges between our schools and local employers.


I mentioned earlier the transition that our young people make from schools in to work.


5 years ago we committed to be a ‘NEET-free' city. Rates have dropped from 8% to around 3%. But, again, we have much more to do. Too many young people are still failing to make the transition to education, employment or training.


The Cardiff Commitment - where we are strengthening links between schools and business - will be one of the major initiatives of my administration.


I must say, the response from the business community to this initiative has been excellent. I know many of you here tonight have committed to providing apprenticeships, to youth mentoring or to speaking in our schools - from the big employers like Admiral and Brains to our many small, smart companies like the Big Learning Company and everybody at the Tramshed.


Last week, was ‘Open Your Eyes' Week. 27 companies - including BBC Wales and GE Aviation - went in to primary schools in the West of the city to talk to Year 6 students; to ignite their interest in the many different careers they could pursue, and to inspire them to do well in school.


The Cardiff Commitment is an example of what we can achieve as a city when we come together around a common challenge.


I call on you all to get involved.





If you talk to any young person in Cardiff about their priorities, alongside getting a good jobs they will almost certainly mention housing. I know from personal experience that is an issue that dominates Councillor Advice surgeries


This is hardly surprising when the average house costs around eight times the average salary. Amongst Core Cities, only across the Severn in Bristol are houses less affordable. There is a housing crisis in Cardiff, and we are committed to tackling it. Cardiff's LDP, agreed by the last Labour administration, identifies land for the construction of 40,000 houses. In some corners of the city, this causes angst, but I tell you what, I welcome the opportunity this provides, to deliver good quality accommodation - a basic human right - to all of Cardiff's residents.


Cardiff Council is one of only a handful of local authorities who have committed to building new Council homes. The 1,000 new Council homes we will build is a great start, but we want to go further.


And as the city grows, we will work with developers to deliver over six and a half thousand new affordable homes, so that we can finally end the scandal where people languish for a decade on the housing waiting list.


I want to be clear: our commitment to this is fundamental.


Developers - you play a crucial role in the city, providing some of the impetus behind economic development. We will help you deliver your projects to drive the city forward.


But you have to work with us, to make sure that these developments work for the widest number of people possible; that we are delivering affordable housing; that we are incubating great communities in which to live; and that we are creating apprenticeships, good jobs and good careers for young people in the construction industry.


At the same time, we will work with partners to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness.


We will adopt a ‘No First Night Out' policy, and we won't be afraid to pilot radical new approaches, including a ‘Housing First' model which moves rough sleepers straight from the streets into a home. We know that the rise in those facing destitution is not acceptable - and we intend to tackle it.


Good Jobs. Great education. Affordable Housing in strong, safe and confident communities. Making sure that the dividend of growth is shared as widely as possible.


These will be at the heart of our ambitions for Cardiff.


Allied to this, my administration is committed to making sure that Cardiff grows in a resilient way.






Cardiff is Britain's leading major city for recycling. Rates have risen from 4% to 58% over the last 15 years. A radical improvement. But we must not rest on our laurels, but rather continue to set ambitious goals in this vital area.

I am also proud that over the next five years we will explore how the Council can divest from its investments in fossil fuels.


It is a cliché to say that I want to be the greenest administration ever, but if we are serious about a 25 year vision for Cardiff's future, then taking bold steps to ensure we play our part in combating climate change is critical.


Resilient growth also means ensuring our communities - new and old - are well-planned and well-connected.


Tackling congestion and getting our transport system right is one of this Administration's top priorities.


More and more people are cycling or walking to work, catching the bus or taking the train. But it's not changing fast enough. If you'll excuse the pun, it's time for Cardiff to go up another gear.


The Metro is vital - and I'm keen to do all I can to maximise the impact it makes on our communities.


But the Metro also needs to be complemented by a step-change in the quality of transport infrastructure in the city.

Delivery of the new central bus station is an important commitment to the people of Cardiff. But it also needs to link to a comprehensive modernisation of Cardiff Central Station - and I intend to work with the UK and Welsh Governments, Network Rail and the private sector to make this a vital objective of the next five years.

Our Capital Ambition for Cardiff commits us to a wide range of interventions to help increase sustainable and active travel.

We are committed to creating segregated Cycle Super Highways and investing into upgrading popular routes like the Taff Trail, the Bay Loop and Castle Street.


And later this year, we will bring forward a Green Paper on Sustainable Transport in Cardiff.


In sum, transport makes or breaks cities.


With 90,000 people coming in and out of Cardiff each and every day - 80% of them by car - this is a challenge we cannot meet alone.


In this area, as in many others I've talked about tonight, our ambition cannot stop at the boundaries of the city.


That is why my administration is committed to making Cardiff a capital city that works for Wales.


National prosperity requires successful cities.


It's the same all over the world. Point to a dynamic, technology-driven economy and I'll point to a resurgent major city at its heart.


If we fail, Wales will fail.


And if we succeed, Wales too will benefit.


So we need to understand that our actions have wider implications.


And we are duty-bound to ensure that Cardiff not only continues to generate employment and growth but that we actively pursue ways to ensure that its regeneration is felt across communities in the wider city-region, and in particular the South Wales Valleys.


Talking to politicians from Local Authorities in the Valleys, I'm aware of the changes taking place across those communities, not least in terms of attitudes towards Cardiff.


Increasingly, people across the region - especially the young - understand the benefits that flow from having a major European Capital City on their doorstep whether that's in terms of where they work, where they go for a night out, or where they study.


People understand that the success of the Cardiff's economy is crucial to retaining jobs and opportunities in the area.


And as politicians we need to respond to this.


We need to shape a unified city-region agenda that makes Cardiff's growth more accessible to people in the Valleys.


And we need to build a relationship with the leaders of Valley councils based, not on an arrogant we-know-best attitude, but on an understanding that all the communities of south-east Wales have something to offer city-region collaboration and something to gain from its success.


We can't afford the tribalism of the past which disfigured city-region relationships for too many years.


I am personally committed and invested in constructing a win-win relationship between city and region.


One where we make the most of the Metro investment to support Cardiff and - crucially - deliver regeneration in the Valleys.


City-regional devolution is proceeding at speed in England, creating a powerful layer of urban governance that has the potential to drive our competitors forward.


The Capital Region cannot be left behind.


Let's be honest - the City Deal is a good start, but no more than that.


Now, £1.5bn over 2 years would be transformational - but £500m over 20 years will not be.


It can though act as a catalyst for the creation of a grown-up city-regionalism where honest discussions - and strategic decisions - about housing, transport and investment are taken for the longer-term benefit of the whole of the Capital Region, and ultimately, Wales.


It can also provide the platform for Cardiff, the region and Welsh Government to come together behind our capital city brand to attract businesses, investment and people from across the world to Wales.









Because in a post-Brexit global economy, Cardiff must continue to be the outward looking and international city it always has been, acting as a connecting point between Wales and the world.




When was the last time you heard a politician speak for so long without mentioned Brexit?


Be in no doubt, a hard Brexit will hurt Cardiff. We are in the top 5 UK cities most reliant on EU markets. 61% of our business' exports go to EU member states.


Our public services and higher education rely on talented people from across Europe.


Little surprise therefore that 60% of Cardiff voters cast their ballot to remain in the European Union.


That is why in ‘Capital Ambition' we commit ourselves to advocating strongly and proudly for unfettered access to the Single Market, and guarantees for international students and workers.


Neither have I mentioned austerity.


Is this because the era of austerity is now over, as I keep reading in the press?


Let me tell you, the rhetoric may have changed; the reality has not.


Cardiff Council has to plan for £80m in cuts over the next 3 years. This is on top of over a quarter of a billion over the last decade and a reduction of over 20% in our non-school staff.


The budget challenge we face is severe.


Difficult decisions will need to be taken about the scope and scale - and even the existence - of some public services.


Such is the scale of the cuts, everything we do needs to be challenged, reviewed and reconsidered.


The way we work and deliver services will have to modernise and change.


As an organisation we must move away from dealing with problems in isolation and begin to integrate frontline teams, empowered to address the day-to-day issues we know need solving.


In short, the Council must act as one seamless team to drive improvement across the city.


"It's not my job" is not good enough. We need to create a culture of one council, one workforce with one purpose - to deliver for the residents of our city.


Colleagues in the health service, police, fire - all our city's public services - I know that you all are facing the similar challenges.


Know that we are committed to working in ever-closer partnership with you to bring the full weight of the public sector to tackle some of the hardest issues we face and deliver lasting solutions to complex problems - like helping people live independently in the community; or supporting children in care; or helping people who are currently a long way from the labour marker to get and keep a good job. We are committed to making sure that every pound of public money is spent in the best possible way, irrespective of organisational or administrative boundaries.


Now I know that there are some who flinch and sneer at the scale of the ambitions we have set out. Having broken the cardinal rule of the internet, and read the comments on the news articles, I see some think it is presumptuous to want to be a leading world capital, that we have ideas above our station. I reject such suggestions entirely. Had my predecessors in this role during the 80s and 90s not been bold and creative in their approach, then Cardiff would have remained a relative backwater. Projects from the regeneration of Cardiff Bay to the Millennium Stadium show what can be delivered when local Government shows ambition and works with partners to deliver.


Moreover, the challenges that we face mandate us to lift our horizons, and consider how Cardiff could evolve over the next 25 years.


But do not mistake our aspirations for hubris. We are committed to getting the basics, the bread and butter of the Council's work, right. We are committed to getting our street and communities clean, introducing a new ‘Total Street' approach that joins-up our services at the ground level. We will introduce a zero tolerance policy towards fly-tipping and street littering. And we will invest in our existing roads to address the issues we face with potholes.


 And on Social Services our commitment is unequivocal - we will provide the highest quality of social care possible, in practice and delivery. Nothing less is good enough.


In the face of austerity, we have invested in recruiting new social workers and have made big strides in improving children's services. I am determined that this improvement continues.


In particular, we will make sure that our most vulnerable children are healthy and safe. Of course, we will be focussed on supporting children and young people in our care, and when they leave it too.


But we need to make a step-change at the community-level - joining-up schools and social services; health and police - to support families, and to tackle problems early, before they develop into crises.


The way we look after our older people is a message to future generations. We are committed to working in ever-closer partnership with the Health Service and the Third Sector to find working solutions to both the immediate pressures we all face and to the long term challenge of delivering sustainable social care.


Again, the answer must lie in how we work together at the community level, breaking down barriers between our organisations and between ourselves and those who need, or provide, care.


We are committed to making sure that as many people as possible are able to receive care and support in their communities, and to live independently in their own homes. And we will deliver state-of-the art centres to provide specialist services for those suffering with dementia.


Finally, I want to reflect on how we must work if we are to deliver our ambitions for the city, and here I draw on some advice that my Dad sent me in a text message recently. ‘Strong and stable' is a mantra which too often rings hollow he said. Instead ‘Humbly and simply' can take you very far indeed. So whilst we have a simplicity of purpose - to improve the lives of Cardiffians, and be a Capital city for Wales, we also have humility to acknowledge that we have neither all the answers, nor all the means to solve the challenges we face. These we must work on, together.


I know I have a committed and talented Cabinet to guide the work in their areas. I know that my party has Councillors from all corners of the city filled with passion, enthusiasm and ideas, and I also know that we have opposition Councillors who will constructively scrutinise and rightly hold us to account. Regardless of politics, I know we all want what's best for this city.


But to succeed, this endeavour will also require the hard work and the dedication of Council officers, of our Trade Unions, of our teachers, our social workers, our road sweepers, our librarians.


More broadly, our police officers, fire fighters, doctors and nurses.


They are the bedrock of our public services, and are vital in helping change happen, and helping to deliver a cleaner, healthier, fairer city.


And everyone of you in this room tonight, and every citizen of Cardiff can also make an important contribution to life in our city.


Each of us, as community activists, as parents, as volunteers, as business owners, in this room as civic leaders, can help play our part in building a city where everyone makes a valuable and valued contribution.


We are proposing a new deal with the people of Cardiff, which recognises that yes, we have rights, but we have responsibilities to each other - to help keep our neighbourhoods clean, to look out for each other, to help those in need.


My commitment, as Leader of the Council, is to work with you to make Cardiff a better place to live for all our people, rooted in the values of fairness and social justice.


We have a chance here to create a capital city that is ambitious for the people we serve, and ambitious for Wales. It's a chance that's historic, it's exciting, and it's ours to deliver


Let's make it happen.


Thank you.