At this point in time, the UK has not fully entered a Covid-19 recovery phase and the consequences of Brexit are being worked through. It is important to acknowledge that some indicators and research show disruptions, due to Covid-19 especially, which makes planning at a time of uncertainty particularly challenging. We will review our analyses to ensure they reflect current and future trends as and when new or more reliable information becomes available.
Climate and ecological change is the globally defining challenge of our time. It impacts all living things. The rise in global temperature is causing our climate and our planet to change. The impacts of climate change are hotter drier summers, warmer wetter winters, more extreme weather events and sea level rises. The consequences of climate change are far reaching and cause more drought and wildfire, stronger storms, more heat waves, flooding, damaged corals, less snow and ice and the thawing of the permafrost; changes in plant life cycles and changes to animal migration and life cycles. The effects are disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest communities, but here in Conwy and Denbighshire, some of the communities most at risk are also at risk of other factors that negatively affect well-being.
The challenges and opportunities associated with a green economy remain enormous and will require focussed efforts from across industry, agriculture and the public sector. Economic growth has traditionally, and in some cases continues to be, at odds with the health of our planet and all living things.
The combination of Covid-19 and Brexit has brought about significant change and uncertainty for our national and local economic prosperity, community and individual well-being. Economists expect that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a permanent loss in economic output, meaning that the economy will be smaller after the pandemic than it would have been without the pandemic. For Conwy and Denbighshire, longer term impacts could result from the short term shocks to the economy but these are likely to be inconsistent across sectors and areas.
Critically, economic prosperity and well-being are mutually reinforcing and any economic deterioration is likely to affect the most vulnerable more profoundly. As a result of Covid-19 and Brexit, we are expecting to experience exacerbated inequalities for the short, medium and long term. These are likely to include: disparity in education, skills and employment outcomes; an older population in poorer health and poorer health and well-being generally. Increasing or worsening well-being is more likely to affect people facing socio-economic disadvantage or for people with protected characteristics.
Conwy and Denbighshire are likely to continue to experience outmigration of young people away from the area. Net out migration of young adults has a knock-on effect on the whole population structure. As well as being the basis of the working age population that drives our economy, they are also the people who will become parents. Fewer babies being born because of an ‘absent’ parental cohort means even fewer young adults in the next generation, which then becomes a compound effect on the age imbalance in the population. If past trends continue, it is predicted that by 2039 those aged 65 and over will make up a third of the local population, whereas those aged under 25 will make up just less than one quarter. This trend has implications for health in particular.
Overall, the root cause of well-being inequality appears to be poverty. Specifically, its associated relationship with factors such as very poor health, being disabled, workless, having no or only a basic education, being single, separated, widowed or divorced, renting or being middle aged. People living in the most deprived areas not only have a shorter lifespan, but also spend less of it in good health. Despite overall increases in life expectancy, the gap between the proportion of life expected to be spent in good health in the most and least deprive areas has shown no clear sign of reducing in the last 10 years. Whilst the long term resilience of groups with poorer personal well-being and less favourable outcomes is currently unclear, without intervention, some small communities are likely to continue living with factors associated with deep rooted deprivation.
Though it is currently too soon to know what the long-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic may be, we can speculate that there may be changes in some of the societal structures and behaviours resulting from this issue. These include:
- possible changes in the way higher education is delivered may influence where young people live
- changes in employment opportunities and practices may mean some jobs no longer need to be based in cities (though employment may not be the only pull factor)
- increasing housing prices if home-working opportunities encourage relocation from outside the area.
A green economy
Despite a recent brief reduction in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the social distancing measures of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government has said that the 2030 carbon emission reduction pledges – made by 184 countries under the Paris Agreement – aren’t enough to limit global warming to below 2°C and pursue 1.5°C. The world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that global carbon emissions would need to reduce to net zero by 2050 at the latest to ensure global temperatures remained under 1.5 ˚C and that the majority of actions required to meet this target would need to be completed by 2030. Achieving 1.5°C would require global emissions to reduce by 7.6% every year. Even the most ambitious national climate action plans are far short of a 7.6% reduction. The world needs a five-fold increase in collective current commitments.
The most widely used and authoritative green economy definition comes from the United Nations Environment Programme.
“[A] green economy [is] one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”
This describes a highly connective, and regenerative economy that achieves growth but not at the expense of the well-being of the planet or the communities it is home to. Skills, technology, energy, construction, a circular (reduce, reuse, recycle) economy, enterprise, community well-being are all critical to a green economy, and these are discussed within this goal summary and across the other six well-being goal summaries.
Analysis of how lifestyles across Europe are driving environmental degradation has concluded that in order to live within environmental limits, profound changes are needed (The European environment – state and outlook 2020). There is a general need to reduce levels of production and consumption in line with United Nations sustainable development goal 12 to ‘ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’, in pursuit of a regenerative economy. An obvious starting point is to focus on the core systems that are placing the most pressure on ecosystems. These are based around food, energy and transport (European Environmental Agency, 2019).
The global energy system is one of the main drivers of the climate emergency. Wales’s current energy production and consumption creates many pressures for ecosystems and public health here and across the planet. Wales needs to increase its use of renewable and sustainable energy sources, reducing the current dependence on harmful fossil fuels. Resilient communities are those able to successfully adapt to change. The two areas have inescapable responsibilities for meeting carbon reduction and recycling targets for the protection of the local environment and the wider world (see our summary on the ‘resilient’ well-being goal for further information).
The Legatum Institute Foundation published its updated UK Prosperity Index in 2021, to map levels of prosperity and how this compares with the last ten years. This index will likely inform UK-wide and national policy interventions, although it’s definition doesn’t fully relate to the definitions of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 – notably in relation to the sustainable development principle and a globally responsible goal. The index draws together 256 indicators into around 50 themes. The key weaknesses to prosperity in our area tended to focus on our economy and living conditions (for example, access to amenities and services and digital infrastructure):
- Conwy County Borough was ranked as 319th in terms of overall prosperity when compared to 379 other UK local authority areas (and ranked as 339th in 2011 and 328 in 2020).
- Denbighshire ranked 329th in terms of overall prosperity when compared to 379 other UK local authority areas (and ranked as 333rd in 2011 and 325 in 2020).
- Both Conwy County Borough and Denbighshire were ranked as good (green) for Personal Freedom, Governance, and the Natural Environment.
- Denbighshire was listed in the bottom 20 for Economic Quality, and for Living Conditions.
- Conwy was listed in the bottom 20 for Open Economies, Economic Quality, and Living Conditions.
The impacts of Brexit and Covid-19 affect and will continue to affect different sectors in different ways. Certain economic sectors, particularly agriculture in Conwy and Denbighshire, will be affected by Brexit, with food and tourism sectors being affected during the Covid-19 pandemic. Across the medium to long term, some sectors will need to restructure or adjust to survive and any decline in sectors will result in some people finding themselves in longer term unemployment.
According to the Wales Centre for Public Policy, the EU is the most economically valuable international trading partner for Wales and the UK, meaning that Brexit has and will continue to have a profound impact on the Welsh economy. Over the medium to long term, we are anticipating that sectors relying on importing and exporting to the EU – like the agricultural and food sectors, or manufacturing and steel for example – will be most impacted. For Conwy and Denbighshire, this could mean sheep production, steel (with some people living in Conwy and Denbighshire potentially working in steel) and tourism.
During the recent economic shocks of Brexit and Covid-19, it is likely that those affected by shut-down sectors have protected characteristics e.g. are women, likely to be have Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black Caribbean ancestry, are up to three times as likely to be under 25 and are more likely to be low-income workers.
Both local authority areas also have large public sectors that play a significant role in the local economy. These sectors are starting to address their contribution to carbon emissions and have levers to stimulate a lower carbon more widely, across geographies, for example through procurement, service design and regulatory regimes. In the context of reducing public sector budgets, the size and role of these sectors presents a challenge which could negatively impact on employment levels and demand for goods and services. The Social Care and Health sectors are particularly hard pressed. Increasing recruitment pressures and an aging workforce in the health sector along with concerns about the functioning of social care markets are raised in the assessment. Tourism and Agriculture are also strategically important sectors in both counties.
The impact of Brexit on the rural economy has the potential to be very significant. The agricultural sector of both counties used to receive tens of millions of pounds each year in direct payments as part of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, and rural areas benefited from various other EU funding programmes and initiatives. Welsh farm subsidy changes have recently been delayed again to 2025.
While, overall, performing well (notwithstanding 2020-21), the local tourism industry is fragile – and this was the case prior to the combined effects of Brexit and Covid-19 in particular. It is difficult to assess the medium to long term trend for tourism in our area. What is clear though is that we have a great opportunity for the area to showcase its offer, and to develop relationships with new visitors.
Culture/nature-led regeneration, linked to our unique and historic heritage and landscape, together with more sophisticated forms of ‘experience’ – led by technological advances (virtual reality for example) – hold many promising opportunities. It will be important to view tourism within the context of the area’s Welsh culture and heritage, not only our landscape but also our strong agricultural culture. Culture and creative industries are likely to be at the heart of regeneration; developing capacity of both counties’ cultural, creative and tourism and hospitality sectors (hospitality (tourism and food) is already a key sector in Llandudno for instance). Over the longer term, people will look for more sophisticated online/virtual reality experiences from across the globe, especially as we all adapt to the consequences of climate change. For some this will mean reducing air travel and holidaying closer to home (eco-tourism). Authenticity and uniqueness will be critical to making these experiences fun, fulfilling and worthwhile.
At a UK level, the estimated employment rate for people aged between 16 and 64 years has generally been increasing since early 2012, largely driven by an increase in the employment rate for women and higher State Pension age. Again, at a UK level, the share of 18-29 year olds working in relatively lower-paying occupations has risen from below 30% to almost 40% since the early 1990s, while staying flat across the workforce as a whole. The share of 18-29 year olds working part-time or in a temporary job involuntarily has not fallen since 2017, whereas the proportion continues to fall for older age groups. People on a zero-hours contract are more likely to be younger. In 2017, 36% of people on zero-hours contracts were aged 16 to 24 years, compared with 11.4% for all people in employment. We do not have evidence to suggest this is not the case for the two counties.
The claimant count as a percentage of the working age population is the headline indicator we’re using for unemployment. In 2020, the claimant rate rose very rapidly as the Covid-19 pandemic struck – although it is worth noting that it had already been on the rise and stood above 3% in both counties in January 2020. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that in the spring of 2021, we had a claimant rate at around 6% in the two local authority areas (levels that had not been seen since the 1990s). In August 2021, the claimant rate fell to around 5%. We also continue to see substantial inequality between areas with the most deprived areas of each county having double digit claimant count rates in key neighbourhoods; with a rate of 19% seen in the most deprived area of West Rhyl. The Conwy sub areas “North”, “Central” and “East”, have higher claimant rates and higher than average levels of deprivation several domains of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation. There are also local variations whereby, currently, people aged 50+ make up a larger proportion of unemployed claimants than average in the “East” area of Conwy County Borough.
Denbighshire has the third highest youth unemployment rate of all Welsh Local Authorities, a rate which is significantly above the Wales and Great Britain levels (10.1% as at July 2021). Conwy’s rate stood at 9.1% in the same period. West Rhyl is the ward most affected and accounts for a 5th of the Denbighshire total. Although some recovery has begun, these levels of youth unemployment are at the same level of severity experienced in the aftermath of the credit crunch and subsequent down-turn (all age unemployment rates are actually worse than experienced in the credit crunch and are at levels not seen since the early 1990s). See our ‘local area profiles’ for more information.
Research currently underway by Working Denbighshire indicates that as for other age groups, disabled young people are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people.
There is clearly a significant issue with youth unemployment in the county and as expected particularly high-levels in the more deprived areas (and there is an association with homelessness). We are at a point of transition in terms of the funding for services to support this cohort and unemployed people of all ages.
The speed of the impact of Covid-19 may suggest that an equally swift recovery may be possible, but the fact that we were already seeing a rising rate suggests more fundamental issues, including Brexit, may also be having an impact. It is predicted that the unemployment rate will remain above the levels seen in 2019 at least into 2024. Transforming our economy to a green economy, that is fairer and greener is likely to be a UK and global priority for years to come.
Ongoing changes to businesses and employment will have a knock on effect on well-being – at a community and individual level. In the short term, what the Wales Centre for Public Policy calls “the well-being gap”, has increased during 2020 between the employed and unemployed. This could be due to the low well-being of people becoming newly unemployed (or furloughed) during this time, or a deterioration in the well-being of people who have remained unemployed.
Incomes and poverty
Ultimately, we would expect a strong economy, assuming secure work with fair income levels, to result in prosperous households and individuals leading in turn to a reduction in poverty.
Income and occupation (or simply being in employment) has a known relationship with personal well-being, whereby unemployment drives well-being and can lead to long term “scarring” effects. When combined with health problems or disability, personal well-being is likely to be negatively affected.
Neither Conwy nor Denbighshire are homogenous communities but are rather made up of a diverse range of different communities where income, education, employment opportunities and housing all vary substantially. Within this diverse mix are communities in both local authority areas with high concentrations of multiple-deprivation including some parts of Rhyl and Upper Denbigh within Denbighshire; and some parts of Pensarn, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno and Llysfaen within Conwy. For more information about local deprivation, please see our local area profiles.’
Overall household income levels in Conwy and Denbighshire are lower than the national average and a greater proportion of households in Conwy and Denbighshire are estimated to be in poverty, many of which are households with children. There is evidence of higher than average in-work poverty. Based on our analysis of claimant rates, the recent increase in the claimant count, and the time we expect it will take for the employment rate to recover, poverty and destitution (see our ‘tackling poverty and deprivation topic for more information), with food and fuel poverty, will be issues affecting adults and families with children over the next five to ten years at least. Pressures around food security will compound poverty further (see our summary on the ‘environmental’ well-being theme for more information).
Data indicates that there is a high incidence of children in low income families in Pensarn (Llandudno Junction), Pant-yr-afon/Penmaenan (Penmaenmawr) and Bryn (Llanfairfechan) wards – particularly ‘in-work’ families.
Multiple Deprivation in West and South West Rhyl is among the highest in Wales and encompasses worklessness, low incomes, and poor educational outcomes amongst other things. Additionally, Rhyl West 1, Rhyl West 2 and Rhyl South West 2 are identified by the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation as areas of ‘deep-rooted’ deprivation. Areas with ‘deep rooted deprivation’ are those that have remained within the top 50 most deprived – roughly equal to the top 2.6% – small areas in Wales for the last five publications of WIMD ranks. Of all the WIMD domains, the highest number of areas in Rhyl in the 10% most deprived areas was in the health domain. This clearly demonstrates the relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and health and well-being.
A person’s physical environment, their home – including access to green space – plays a key role; with poor health associated with homelessness, poor quality accommodation and fuel poverty. By the same token poverty, unemployment and personal safety, all affect a person’s physical and mental health.
Income levels are a key factor in the housing market affecting affordability of housing locally as well as demand for new properties. We have recently seen weakness in the owner-occupier market, an increasing reliance on private rented accommodation and increased homelessness. (see our summary on the ‘cohesive communities’ well-being goal for more information).
According to the Committee on Climate Change report of 2019 the UK’s legally-binding climate change targets will not be met without the near-complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Opportunities for emissions reduction from buildings are primarily energy efficiency, generation of low carbon electricity, and moving to low carbon heating and cooling. Wales has some of the oldest and least thermally efficient housing stock in Europe. The Welsh Government has implemented a number of initiatives to improve the efficiency of the Welsh housing stock and the percentage of dwellings with adequate energy performance. This is a significant improvement but housing stock will need to be made even more efficient and operate at close to zero emissions (Welsh Government, 2019).
The scale of the challenge for householders is great. Rising gas prices, inefficient housing stock, existing fuel poverty and particular challenges in rural areas, leaves some doubt as to the resilience of householders – of all tenures – in the future. Construction and decarbonising housing will be critical and could create many upskilling opportunities.
Education and skills
In common with other parts of Wales and the UK, the skills levels of the working age population in the two counties have been steadily improving in recent years. This can be seen in the rising trend in people with the highest levels of qualification and the falling trend for those with no qualifications. However, it is probably too soon to say how and to what extent these positive trends have been affected by Covid-19 in particular.
We had previously seen improvement across a range of attainment indicators with Conwy and Denbighshire reducing historic gaps in attainment, between themselves and Wales. We noted the need to improve significantly beyond the current Wales levels, of educational performance, in order to compete with the best globally. However, the educational attainment gap is predicted to widen, at least temporarily (although for how long is uncertain), as a result of school closures as part of social distancing measures during the Covid-19 pandemic. At a macro level, those children and young people worst affected are likely to be from poorer backgrounds and are likely to be male. Ethnic minority pupils and children with special educational needs and disabilities have been disproportionately negatively impacted educationally, due to school closures, and have reported a bigger fall in life satisfaction since lockdown. Furthermore, vulnerable children may have lost a place of safety because of school closures. This will result in long-term effects on educational progression, labour market performance and well-being.
There has been little change in the probability of jobs at risk of automation. Across the UK, in 2017, 7.4% (1.5 million) people were employed in jobs at high risk of automation (out of 19.9 million jobs analysed in England). This is 0.7% fewer when compared with 2011. When looking at those in jobs with a high risk of automation, women account for 70.2% of employees. The number of employees that were in jobs at low risk of automation in 2017 was 5.5 million, equating to 27.7% of all employees, a rise of 2.4% since 2011.
In term of skills for employment, different sectors face different opportunities and challenges. Most benefit lies in a truly green economy. However, without targeted efforts, inequalities are likely to persist with people from disadvantaged backgrounds, or women and people from a non-white background being east likely to benefit from the acquisition of green skills leading to jobs in green industries.
- Energy sector – Evolving energy policy, the emergence of new technologies and the transition to a low carbon economy are prompting radical changes in energy consumption, management and storage. The skills mix required by sector employers is expected to evolve in the future, to include soft skills, technical skills such as data analytics, as well as knowledge of new technologies as they emerge. This is a high skill sector with a limited supply of skilled and experienced workers. This may emerge as an area for action by the North Wales Energy Strategy.
- The health and social care sector is set to see increased demand, with a broader range of professions providing support in more community settings. Recruitment concerns are likely to remain for many years. At the root of this are many factors, including the relatively low wages, high demands, and sometimes a perceived lack of esteem/value in the care career path in particular. There are also some regional pressures associated with neighbouring employers offering higher salaries. The current workforce is predominantly female, has an older age profile, and is more highly qualified than the economy as a whole. There could be greater competition and more appealing benefits from working in other sectors.
- Opportunities to work in retail could be greater in the future as more businesses will operate online. This will require a technically proficient workforce.
- Digital and creative industries – The greatest recruitment challenges are currently experienced by those seeking workers with digital skills. Employers increasingly seek a fusion of creative and technical skills, combined with business and softer skills. Significant technological trends will include: strong growth in demand for technology from across the economy; the growing importance of cyber security; the convergence of content across platforms; mobile and cloud computing; big data and analytics; the automation of routine tasks; new applications of social media; and new business models and collaborative platforms. The future development of the sector could also be influenced by regulatory changes, but also – as a legacy of social distancing measures – greater demand for virtual experiences and participation in culture and heritage.
- Advanced manufacturing – Broadly described as manufacturing that is intensive in its use of capital and knowledge and requires a high level of technology utilisation and Research and Development. Although manufacturing employment as a whole is expected to decline up to 2022, recent forecasts have predicted that advanced manufacturing is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
- Agriculture- The farming sector has committed to reducing emissions from agriculture, which contributed 12% of overall Welsh greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. The sector is a pillar to the North Wales economy, employing 7% of the regional workforce and contributing over £370 million to the economy each year. Opportunities associated with low carbon farming, agri-food and tourism, nature friendly farming and so on are extensive.
- Construction – Recent issues within construction of supplies, labour shortages, use of materials means construction is advancing to decarbonising our homes, using sustainable materials, energy usage, modular and timber framed buildings and building off site is changing large parts of the industry. With the requirement to decarbonise homes there are opportunities available to upskill in retrofitting of homes and the use of new construction techniques.
The “Inequality in a Future Wales” report states:
“Unless addressed, predicted growth in science, technology and ‘green jobs’ will advantage the already advantaged because of an existing lack of diversity in relevant education, training and jobs. Preparations for a changing future of work should focus on job redesign and training, rather than mass job displacement. Job redesign decisions must involve those effected and support must be made available so training is accessible to all. New policies, such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) and remote working, need to consider equality.”
This continues to be a big issue for people living or working in the two counties (see our ‘transport and road safety’ topic for more information).
Road capacity will continue to be a concern: including traffic flows, constraints on expansion, and increases in traffic volumes following road improvements. The impact of lack of integrated public transport provision particularly for peripheral and rural communities remains challenging. There may be important associations with tourism. Promoting active travel (safe walking and cycling routes) and safe school transport routes are regarded as important solutions. The environmental impacts of transport, including air quality, impact of flooding events on transport infrastructure and carbon emissions will continue to feature in the short, medium and longer term. While electric vehicle charging infrastructure (for residents, visitors, tourists and users of public sector fleet vehicles) and hydrogen-powered vehicles offer potential benefits, there are challenges associated with these developments. Reducing private car use via active travel infrastructure, public transport and car share provision will be crucial, but with an understanding that a higher than UK average private car ownership will remain due to the counties’ geographies and integrated public transport issues.
Concerted efforts are underway to decarbonise our transport infrastructure, but challenges remain for those without access to their own personal car, which in turn can affect their personal economic and subjective well-being and ability to get to work, education or leisure opportunities. For those without access to a private car, transport challenges will persist over the long term. Developments in the provision of electric vehicles and charging provision are likely to come to fruition sooner in more urban and coastal areas. Access to affordable electric vehicles will be a barrier for those on low incomes (see our summary of the ‘More equal’ well-being goal for more information); whilst solutions such as electric vehicle car clubs could assist here; it is likely that those most at risk of socio-economic disadvantage will only have access to older electric vehicles or more polluting petrol/diesel vehicles which become more expensive to run. Sustainable development thinking here will be critical to preventing problems from occurring.
There continue to be geographical ‘not-spots’ throughout the area and improvements to infrastructure in these areas is likely to be slow to come to fruition. There are also many low income families who are unable to afford subscriptions to broadband services. Mobile data can be expensive; unaffordable even for those in poverty or at risk of socio-economic exclusion.
There continues to be poor 4G coverage on A and B roads across the area. Conwy is among the top ten local authorities with the lowest coverage by all operators for 4G outdoor geographic coverage across the UK. Lack of coverage undermines economic objectives and is unhelpful in relation to tourism.
Legacy of social distancing measures
It is almost certain that life will not return to how it was pre-Covid-19. Some of the behaviour changes resulting from social-distancing measures – for example, working from home – could remove the need to travel and indeed some people may choose to relocate completely, which could impact house prices (increases have already been observed) and potentially the vitality of the Welsh language in some communities.
Working from home, for example, is likely to continue for some or all of some people’s working lives. This has been a welcome adjustment to some, and has enabled people to balance their home and working lives more easily. For others though, the adjustment has brought about feelings of isolation and loneliness. There is the potential for women in certain roles becoming less visible should they continue to work from home.
There are opportunities for responding to new behaviours and ways of working, including reinforcing local towns and villages as not only community hubs, with community shops, but also destinations for visitors, including seeking ways to boost feeling of connectedness to compensate for the isolation that some experience as hybrid working (home working with some office time) is set to become the norm for nine out of ten businesses. Employers may also need to consider though, a potential loss of connectivity and innovation through reduced face to face contact. There will potentially be a greater expectation of the provision of services more locally to where people live as well as a greater awareness of the quantity and quality of the natural environment and access to spaces of nature close to home.
On the other hand, there are opportunities for sectors in Conwy and Denbighshire to attract a wider pool of talent given that people are able to work from anywhere, with the appropriate infrastructure being in place.
What people have told us
People have told us their concerns about the implications of climate change and have expressed their desire to be more supported and empowered to tackle climate change. Communities want to be more involved in protecting and respecting the environment.
Throughout our engagement with the public is was clear that they want to see innovative changes to decarbonise houses, transport and other infrastructure to tackle climate change. In particular, people want new planning applications for housing and schools to require renewable environmental infrastructure as mandatory, namely, heat pumps and solar panels. In order to work towards decarbonising our transport infrastructure, people have told us they want to see electric vehicle charging points and car parking spaces throughout the counties to encourage people to make the switch to electric.
In addition to this, many wanted to see changes to public transport to ensure it was more environmentally friendly. As well as aspiring to have electric buses, people want to see a change to the traditional bus schedules we are all accustomed to by offering a ‘Flexi’ bus service. This would allow people to book slots online as and when they needed to use public transport, rather than having set timetables, which could reduce pollution and make the service more efficient. Other transport issues arose as people raised concerns that they felt little or no incentive to use public transport due to the high cost, inconvenient times and the lack of local routes and national links. This was a particular concern for young people who said they have no concession rates and people who described themselves as ‘working class’.
People have told us they want to see more action taken to support communities to commit to and maintain healthy lifestyles. Active travel has been high on the agenda for the public as they want to see increased walking paths and cycling routes to neighbouring villages and towns. As well as increased maintenance of these routes, other improvements were mentioned, such as increased bike locks/storage, benches, water taps, toilets and better signage. Some of these improvements are thought to encourage ‘reluctant walkers’ and enable people to shop locally and cycle to work, in turn supporting the economy, environment and well-being.
The need to attract more ‘green’ employers into our communities was evident. Green employers were identified as those that can further enhance sustainable and resilient low-carbon environmental markets and offer secure long-term job opportunities. Some examples include those that can recycle local resources, green business consultancies and research and development companies for innovative green technologies. People also told us of the importance of having access to locally produced foods sources, specifically for rural communities.
People have concerns around the local economy and they want to ensure there is support for small businesses and the tourism sector to ensure the local economy can thrive in these difficult times. Similarly, the need for sufficient education, training and employability support for people of all economic activity levels has been evident throughout our engagement with the public. Although, in particular, people have told us that this kind of support for young people needs to be seen as a priority.
Similarly, the need for sufficient education, training and employability support for people of all economic activity levels has been evident throughout our engagement with the public. Although, in particular, people have told us that this kind of support for young people needs to be seen as a priority. Throughout our engagement with young people and in schools, young people told us that having available work experience opportunities was a key priority for them, and they find them difficult to find at the moment. They envision a future where there is one accessible platform where opportunities are advertised as they often don’t know where to look.
There are many concerns around the local economy and people are passionate about encouraging people to shop local and again. Free parking was a popular suggestion, as well as offering affordable fresh locally grown food. People felt local high street shops and small businesses need more support to help them survive and become more attractive. There was concerns of high turnover of high-street shops with many being left empty. They told us they wanted to see better maintenance of high-streets including good quality shops on offer.
Due to the seasonal nature of the labour market in some of coastal and tourist towns and villages, people have told us they are concerned about the lack of sustainable employment available to them. It is felt that there is a need to attract different types of private employers to increase jobs and support the local economy. In contrast, people recognise the recruitment issues some sectors are currently facing as they have become increasingly undesirable e.g. social care and hospitality, and they wish to see more support to address these problems.
People are concerned about child poverty, and the extent to which the public sector is working to improve the quality of life for people and children in poverty. Child hunger is a particular concern for people and they want to understand the root causes for hunger. People also want to ensure we ask those living in deprived areas to find out what they feel would improve their lives. Homelessness is seen as a factor in deprivation and so too housing quality. Poor housing has been highlighted by people as having a causal relationship with lower life expectancy.
People have told us of the importance of having access to good broadband, particularly full fibre, due to the shift in learning and working from home throughout the pandemic. Others wanted to ensure that, going forward, it is not only digital methods that are used to reach people as there is still a proportion of people who don’t use certain platforms and they may miss out on information.
From our engagement with seldom heard groups they told us that digital exclusion exists for communities where language, culture or social disadvantage is a common concern. There are also concerns that some may feel intimidated by attending engagement sessions online due to social or language barriers.
Housing support for young people was discussed at length by people; some of whom feel that rental accommodation is becoming unaffordable. They want to see improved access to good quality affordable housing, including social housing. Redevelopment of empty properties, including repurposing spaces that are no longer used (e.g. office space, dwellings above shops), in place of building new homes could be an opportunity. This could also mitigate people’s concerns that the space between towns and villages is reducing as new housing developments are built, as well as taking a cautious approach to building on green spaces by looking at other alternatives.
In addition to this, people wanted to see new planning applications for housing and schools requiring renewable environmental infrastructure as a mandatory requirement to ensure our housing stock is efficient as possible e.g. heat pumps and solar panels. People have a good appetite to make their homes more efficient, however they would like support to make changes and some noted that they feel forgotten about as grants and support are often aimed at particular groups. Homelessness is seen as a factor in deprivation and so too housing quality. Poor housing has been highlighted by people as having a causal relationship with lower life expectancy.
People also told us the importance of utilising and promoting our cultural sites to increase tourism within the counties. One message that was quite memorable from the engagement was a resident who felt that “St Peter’s Square in Ruthin is one of Denbighshire’s most precious yet wasted assets”. Tourism is seen as a key link to support the local economy to remain resilient to challenges faced by Covid-19 and Brexit. Many ideas were proposed to increase tourism within areas such as local paddling pools, free parking in town centres and tourism offices established namely in Prestatyn and online to promote towns and villages as a desirable place to visit.
Wales’ Programme for Government consists of almost 100 specific areas of activity. Among its ten well-being objectives are commitments to: “Continue our long-term programme of education reform, and ensure educational inequalities narrow and standards rise. Protect, re-build and develop our services for vulnerable people.”; “Build an economy based on the principles of fair work, sustainability and the industries and services of the future”; “Push towards a million Welsh speakers, and enable our tourism, sports and arts industries to thrive.”; and “Build a stronger, greener economy as we make maximum progress towards decarbonisation.” Pledges include:
- Ban pavement parking wherever possible.
- Build 20,000 new low carbon social homes for rent.
- Build on the success of our concessionary travel scheme for older people and look at how fair fares can encourage integrated travel.
- Continue to meet the rise in demand for Free School Meals resulting from the pandemic and review the eligibility criteria, extending entitlement as far as resources allow
- Create 125,000 all-age apprenticeships.
- Decarbonise more homes through retrofit, delivering quality jobs, training and innovation using local supply chains.
- Deliver the Digital Strategy for Wales and upgrade our digital and communications infrastructure.
- Deliver the Young Persons Guarantee, giving everyone under 25 the offer of work, education, training, or self-employment.
- Designate a new National Park to cover the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley.
- Enable our town centres to become more agile economically by helping businesses to work co-operatively, increase their digital offer and support local supply chains, including local delivery services.
- Ensure public bodies and those receiving public funding address pay disparities.
- Ensure that each region in Wales has effective and democratically accountable means of developing their future economies.
- Establish a new medical school in North Wales.
- Expand arrangements to create or significantly enhance green spaces.
- Explore radical reform of current services for looked after children and care leavers.
- Fund childcare for more families where parents are in education and training.
- Fund up to 1800 additional tutoring staff in our schools.
- Implement and fund the commitments made in our Race Equality Action Plan
- Implement our new Wales Transport Strategy.
- Invest in the learning environment of community schools, co-locating key services, and securing stronger engagement with parents and carers outside traditional hours.
- Launch a new 10-year Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan for a zero-carbon economy.
- Lift the ban on local authorities setting up new municipal bus companies.
- Make 20mph the default speed limit in residential areas.
- Pay care workers the real living wage.
- Put in place a £65 million international learning exchange programme.
- Reinvigorate our twinning relationships across the EU through a Young People’s Twinning Fund.
- Support 80 re-use and repair hubs in town centres.
- Use the new network of Disabled People’s Employment Champions to help close the gap between disabled people and the rest of the working population.
- Work towards our new target of 45% of journeys by sustainable modes by 2040, setting more stretching goals where possible.
Opportunities for targeted interventions
A well-being economy, that is circular and regenerative, fair and just for people and the planet. For more information, doughnut economics describes a situation where we improve economic, environmental, cultural and social well-being within ecological limits.
Contribute to achieving the North Wales Energy Strategy.
Employment, and decent employment, is critical to securing well-being and reducing inequality and the well-being gap. There are opportunities to increase skills and opportunities in sustainable construction techniques to deliver housing and decarbonising existing homes.
As discussed in more detail above, culture/nature-led regeneration linked to our unique and historic heritage and natural landscape, holds many promising opportunities. It will be important to view tourism within the context of the area’s Welsh culture and heritage, not only our landscape but also our strong agricultural culture. Culture and creative industries are likely to be at the heart of town centre regeneration; developing capacity of both counties’ cultural, creative and tourism industries.
A North Wales approach to maximising opportunities from tourism and regeneration could ensure benefits are targeted on areas and groups whose well-being tends to be poorer.
There are opportunities for people living in Conwy and Denbighshire to access jobs from across Wales, UK, even globally. How can this be exploited to ensure everyone can benefit from greater opportunities? There may be opportunities to target support for those without a job, or at risk of unemployment, whose well-being tends to be worse than those in employment (see our summary of the ‘More equal’ well-being goal for more information).
The 20 minute neighbourhood concept is about designing an urban society in such a way that residents can meet most of their daily needs within a short walk from home. Safe cycling and local transport options are key to this, as well as high quality public spaces, community services and housing densities that make the provision of local services and transport viable. The 20 minute neighbourhood was pioneered in Melbourne, Australia as a way of guiding the city’s development and transformation to 2050. In order to achieve long term sustainable changes to travel habits – to secure a green economy – the culture change needed to achieve modal shift (a shift to active travel for short journeys and public transport for longer journeys), might be best focussed on children and young people.
Key questions and areas for further research:
- There is still a gap between skills and the needs of the local economy despite a huge effort from different sectors. We need more analysis on the on the implications for the public sector in developing skills, in particular in relation to areas of deprivation, the rural economy and efforts to develop skills to boost self-employment. We also need more analysis about the extent to which jobs are fair and decent (in terms of pay and conditions) and how prepared we are to upskill for higher paid jobs. We also need to know about the trajectory in terms of young people’s employment, and for disabled people generally. Homelessness could be an issue linked to unemployment.
- Green economy analysis needs to be strengthened to assess our weaknesses, threats, strengths and opportunities. To what extent we feel we are supporting the low carbon economy with the different skillsets it needs now, and in the future?
- Housing (and climate change resilience and adaptation), homelessness and pressures on social housing.
- Data poverty – to what extent is it an issue and for whom?
- How can we maximise the economic assets of an ageing population? In terms of skills, volunteering, retirement spend, tourism?
- The role of the non-monetary economy in social well-being: physical assets, food banks, community asset transfer etc.) and levels (and strength) of unpaid care.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to offer massive gains in efficiency and performance to most or all industry sectors, from drug discovery to logistics. AI can be integrated into existing processes, improving them, scaling them, and reducing their costs by making or suggesting more accurate decisions through better use of information. It has been estimated that AI could add an additional £630bn to the UK economy by 2035, increasing the annual growth rate of Gross Value Added (the measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area, industry, or sector of an economy) from 2.5 to 3.9%. There appears to be a limited presence of AI companies in Wales, let alone our areas.
- What knowledge does Transport for Wales hold?
 The labour market is currently unpredictable. With high levels of vacancies in certain sectors yet continuing high numbers of people in some areas claiming Universal Credit. “Changes to the business environment, such as the fall in business travel and the rise in online commerce, increased the need for skills, from IT specialists to hauliers, while at the same time caused an unusually high level of mismatch in the UK’s labour market.” https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8898/CBP-8898.pdf#page11
 The Legatum Institute Foundation. (2021) The United Kingdom Prosperity Index. Accessed 2 August 2021.
 According to the Institute, economic quality reflects how well a local economy is equipped to generate wealth sustainably and with the full engagement of its workforce. A strong economy is dependent on the production of a diverse range of valuable goods and services and high labour force participation.
 According to the Institute, living conditions reflects the extent to which a reasonable quality of life is extended to the whole population. This includes being free from poverty through access to sufficient resources, access to adequate housing, safety at work and in the lived environment, and the ability to connect and engage in core activities in society.
 According to the Institute, open economies encourage innovation and investment, promote business and commerce, and facilitate inclusive growth. This domain captures the extent to which regional and local economies embody these ideals. Without an open, competitive and dynamic economy, it is challenging if not impossible to create lasting social and economic wellbeing where individuals, communities, and businesses are empowered to reach their full potential.
 Where sectors and businesses can adjust the impact will not necessarily be negative.
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Briefing on well-being and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Briefing on well-being and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.
 This paper sets out our reasoning for using the claimant count as a measure of unemployment: https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/statistics-and-research/2019-01/differences-between-unemployment-and-the-claimant-count.pdf
 Claimant count by age – not seasonally adjusted (June 2021)- ONS Crown Copyright Reserved [from Nomis on 16 July 2021]
 Denbighshire County Council (2021). Working Denbighshire Strategic Review: TOWARDS A SUSTANABLE DELIVERY PLAN. Unpublished.
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Briefing on well-being and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Well-being and equalities briefing.
 Denbighshire County Council (2020). Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019: Results for Rhyl. Un-published report.
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Briefing on well-being and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.
 Dr Sara MacBride-Stewart & Dr Alison Parken (2021). Inequality in a Future Wales: Areas for action in work, climate and demographic change. The findings are summarised within a Summary Report and ‘Bite-size’ version with Easy Read and BSL versions available also. For those who are interested in the more detailed analysis you can access the full technical report.
 OfCom. (2019). Connected Nations Wales. https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/186410/connected-nations-2019-wales-report.pdf. Accessed 26 July 2021.
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Briefing on well-being and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.