Q & A with Phil Bale, leader of Cardiff Council

smallphilbaleQ. How resilient is the economic model in Cardiff?

A. We are making strides in moving our economy away from its industrial past towards a new economic model. This can be seen in the investment in sectors such as life sciences and financial services in Cardiff. We have an enterprise zone in the city centre supporting the financial services sector. The fact we are growing fast as a city is an opportunity for us. The question is: how we can grow sustainably in the future so we can build on that momentum? We have a vision of becoming Europe’s most liveable city to ensure we retain and attract talent. The development of Central Square has been led by the city council and local partners and that will see the development of a new public realm and office space, a new headquarters for BBC Wales and a new bus interchange. I was keen for projects that not only regenerate the city centre but also push the boundaries in terms of quality design, so we have Norman Foster and partners involved in that project.

‘We want a creative capital and to build

on the energy and creativity of our people’

Q. Many places have updated their city centres and attracted middle class jobs but the wealth has not trickled down to the poorer areas. What strategies do you have for this?

A. It’s a mixture of different strategies and the one we are focusing on in Cardiff is around time banking. We want to become a time banking capital and have recently rolled out the Cardiff Time Credits programme, the world’s first city-wide community currency, building on the work that took place at Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE). It brings together a range of charities, small businesses and grassroots organisations and we believe it will help encourage greater capacity building and volunteering within the city to support some of the difficult challenges we face and encourage greater collective community self-help. We are also looking at local currencies but time banking is something we have a proven record on and which we can scale up across the rest of the city.

Q. There’s a sense within the Cardiff region and across Wales of over-dependency on government, for grants and for support. How do you plan to tackle that?

A. Grants and that funding model aren’t sustainable. A canvas is there and change will come through in time. We have set up a Spacehive platform for crowdfunding projects and there have been a lot of pop-ups in the city. Abacus is a great example of the council giving up a building and allowing groups to do things that a council or corporate body would never be able to do. That is the council pulling back and giving space to other organisations to fill and to create things that aren’t controlled form the centre. We want a creative capital and to build on the energy and creativity of our people.

Clare Goff is editor of New Start magazine
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