‘Cardiff reach­ing crit­i­cal mass to com­pete on a global stage’

Western Mail - - BUSINESS IN WALES - Chris Kelsey As­sis­tant head of busi­ness chris.kelsey@waleson­line.co.uk

The head of one of Bri­tain’s largest fi­nan­cial ser­vices firms has called for Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond to de­liver a “Bud­get for de­vo­lu­tion” to help Bri­tain’s re­gional ci­ties such as Cardiff.

In a blog post, Nigel Wil­son, group chief ex­ec­u­tive of Le­gal & Gen­eral, said that with the right level of in­vest­ment, Wales’ cap­i­tal could com­pete with global ci­ties such as Frank­furt, Bos­ton and Mu­nich.

Le­gal & Gen­eral is in­volved in the re­de­vel­op­ment of Cardiff ’s Cen­tral Square district in parther­ship with Cardiff-based prop­erty de­vel­oper Righ­tacres and Cardiff coun­cil.

And the FTSE 100 com­pany is also bring­ing 400 new jobs to the city as part of a red­ploy­ment from the Home Coun­ties, to add to the 1,300 al­ready em­ployed in the cap­i­tal.

In his blog post, Mr Wil­son, who has been CEO of Le­gal & Gen­eral since June 2012 and has a PhD from the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, points out that three-quar­ters of Bri­tain’s pop­u­la­tion live in ci­ties and three-quar­ters of jobs are lo­cated in them.

These ci­ties, he adds, face in­creas­ing pres­sure from pop­u­la­tion growth and de­mand for hous­ing. Ci­ties and re­gions, rather than coun­tries and na­tional govern­ments, are the chief driv­ers of eco­nomic growth, he writes.

He refers to the “stun­ning £400m re­gen­er­a­tion” tak­ing place in Cardiff city cen­tre and adds that “[p]ro­jects of this scale re­quire in­spired lo­cal po­lit­i­cal lead­ers backed by in­dus­trial-scale in­vestors.”

Cardiff, Mr Wil­son writes, has the “nec­es­sary crit­i­cal mass to flour­ish and can be­come a pow­er­ful sec­ond city, able to com­pete with the likes of Mu­nich, Frank­furt and Bos­ton.”

And he adds that cap­i­tal in­vest­ment is not a bar­rier, with the world “awash” with money as a re­sult of years of quan­ti­ta­tive eas­ing and the “eight tril­lion dol­lars of global funds… in­vested in as­sets earn­ing a neg­a­tive nom­i­nal re­turn”.

Mr Wil­son, who last year re­ceived a to­tal salary of £1.97m, said city re­gen­er­a­tion projects pro­vide pos­i­tive long-term re­turns and “a de­cent covenant for the pri­vate sec­tor”, par­tic­u­larly for long-term pen­sion funds which do not need to worry about daily liq­uid­ity.

Projects should work in “pos­i­tive, con­struc­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion” with civic au­thor­i­ties and lead­ers, he added.

“It is on this ba­sis that Le­gal & Gen­eral has in­vested in the trans­for­ma­tion of Cardiff Cen­tral work­ing along­side our de­vel­op­ment part­ner Righ­tacres,” he writes.

He de­scribes Cen­tral Square, which is ex­pected to cre­ate over 10,000 lo­cal jobs, as “one of the UK’s most im­pres­sive and trans­for­ma­tional re­gen­er­a­tion schemes [that] is al­ready de­liv­er­ing ma­jor so­cial and eco­nomic ben­e­fits as well as be­ing a great match for Le­gal & Gen­eral’s pa­tient cap­i­tal.”

The scheme demon­strates that “de­vo­lu­tion – with lo­cal em­pow­er­ment – is a pow­er­ful cat­a­lyst to fur­ther progress and pros­per­ity”, Mr Wil­son adds.

“Af­ter all, it is of­ten the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties who are the cus­to­di­ans of the land ripe for re­de­vel­op­ment, and can un­der­stand the wider con­text, chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded by their re­gion. They can and should en­sure that re­gen­er­a­tion de­liv­ers bet­ter re­sults for res­i­dents.”

The 60-year-old busi­ness­man said that ci­ties like Cardiff are be­com­ing bet­ter at de­vel­op­ing their own blue­prints for eco­nomic growth, re­tain­ing tal­ented grad­u­ates, en­cour­ag­ing start-ups, and pro­vid­ing an at­trac­tive en­vi­ron­ment for later-life liv­ing.

And he said that city de­vo­lu­tion deals are “good value for the Gov­ern­ment, fi­nan­cially and po­lit­i­cally”.

“De­vo­lu­tion cre­ates real win­ners. A de­ci­sive but mod­est in­jec­tion of cat­alytic cap­i­tal from gov­ern­ment can re­store and re­vive a lo­cal econ­omy, de­liver a vi­sion for the re­gion and, mar­ried with in­sti­tu­tional cap­i­tal, achieve a ma­jor mul­ti­plier ef­fect.

“Cen­tral­i­sa­tion, by con­trast, too of­ten drives re­source mis­al­lo­ca­tion and fos­ters a cul­ture of vic­tim­hood and blame,” he writes.

The lim­ited room for manouevre that Mr Ham­mond will have in the forth­com­ing Bud­get pro­vides the Chan­cel­lor with a “per­fect op­por­tu­nity to an­nounce progress on fur­ther city deals,” he adds.

> Le­gal & Gen­eral CEO Nigel Wil­son

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