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Joint council committee set up to oversee Celtic Freeport

Harbourside Neath Port Talbot (pic: Neath Port Talbot Council)

MEMBERS of Neath Port Talbot Council have agreed to set up a joint committee with Pembrokeshire Council in order to oversee decisions made at the Celtic Freeport.

The move which was agreed to at a cabinet meeting held in June is the latest in a string of steps towards the completion of the potentially multi-billion pound project, which was first approved earlier this year.

The project is part of an approved bid between Associated British Ports, Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven.

It could eventually see the development of a new Freeport in the area as well as a large offshore floating wind-farm in the Celtic Sea, along with the development of new hydrogen technology.

Some even believe it could generate more than £5.5 billion worth of investment in the coming years as well as around 16,000 jobs for the wider region of south west Wales.

Freeports are special areas within the UK’s borders where different economic regulations apply, such as tax incentives for eligible businesses within them. They also offer simplified customs procedures, and streamlined planning processes to boost redevelopment in the areas close to them.

The move to set up the council-run committee comes just weeks after the first Chief executive of the Celtic Freeport, Luciana Ciubotariu, took up her position heading up the early foundation stages of the plans.

Members of Neath Port Talbot Council heard how they will also play their part moving forward, with a joint committee set up between themselves and Pembrokeshire in order to ensure “democratic accountability for the expenditure of public funds.”

The report read: “A key principle of the Freeport programme is that decisions will be made via a process and structure that preserves both the public-private ‘dual key’ approach, ensuring democratic accountability for the expenditure of public funds.”

It added: “The role of the joint committee will be to ensure proper democratic accountability for the allocation of public funds, including ensuring compliance with subsidy control regulations and value for money.

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“The joint committee is proposed to be able to either approve or reject proposals from the Celtic Freeport Company, but not amend them. Funds will only be released if authorised by the joint committee.”

At the meeting it was decided that the joint committee will be made up of six members in total, three from each council including both of the council’s leaders. Members later approved the proposals unanimously, with officers adding that colleagues at Pembrokeshire council had also supported the decision.

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