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Talks Will Herald 'Western Powerhouse' Plan

Plans to boost business with end of bridge tolls

A meeting will take place today looking at ways of creating a 'Western Powerhouse' once tolls are abolished on the two Severn bridges.

Hundreds of guests have been invited to the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport to hear the plans to create an all new economic region to rival the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns says abolishing the tolls will also signal the beginning of a transformation of the economic and cultural prospects of the south Wales and south west England region, making it easier to do business, to increase inward investment and tourism and to create jobs. 

Mr Cairns will address a sell-out audience of more than 350 guests from business, education, cultural and digital sectors on either side of the Severn Crossings at the inaugural summit.

In his keynote speech, he will urge all sectors to "seize the new opportunities the end of the tolls creates and work together to grasp the potential of this great region." 

Companies on both sides of the border are already benefiting from the removal of VAT earlier this month. 

With the tolls set to be abolished later this year, the Summit has been convened to galvanise the many strengths of the economic region, to generate ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship to stimulate every part of our economy.

In his speech, he will say: "Today's Severn Growth Summit is set to spark the biggest commercial conversation for the west of the UK in a generation, but it will be nothing without the collaborative backing of business, communities and governments on both sides of the estuary.

"One of the key drivers behind the Northern Powerhouse was the volume of people commuting between Liverpool and Manchester. However, there are more people commuting between Bristol and either Cardiff of Newport. This shows that this region has the huge potential to rival the Northern Powerhouse or Midlands Engine."

James Durie, Chief Executive Business West at Chambers of Commerce & Initiative, said: "In the past the Bristol City Region has largely tended to look east to London and the South East instead of also forging closer links with its close neighbours less than an hour's drive away.

"Bristol and its wider city region and South Wales will have more in common than ever before and this is a great opportunity for the business community to make the most of those shared interests.

"If we want to compete not just on the national stage, but also on the international stage, I believe we need to take full advantage of this once in a generation opportunity."

The sell-out event in Newport will feature talks and interactive sessions from senior representatives from sectors as diverse as transport, logistics, property, tech and finance. It will also provide an opportunity for business leaders to meet political decision makers face to face and hammer out a successful path for closer cross-border collaboration.

Alun Cairns added: "I want this event to be the catalyst that forges new partnerships with innovators, inventors, job creators, local leaders, workers and consumers. 

"A collective voice is an effective voice and I believe such cross-border co-operation will transform the economies of South Wales and the south west of England. "

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