Interview with Councilor Anthony Hunt, Chairman of the Torfaen District Council and Chairman of the Cardiff Regional Cabinet.
Can you tell us something about your role and responsibility as well as your background?
I am the chairman of the Torfaen Council and a city councilor from Griffithstown, where I live with my family. I was first elected as a city councilor in 2012 and was a resource member before becoming chairman. I have previously worked at Welsh and British government levels. I am a very enthusiastic cyclist and a football and rugby fan.
The President of the Council is very busy trying to reconcile the role of local representatives you have as local council with regional activities and do the best for the people in our communities.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
It is never a role that will be 9-5. It is sometimes very time-consuming, but I like to have time with my family or on my bike to escape the stresses of the whole. What I love about it is that it's varied and challenging. It's not the job of doing something that you can easily switch off.
I came into politics because I love helping people, and that's what unites everything, whether you're dealing with something very large at a regional level or trying to help individuals or groups at the ground level.
How well does the CCR regional cabinet work together, what is the structure in which you work?
We all have the determination to do the best in the areas in which we operate, but we have the same determination to do the best in the region and not just focus on parochial disputes, but all in the same Direction.
But we are all different characters and all of our organizations have different cultural identities. I think we have a really good balance between different organizations that play different roles and do things differently. We never get into parochial or party politics, we all try to work together to do our best for our communities and for the region as a whole, and I think that's really encouraging.
How traumatic do you think the impact of the past few months will be on companies and our communities?
It was a very difficult time for companies in the region. It is important that we ensure that we are helping our communities and our regional economy, and we are not trying to duplicate what is done locally or nationally. that we see what we can do specifically to help companies get rid of them and help them face the challenges that Covid has brought.
There are other things we can do to adapt them to the conditions when we leave Covid and I hope we can push this forward. In times like these, it's easy to get pessimistic and desperate about how to get ahead. We have to roll up our sleeves and do our best to help the regional economy and our communities in very difficult times.
One of the silver stripes from Covid is that it showed the strength of our communities, they really pulled themselves together. How can we as a city region use this strength together with the Welsh government and local councils? How can we strengthen the resilience of our communities?
How has the regional cabinet merged in the past few months?
It brought us closer together. The 10 of us are probably tired of hearing each other's voices because we have to talk about the general challenges almost every day, from maintaining the service to creating new services such as testing, tracking and protecting. We brought all of these things together to talk about. This will pay off in the future as there is a high level of trust and understanding for the various challenges we face.
What are the main things the CCR needs to focus on when we emerge from the block?
We should turn away from the old model of economic development and see ourselves as catalysts and work with high quality indigenous companies in our region to find out how we can make things work for them. We need to identify areas where our region already has a strength and a specific opportunity.
We also have to focus on being a region. We have the cities of Cardiff and Newport, but we also have the valley communities. We need to spread prosperity across the region. There are some areas with very large socio-economic challenges across the region. not only in the valleys, but also in parts of Cardiff. How do we ensure that the entire region is advanced?
The basic side is very important; I am very happy that Phillipa Marsden, chair of the Caerphilly Council, has taken over. Finally, it is very important that we look at some of the challenges we face in a post-Covid world, such as social welfare.
We have seen an increase in investment activity with more projects in the pipeline. What do you think will bring them to the region?
What appeals to me is the idea that we use certain specializations that we have and create clusters that can reverberate. We want to create quality jobs, but we also want to increase the basic jobs that these communities will rely on.
It is exciting to approach this phase where we can talk about the progress of certain projects. At the beginning of every trip you have this phase in which you have to build these foundations. However, what excites me is that I get into this delivery phase and see how things take shape.
Tell us why the compound semiconductor cluster is so important to us and how the wider region will benefit from it.
It is important to build the specializations for which you are known as one of the best in the world as a region, as this brings with it other expertise and opportunities.
We sometimes think of our region as massive, but this is not the case on a global level. For every major investment there are 10 and 100 smaller companies as part of the supply chain. And if we can get the infrastructure, metro and skills, housing, and digital infrastructure right across the region, it means that the region as a whole can grow. What we cannot do is leave behind overheated parts of the region and other parts.
We know how important collaboration and cohesion are. Can we do more and do you want to take a more collaborative approach everywhere?
We have the right balance between this cohesion and this collaboration and people who are willing to be critical friends. The basics are there for a very positive relationship.
One of my fears in the world after Covid is that there are a lot of actors on stage. They are all meant well and they all try to do their best. But we cannot afford that everyone tries to occupy the same part of the stage. We have to work together, otherwise we won't produce a piece that is entertaining.
What would you hope for the CCR to advance 12 months?
I look forward to our projects being implemented in terms of both investment and broader strategic infrastructure. I hope we continue to work together and I really hope that we will see the fruits of the choices we make in our local communities. I also hope that we will start building a resilient region to come out of the Covid pandemic.