‘The negativity needs to stop’: Council leader urges people to support Wrexham’s city status bid
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
A council leader has called on people to stop speaking negatively about Wrexham as he looks to rally support for a city status bid.
Wrexham Council is currently considering entering a competition for UK towns to upgrade their status as part of plans to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year.
The town has missed out on city status on three previous occasions but senior councillors believe it has a strong case.
It comes despite 61 per cent of respondents to a recent consultation by the local authority saying they did not feel that Wrexham deserved to be a city at all.
A report carried out on its behalf by consultants also found gaining city status would not guarantee economic growth for the area without other plans in place alongside it.
However, council leader Mark Pritchard has hit out at the negative reaction to the bid from some quarters ahead of a crunch meeting of councillors next week.
He said: “There’s too many untruths put out on social media by individuals who just want to raise their profile and what they don’t understand is they damage Wrexham.
“We’re only in this to improve Wrexham as a place and there’s no individual gain for me.
“It would be easier for me not to take it forward but I’m the leader of the council and I have a passion about Wrexham and I want to take us to the next level.
“If city status gives us that next step in fulfilling what we can become in Wrexham then why wouldn’t you?
“Some people just push negativity and knock this town and they need to stop it.”
An extraordinary meeting is being held next week where councillors will discuss whether to support the city status bid.
It follows a motion being put forward by members of the Plaid Cymru group calling on the council not to back the bid after they previously blasted it as “a daft idea”.
A total of 458 people responded to an online survey on city status with 65 per cent expressing the belief it was either quite or very important to improve how the town is promoted.
However, 258 said they felt that Wrexham did not deserve to be a city at all, compared to 97 who felt either quite or very strongly that it should become one.
Despite the feedback, the council’s chief executive Ian Bancroft insisted city status could deliver benefits for the area.
He said: “The Welsh Government’s national plan identifies three national growth zones, one in Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys, one in Swansea Bay and Llanelli and one in Wrexham and Deeside in the north.
“What the socio-economic research report shows is that city status, if allied to wider plans and strategies, drives growth in an area.
“There’s only one of those three areas in the national plan that doesn’t have a city at the heart of driving the growth and that’s Wrexham and Deeside.
“If you’re to benefit that area and maximise opportunities, and also the opportunities for the north of Wales, then strategically it’s important to look at a city in that area.”
Cllr Pritchard opposed the council’s last bid for city status in 2012 when he accused the authority of chasing “fool’s gold”.
But he said he had been fully behind the most recent application from the start.
He said: “I’ve supported this from day one since we’ve run this administration, because I believe this will take Wrexham forward.
“I will have a debate and a discussion with anybody and that’s why I’m looking forward to the debate at full council.”
The council has also been questioned for including a poll carried out by a local news website as proof of support for the bid in an information report to councillors.
The straw poll conducted by Wrexham.com found 55.6 per cent of over 3,500 voters were in favour of applying for city status, with 44.4 per cent against.
Site editor Rob Taylor said he was “uncomfortable” with it being used as evidence due to a “bizarre” change in voting patterns in the 24 hours it was carried out.
In response, Mr Bancroft said: “We’re not making decisions based on one factor and none of them are purely scientific.
“They’re a mixture of research, engagement, perceptions and national strategy.
“We’re trying to give a decision making framework that brings together a range of factors that enable councillors to therefore take a decision based on those.
“Ultimately, this is a councillor decision in terms of it being the council that decides whether to go for city status or not.”
A full council meeting will be held to decide whether to support the bid on Tuesday, November 9.