Vote to be held on whether Merthyr Tydfil proceeds with £45,000 bid to become a city
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Councillors are set to decide whether to bid for Merthyr Tydfil to become a city.
A special full council meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, October 12 where councillors will vote whether to apply for city status as part of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
The predicted total cost to proceed to full application stage would be around £45,000 which includes professional fees, PR and a social media campaign.
At the full council meeting on Wednesday, September 8, Dr Jane Croad, an urban economic and social researcher, gave councillors a presentation on the proposed bid for city status for Merthyr Tydfil.
In it she said how becoming a city would “improve co-operation between groups, positively contributing to the development of Merthyr Tydfil and improve the confidence and expectations people and organisations have of Merthyr Tydfil.”
She also said that the “improved positivity created by the application for city status will contribute to attracting inward investment, new businesses and skilled employees, boosting economic and social development in Merthyr Tydfil and surrounding areas.”
The council is considering applying for city status in recognition of Merthyr Tydfil’s contribution to the prosperity and safety of the UK and the world through “coal, steel and many lives”.
With the significant improvements in the Heads of the Valleys Road (A465) the report said Merthyr Tydfil is “a pivotal point” between Swansea and the West Midlands and city status would “improve the connection and aspirations of the surrounding valley towns and villages which relate geographically and culturally more closely with Merthyr Tydfil than other cities in Wales”.
The report also said that Merthyr Tydfil, like all towns and cities in Wales and the UK, still has problems but it is believed that applying for city status could be a focal point for bringing the community, partners and stakeholders together to solve the issues in the town and make Merthyr Tydfil a better place for generations to come.
Some of the key benefits that the council said city status could bring include increased investment into the county borough, attracting new businesses and skilled employees and boosting economic and social development.
It also said that it would create a positive, attractive image of Merthyr Tydfil, it would let Merthyr Tydfil be seen having the same economic and social status and potential as other cities in the UK and strengthen it as a destination for tourism.
Other benefits it mentions include international exposure, access to more grant funding for the council, allowing people to demonstrate their pride and confidence in Merthyr Tydfil and being a reward for overcoming massive economic difficulties, tragedies and industrial decimation.
If the council approves of making the bid, it will have the support of the Lord Lieutenant of Mid Glamorgan Peter Vaughan and High Sheriff of Mid Glamorgan Jeff Edwards who are Merthyr Tydfil residents as well as Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MP Gerald Jones, Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris and Newport West MP Ruth Jones.
There are currently 69 cities in the UK, 51 in England, seven in Scotland, six in Wales, and five in Northern Ireland.
The council report said there is a “proven positive economic impact” of achieving city status.
Preston, Newport, Stirling, Lisburn and Newry were made cities in 2002 and Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph were made cities in 2012 and all have outperformed their regional counterparts with increased investment and lower unemployment, the report said.
At the moment there are nine towns in England and Wales that are applying in the Platinum Jubilee Civic Honours Competition for city status and Wrexham is the only town in Wales, but Merthyr Tydfil will make it two if the council approves the application.
Responding to questions over whether Merthyr Tydfil is big enough to be a city, the council report said: “There are 12 cities in the UK with lower populations than Merthyr Tydfil – St. Asaph with a population of less than 3,355 people and Perth with a population of 46,970 were granted city status in 2012, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
“Therefore, Merthyr Tydfil, with a population of 59,100, is definitely well placed to be a city.”
The report also highlighted that Merthyr’s MP Gerald Jones endorsed the idea during a speech in the House of Commons last month.
In terms of the reaction from the public, a total of 1,781 votes have been cast on the idea across all the council’s platforms (including the website, Facebook and Instagram) with 42.56% of the votes being in favour and 57.44% of them being against it.
Comments in favour mentioned its industrial heritage, scenery, the need to be ambitious and the growth and development that is happening in the town already.
Those against mention increasing housing costs, the need to make improvements to the town as it is, issues with facilities and infrastructure, the cost of this idea and worries that the gap would widen between rich and poor.
Applications for Queen’s Platinum Jubilee city status must be submitted by local authorities on December 8, 2021, with the announcement likely to be made in early 2022.
Since 1889 there has been no requirement for a city to have a cathedral.
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