Plans to invest in Wrexham’s bus station have been welcomed, amid assurances it is and will remain an asset of Wrexham Council.
Last week Wrexham.com reported that to £200,000 could be spent on the Wrexham Bus Station in the next 12 months as part of council plans to make ‘significant improvements’ at the site.
A sum of £73,000 was awarded to the Council to undertake some refurbishment works at the bus station, including LED lighting, pest control measures, refurbishment of the enquiry/information office and new information infrastructure including upgrades to existing electronic display boards and upright timetable information.
A series of improvements have already been undertaken at the bus station, including new lighting and netting to try and keep problematic pigeons out of the building with the rest to be completed by April.
Last week it was also confirmed that the visitor information centre in the bus station would be reopening after ‘The Skiers Lodge Ltd’ – operators of easyBus and easyCoach services – were offered the contract to operate the facility.
Speaking at Tuesday’s Executive Board, Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr David A Bithell explained that a further bid had been submitted to Welsh Government to fund improvements to CCTV, furnishings, non-slip flooring and enhanced bus station branding.
— Cllr Terry Evans (@terryevans) February 12, 2018
The investment was welcomed by fellow members of the Executive Board, with Lead Member for Economic Regeneration Cllr Terry Evans stating: “I would like to thank the lead member and the environment department for all the work they’ve put into the bus station and the extra expenditure coming in.
“It has been long overdue. We had a tour of the town yesterday and I’m pleased with the progress so far.”
This was echoed by Lead Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Bill Baldwin, who added that it was “nice to see us investing a lot of money in the town centre and long may it continue”.
However Grosvenor Cllr Marc Jones, who also welcomed the investment, posed a series of questions about the impact the easyBus contract could have on staffing at the bus station and what alternatives the council had looked at keeping the visitor information service ‘in house’, with the implication there was possible duplication of roles.
He added: “We have staff who are experts. Did we look at possibility of the Tourist Information Centre taking on running of the information shop?
“When people arrive in town they want to know about attractions. I don’t think easyBus has vested interest in letting people know.”
Cllr Jones also queried if the easyBus contract secured ShopMobility and if existing tenants face direct challenge from anything the company introduce.
Reassurances that there were no redundancies or staffing implications were given by Cllr Bithell, who noted that the proposals for the bus station were “positive” compared to the negativity surrounding the site in 2015.
A firm Cllr Bithell added: “It is quite clear we are not outsourcing the bus station, that is a Wrexham Council asset and it remains a council asset – I sent you an email clarifying that.
“We are not outsourcing the bus station. We sought expressions of interest at that time and we have decided that following a tender exercise to reopen the information shop to provide a range of services.
“Is is not in my mind outsourcing the bus station.”
Council Leader Mark Pritchard stepped into the exchange to offer reassurances about the future of Shopmobility, stating he wanted to make it “crystal clear” that there would be no impact on the service before rumours to the contrary started.
He also pointed out that concerns about staffing could be dealt within the scrutiny process, in part two or between Cllr Jones and Cllr Bithell away from the board, as is normal when staffing implications are discussed.
Cllr Jones replied pointing out that it was “important we have scrutiny in the Executive Board” and that he doesn’t see “any other avenue to do it in a public way”.
Cllr Bithell reiterated that there are no staffing issues arising as a result of the changes and that such comments were also noted in the Executive Board report before councillors.
It is also proposed that the council introduce an annual permit charge for operators requiring the use of the existing lay-over space, for short term bus parking.
However Cllr Jones referred to the “fragile bus economy” in Wrexham and asked what work has been done to ensure that companies can meet the apparent 30% increase to some charges.
Cllr Bithell explained that the departure charges would be phased over three years and that Wrexham Council’s prices are “favourable” when compared with neighbouring authorities
The report was backed unanimously by the seven members of the Executive Board who were present – Cllr Joan Lowe and Cllr Hugh Jones were absent and Cllr Andrew Atkinson has yet to be formally appointed to the role of lead member for youth services and poverty.
Following the meeting it appeared most of the Executive Board took a trip to Bank Street Coffee
— Cllr Terry Evans (@terryevans) February 13, 2018