The hunt is on for people with the right skills to become part of the Tŷ Pawb Advisory Board, with the carrot of being involved in the ‘most exciting project in Wrexham over a period of 10-20 years’.
In September 2017 Wrexham.com reported plans to put the development into a trust had been put on hold due to legal issues that could have meant a non-Wrexham trust running it.
Over the past few years it has been stressed that trust ownership and management for the development was the best way forward for the development – opening up additional finance opportunities that the local authority could not access.
A business plan created by Fourth Street back in 2014 also highlighted the importance of the development being managed away from the council, explaining it will remove “red tape and bureaucracy”.
Previously we have referenced the business plan document that pointed out possible issues with a Council run entity, including ‘inherent restrictions and burdens’ impacting decision making, and a suggestion non-Council run entities are ‘more business oriented’ and more entrepreneurial, with other ‘cultural’ benefits.
However during September’s meeting it was explained that Wrexham Council would retain management of Tŷ Pawb for at least the next three years, with the overall aim being to transfer the project to a trust or charitable organisation.
To help keep the project local and utilise local talent plans to create an Advisory Board were yesterday presented to members of the Executive Board.
The board will consist of 12 members, eight being local stakeholders and four made up of Ex-Officio Members (The Tŷ Pawb operations manager, the arts lead, the designated officer of the council and lead member nominated the council).
It is hoped that the board will bring together ‘local talent’ and provide an opportunity for those with a keen interest in the project to help shape its future.
Speaking at yesterday’s Executive Board meeting, Executive Board, Cllr Hugh Jones, Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety, reiterated his commitment to Tŷ Pawb, describing it as “one of the most exciting developments in Wrexham in recent years.”
Cllr Jones said: “It will involve stakeholders, people of a wide range of expertise which we believe necessary to support and underpin work of project
“An important part will be to help shape future of Tŷ Pawb as it will undoubtedly move from council ownership to form of trust or other charitable company, whatever is appropriate at the relevant time.”
He added: “I am pleased to move this recommendation. I believe it is an important part of the progress towards opening on Easter Monday with Dydd Llun Pawb.
“We are also getting very excited about the project. The development of the building and establishment of market stalls are all going ahead at pace. It is one of the most exciting projects in Wrexham in years.”
In moving the recommendation Cllr Jones also noted two minor technical amendments for the report.
The recommendation was seconded by Cllr Paul Rogers, who also described Tŷ Pawb as an “exciting project for the town”.
However concerns about the board were raised by Cllr Dana Davies, who queried whether those who sat on the board would be paid and what the incentive would be for people for joining.
She said: “We are looking for likeminded people, but there is no vision as to what we’re trying to move towards in future. It talks about membership reviewed 12 months basis with a third of the membership potentially changing.
“My concern is the first two to three years of any new model is when it is most under threat of not being successful. I am concerned there is not enough time potentially for everything to embed around that 12 month period and whether the review could be delayed for two years to make sure it could start moving things forward, rather than changing after 12 months?”
Cllr Davies added: “Have we done any soft market testing to see whether we would attract these people into the roles? There are lots of organisations that could support, but the key thing is having the right people with motivation and vision. The skills we could bring in as need.”
Cllr Jones said that while there will be no financial incentives, as noted in the report before councillors adding he believed the “right level of talent and skill” could be attracted to the board regardless.
He continued: “In terms of the ability to attract people, I believe that people interested in the project would be attracted by the enticement the project delivers rather than financial reward.
“It would be inappropriate given the scale of people have financial award. Being involved in the project is reward in itself.”
Cllr Jones also explained that the reason for the early review is to “make changes as soon as possible” if required rather than continue one.
However Cllr Davies pointed out she wasn’t suggesting the incentive should be financial, added: “If we are trying to attract people into roles and they are going to be investing time, if the time is short, then we may have difficulty attracting people.
“The ideal scenario would be for advisory board to morph into trust or non-profit. It is about attracting right people.”
Cllr Jones said: “I believe being involved in one of the most exciting projects Wrexham has launched in the last 10-20 years is a reward in itself to be part of such a fantastic development. I am confident we will get the right skills.”
Cllr Davies also queried if there would be a potential conflict of interest with the involvement of council representatives on the board. However the meeting was told there will not be an issue with conflict of interest as the advisory board is “advisory and doesn’t have executive decision making”.
Comments were also made about the project itself, with Cllr Graham Rogers stating: “I can’t share with the enthusiasm and excitement expressed by lead member and Cllr Paul Rogers in these difficult times of austerity.”
He added: “With the seven positions, should you be inundated with applicants, will you have a criteria with choosing best person for seven positions and who will be involved?”
However Cllr Jones hit back at the comments, noting that the development has already created a number of specifically local construction jobs – with more specifically local jobs on the horizon for Wrexham once Tŷ Pawb has been completed and open.
Cllr Jones continued: “With the market element, it will provide an opportunity for start-ups and students in university to develop market skills. It will help young people into the jobs market.
“Wrexham is also one of the pilot towns for the Fusion project which is aimed at tackling poverty through the arts. Staff at Oriel Wrecsam and Tŷ Pawb have involved people from areas like Caia Park and Communities First areas.
“It is a project for all people of Wrexham. It brings prosperity and I am committed and enthusiastic on behalf of the people in Wrexham.”
Following on from the comments about austerity and funding from the Labour Councillor, Independent Councillor Cllr David A Bithell asked if Conservative Cllr Jones could remind the meeting of how much the Welsh Labour Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places funding had been put into the project.
Cllr Jones commented that it was £750,000, potentially leading to £900,000 by the end of the project, which was noted with apparent delight that it was the ‘lowest amount’, compared to Wrexham Council and the Arts Council.
Labour Cllr Rogers asks about arts hub / Tŷ Pawb development in context of climate of cuts, Cllr Dave Bithell & Cllr Hugh Jones play political ping pong setup question asking/answering how much Labour Welsh Gov put in… "The lowest amount"
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) December 12, 2017
Pre-empting the inevitable social media comments, it is also worth noting in the now usual fashion to clear up the predictable ‘confusion’ about the capital funding of the development – £2.5 million was contributed by Arts Council Wales and £1.5 million from Wrexham Council alongside the above Vibrant and Viable Places funding.