Yesterday afternoon a selection of council officers, members and town centre stakeholders gathered in the Guildhall to hear and discuss the latest goings at the latest instalment of the town centre forum.
Kevin Critchley, Manager of the Eagles Meadow complex had been given a clear bill of health following his absence at the last forum so was back to chair the meeting which kicked off (no pun intended) with a presentation from Mark Foster, Marketing Manager for the Rugby League World Cup (RLWC). Wrexham will play host to two games of the tournament later this year, which is billed as the next big event following London 2012. Mark outlined some of the sponsorship opportunities for local businesses and highlighted the accessibility of the event, with over half of tickets priced at £20 and under. It was revealed that they are targeting the sale of 500,000 tickets with 50,000 sold on the first day of general sale.
Normal service resumed once the RLWC representatives departed so here’s a rundown of what followed:-
Business Rates – A discussion deferred from last time in relation to business rates reignited. This relates to the Government decision towards the end of last year to postpone the revaluation of business rates until 2017. Earlier in the day the Welsh Government announced plans to go along with the deferral of the revaluation despite not welcoming the original decision from Westminster.
Members of the forum wished to submit a letter to Business Minister Edwina Hart to express their disagreement and lobby for the revaluation date to be brought forward.
Town Centre Beach / Wrexham On Sea – Discussion then moved on to town centre marketing and promotion, with Amanda Davies, Marketing & Promotion Manager for the council providing some feedback on last month’s idea of bringing a beach-like feature to the town centre:-
- Amanda Davies informed the forum the beach idea had received not only local but national press coverage.
- Yet again the accuracy of reporting by local news sources was raised. Amanda Davies pointed out there was some inaccurate reporting by one local news source (not Wrexham.com – we were praised for our balanced report!) in relation to the financial aspect of the initiative which was queried by the reporter who wrote the article. Ms Davies was challenged to point out where figures were mentioned in the report, was handed a print out of it by the reporter, and in bizarre scenes the article was then read with the £8,500 figure duly found by Ms Davies and stated – at that point the Chair stepped in and suggested further discussion ought to occur in private. The issue revolves around the £8.5k figure which was stated at the previous meeting, however in the context of it being possible to ‘do it for less’, with the ‘less’ figure never stated – our TCF report from February can be found here.
- In terms of her current position on the Wrexham On Sea / Beach idea , Amanda told the forum: “There has been a public backlash. Comments on the council Facebook page are leading me to think we can’t go ahead with this.”
- Chair Kevin Critchley then asked whether members of the forum had some words of support for the beach idea. Cllr Phil Wynn said: “It’s good to see us focus on an event for younger families, this is something we don’t normally do as a council.” Haydn Taylor pointed out that many of these families may struggle to afford a holiday this year, so the beach may be a welcome alternative.
- Council Leader Neil Rogers advised caution in light of a number of worrying emails he had received in relation to the proposed event.
- Members were asked to take a vote to see who would be in support of bringing a beach to the town centre. Members voted unanimously IN FAVOUR of the event, with no votes opposed to the idea.
Events Guide – A final agenda point related to the quarterly event listings/guide proposed to members at a previous forum. Amanda Davies said there were not many pledges of advertising forthcoming, so the production of the guide was in question pending more support from local businesses.
Memorial Hall & Events Alun Hughes then prompted debate centred on the use of venues in and around the town centre for holding events, with particular reference to the Memorial Hall. Members of the forum agreed that more needed to be done, with Focus Wales organiser Neal Thompson suggesting the formation of an ‘Entertainments sub-committee’ to brainstorm best use of facilities and event ideas. Kevin Critchley asked Neal and other volunteers for the committee to report back to the forum once a group was established.
Town Centre Policing Update – Police matters were next to take centre stage, with the year on year comparisons looking like this:-
- 275 fewer crimes
- Victim-based crime down 14%.
- Shoplifting down 28% (150 fewer crimes)
Forum members were reassured that ‘figures are moving in the right direction’ and there should be a clear picture on the statistics at the next forum as the police year runs until the end of March. It was reported that ‘the feel of the town is better’ with ‘shoplifters being made to feel very unwelcome’ with them being ‘met with a wall of blue’.
The forum is open to all to attend so if you think this might be of interest pop along to the next one on Thursday 4th April at 8.30AM.