Posted: Mon 26th Feb 2024

A view from Wrexham’s Member of Parliament for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, Feb 26th, 2024 has invited Wrexham & Clwyd South Members of Parliament and Members of the Senedd to write a monthly article with updates on their work in their respective Parliaments and closer to home – you can find them all here.

In this month’s column Wrexham’s MP, Sarah Atherton writes: ‌

Recently, the Welsh Government announced that they are reducing business rate relief for Welsh retail and hospitality from 75% to 40%.

Meanwhile, the UK Government continues to back businesses in England with the 75% rate relief. Now, we are seeing the real consequences of this as I have heard from local cafés and other small community focused businesses who are thinking about closure.

Worryingly, decreasing rate relief could also be the final nail in the coffin for many of our rural pubs who are grappling with rising energy and supply costs and are still bouncing back from COVID-19.

In 2023, at least one pub shut per week in Wales and now coupled with the slashed rate relief, things will only get worse.

As a former brewer, I am particularly proud of Wrexham’s successful brewing heritage.

Pubs are the beating heart of our community and play a vital role in tackling loneliness and providing employment.

They deserve to remain open and to keep thriving – not to be punished as a result of the Welsh Government’s failure to spend money where it really matters.

At a time when Wrexham has received £57 million worth of investment from the UK Government, the Welsh Government needs to step up and support our local businesses and pubs by keeping rate relief at 75%.

Recently, we marked the one-year anniversary of the Welsh Labour Government’s Roads Review, which scrapped some of the most high-profile road building schemes in Wales.

For Wrexham, this meant that the A483 Wrexham Bypass Junctions 3 to 6 scheme to reduce congestion was scrapped to reduce residents using cars, get us on our bikes and force us on infrequent bus services.

Congestion in Wrexham will only get worse as now, Wrexham’s Local Development Plan – a plan imposed on us by the Welsh Government and Labour Councillors and Senedd Members – is imposing 8,000 new homes in Wrexham.

The problem here is that the Welsh Government is working against its aims of increasing public transport use. Let’s look at the facts:

  • The Welsh Government’s £34million 20 mph blanket policy has caused Arriva to reconfigure timetables and consider scrapping certain bus routes, leaving remote villages and regular passengers stranded.
  • Due to 20mph, taxis have had to increase fares and now take 2 less rides a shift.
  • Whilst Welsh Labour-run Transport for Wales continues to run a poor service and with the worst customer service record in the UK, they are increasing ticket prices by a staggering 4.9%.

With the ludicrous 20mph speed limit, which I have recently called to be repealed, and hiking train ticket prices up, Labour’s war on motorists with its anti-car and anti-driver policies knows no bounds. It begs the question, what’s next for Wrexham – ULEZ and toll roads?

Since the Roads Review announcement, Wales has been slowly grinding to a halt. The new First Minister needs to implement a pro-worker, pro-growth and pro-business transport infrastructure that matches the needs of our growing city.

Having revamped my Transport Survey, please share your thoughts on transport in Wrexham here.

I recently undertook a survey on mobile connectivity in the ‘not-spot’ area of Rossett. An unacceptable number of respondents stated that poor mobile signal is a barrier to accessing health, education, and financial services, despite Ofcom’s coverage checker stating that Rossett is, “likely to receive good coverage”.

Having discussed these issues with Wrexham Council, Ofcom, UK Government Ministers, and Building Digital UK over the past few months, I recently met with representatives from FreshWave to hear what they are doing to improve services for Wrexham residents.

FreshWave recently signed an open-access agreement with Wrexham Council, which now allows mobile network operators to use lampposts to boost mobile coverage for residents. Whilst FreshWave’s work attempts to bridge the gap, it is only working to boost mobile phone signal within the city centre.

In addition, after checking with EE about mobile coverage in Rossett, they claimed that they upgraded the mast at Broadoak, which services the area. However, I didn’t see any improvement when I visited. I am meeting with EE representatives soon to push for better solutions for Rossett residents’ concerns.

Most worryingly, given Ofcom’s skewed predictions, Rossett may not be covered by the Shared Rural Network which is a £1 billion UK Government initiative to ensure UK mobile phone operators deliver strong 4G coverage for those in rural areas. This week, I raised my concerns with the Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Julia Lopez MP, and I am pursuing this to ensure that the Government addresses the Ofcom prediction discrepancy.

As always, if you are a resident in the current Wrexham constituency boundary and need my assistance with any local or national issues, please contact me by emailing: [email protected].

Spotted something? Got a story? Email [email protected]

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