“10 key benefits of city status” published by Wrexham Council
Wrexham Council have published a requested “benefits of a city status bid” and information on how the bid “could positively influence the lives of people in Wrexham”.
In a meeting that would embarrass a village hall let alone a prospective city Guildhall a request for further detail on city status was made by the Labour group before they backed the administration’s amendment that “invites the executive board to consider a bid for city status at the next scheduled meeting”, however it is unclear if the request was made correctly.
The Full Council meeting was beset with arguments over the validity of an amendments, forensic detail on the council’s Constitution and amendments not taken up. It is not entirely clear how the request for details on the benefits (with no request for dis-benefits nor negative influences made) of city status to be published on the council’s website was tagged on to the motion that was eventually voted on – with councillors specifically stating they were voting ‘for the amendment with the addition’ during the named roll call vote.
The substantive amendment sending the decision to the executive board was proposed by Cllr Mark Pritchard and seconded by Cllr David A Bithell, meaning it had already become the active amendment (only one amendment may be moved and discussed at any one time) at the point the ‘addition’ was raised. Therefore it appears any ‘addition’ would have required another amendment (22.214.171.124.4) “to insert or add words”.
Interestingly, in the same meeting an attempt to raise an amendment was negated by the Mayor on Legal Officer advice before the ‘addition’ was created (“alterations” are valid under 4.23.7 ‘with the consent of the meeting’ under certain circumstances by specific people) , with the meeting clearly told the debate was on the amendment as proposed and seconded – and nothing else.
Ten minutes passed in the meeting before the ‘addition’ was then raised with proposer Cllr Pritchard subsequently verbally ‘accepting’ the wording tabled by the Labour group leader Cllr Dana Davies, but he did not withdraw and resubmit his amendment with the new wording. Regardless, the ‘addition’ was never seconded by Cllr David A Bithell – who earlier in the debate made a point about it being “very important that we do follow the Constitution, irrespective of what views we have, because that’s our legal document, it is how we do good governance in the council” – Cllr Bithell finally seconded the addition and hour and twenty minutes after a debate had already occurred and a vote was about to be taken.
The statement from Wrexham Council says the request to publish new information was “part of the decision agreed” at the Full Council meeting, and is reflected in the decision notice.
Regardless of how the decision emerged, the detail is now public as requested on the councils website: https://www.wrexham.gov.uk/service/city-status-2022
Councillor Mark Pritchard, Leader of Wrexham Council, says: “The statement has been written by the experts appointed to look at city status as part of a wider piece of place shaping work and summarises the key benefits from their research. This statement provides all of us in Wrexham with a really valuable insight and short summary into the key benefits of becoming a city.”
Councillor David A Bithell, Deputy Leader of Wrexham Council, adds: “The report makes it clear that city status would be part of a bigger place shaping picture, and one of many tools that will help strengthen community well-being, identity and pride in Wrexham.”
The main thrust of the information is a top ten reasons list that “identifies 10 key benefits that Wrexham could capitalise on if it becomes a city”, it is copied in full below:
- Increased sense of local pride.
- A platform to promote Wrexham.
- Opportunities for local institutions and businesses to raise their profile and attract investment. e.g. University
- More potential to attract skilled and ambitious students, employees and investors to Wrexham. e.g. Hospital
- Opportunities for the community, infrastructure, and services to grow and develop more sustainably.
- A focus for future branding and marketing campaigns.
- Greater awareness of Wrexham’s history, culture and language – attracting more visitors and supporting the local economy.
- More potential to attract major projects.
- The ability to collaborate with Welsh and UK cities on specific city projects and initiatives.
- Increased expectations of ‘place making’ that in turn create more vibrant places to live, work and invest.
Two further documents have also been published, here and here, the latter giving a preamble to the above list and an expanded version of the top ten key benefits as above.
There are some subtle extra details, for example No 7 depends the ‘supporting the local economy’ as more specific than the overview list, with money spent locally “increases money spent in local businesses and communities”. Other examples include No. 1 seeing direct “potential health and economic benefits” off the back of local pride, and in No. 3 the City of Wrexham would mean the University would have “opportunity to attract students and research programmes”, similarly No.4 is expanded from “Hospital” to specific “the Hospital and its opportunity to attract skilled medical professionals”.
The other document contains an executive summary sheet of the independent study commissioned by Wrexham Council, the fuller report it refers to already having been published earlier this month – and as we noted at the time containing such highly valued evidence such as a Wrexham.com straw poll.
If voting patterns at Full Council are an indication Wrexham Council’s Executive Board are set to rubber stamp the next step of the City Status at their meeting on the 7th with the submission due to go in shortly after.
Although a bid submission does not guarantee a win, there is a belief in some quarters that Wrexham could be the only bid from Wales and therefore could be highly likely to be chosen.
The Council’s Frequent Asked Questions section on city status:
1. How much is City status going to cost Council tax payers in Wrexham?
City Status is a civic award based on meeting the criteria in the application form. The Gov.uk website states “It is as much about the attributes, institutions and past achievements as it is about the future. This does not in itself increase any costs. The Gov.uk FAQ section actually states the following “The Government does not want local authorities to incur any undue expense entering the competition.”
The Council is not incurring specific costs associated with the city status work and if city status is awarded there are no requirements to incure future additional cost.
2. Will Wrexham be called Wrexham City?
City Status is a civic award based on meeting the criteria in the application form. There is no requirement to change the name of the place. Not all recently awarded cities have taken on that title, although many have used the status within marketing campaigns, etc. It is the case that some towns (e.g. Dunfermline) decided to call themselves a City without being awarded the status…they just did as it was felt to be right for the place and its aspirations
3. Will my Council Tax go up if Wrexham is awarded City Status?
The Council sets the level of Council Tax annually, based on the amount it needs to raise to fund local services. The level of annual increase in Council Tax will vary from year to year and depend on many factors, including increases in demand, the cost of providing services and the level of funding provided by the Welsh Government each year. Achievement of City Status would not be a material consideration when determining the level of Council Tax as any direct costs to the Council associated with it are expected to be minimal.
4. Will the cost of my insurance, such as car and household go up if Wrexham is awarded City Status?
No. Insurance premiums are calculated to reflect risk. Insurance companies look at a range of risk factors that indicate the likelihood of them having to pay out on a claim – for car insurance the risk factors include: age of driver, time since passing test, address, where the vehicle is parked, occupation, driving history, make and model of car, annual mileage and claims history of the individual. Effectively the data behind these factors enables the company to calculate how likely you are to have an accident or make a claim. The more likely you are to claim, the higher the premium you are charged. The address is used as the majority of accidents take place within 5 miles of the driver’s home. Insurance companies look at the average number of claims for that area, crime rate (e.g. theft / vandalism) and how busy the place is. Large inner city areas such as Bradford, Liverpool and Birmingham have amongst the highest premiums in the UK because they have the highest risk factors.
For home insurance it is a similar story – the premiums relate to a number of risk factors that determine how likely the insurance company is to have to pay out on a claim. The address allows the company to look at burglary rates, subsidence and soil types (key for flooding). Other factors include presence of security features, rural or urban setting, proximity to flood plains and the claims history of the individual.
5. Who has paid for the initial consultation and latest report and how much has that cost?
The Council is currently working on a Place Making Strategy that will identify key interventions and support improvements in the Town Centre and the whole of the County Borough irrespective of whether City Status is applied for or awarded. The economic impact report was one single element of this work. This work is funded by Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme, no Council money has been spent on Place Making or City Status elements. All work on city status will contribute to the place making strategy which was planned before the opportunity for bidding for city status was announced as part of the roadmap towards Wrexham’s economic recovery.
6. If City status is granted does that increase funding for infrastructure, etc?
The independent consultant’s report found that there is no clear evidence due to the lack of research in this area between city status as a factor and economic growth. However, when City Status is considered alongside robust, deliverable plans for regeneration and economic development it can help create favourable conditions for growth and inward investment.
Case study analysis showed towns who had been awarded city status identified there were a range of economic benefits.
7. Will Officers and Cllrs be paid more money?
No. Elected Member pay is determined by an Independent Remuneration Panel, which sets a basic salary for Elected Members. Additional payments are available to those Elected Members with additional responsibilities (Scrutiny Committee Chairs, Executive Board Members, etc.) which are based on population bandings set by the independent panel.
City status will not influence the decision making about officers pay. The approach to pay for Council Officers is set out in the Employee Pay & Reward Policy, which is reviewed every 3 years and reflects collective agreements. The Council determines the level of annual salary for employees on NJC, JNC Chief Executives and JNC Chief Officers, using established job evaluation schemes. Job evaluation has established a pay and grading structure that clearly defines roles, responsibilities and job size for every post. All posts subject to the National Joint Council (NJC) conditions for Local Government Services will be evaluated in accordance with the Greater London Provincial Council (GLPC) Job Evaluation scheme. The job evaluation scores will determine the appropriate grade for each post. Officers are able to attract increments within their grade on the basis of evidencing successful performance against set objectives in the annual appraisal process.
8. The Council says it has no money for vital services so where will the money come from if Wrexham becomes a City.
City Status does not require additional Council services as it is a Civic honour awarded on the basis of successfully meeting the criteria in the application form at that point in time. If the Council was to positively use City Status to promote economic growth, this activity would be met from existing Council resources.
9. Can City status be rejected but Cultural City status be granted?
These are two separate competitions taking place as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. They are not linked or dependent on each other. The City of Culture 2025 is awarded to a place, this can be a town a city or a County depending on how the application is targeted. The guidance from UK Government states “from across the UK. We will adopt flexible approach to agreeing which areas can bid. There is no minimum population requirement but there must be a clear central focus and identity to the area, with sufficient existing cultural and digital infrastructure (or credible plans to develop them) to make a compelling case, and provide the critical mass for a year-long programme to be successful. This could be a city or large town, or a cohesive area made up of two or more neighbouring or closely linked cities or towns.”
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