Posted: Mon 17th Jun 2024

Councillors probe Wrexham Civic Leaders Group’s initiatives, impact, and future plans

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Wrexham Councillors have examined the initiatives and impact of the Civic Leaders Group, an independent volunteer organisation dedicated to promoting Wrexham’s development.

The group, which includes prominent figures from various sectors, was established in 2018 with the aim of fostering growth and enhancing the town’s potential. The councillors sought to understand the group’s structure, achievements, and future plans.

Spencer Harris, representing the Civic Leaders Group, provided an overview of the group’s purpose and activities to the Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee. He explained that the group is not an elected body and does not formally represent Wrexham residents adding it is “not a political group or a pressure or political pressure campaigning group”.

Instead, it operates as a voluntary, non-political network aimed at leveraging the expertise and connections of its members to benefit the now-city, “It’s a group of leaders who’ve been brought together, united with a single ambition. The group of leaders want to see Wrexham reach its full potential and want the very, very best for Wrexham and its residents”.

“In addition, it’s a network. So we leverage opportunities across the group to create connections for the benefit of the town. So for example, very, the most recent one is, is trying to push fostering opportunities and Wrexham as a as an example, or to support the city of culture bid, and lots in between that”.

It was noted that the Group functions without a formal budget or legal structure, and could not commission or procure projects directly. Meetings are hosted and catered by whichever organisation is hosting, with it clear that members attend in their own time – usually evenings. There are ambitions to have representatives from Wrexham AFC and other organisations, including the Health Board, on the Group, plus anyone who has ‘an absolute, burning passion for Wrexham’.

Councillors were particularly interested in the group’s collaborative efforts and the impact of its initiatives. Harris highlighted the development of the “Common Purpose” booklet in late 2019 as a significant achievement. This document outlined a shared vision for Wrexham’s development and was used to attract support and investment from stakeholders, including the Welsh Government. The booklet proposed eight key ideas to revitalize Wrexham, ranging from creating innovative engagement opportunities to improving sustainable transport and repurposing empty properties.

One councillor did note that the document ‘seems to have completely disappeared’ and could not be found publicly and requested a copy.

Maria Hinfelaar, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive at Wrexham University since 2016, is another member of the Civic Leaders Group, elaborated on the group’s timeline and milestones. She recalled the group’s early meetings, where members had frank discussions about Wrexham’s challenges and opportunities.

Hinfelaar also discussed the group’s ongoing efforts, including contributions to the placemaking strategy and support for various local initiatives. The group played a role in the Wrexham Community and Business Awards and supported the city’s bid for City Status and the City of Culture.

The councillors questioned the group’s governance and decision-making processes. Harris explained that the group operates under a Memorandum of Understanding, which outlines how they work together but does not constitute a formal legal status. The group comprises 10 to 15 members from different sectors and meets six times a year. Harris noted that decision-making within the group is typically consensual, with no need for formal voting.

The councillors also inquired about the group’s non-political stance. Harris emphasized that maintaining independence from political influences is crucial for the group’s effectiveness. Members cannot stand for political nomination, which helps ensure that the group’s focus remains on benefiting Wrexham rather than advancing political agendas.

Wrexham.com’s story from earlier this year ( Silence from council over £70k unused Wrexham city logo project ) around a project publicly procured ‘on behalf of the local Civic Leadership Group’ back in 2021 was the focus of a question. Councillors noted that the logos involved were not even used in the presentation before them, and appear never used anywhere.

The logo project was the development of a “brand for Wrexham” to promote the town and county locally up to the national stage. The branding would highlight how the area is a “vibrant, attractive place to work, study, live, shop and visit” with around 3-4 months work via an external agency to develop the ‘fresh and engaging’ brand identity.

A second phase should have seen the planning and operation of a 6 month campaign to promote the brand, with wider ‘out of home area’ style promotion to take Wrexham’s name wider. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​ The project was funded by Welsh Government, Wrexham Council, and both Coleg Cambria and Wrexham Glyndwr University also making a contribution. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​ The budget for the contract was £70,000 inc VAT, funded by the Welsh Government, Wrexham County Borough Council, Wrexham Glyndwr University and Coleg Cambria.

£50K inc VAT was for the “delivery of the brand and associated assets”, the remaining £20K inc VAT was to be spent, by the winning bidder, “on a 6 month campaign” predominantly but not exclusively ‘digital’. Members of the Civic Leadership Group were due to get monthly updates on progress.

Councillors in the meeting last week were told that the Civic Leaders handed the project over to Wrexham Council, saying the group had “shipped them over to the to the team within the local authority that was working on the placemaking strategy”.

Councillors were also concerned that talk of ‘Wrexham’ could be seen as city/town centre centric, with urban villages and other areas of the county borough missing out.

The Group representatives acknowledged that was the historic focus, “The focus of the work has been very much on the center of what was the town now the city, but bearing in mind that for any area to be successful, you need to have a strong City at the heart of it. So that’s how we’ve defined it. Interestingly, when we did a survey, a lot of the commentary that came back was also about all the beautiful things out in the borough. It is not an either / or. But it is very much the focus of the work to date.” Councillors were assured future work would be ‘radiating’ around Wrexham more widely.

As the meeting concluded, the councillors acknowledged the Civic Leaders Group’s contributions to Wrexham’s development. They expressed interest in continuing to work collaboratively with the group where possible, however a more regular update twice a year proposal was not taken forward by councillors.

(Top pic: The unused logos.)



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