Posted: Wed 6th Oct 2021

Merthyr Tydfil’s city status bid stalls due to ‘strongly held negative views’ as Wrexham Council’s is research ongoing for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 6th, 2021

Wrexham Council appear buoyant in their hopes to progress a bid for city status, as a surprise bid from another town in Wales has hit the rocks.

The metropolis of Merthyr Tydfil has stepped forward to also run for city status, saying it “would give Merthyr Tydfil the same perceived economic and social status as other cities in the UK and compel people both in and outside the county borough to raise their expectations and aspirations for it”.

It appears the short lived campaign has encountered some local resistance with some Merthyr council run polls indicating a 62% (113 votes) no vote, with a range of negative comments including one bleak assessment from a resident made on a post by a local MP for Merthyr “we haven’t even got a swimming pool never mind a cathedral”, although neither are a technical requirement.

Merthyr council say their bid is costing them £45k if they proceed to full application stage, however that process appears to have stalled.

A key Merthyr council meeting was due to be held “where councillors will vote on whether or not the application is taken forward” however hours before the scheduled meeting a statement was made by the council that said: “As a result of the some strongly held negative views that have been expressed in relation to the City Status application, it has been agreed to cancel tonight’s Council meeting.

“The Council now needs to consider what steps to take in relation to this application moving forward.”

Merthyr Council later blocked people from commenting on that announcement .

When asked for a local update on Wrexham’s own city bid the council’s Chief Executive Ian Bancroft recognised Wrexham was “now in a competitive process in terms of from a Welsh perspective”, adding: “We took an Executive Board recommendation that would explore it, we’re doing a piece of research work, and we’ve done information reports about that that are out in the public domain.

“What we always said is when we get to the stage where we have the baseline data from that piece of research, we would then come out and engage.

“Our timescale is a December submission, we have talked about coming back in November on an Executive Board report, so our engagement is looking to be second half of October in advance of that.”

In July it was announced that Wrexham Council had unveiled two ambitious applications that could see the town become a city, and then also becoming a City of Culture with the council promising to share the benefits such a move would entail.

Mr Bancroft was asked if there had been any outcome of the research at this stage of the economic benefits of city status, and if so, what they were.

He replied: “From a technical point of view the piece of research, we’re looking at both cause and effect, hard economic benefits, and softer economic benefits. So that will be part of describing those in terms of the research work when we complete it – then what does that tell us?

“As well, what does it tell us about some of the dis-benefits that are often quoted in terms of issues around council tax, issues around insurance? That analysis is really important, that we get the facts out there in terms of the next stage of engagement.” understands the local ‘Civic Leaders Group’ have received some output from the research last week, however the detail is not public.

The Leader of Wrexham Council Mark Pritchard would not be drawn on who would win out of Wrexham v Merthyr, commenting: “I just say North and South again, and I’ll leave it at that”.

The decision point in early December on if to progress the City Status application would have to take place ahead of an 8th December deadline, with previously told there are hopes for a ‘non-political, educated debate’ on the benefits, the advantages or the disadvantage of city status.

To discover if Wrexham is ‘worthy’ of the status a maximum of eight sides of A4 can be submitted to show how the town meets the proposal against the criteria of:

  • Distinct identity
  • Civic pride
  • Cultural infrastructure, interesting heritage, history and traditions
  • Vibrant and welcoming community
  • Record of innovation
  • Sound governance and administration
  • Associations with Royalty
  • Other “particularly distinctive features, age, residents or communities who have made widely recognised significant contributions to society and cultural infrastructure”.

Minister of State for the Constitution & Devolution, Chloe Smith, previously said of the civic competition: “The Civic Honours competition is an opportunity to promote your hometown and win an honour for it that will last for all time.

“I encourage entries from local authorities in every part of the UK, from vibrant towns and cities with distinct identities, history, and sense of community.

“The brilliance of the United Kingdom is rooted in diverse and unique communities brought together by a shared sense of civic pride, so I have no doubt the competition will be fierce – but success will be a historic moment of celebration for the winners, which will take its place within Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.”

Top pic: The big battle in Wales. 

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