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Council Plan - Strategic Theme: Economy

Strategic Theme: Economy

Creating a vibrant, diverse and inclusive economy

The UK economy is reported to be growing at a faster rate than most other European countries as it emerges from recession. In Wrexham there are clear signs of recovery with significant investment in both the manufacturing and service sectors underway or planned in the near future. It is vital that these positive signs of growth are supported and that their impact is felt right across the County Borough, with new job opportunities, increased spending on the high street and continued improvement in local infrastructure.

Priority Outcomes

The Context

The overall and youth employment rates in Wrexham are below the Wales average, but self-employment remains comparatively low.

Average earnings by workplace remain lower than the Wales average although average earnings by residence are reasonably consistent with Wales and the UK average¹. The value of goods and services produced in the County Borough² is joint fifth highest in Wales, but gross disposable household income is around the average and availability of suitable land and buildings is a barrier for attracting investment.

Despite reports that the urban centre would suffer most from customers’ ability to purchase over the internet, the reality is that town centre businesses have changed the way in which they operate and offer collection points within stores to attract greater footfall. Larger towns are performing better than smaller towns and in Wrexham footfall during 15/16 increased by 1.5% since 2014/15. The emerging Arts Space at the People’s Market and projects highlighted in the town centre Masterplan will help to improve footfall during the coming years. The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation highlights the contrasts within the County Borough, with one area being one of the ten most deprived areas in Wales and another just outside the ten least deprived areas.

How this theme was developed

The priority outcomes within this strategic theme are drawn from the Economic Prosperity Strategy 2012-17. This priority outcome also reflects the ‘Our Wrexham Plan’ theme of ‘A place with a strong, resilient and responsible economy’ which focuses on three areas – reducing poverty, engaging with businesses and promoting links between schools and businesses.

Need to maximise the opportunities the prison gives and town centre needs to be much more ambitious in terms of what it offers.

Common concerns from the What’s Important Survey 2016

The 2016 ‘What’s Important to You’ survey highlighted that improving the support being given to shop owners and reducing the numbers of empty shops was the single biggest area for improvement identified by local people. This was closely followed by the need to create more jobs and reduce unemployment and for more to be done to help local businesses set up and grow .

¹Office for National Statistics

² Gross value added per head was £17,878 in 2012 (Regional Accounts - ONS)

E1 – People want to live, work, visit and invest here

The more people who want to build their lives, pursue their ambitions or spend money here, the wealthier the County Borough will be with a better quality of life for everyone. We need however to build the right physical environment and the right image or profile of the area to encourage this.

We are investing in the County Borough in order to:

One of the key barriers to supporting business growth and attracting inward investment is the poor supply of appropriate development sites and suitable buildings. Currently, (30 March 2016) out of a total of approximately 560 properties on Wrexham Industrial Estate there are 41 empty units representing 188,160 square feet, listed as available for rental, however these figures change on a daily basis.

One way of gauging the health of the economy is to take a walk down any high street. According to a recent national survey, the results are not good, with 10% of town centre shops in the UK currently vacant. Weak consumer confidence and growing online sales are being blamed.  A place that is attractive to residents will also attract businesses and investment as well as be a place where tourists wish to be. It’s all about lifestyle.

We will monitor our success through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison (Wrexham 2014/15) Wrexham 2015/16 Target 2016/17
Core Standard: Total value of investment in physical regeneration in Wrexham £2.7m £7.35m £4.55m
Sustain: Town centre vacancy rate 14% 10% Below the national average (most recently available 15.5%)
Sustain: Value of visitor spend in Wrexham County Borough £100.6m Data reports in Q1 of the following year £100.6m

What we will do to support this priority objective:

E2 – Businesses can locate and grow here

In recent years many businesses in Wrexham County Borough have been adversely affected by the downturn in the global economy. Similarly, our own commercial activities have not been immune. Our business support team has played a crucial role in nurturing the local economy in Wrexham – helping businesses relocate and start up here, and creating jobs along the way but the focus of the team has undergone a fundamental restructuring, moving it away from delivering direct business support to enabling it. The change is being driven by the need to reduce budgets, and the fact it will no longer be delivering various Welsh Government and European Contracts.

Whilst the team is smaller the focus will remain the same and it will continue to target an increase in the number and quality of new businesses in the county borough, encourage business investment, increase occupancy rates across commercial property owned by the council, and so on. The change is also proving a good opportunity for us to re-energise our collaboration with other agencies, including training providers, colleges, universities, central government and other partners. All in line with the team’s new emphasis on coordinating and enabling support for business, rather than delivering it directly.

We will monitor our success through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison
Wrexham 2014/2015
Wrexham 2015/2016 Target 2016/2017
Improve: No. of recorded business start ups 67 64 65
Core Standard: Percentage of commercial property occupied   80% 85% 80%
Core Standard: Number of qualified investment enquiries3 347 381 200
Core Standard: Number of recorded  businesses4 9,635 9,775 Over 9,500
Stretch: Gross jobs created where the Council was directly involved 142 391 8005

What we will do to support this priority objective:

Employers Pledge - Aimed at future proofing Wrexham’s workforce

We are committed to nurturing fresh, new talent within our industry who will enhance our core values to provide our customers with high quality, innovative products whilst at the same time we ensure employee skills and ambitions are recognised and rewarded.

3 These are investment enquiries from outside the County Borough that are not simply a general enquiry but are from an interested party with a view to relocation.

4 This figure is produced by Welsh Government.   It is not comparable with the figures reported in earlier Council Plans

5 This figure includes 500 permanent, non-construction jobs, which are expected to be created through the new Prison

E3 – People can prosper as individuals and within their communities

Unemployment in Wrexham, as measured by the number of Job Seeker’s Allowance claimants, is below the Wales average at 1.5% of the population. Unemployment is not something we are complacent about especially in what continues to be a challenging economic climate.  Increased, co-ordinated action to reduce unemployment is required to ensure growth in Wrexham’s economy is realised for the residents of Wrexham. Youth unemployment in Wrexham has improved over the last twelve months with the claimant rate for 18-24 year olds showing significantly lower than the Wales average at 1.7%. Wrexham’s approach to tackling young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) has been successful in recent years but targeted interventions are required to sustain and build upon this improvement.  This work reflects the Council’s agreed equality objective of reducing inequalities in employment and pay. We will work to maximise the benefit to local communities of significant structural projects such as the North Wales Prison development on Wrexham Industrial Estate, which has the potential to deliver hundreds of local jobs on site, as well as through the supply chain.

Engaging economically inactive people in community activity, volunteering and community learning is a recognised route to improving employability, community spirit and cohesion, which leads to building resilient, active and prosperous communities. Our focus will be on improving quality as much as on overall growth, ensuring that progression and impact become the priorities, and develop a process that demonstrates such engagement can make a real difference in terms of economic and social wellbeing. We will engage with those members of our communities deemed to be hardest to reach in order to support their journey towards more positive economic outcomes, recognising that complex barriers need to be addressed and removed along the way. We will support and add value to the Together in Wrexham initiative, which will support the community to contribute to improving quality of life through participation in the design and delivery of local services in the county borough.

We will maintain a focus on tackling inequalities in our communities, ensuring that people can access the services they need to prosper. Digital inclusion is a key element of this focus as computers and the internet play an ever increasing role in the provision of benefits, access to employment opportunities and the purchasing of commodities and services. Access to a bank account means utilities, mobile phones and other facilities can be secured more cheaply through direct-debit. Low earners in Wrexham struggle to apply for bank accounts and as a result have to pay disproportionately for the things that many take for granted. We will work with partners to define and deliver support around financial inclusion to overcome these challenges.

We will monitor our success through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison (Q3 2015/16) Target 2016/17
Sustain: Percentage of people aged 16-64 claiming Job Seekers Allowance6 1.5% (Wrexham)
1.9% (Wales)
Below the Wales average7
Sustain: Percentage of 18-24 population in Wrexham who claim Job Seekers Allowance8 1.7% (Wrexham)
2.7% (Wales)
Below the Wales average
Sustain: Percentage of key benefit claimants (Nomis definition)9 14.4% (Wrexham)
15.8% (Wales)
Below the Wales average

What we will do to support this priority objective:

6 ONS claimant count – the comparison and Wrexham 2013/14 figures are quarterly figures taken from NOMIS, published February 2014

7 Target is to maintain position below Wales average for the next year giving time for Employment Strategy to be determined and have initial impact in 2015, increasing gap below Wales average by further 0.1% each year. Percentages assume Wales average stays constant, and so would need to be revised annually to serve as ‘tracker’ figures rather than absolute figures.

8 ONS claimant count – the comparison and Wrexham 2015/16 figure is the quarterly figure from NOMIS, published February 2016

9 Key Benefit claimants (total claimants) taken from NOMIS.  Data used is most recently published – August  2014