Council Plan 2012-2016 - Strategic Theme: Economy

Strategic Theme: Economy

Creating a vibrant, diverse and inclusive economy

The current economic downturn means that businesses are trading in an incredibly tough environment, unemployment is on the up, high street spending is down and economies are becoming more and more fragile.

Priority Outcomes

The Context

The employment rate in Wrexham County Borough is high, but this masks issues around youth unemployment and comparatively low levels of self-employment. The value of the goods and services produced in the County Borough¹ is one of the highest in Wales, but gross disposable household income is around the Wales average.

The number of businesses in the County Borough has fallen since 2005, but the completion of the Eagles Meadow shopping and leisure complex has seen significant growth in local leisure and shopping opportunities and there are a lower proportion of empty shops on Wrexham high streets than in most UK towns.

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 2012-16. This priority outcome also reflects the 'Our Wrexham Plan' theme of 'A place with a strong, resilient and responsible economy'.

'The single most important thing the Council can do is to encourage new business to provide work for local people'
2012 'What are the key issues for Wrexham' Survey respondent

Job prospects was the issue highlighted as most in need of improvement in the County Borough, supported by 52% of survey respondents². A third of respondents (33.2%) also highlighted wage levels and the local cost of living.

'I would like to see more work done on the town centre'.
2013 'Your council, your area' survey respondent

¹ Gross value added per head was £17,820 in 2011 (Regional Accounts - ONS)

² 'The key issues for Wrexham County Borough' survey


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.

We are investing in the County Borough in order to:

  • Secure enough of the right land or buildings to attract high quality employment opportunities with premium employers;
  • Capitalise on the potential of our tourism assets to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more;
  • Reduce the number of vacant/void town centre premises and increase footfall. More shoppers means more pounds through the shop tills!
  • Conserve and regenerate key buildings to raise the overall quality and feel of the infrastructure and public realm within the County Borough.

One way of gauging the health of the economy is to take a walk down any high street. And, according to the latest survey, the results are not good, with 14% of town centre shops in the UK currently vacant. Weak consumer confidence, rising unemployment and growing online sales are being blamed.

A place that is attractive to residents will also attract business 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 2012/2013 Target 2013/2014
Sustain: Total value of investment in physical regeneration in Wrexham £3.53m3 £1.6m £1.7m
Sustain: Town centre vacancy rate 14%4 10% Sustain performance at a minimum of 5% below the national average5.
Improve: Value of visitor spend in Wrexham County Borough £87m6 Awaiting report from STEAM in May 13 £88m7

We will achieve this by:

  • Improving the visitor experience within the whole of the world heritage site including support for the development of tourist facilities and attractions at key locations such as Trevor Basin and Chirk;
  • Preserving the distinctive character of our built heritage;
  • Taking forward physical improvements in Wrexham town centre including physical and environmental improvements at King Street and infrastructure improvements at the indoor markets; and
  • Developing and delivering a Marketing and Communications plan with focus on promoting Wrexham Town Centre, Wrexham Industrial Estate and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site

3 Figures for Wrexham County Borough 2011/12

4 UK average for 2012/13

5 In other words, our vacancy rate will track the national average

6 Figures for Wrexham County Borough 2011/12

7 Projected figures are at 2011/12 prices and will need to be adjusted for inflation. They also take into account the imminent changes to the Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Measure (STEAM) system used to collate such economic data, in addition to the economic trend for the past 5-year period.


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. For example, the occupancy levels in our commercial property portfolio have declined in recent years. This mirrors the experience of many private sector landlords. Over the next five years we will adjust our property portfolio to make it more relevant to business needs and work with all partners to try and attract new businesses to this area. We shall also encourage and support new business starts. Our overall goal is to increase the number of registered businesses in the County Borough from 4,565 (ONS, March 2010) to closer to 5,000 over the period and create jobs for local people.

We will monitor our success through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison
Wrexham 2011/2012
Wrexham 2012/2013 Target 2013/2014
Sustain: Number of new businesses assisted by Wrexham County Borough Council (WCBC)8 30 80 Sustain above 70
Improve:Percentage of WCBC lettable commercial property occupied9 68 71 78
Improve: Number of qualified investment enquiries10 100 230 Sustain above 200
Improve: Number of registered businesses 456511 5127 Increase at one percent per year more than the national average
Improve: Number of jobs created New indicator 28 30

We will achieve this by:

  • Developing close business relationships with strategically important businesses;
  • Encouraging entrepreneurship, business start-ups and indigenous growth by developing tailored packages of business support;
  • Providing commercial property that meets the needs of indigenous business, New Start businesses and potential inward investors;
  • Helping businesses and training partners identify skills gaps and work with colleges to extend the training they can offer;
  • Helping businesses increase their turnover, profit and sustainability by encouraging 'supply chain' opportunities and links between businesses; and
  • Developing 'business communities' and encourage dialogue between firms so that they work together for mutual benefit and improved competitiveness.
  • Undertaking business interventions providing advice and guidance tailored to meet the needs of the business, with the intention of creating and safeguarding jobs.

8Robust information on the number of new business is not available, and so this measure is to be used as a proxy

9 Information on vacancies across all commercial property is not available, and so this measure is to be used as a proxy

10 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.

11 Figure taken from March 2010 and derived from ONS


E3 – People can prosper as individuals and within their communities

Unemployment in Wrexham is not significantly worse than anywhere else in Wales however at 4.1% compared to Wales average of 4.3% it is not something we are complacent about especially in this tough 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 been steadily rising and is amongst the highest in North Wales, targeted efforts are needed to reverse this trend.

Engaging economically inactive people in community activity and community learning is a recognised route to improving employability, community spirit and cohesion which leads to building strong, 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.

If people have bank accounts they can often save money – on utilities, mobile phones, credit and so on. Yet figures from Experian show that 28% of low earners in Wrexham don't have them, meaning that their low income has to pay disproportionately for the things that many take for granted. We will work with partners to define and deliver a financial inclusion action plan that will help more people open a bank account.

We will monitor our success through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison Wrexham 2012/2013 Target 2013/2014
Improve: Percentage of people aged 16-64 claiming Job Seekers Allowance12 4.0% (Wales) 3.7% (GB) 4.0% 3.913
Sustain: Percentage of key benefit claimants (Nomis definition)14 17.5% (Wales)
14.1% (GB)
16.3% 16.2%
Improve: Percentage of 18-24 population in Wrexham who claim Job Seekers Allowance15 7.8% (Wales)
6.7% (GB)
8.1% Below Wales Average

We will achieve this by:

  • Identifying a way forward with our partners to both reduce economic inactivity and respond to the challenges resulting from the Welfare Reform;
  • Increasing activities that encourage participation in learning and volunteering in order to increase community activity particularly in our 25 most deprived communities (as identified through Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2012);
  • Providing support in our rural communities to promote youth enterprise and sustainability to stimulate the rural economy and reduce youth unemployment; and
  • Working with our partners to reduce financial exclusion through provision of a co-ordinated range of services such as debt advice, access to mainstream banking (credit union) and supporting a reduction in fuel poverty

12 ONS claimant count – the comparison and Wrexham 2012/13 figures are quarterly figures taken from NOMIS, published April 2013.

13 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.

14 Key Benefit claimants (total claimants) taken from NOMIS. Data used is most recently available – November 2012

15 ONS claimant count – the comparison and Wrexham 2012/13 figures are quarterly figures taken from NOMIS, published April 2013

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