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Council Plan - Strategic Theme: Economy

Strategic Theme: Economy

Supporting a sustainable and thriving economy

People talk about the global economy for a reason. Wrexham businesses may supply goods or services to companies or individuals next door or thousands of miles away, supported by staff who may have commuted from Ruabon, Runcorn or Rhyl. Local authority borders make little difference; we need to join with our neighbours to make the region into a better place for business because job opportunities help to create wealth and to reduce poverty and inequality. This means investment in skills, in infrastructure – improving transport links and broadband – and in harnessing the opportunities of regionally important projects, from HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, to the potential of Wylfa B in Anglesey, and maximising the potential of North Wales as part of the Northern Powerhouse to improve connectivity to the rest of the UK and markets worldwide.

Wrexham, along with the other five local authorities in North Wales, the private sector, higher and further education and third sectors has joined the North Wales Economic Ambition Board and has adopted a growth vision for the economy of North Wales to 2035.  The aim is to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of North Wales, to support and retain young people in the region, address worklessness and inactivity, support and enable private sector investment in the region to boost economic output and to create new job opportunities.  The vision will underpin future investment priorities across the region in infrastructure improvements, skills development and business support.  In broad terms, the vision is to grow the value of the economy by 2.8% per annum to £20billion by 2035 and to create over 120,000 new job opportunities.  There will be many different ways in which the partners try to deliver this vision including the growth deals for North Wales and Cheshire and Warrington – both of which support key investment in Wrexham.    

In addition to the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the Council is also a key partner in the Mersey Dee Alliance (MDA).  The MDA was born out of the recognition of shared economic, social and environmental interests across the West Cheshire, Wirral and North East Wales area.  The Alliance was formed in April 2007 and in addition to Wrexham, comprises the local authorities of Cheshire West and Chester, Flintshire and Wirral, together with Chester University, Wrexham Glyndŵr University, the Welsh Government and Mersey Travel.  The MDA area is unusual in the UK as a major economic area divided by a national boundary.  The area has a great diversity of businesses, a metro economy as well as a large rural hinterland and coastal commuter belt and is a major contributor to the UK economy.  The MDA partnership recognises that the area represents a single economic sub-region with a population of close to one million.  Partners work together on common strategic interests to ensure a sustainable future for the area, and facilitate a coherent approach to social, economic and environmental issues.  The MDA addresses the strategic, cross-boundary issues that affect the area as a whole so as not to duplicate local activity and to ensure it creates added value.

A stronger economy will mean a wider range of job and training opportunities, but not everyone is equally able to access them.  Good quality employment remains the best way out of poverty, but in-work poverty is increasing.  As well as ensuring that good quality opportunities are there, we need to support people to have the appropriate skills, support and qualities to benefit, whether that means introducing people back to learning as the first step on a journey towards work, making readiness for work courses available, or promoting affordable childcare.  

Economy Well-Being Objectives

E1 – Encouraging People to live, work, learn, 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 develop 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:

A place that is attractive to residents will attract businesses and investment and be a place where tourists wish to be.  It’s all about lifestyle.  Providing a vibrant and inclusive economy with a mix of businesses and leisure activity is key to achieving this outcome, although one of the key barriers to supporting business growth and attracting inward investment remains the poor supply of appropriate land for development sites and suitable buildings.

Our long term vision is: to be recognised for our improvements in the County Borough through the continuous pursuit of economic growth.  This will be evidenced by a revitalised Wrexham town- centre and surrounding neighbourhoods via the delivery of new and improved homes, the creation of businesses, jobs and growth of the arts and creative industries sectors to strengthen its regional position and make it the place people choose to live, work, visit and invest in.

In the short term, to achieve this we will:

In the medium to long term, to achieve this we will:

We will monitor our success through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison (Wrexham 2015/16 end of year) Wrexham 2016/17 (Q2) Target 2017/18
Service Standard: Total value of investment in physical regeneration in Wrexham4 £7.35m Reports June 2017 Specific target to be set once 2016/17 data is available
Improve: Value of visitor spend in Wrexham County Borough £100.8m Reports June 2017 Specific target to be set once 2016/17 data is available
Improve: Wrexham Town-Centre footfall Not measured in 2016/17 Reports June 2017 Increase by 2%
Sustain: The vacancy rate of:
a) all retail properties within Wrexham town-centre
b) Council owned retail properties within Wrexham town-centre
a) 10.0% a) 15.84%
b) 2.8%
Remain below the national average

4 This figure is collated from regeneration funding which is levered in from external bodies such as Welsh Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund, but also capital investment from the Council, some of which comes from capital receipts, that is invested in regeneration within the County Borough.

E2 – Supporting businesses to locate and grow here

In recent years many businesses in Wrexham have successfully started up, invested or re-invested within the County Borough.  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 has been driven by the need to reduce budgets.  We are looking to effectively use our limited resources to target the business community and directly meet their needs.

Whilst the team is smaller, the focus remains 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. 

Our long term vision is to: influence and create the conditions for businesses to be able to develop and expand.  To provide an environment where new and existing businesses can operate in a digitally enabled, technologically enhanced economy, embracing the transformational aspect of digital technology to secure a sustainable economy, responding locally to population growth and strategic positioning within the UK to create business growth and employment.

In the short term, to achieve this we will:

We will monitor our success through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison (Wrexham 2016/17 end of year) Wrexham 2016/17 (Q2) Target 2017/18
Improve: No. of recorded business start-ups 64 18 65
Service Standard: Percentage of commercial property occupied 85% 83% 80%
Service Standard: Number of qualified investment enquiries5 381 105 200
Core Standard: Number of recorded  businesses6 9,775 Reports Q1 Over 9,500
Stretch: Gross jobs created where the Council was directly involved 391 180 8007

5 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

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

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

E3 – Helping tackle poverty

Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities, and have the living conditions, resources and amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged or approved in the societies to which they belong. Their resources are so seriously below those expected by the average individual or family that they are in effect excluded from ordinary patterns, customs and activities8.

Living in poverty can have huge implications for the well-being of an individual and a community, and the impact of poverty cuts across all the well-being objectives set out within this plan – whether economic, social or environmental.  As such, the Council has an equality impact assessment (EIA) process in place which requires consideration of the impact of proposed activities on defined groups of people within Wrexham, including those who are living in poverty.  Whilst this promotes the understanding that poverty is everyone’s business, the Tackling Poverty Strategy 2015-18 more specifically focuses on four outcomes in order to understand, prevent and combat poverty, these outcomes are:

1. People in Wrexham are prosperous;  
2. People in Wrexham are healthy;
3. People in Wrexham are engaged in learning; and
4. People in Wrexham feel, and are, safe.

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.

Our long term vision is to: work in collaboration with our partners to promote effective opportunities for those living in, or at risk of, poverty to improve their situation and supporting them to take those opportunities.

In the short term, to achieve this we will:

In the medium to long term, to achieve this we will:

We will monitor the scale of the issue through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison (Wales average) Wrexham Target 2017/18
Proportion of children in households with less than 60% median income (in poverty) 20.5% (2012/13) 18.7% (2012/13) Improving trend
Percentage of workless households in Wrexham 19.4% (2014) 18.6% (2014) Improving trend

We will monitor progress in improving opportunities through:

Outcome Indicator Wales average Summer 2015 Wrexham Summer 20159 Target Summer 2016
Improve: The gap in achievement levels of children who are, and who are not, eligible for free school meals at
a) Foundation Phase
b) Key Stage Two
c) Key Stage Four
b) 15.7%
c) 31.9%
b) 5.9%
c) 35.5%
Improving trend

8 As defined by Townsend, 1973

9Latest available figure