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Council Plan 2014-2017 - Strategic Theme: Economy

Strategic Theme: Economy

Creating a vibrant, diverse and inclusive economy

The current economic context means that businesses continue to trade in an incredibly tough environment. Unemployment is reducing but remains high, empty shops feature on every high street, spending is still low and economies remain fragile.

Priority Outcomes

The Context

More people are economically active in Wrexham than the average for Wales, but there are issues around youth unemployment and low levels of self-employment. The unemployment rate is improving but is no longer better than the Welsh average, which has improved faster. The value of the goods and services produced in the County Borough¹ is joint fifth highest in Wales, but gross disposable household income is around the Wales average².

The Eagle’s Meadow shopping and leisure complex has seen significant growth in local leisure and shopping opportunities and, whilst it remains a concern, 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 area highlighted as most in need of improvement in the County Borough, supported by 52% of survey respondents³. A third of respondents (33.2%) also highlighted wage levels and the local cost of living.

'Shoppers go elsewhere...there is a large amount of money being spent in towns other than ours by local people who would dearly like to support our town'.
2013 ‘You Choose’ survey respondent

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

² Gross disposable household income was £14,302 in 2011 (Regional Accounts – ONS)

³ '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. However, we need 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 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 14% 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 2012/13) Wrexham 2013/14 Target 2014/15
Sustain: Total value of investment in physical regeneration in Wrexham £1.6m4 £2.36m £2.36m
Sustain: Town centre vacancy rate 10% 10.5% Sustain performance at a minimum of 5% below the national average5.
Improve: Value of visitor spend in Wrexham County Borough £92.97m6 Reports in July of the following year £96.2m

We will achieve this by:

4 Figures for Wrexham County Borough 2011/12

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

6 Figures for Wrexham County Borough 2011/12

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 and create jobs for local people.

We will monitor our success through:

Outcome Indicator Comparison
Wrexham 2011/2012
Wrexham 2012/2013 Target 2013/2014
Minimum: Number of new businesses assisted by Wrexham County Borough Council (WCBC)7 80 103 65
Set baseline: Take up of commercial & Industrial (non retail) premises in WCBC n/a - Establish Baseline
Minimum: Number of qualified investment enquiries8 230 202 100
Sustain: Number of registered businesses9 - 9,795 9,795
Minimum: Number of jobs created 28 162 125

We will achieve this by:

7The source of this information has been changed as more robust information for number of recorded businesses is available from a Welsh Government database

8These 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

9The data source for this indicator has changed and will now be taken direct from Welsh Government figures. This is not comparable with the previously reported figures

E3 – People can prosper as individuals and within their communities

Unemployment in Wrexham is falling, but not as quickly as it is elsewhere; as a result unemployment in Wrexham is currently the same as the Wales average of 3.5%. This masks comparatively high levels of economic activity but 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.  This work reflects the Council’s agreed equality objective of reducing inequalities in employment and pay.

Engaging economically inactive people in community activity, volunteering and community learning is a recognised route to improving employability, community spirit and cohesion whilst building resilient, active and prosperous communities.  Our focus will be that together in Wrexham, we can encourage co-operation within communities.  Thus 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 2012/13) Wrexham 2013/14 Target 2014/15
Sustain: Percentage of people aged 16-64 claiming Job Seekers Allowance10 3.4% (Wales) 2.9% (GB) 3.5% Below Wales Average
Sustain: Percentage of key benefit claimants (Nomis definition) 11 13.7% (Wales) 10.9% (GB) 16.3% 16.2%
Improve: Percentage of 18-24 population in Wrexham who claim Job Seekers Allowance12 6.3% (Wales) 4.4% (GB) 6.9% Below Wales Average

We will achieve this by:

10ONS claimant count – the comparison and Wrexham 2012/13 figures are quarterly figures taken from NOMIS, published March 2014

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

12 ONS claimant count – the comparison and Wrexham 2012/13 figures are quarterly figures taken from NOMIS, published March 2014