A FORMER council boss has said it is “absolutely essential” that Wrexham makes a formal bid for city status.
Derek Griffin, who was chief executive of Wrexham Council when the town applied for city status in 2000 and 2002, is not giving up the fight and he is calling for everyone who is in favour of the bid to make their voices heard.
He believes it is vital for the future success of the town and claims there is “absolutely nothing to lose” from making a bid.
The Government has invited bids for city status to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012. It is likely only one new city will be created from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Wrexham Council’s public consultation on the bid draws to a close today.
Mr Griffin said: “It’s very important that we back a bid as it would bring a massive amount of positive publicity to the area.
“There’s a long list of benefits city status would bring, from improving the economy to creating better quality and a bigger range of jobs, to attracting more international students to the university, which will in turn give us a better position in the UK and Europe.
“I remember after the last bid in 2002 I counted 150 separate references to Wrexham’s bid in the local and national media and 99 per cent of it was positive.
“Even an unsuccessful bid will really lift the town’s profile and it’s a huge opportunity to present its positive aspects.
“Wrexham began as a small market town and now it is North Wales’ premier town with a superb university, the north’s largest hospital, St Mary’s Cathedral and it’s a major sporting centre.
“That’s all worth recognition and should be honoured accordingly.”
Mr Griffin, who is now a member of the board for Glyndwr University, emphasised the need for the north to have an official focus and outlined the lack of balance due to Wales’ three cities, Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, all being situated in the south.
He said: “The 2002 campaign used the slogan ‘honouring achievement and seeking a greater balance in Wales’ and that’s still just as relevant today.
“Wrexham just needs the confidence to go for it.”
He also discredited the myth that a bid would be costly, claiming the process actually “costs peanuts” and would only take up a little extra time for council officers.
Mr Griffin added: “If we don’t at least try there’s a real danger Wrexham will slip backwards and it will suggest we’ve given up and lost the appetite to improve.
“We should be fighting for what I believe city status would bring – a stronger economy, better jobs and a better life for all.”
ANYONE who has ever thrown themselves wholeheartedly behind one side of an argument will be familiar with someone, at some point, telling them there is, in fact, a whole other side to consider.
When it comes to Wrexham's possible bid for city status, however, to think in terms of just two sides to the debate can seem woefully simplistic.
As is the case with this week’s referendum on Welsh Assembly law-making, there is another and arguably more powerful group of people to consider.
That group is the don’t knows – because they aren’t fully informed on the issues at stake, say, or simply because they don’t care.
One man who most definitely does care is Derek Griffin, chief executive of Wrexham Council when the town applied for city status in 2000 and 2002.
He is calling for everyone who is in favour of the bid to make themselves heard, arguing there is “absolutely nothing to lose”.
On the contrary, he says: city status would be a shot in the arm for the economy, boost Wrexham’s international standing and generate much other positive publicity.
He denies a bid would be costly and says it would take up a little extra time for council officers.
As Mr Griffin puts it: “Even an unsuccessful bid will really lift the town’s profile.”
So, with the council’s public consultation on the bid closing today, where do we stand?
Community councils are divided, while a Leader poll in December found 66 per cent of those who voted were against the bid.
Readers believed a bid would be a poor investment, with some arguing the town would be simply ill-equipped to cope with the change.
And it’s here that the views of the don’t knows – or the apathetic or indifferent – come into play.
Their support is there to be won or lost on the strength of the arguments being put forward.
Wrexham Council officer Alan Watkin says its own consultation has revealed many residents against the move cite reasons he claims are untrue.
Mr Watkin says it is a myth that council tax would necessarily increase with city status and there is no evidence senior council staff would be paid more.
Wrexham town centre, he says, is actually a more vibrant place than many across the UK as all battle the effects of economic austerity.
The message is clear: get yourself informed and you might just change your mind.
So let’s hear it for Derek Griffin, a man who knows what he thinks and, having been down this road twice before, is prepared to take the journey again.
We might not all agree with him – but in an age of uncertainty, his positive attitude is positively refreshing.
See full story in the Leader