Ban on rallies in Wrexham square set to be ditched

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

A PROPOSAL to ban political campaigning in Wrexham’s main square looks set to be dropped.


Earlier this year, Wrexham Council’s officers unveiled a plan to stop political activity in Queens Square and nearby Llwyn Isaf.


But there was uproar from politicians, who said the move would stifle free speech.


Councillors sent the proposal back for further consideration when it came up for discussion at February’s meeting of the corporate affairs scrutiny committee.


And a fresh report, due to be considered by the committee on Wednesday, calls for the plan to be scrapped.


A report from Steve Bayley, head of assets and economic development, says: “Corporate and customer services have advised that there are no legal grounds to prevent a political party from hiring either Queens Square of Llwyn Isaf subject to maintaining the neutrality of the council during an election period.”


Cllr Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru councillor for Whitegate, said: “Wrexham Council had tried to limit free speech and political activity in Queens Square and Llwyn Isaf, both of which are owned by the council, under the guise of trying to prevent the likes of the English Defence League from mobilising there.


“But the ban would have also stopped legitimate political parties and campaign groups from being able to speak out on issues affecting Wrexham citizens.”


Wrexham Labour MP Ian Lucas said: “The council’s U-turn on this matter is very much welcome.


“What I do not understand is how the proposal surfaced when not one of the parties running the council – be they Liberal Democrat, Conservative, or Plaid Cymru – backed the proposals when they were asked about it.


“It is just a shame the council brought forward the proposals in the first place and tells us much about the confusion in the governing groups.”


At Wednesday’s meeting, councillors will be asked to approve an increase in charges for hiring the square and Llwyn Isaf.


If given the go-ahead, this would mean local charities and council departments would pay £30 a day instead of £25, national and regional charities £60 instead of £50 and commercial enterprises and non-charities £150 instead of £100.


The armed forces would still be able to hire either area free of charge.

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