WREXHAM needs to become a city in order to realise its full potential, according to the county’s most senior public servant.

Wrexham Council chief executive Ian Bancroft, who took up his post at the start of September, believes the area needs to be aspirational in spite of some difficult financial challenges.

The local authority is faced with making cuts of around £18m to its budget in the next two years and Mr Bancroft warned that some frontline services could be stopped by 2021.

However, he said staff and politicians were still committed to helping Wrexham to make progress moving forward.

Chief executive Ian Bancroft

He said: “I think the reality is that at some time in the future an opportunity for city status applications will come along.

“It generally happens when there’s a major royal event.

“The reality for me is we need to already be seen as a city by the time that comes along.

“If you look at a city it has a football club, it has a university, it has a hospital, it has a prison.

“We have all those institutions that make a city, so we need to be a city.”

Council leader Mark Pritchard said the authority needs to continue investing in local infrastructure moving forward.

He highlighted the approval of 50 apartments above shops on Henblas Square as an example of how town centre businesses can be helped to prosper.

The shopping precinct has sat largely empty in recent years following the departure of major retailers such as BHS.

However, plans are afoot to attract new businesses and a major sports retailer is set to take the place of the department store in the new year.

Council leader Mark Pritchard

Cllr Pritchard said: “There’s green shoots now coming from Wrexham, I really believe that.

“If you look at BHS, that was a big decision and I don’t usually speak in favour of planning applications, I usually speak against them, but I had to go there and convince them that this needs to happen.

“The town is shrinking and you’ve got to move forward with the town being an experience with events like the Christmas markets.

“On top of that you’ve got to have apartments in town centres because the days of coming into town and then turning the lights off at 6pm at night and everybody goes home have gone.”

The council has recently consulted on the possibility of closing some of its libraries and emptying black bins once every three weeks after receiving a lower than expected budget from the Welsh Government.

King Street in Wrexham

It has led to criticism of the authority from members of the public through social media and other channels.

While Cllr Pritchard said it comes with the territory, he added that some of the decisions had left him feeling morally conflicted.

He said: “With disabled facility grants, we put £1.3m into that every year and that adapts properties to keep our residents living independently within their own homes.

“We’ll have to look at that budget this time.

“Now how do you make a decision on that when you know it’s going to cause a lot of pain and hurt to usually elderly people who have been in hospital?

“That’s a soul searcher for me. I do have moral issues that drive me round the bend.”

At the same time, Mr Bancroft said cuts of £160,000 to the council’s senior management structure showed it was prepared to cut its cloth at the top level.

During the early 2000s, the authority had a chief executive, seven directors and 14 chief officers.

That has now been reduced to the chief executive and seven chief officers.

Mr Bancroft said: “In light of not being able to have a settlement that we were hoping for, it means we’ve prepared the ground for trying to manage that by taking out a saving of £160,000 from the senior management structure and reinvesting another £160,000 into services that are really struggling.

“If you take that as a scale of reduction at the top level, we’re now a third of the size we were.

“We don’t come in this job either as a chief executive or a leader to reduce public services and make budget cuts.

“However, what we do take really seriously is that if we have to do those things we try to do it in a way that listens to what people say to try and make the best decisions for Wrexham as a place and its people.

“As head of paid service, every time we put forward a proposal or are asked by members to develop a proposal that means we are going to cut services and people’s jobs, their families and mortgages are going to be affected and that hurts every time.

“It’s lonely, but at the same time absolutely a privilege to do our roles and we wouldn’t choose anything else.”