UK – Case study 1: Wrexham


Historical Context

Wrexham developed as a trading town in the early 12th century and prospered as a market town during the 14th and 15th centuries trading wool and leather during which time almost half of the inhabitants were economic migrants (Wrexham County Borough Council 2009, p. 5). There was an ironworks at Bersham near Wrexham from the mid-17th century onwards but increased orders during the late 18th century saw it rapidly develop and expand (Wrexham County Borough Museum 2019) arguably making it one of the most important and pioneering manufacturing centres in the world.

Image 1: Map of Wrexham County Borough and Wrexham town (source: Wikipedia)
Image 1: Map of Wrexham County Borough and Wrexham town (source: Wikipedia)

Current Context

Wrexham is the largest town in the north of Wales and is situated close to the boundary with England to the East. It has a population of approximately 47,000 and as part of the wider Wrexham County Borough, is the fourth largest urban area in Wales with a population of 134,844 (Wrexham County   Borough   Council 2018, p. 4). The borough is forecast to have population growth higher than all the other authorities in North Wales combined highlighting an urgent need for new homes (Wrexham County Borough Council 2016, p. 7).

Image 2: Wrexham town (source:
Image 2: Wrexham town (source:
Image 3: Wrexham town food festival (source: Wrexham Matters)
Image 3: Wrexham town food festival (source: Wrexham Matters)

Although Wrexham town is based within a relatively affluent county, it has pockets of significant deprivation (Bennett and Batty 2018, p. 4).  Since 2010 the borough has been subject to an average of £729 cuts to welfare spending per working age adult, per year taking its toll on public services. Wrexham has relatively low unemployment due to its proximity to Liverpool and Manchester, as well as being the location of a large industrial park (Bennett and Batty 2018, p. 4).


The Football Association of Wales (FAW) was founded in Wrexham in February 1876 by a group of businessmen and in the early years was heavily dominated by the north with clubs such as Wrexham AFC, Oswestry Town FC and Chirk AAA FC rising to prominence. The Welsh Cup was introduced in 1877/78 with the initial aim of finding players of international calibre and Wrexham were the competition’s first winners (Football Association of Wales 2019).


The governance structure of Wales within Europe and the UK

Wales in itself is a region within the European Union and has four elected MEP that sit in in the European Parliament. A total of 650 elected Members of Parliament (MP) from Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland represent their constituencies in the UK parliament in Westminster. There are 40 geographic constituencies within Wales and Wrexham town is represented within the constituency of Wrexham and its current sitting MP is Ian Lucas (Labour Party).

The devolved governance structure of Wales

Since the first Assembly elections in 1999, following a referendum on Welsh Devolution in 1997, Wales has had its own devolved government. Devolved powers include agriculture, environment, education, health, housing, transport, energy and economic development. It has primary law-making powers over devolved areas and newly acquired, albeit limited, tax raising powers on areas including Land Transaction Tax and Landfill Disposal Tax. The Central Government in Westminster retains powers over defence, foreign policy, immigration and tax policy.

The devolved Welsh Assembly is led by a Labour government (in coalition with a Liberal Democrat and an Independent AM) and has 60 elected Assembly Ministers (AM). 20 AMs represent the country’s 5 electoral regions and Wrexham Town is represented within the region of North Wales. 40 AMs represent geographic constituencies, which have the same electoral boundaries as the UK Parliament, and Wrexham town is represented within the constituency of Wrexham. The current sitting AM is Lesley Griffiths (Labour Party).

Wales has 22 Unitary Authorities and Wrexham town is represented within the Local Authority of Wrexham County Borough Council.  The council is led by an Independent representative. Wrexham County Borough Council has 52 Wards and Wrexham Town itself is spread across 17 wards. At a community level these wards are represented by four community councils: Rhosddu, Acton, Caia Park and Offa.



Wrexham is fairly well connected to most of the UK, through road and rail links and is a 50 minute drive from major airports in Manchester and Liverpool. The Bidston railway corridor provides connections to the Wirral and Liverpool and Wrexham General provides a direct train link to Cardiff and Chester, with Chester Station linking to Manchester and London (Wrexham County Borough Council 2016, p. 8).


Wrexham is home to a strong education sector with Glyndwr University, Coleg Cambria and the Wrexham Maelor teaching Hospital which are all within a short walk of the town centre (Wrexham County Borough Council 2016, p. 8).


Key Industries

The economy of Wrexham County Borough has been transformed over the past twenty years from one dominated by heavy and traditional industry into a high tech, manufacturing, technology and services hub. Though a declining sector, manufacturing is still a major employment sector in the County Borough, providing nearly 20% of jobs. The highest proportion of jobs is within the Public Administration, Education and Health sector, at 35% (Wrexham County   Borough   Council 2018, p. 15).

A key site of employment in the area is the Wrexham Industrial Estate, one of the largest in Europe, employing some 8,000 people in companies such as Barclays Bank, JCB and Kellogg’s. In 2013, Wrexham Industrial Estate (5 miles from the town centre) was the chosen location for the controversial North Wales prison – a £212m investment by the Ministry of Justice. Once operational, the prison could boost the regional economy by £23m a year and provide up to 1000 jobs (Wrexham County Borough Council 2016, p. 8)

Key Issues

As a whole, the County Borough is over-represented in declining sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, and lacks quality and diverse employment (Wrexham County   Borough   Council 2018, pp. 22-23). Despite its growing economic activity, the County Borough contains some of the most deprived urban areas in Wales which experience problems associated with poverty, multiple deprivation, low levels of economic activity and low quality housing and infrastructure. Wrexham is characterised by high levels of immigration from EU member states therefore there is a risk posed by the withdrawal of the UK from Europe of reverse migration (Bennett and Batty 2018, p. 4).

Future Visions

Wrexham, along with the other local authorities in North Wales, the private sector, higher and further education and third sectors, has joined the North Wales Economic Ambition Board (NWEAB). Its aims are to improve economic, social and environmental well-being of North Wales, to support and retain young people in the region, address employment issues and economic inactivity and to boost economic output. This vision hopes to grow the value of the economy by 2.8% per annum to £20 billion and to create over 120,000 new job opportunities (Wrexham County   Borough   Council 2018, p. 17)

In addition to the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the Council is also a key partner in the Mersey Dee Alliance (MDA) which was born out of recognition of shared economic, social and environmental interests across the West Cheshire, Wirral and North East Wales area. Its role is to enhance the profile and identity of the North East /North West England border region and maintain and develop the region’s competitiveness (Wrexham County   Borough   Council 2018, p. 18).