Last night the 20 September 2016 I attended the Stronger City Economy Panel where I was determined to raise some issues relating to the City Economy. I did just that!
It was very positive meeting in many ways. We learnt that the Civic halls, Grand Theatre and the Art Gallery between them being the City’s main cultural leisure and entertainment offer was bringing in
- 1million visitors a year into \Wolverhampton.
- Together this offer attracted £17.3m
- Supporting 637 direct and indirect staff.
The officers informed us that the Civic Halls are the largest and most creative entertainment sector in The Black Country. And that it generates –
- £4.3m of Gross Value Added in the local Wolverhampton Economy.
- The Grand Theatre supports a further £3.6m of GVA in a wider economy.
These were exciting statistics and point the good news that is here when analysing the Visitor Economy.
But I had my criticism’s. I remain concerned that the City Council are not fully taking advantage of the Visitor Economy. My criticism is that we do not know enough about what the private sector is doing in the City. Over the years I have made this point at various meetings. Last night I was much more direct in my criticism and went into details to give an explanation.
I asked the City to be more ‘Ambitious’ in using the 1,000 years of history we have here. I want the City to use its 1,000 years of history into attracting visitors into our City. I made the point strongly that our history could be much more of a development tool in our aims for a solid and expanding economy.
I drew attention to the fact that –
- In 2002/3 £97m was spent by overnight visitors to Wolverhampton
- £20m was spent in the City on entertainment.
I chided City officials in that they have repeatedly failed to supply updated information on these statistics and the number of hotel, Guest Houses we have here in the City, or the number of rooms that are available to visitors. Plus the number of % rooms that are filled/empty at any time of the year.
I made it clear that I thought that this lack of information was a barrier to creating a reliable City strategy to develop the Visitor Economy. Jobs and a healthy service sector supporting the Visitor Economy in Wolverhampton must be the aim, but the City Council is if not ‘blind’ to its development. Is not on top of what is taking place so is in a poor position to stimulate or influence its growth.
For instance –
- In 2002/3 we know that 3,400 jobs in the City were then identified as being supported by the tourism sector.
It seems strange to me that whilst the City had this level of detail in 2003, that now it struggles to deliver it in 2016! Officers insisted that austerity cuts made it very difficult to produce these statistics. Nevertheless I did stand by my criticism’s.
I suggested to the Panel that the City Council should have a strategy that delivers the growth that we want. A strategy that can be updated and developed when there are times of plenty, and tweaked to take account of the times when austerity and poor economic performance is evident. I think I convinced my colleagues on this and I am looking to the near future to see what Officers respond with.
I also made the point about partnerships. Emphasising how important the private sector was to the Visitor Economy of this City.
I referenced the great work that Volunteers are doing in Wednesfield which improves our local economy and that of the City of Wolverhampton.
- The Wednesfield Christmas Lights project that takes place, and are now being enhanced.
- How ‘Hands on Wednesfield’ volunteers had encouraged ‘ Crowd Sourcing’ to deliver £6,000 of public support for the Christmas Lights project.
- The ‘Wednesfield in Bloom’ volunteers had come together to improve the ‘look’ of Wednesfield, therefore enhancing its reputation
- How Wednesfield in Bloom’ had won a Silver Award in their first ever time of entry in the ‘Heart of England in Bloom’ competition.
- Battle of Wednesfield Re-Enactment – the Voluntary effort to deliver this historic battle via Wednesfield History Society. Plus the enjoyment it brought and the crowds to the Village.
- The Wednesfield Canal Festival…..where this year with the help of ‘Hands on Wednesfield’ and The Creative Black Country and some support from the City Council. It looks like this event next year will again be over two days, but with Live Music for the full two day period not music just the one day like this year.
- The work being undertaken to deliver new tourists to Wednesfield via increased use and mooring on the Wyrley & Essington canal.
I want to see Wolverhampton move away from the so called development approach to the Visitor Economy. I want to see a more dynamic strategy developed. Taking advantage of what Industry and Commerce are delivering. Working with partnerships in the private sector, and with Voluntary Groups.
I played my part last night in the Stronger City Economic Panel and will continue to do so!