WARRINGTON’S city status bid will be “a huge opportunity for the next generation,” according to Borough Council leader Cllr. Russ Bowden, who admits public engagement revealed it wasn’t for everyone.
As reported by Warrington Worldwide last night, Warrington Borough Council will formally bid for city status as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, following Cabinet approval – despite significant opposition – particularly on social media.
It will be the first time in 10 years that Her Majesty has awarded ‘city status’ civic honours and is an opportunity for Warrington to showcase its civic pride, heritage, community spirit and innovation.
In forming the bid, public engagement was carried out including a survey and a series of stakeholder discussions with local organisations, and community and business leaders.
The results did show significant opposition, in particular from the Over 55s, although only just over 1,000 people responded. Meanwhile, one of two online petitions opposing the bid, has reached circa 1,000 signatures.
Following last night’s decision Cllr Bowden, said: “Bidding for city status gives us a rare and exciting opportunity to build on our strengths and to formally recognise Warrington’s existing and future profile – both in the North West and further afield.
“We have an incredible story to tell – look at how far we have come over the last 50 years. We want to keep developing as a strong, sustainable, inclusive and unique community, and I equally think that our economic profile deserves recognition too.
“City status would therefore provide a platform for us to be seen and recognised as a place of proud heritage, unique civic pride and traditions, alongside acknowledging the innovation, partnership-working and economic output that match, and exceed, many existing cities in the country.
“It’s clear from the engagement we have done with the public and our stakeholders that bidding for city status isn’t for everyone, but the feedback we’ve received shows that our younger residents in particular – the next generation of Warringtonians – look favourably on the merits of city status. The bid therefore, and the prospect of city status, is a huge opportunity for the next generation of people who will live, work and visit here, as well as also recognising Warrington’s current profile and standing.
“In forming our bid, we have considered our vision for a ‘future Warrington’ and want to ensure that we use the opportunity of the rare and prestigious honour of bidding for city status as a platform to celebrate the best of our borough.
“Warrington is a warm, welcoming place and deserves the recognition that city status would bring.”
Meanwhile, local residents Richard Buttrey, who has set up an online petition calling for WBC to abandon the city status bid, emailed members of the cabinet prior to last nights meeting saying: “No one who takes an objective view about the public consultation undertaken by the council on the City bid could honestly believe it was truly objective. It failed to ask the one obvious question “Should Warrington bid to become a City, Yes or No’.
“The consultation freely admits that where the public were able to submit a free text comment those with a negative view exceeded those who were positive about becoming a city. Neither did the consultation contain any robust cost/benefit analysis which might perhaps have offered a degree of authority for drawing conclusions from it. In the absence of such information, statements about our ‘economic status’ are simply assertions not evidence on which decisions should be made. The report freely admits that not enough officer time was available to complete the report. Why then are Cabinet being asked to determine something which has not been fully researched?
“There is a petition on the council’s web site calling for the bid to be abandoned. It has received more signatures than those who, when freely asked to comment in the consultation were positive about becoming a city. That must surely give more authority than the consultation for advising a decision.
He went on to say: “I would merely add as an aside that amongst the information the government’s Cabinet office is looking for in a bid is evidence of sound ‘governance and administration’. We don’t yet know what conclusions Grant Thornton will come to with respect to the several important matters currently occupying them, Together Energy, Redwood and the four years of unsigned accounts, for which they are awaiting a council response. It would be somewhat embarrassing if GT were to find there has been less than sound governance and administration which might cause the council to subsequently withdraw its bid.
I submit that in the face of an incomplete officer assessment, the petition calling for the council to abandon the bid, the risk of a damaging GT report and the negative view expressed in comments to the council’s own consultation, it would be perverse of the Cabinet to come to any other decision than to reject the City bid recommendation before you.”
The online petition can be viewed here https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/wbcepetition175728784/