Council bosses demand £18m in taxpayer-funded Levelling Up cash to redevelop Wrexham AFC’s stadium – despite club being owned by millionaire Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney
- Local authority wants to use the venue for some of Wales’ international matches
- The stars – worth £120m and £40m respectively – bought club for £2m last year
- A council spokesperson insisted that ‘public money is paying for public goods’
Council bosses are demanding £18million in taxpayer-funded cash to redevelop Wrexham AFC’s stadium – even though the club is owned by millionaire Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
Wrexham County Borough Council are making a multi-million pound bid to the government for access to the Levelling Up Fund in order to spruce up the club’s Racecourse ground.
The National Side was bought by the A-Listers – who are worth £120m and £40m respectively – for £2m in February last year.
Yet a month later the local authority made the bid to ministers as part of a vision to potentially use the venue for some of Wales’ international games, and turn it into a national stadium for other events.
Some of the millions would also be plugged into the surrounding areas.
The council said any money pumped into the project would be subsidised by investment from the Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, both 45.
But they admitted top brass could afford to make some improvements themselves.
A council spokesperson explained the bid, with extra cash from owners, was to bring the huge stand at the ground in North East Wales to a level where international football could be hosted.
But in the absence of Levelling Up cash, improvements would be made to ‘a suitable standard for the league that they play in.
Council bosses are demanding £18million in taxpayer-funded cash to redevelop Wrexham AFC’s stadium – even though the club is owned by millionaire Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney
Wrexham County Borough Council are making a multi-million pound bid to the government for access to the Levelling Up Fund in order to spruce up the club’s Racecourse ground
Council documents state: ‘The multi-million pound Wrexham Gateway project will see the regeneration of the Mold Road corridor creating better connected bus and rail transport.
‘A route into the town centre that gives a great first impression to visitors and an improved events football ground and regional and national venue at the Racecourse stadium.
‘Partners include ourselves, Welsh Government, Glyndwr University, the Football Association for Wales, Transport for Wales and Wrexham AFC.’
Wrexham’s MP, Conservative Sarah Atherton said: ‘In March 2021, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £4.8billionn capital scheme for ‘high value local infrastructure investment’ from the UK Government to level up towns and cities.
‘I am pleased that Wrexham County Borough Council will be submitting a bid, which I have assisted with and am fully supporting, that will revolve around the already approved Masterplan for the Wrexham Gateway.
‘The WCBC bid will have an ‘ask’ of £18.2million, that will revolve around the redevelopment of the KP stand at the Wrexham Football Club’s Racecourse ground.
‘This bid has been developed with the new owners and management team of Wrexham Football Club and will aim to level up Wrexham by assisting with the regeneration of the ‘gateway’ to the town.
‘Going forward, I will be working with the UK Government to make sure that the benefits of Wrexham’s bid to our town and the wider region and recognised so that our town and our community can benefit from this UK Government funding.’
Despite being owned by millionaires, the council asked for improvements to the club’s grounds to be included as part of the bid.
But a council spokesperson insisted that ‘public money is paying for public goods.’
The spokesperson added: ‘Private money is paying for the developments that will benefit Wrexham AFC and this substantial private sector funding is being included in the overall bid as match funding for the bid for the public goods.
‘In the absence of the Levelling Up Fund investment then the football club would seek to redevelop the kop stand themselves to a suitable standard for the league that they play in.
‘The rationale for the LUF bid is that the public sector subsidy could be provided on top of the club’s investment and be used to enhance those development plans to a level where international matches could be hosted.
‘This level of support would not only help to safeguard a cultural and heritage asset but would bring visitors, investment and promotion of the town.’
The National Side was bought by the A-Listers – who are worth £120m and £40m respectively – for £2m in February last year
A Wrexham FC spokesperson said: ‘The council has the full details of the financial contribution the Club is making, and of the finer details of the bid.
‘The bid has been made by the council, rather than the Club.’
It comes as a group of cross-party MPs has accused ministers of squandering billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on ill-thought-out Levelling Up plans and through the unfair allocation of funding.
The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has described the way in which the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has been allocating large sums of money as ‘unsatisfactory’.
In a report published today, the MPs highlighted how the first round of the £1.7 billion fund was only awarded after the department knew the identities of shortlisted bidders.
The pot of cash – which will later total £4.8 billion – is being awarded to projects aiming to ‘improve everyday life across the UK’ including by ‘regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport and investing in cultural and heritage assets’, according to the Government.
The PAC’s report said some bidders for the first round may only have been successful on the basis of unrealistic claims about their projects, at the expense of other more practical claims.
It adds that ‘the DLUHC has past form with this’, such as the awarding of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund which also had ‘not been impartial’.
Representatives for Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have been contacted for comment.
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