Jacob Rees-Mogg arrived in Wrexham in what has been described as an 'Orient Express style private train' ahead of his visit to the Racecourse ground.

The Conservative MP and cabinet member, who is often mocked as the minister for the Victorian period due to his dress sense and stylised English gentleman persona, was greeted by a small protest organised by local Plaid Cymru supporters.

Rees-Mogg suggested civil service jobs could be relocated to Wrexham as he also visited other local businesses.

Kate Wilkinson, a Plaid Cymru member of the borough council, claimed the Boris Johnson-loyalist had sought to avoid the protesters on his arrival at Wrexham station.

She said: "He didn't come anywhere near us, he did his best to avoid us. He arrived in what loooked like a private train, it was a single carriage train with chairs and table, a bit like the Orient Express."

During his visit the minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency met with constituency MP Sarah Atherton and recently appointed Welsh secretary Robert Buckland and attended the Racecourse Ground, which is the home of Wrexham AFC. 

The club, the borough council and local businesses are behind a bid for UK Government levelling up funding to redevelop its Kop stand which will bring the Racecourse up to international standard and act as a catalyist for regeneration of the immediate area. The Gateway Project was overlooked during an earlier round of levelling up funding awards.

Rees-Mogg said the Places for Growth project he is spearheading looks at bringing public sector jobs, such as civil service roles from government departments, out of London to other areas of the United Kingdom.

Wrexham is one area that these departments could move to, which it's claimed would bring more opportunities to the area.

 

From clockwise Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sarah Atherton and Robert Buckland at the Racecourse Ground (Picture Sarah Atheron) and a picture, taken by Plaid Cymru supporters, of Rees-Mogg's train and their protest.Jacob Rees-Mogg during his visit to Matclad

Rees-Mogg said: “When I was Leader of the house, Sarah (Atherton, Wrexham MP) stood up every week and told me how brilliant Wrexham was, she was such a champion for her constituency, and I think understands it so well and sees the opportunities here.”

He added: “Wrexham kept coming up as a possible future place for growth, with departments being interested in coming here and the council being really enthusiastic about attracting business, and [with] Sarah breathing down my neck, that’s why I wanted to come and try to push this agenda forward because my experience in government is that things happen when ministers said, ‘that’s the thing I’m really interested in.'

“With the council being this interested, and the local MP, if I can bring the ministerial ‘oomph’ I hope Wrexham can become a really important part of Places for Growth.

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“What I want for the Places for Growth is to bring some civil servants here, not to turn Wrexham into the largest bureaucratic centre in the world but as piper liners for other businesses to bring additional skills here, additional investment, and then that will help other businesses too.”

The MPs visited Matclad on the Rhosddu Industrial estate which specialises in creating “slim bricks” which Rees-Mogg described as  a "wonderful business".

From clockwise Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sarah Atherton and Robert Buckland at the Racecourse Ground (Picture Sarah Atheron) and a picture, taken by Plaid Cymru supporters, of Rees-Mogg's train and their protest.Jacob Rees-Mogg helping with the clay

Neil Sullivan, the manager at Matclad said: “People are generally interested in what we do which I’m pleased about, because I enjoy what we do but you never can gauge with visitors whether it's what they want to see. We're proud of what we do here which I hope came across.

“I think he understood the principle of (what they do). A lot of what we do here is very difficult to understand like many hands-on craft-type businesses. He was certainly prepared to get his hands dirty.”

The minister is currently backing Liz Truss to become the next leader of the party, and prime minister, and claimed Wrexham would benefit from economic growth which he believes would be generated from her promised tax cuts.

MP Sarah Atherton described the visit as linked to Brexit opportunities, though the UK government has always been free to relocate civil service roles away from London as many administrations have done so for decades.

She said: “Wrexham’s got an absolute buzz at the moment. We’ve grasped the opportunity of leaving the European Union, that’s why we're here today.

“There’s a lot of businesses here focussing on Wrexham, and you will feel it when you go out in the town, at the football club, the Gateway Project and the Levelling up fund."

The constituency MP also backed the UK Government's approach to awarding shared prosperity funding, which replaces European Union support, through local councils.

Previously the money was awarded through the Welsh Government which has complained Wales is now receving less funding than was previously guaranteed.

READ MORE: Frustration as Flintshire only receives 'small share' of EU replacement fund

Atherton added: “The UK government had just given £22m for the shared prosperity fund. I’ve been out there (speaking to constituents) because my responsibility is to support the constituents and what they want, and what they clearly want is for that shared prosperity fund which has come from the UK government, straight to the council, is the regeneration of the town centre.

"It’s up to the council how they spend that, but my job is to make sure the council hears the constituents' voices.”

Cllr Wilkinson, who claimed the Conservative trio were "not welcome" in Wrexham - saying she hoped Atherton who in 2019 became the first Conservative to win the seat wouldn't get re-elected - said she is sceptical of the promises made.

The Plaid councillor said she understood the visit had been related to the levelling up bid and said: "We have lost a lot of funding due to Brexit.

"I'm yet to see the levelling up funding, we haven't had any figures yet for Wrexham it is all very smoke and mirrors."

Additional reporting: Twm Owen

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