Statement of Anne Evans
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I am married with two grown up children who were born and brought up in the local Community and where I still live with my husband. My daughter and her family live in Rhosnesni where my two grandchildren were born and brought up and attend the local schools. I have had extensive involvement in the local community for a considerable period of time and when my children were young I founded one the first local area playgroups at the now demolished Rhosnesni Church primary School,
I have an abiding interest in Education and young people and trained initially as a primary teacher and subsequently as a Teacher of the Deaf. I worked as a Teacher of the Deaf in the Hearing Impaired Unit at Borras Park School and later as Education Audiologist and Head of Sensory Education in Wrexham. I believe strong governance is essential for all schools and have been a governor at our Local schools for many years. I was Chair of governors at Borras Infants School and am currently Vice Chair of governors at the newly amalgamated Borras Community School and an LEA governor at Rhosnesni School.
I believe third sector organisations provide a vital service and a powerful voice for disabled, disadvantaged and vulnerable people of all ages. I have been closely involved with a number of third sector organisations including the National Deaf Children’s Society, Action for Hearing, (formerly the R.N.I.D.) and Wales Council for the Deaf.
I joined the National Union of Teachers whilst training at College and continue today as a retired member. I joined the Labour Party as a young person and have been an active member throughout my adult life. I have always stood as a Labour Party member in local elections and have never stood for any other party or as an independent candidate. I believe in the concept of the living wage and the elimination of pension inequality for women.
I have a strong commitment to Wrexham and my local community and have served as a Wrexham representative on the North Wales Community Health Council including a term as Vice Chair.
I enjoy working as a Community Councillor in Rhosnesni and have served consecutive terms on Acton Community Council and served twice as Chair and Vice Chair. I have enjoyed working as a Rhosnesni Councillor and am delighted to have been returned unopposed at this election.
I have been privileged to serve as the Wrexham County Borough Elected Member for Rhosnesni since 2012. If re-elected I would continue to serve Rhosnesni and the local community with hard work and commitment.
Questions & Answers
1. Often we are told that highways, street lighting, bin collections and anti-social behaviour are some of the issues people care most about. Aside from those what are the key local issues in your ward? (The question below will ask what you think should be done)
There has been a noticeable increase in crime throughout the Acton Community Area in recent years. Incidents of burglaries and attempted break-ins to both houses and outdoor buildings such as sheds and garages has increased which is causing residents considerable anxiety. Our local primary schools are oversubscribed and demand is increasing year on year with no effort being made by the council to increase places in these schools. Parents in the area who choose Welsh medium education for their children are having similar difficulties. The GP surgeries serving the Acton Community area are struggling to cope due to recruitment difficulties and unsuitable buildings with patients having to deal with long waits for appointments. Borras surgery in particular has suffered from cramped premises and recruitment problems for a number of years.
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
As a Council we should be negotiating a better model for neighbourhood policing. We have a good Community Beat Team in Acton Community but the allocation of one PCSO shared between the Borras and Rhosnesni wards is totally inadequate. Rhosnesni is the largest single member ward in the Acton Community area and should have its own PCSO as a minimum. I have requested that our Joint Community Council/Senior Police meetings be resumed. We need a feasible plan to increase admission places at our local primary schools. The Twenty First Century Schools program for building new schools is designed to meet projected need not current shortfalls. We need to expand local schools and increase planned places. As the Elected Member for Rhosnesni I have engaged over a number of years with Wrexham representatives of B.C.U.Health Board to discuss the problems facing GP surgeries in Wrexham, particularly those serving Rhosnesni and the local area and these discussions are on going.
3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?
A highly skilled and motivated workforce is a prerequisite for a vibrant high wage local economy that will stimulate jobs and growth and benefit local businesses. To achieve this we will as need to work in partnership with Coleg Cambria, Glyndwr University and the local business community to plan a training and skills strategy for the twenty first century. The Groves site could be pivotal to this project if developed as a Hub for Skills and Lifelong Learning. In our manifesto we have pledged to work with the business community to create a Business Improvement District (BID) and develop a small business Incubator Hub to help nurture and encourage local enterprise.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
Social care funding is a huge problem throughout the UK. The public service budget cuts imposed by successive Tory governments are having a devastating effect on patient care, with low level funding for social care resulting in many instances in low level care. There is a general consensus that the only long-term solution is joint social/health care funding. A Labour led Council would uphold our manifesto pledge to improve adult social care in Wrexham.
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
Wrexham has the lowest education standards of the six North Wales Councils and is ranked 19th of 22 authorities in Wales for educational attainment. Statistically we should be ranked 9th of 22 Welsh Authorities. The North Wales Regional Education Improvement Service is funded by all six North Wales Authorities including Wrexham . Standards have not improved in Wrexham since this system began, in fact the decline against the rest of Wales has continued at the same rate. We need to re-examine this regional system and discover the reasons why it does not seem to be working for Wrexham. We need to liaise with and work in partnership with our schools, governing bodies and Heads if we are to reverse the current decline. If we continue along the current trajectory we could soon be ranked 22nd of 22 authorities.
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
This iconic building is important to the people of Wrexham and should be celebrated. I am delighted that it will now be preserved and hopefully become part of a new education facility that Wrexham can be proud of. The Labour group have consistently supported saving the Groves Site and we will honour our manifesto pledge to develop the Groves site as a Hub for Skills and Lifelong learning.
7. What are your thoughts on the housing supply in Wrexham, and if you feel more housing needs to be created in volume, where would that be sited and who would it be targeted at?
Wrexham has not had a Local development plan for five years which has made long term planning and response to housing need very difficult. The number of new houses needed in Wrexham may have to be revised depending on the outcome of negotiations with the EU. In the current housing market young people are finding it impossible to afford to buy a home of their own and the need for social housing and affordable housing in Wrexham is acute. TA Local development plan would outline the number, type and location of new housing needed.
8. On litter and dog fouling enforcement, do you think this should be provided via a third party, and should it be enforced to the letter of the law or in a more lenient manner?
The current contractors are not complying with national guidelines, and are applying draconian methods against people like young mothers who drop till receipts while struggling with shopping and babies. Fines for dog fouling offences are a small fraction of prosecutions, the majority of which appear to be for discarding cigarette butts and small paper items. Dog fouling continues to be a major source of concern across Wrexham, which appears to indicate that the current enforcement system is not effective. Simpler more common sense methods are more successful. I have had very positive feedback about a significant reduction of dog fouling in the vicinity of the Dean Road Field in Rhosnesni since the installation of two new litter-bins in the area. This was joint initiative by Glyndwr University in partnership with Wrexham Council Street Scene and myself as the Local Member.
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
The Executive Board system has been widely adopted in Wales and appears to work well in many authorities. However if a ruling group is determined to stifle debate and doesn't respect the democratic process, the opposition must hold them to account regardless of the model that is operating, even when it is difficult to affect change.
10. As has happened in Wrexham recently - if you change political allegiance from what you are currently seeking election for (eg. resigning from, or joining another party) will you trigger a by-election? If not, why not?
I have been a member of the Labour Party for most of my adult life and I cannot envisage any circumstance where this would be likely to change and I have only ever stood as a Labour candidate in elections. I do believe that a sitting candidate who chooses to change their political allegiance mid term should resign to give their constituents a choice of endorsing or rejecting the change.
11. 'Reshaping' Wrexham Council is a major theme impacting all areas of the local authority. What areas do you think could see deeper savings made and why?
We appear to be reshaping front line service at speed by outsourcing and shedding staff but seem to be less motivated to make similar changes at higher levels. At a time of prolonged and increasing cuts to public service budgets by the Westminster Government, the current structure of twenty two separate authorities in Wales is becoming unsustainable. Local authorities will need to deliver services differently in future and regionalisation could be one way
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
There needs to be a step change in senior staffing structures in Wales. We cannot afford twenty-two Senior Staffing Structures. Regional collaboration should begin with reshaping senior executive positions. Each region could have one chief executive and one senior team with front line staff working at area level. The combination of a regional overview and a pooling of skills would increase opportunities for creating revenue streams and produce economies of scale.
13. The Town Centre Masterplan is an aspirational document which could shape and transform the town centre over the next ten years. What is your future vision for Wrexham town centre, and how will you help achieve it?
The Labour manifesto sets out a clear vision for the successful regeneration of the Town Centre. We will consult the public on a comprehensive strategy for the town centre to increase footfall, improve public safety and regenerate the town. We will work in partnership with the Town Centre Forum and the business community to create a more vibrant town and evening economy. We will ensure our town centre is well kept, attractive and a desirable place to visit.
14. Many politicians are accused of being out of touch with voters and only surfacing before elections. What will you do to ensure you stay in touch through the coming years if you are elected?
I will continue to visit and meet residents in the Rhosnesni area. I will continue to make joint site visits with officers and residents to discuss environmental issues. I will continue to have regular site and environmental walks with the Street Scene team and the Community Police Team. I will continue serving as a Community Councillor in the area. I will continue to attend Rhosnesni Residents Association meetings and join residents for a variety of social activities at various times of the year. I will continue to attend various social activities and meetings with parents and families at our local schools
15. What are your thoughts on the current provision and support for the arts in Wrexham, and what would you do to support the arts?
The Business Plan for the Arts Hub is repeatedly challenged by Labour Councillors. It is reliant on 10 years revenue funding of £120K and we believe it will also need between £80-£200K in subsidies from the Council each year for the next 10 years. The Council have yet to find a Trust to run this facility and consequently it will be difficult to access external Arts funding. We could well see vital Council services cut to fund this on-going project. Many small-scale community arts projects could be funded for a fraction of the price of this Facility.
16. Wrexham Football Club had been let down greatly before being taken over by the fans themselves. As a councillor what action would you champion to help the club?
The work of the Wrexham Supporters’ Trust has been critical in securing the future of the Club and has saved it from continual asset stripping by a succession of owners. The Labour group believe Wrexham Council can play its part by developing a positive working relationship with the Trust to support their work and the future viability of the club.
17. Wrexham's Night Time Economy employs a large number of people and generates revenue for the town. As a councillor what action would you like to see from Wrexham Council to improve that sector?
The Night Time economy brings both benefits and social and residential issues and the balance has to be right. It is essential that there is a working partnership between the Council, Businesses and the Town Centre Forum in order to avoid increased antisocial behaviour and crime. It is important to balance the competing needs of the Night Time Economy, the residents and the public sector.
18. Wrexham Council currently has two Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) in place in the town centre and Rhosddu area. How should anti social behaviour be tackled?
There are considerable difficulties in the areas where the two PSPOs are in place. These problems are complex and inter-related and it is highly unlikely that they will be solved by this single initiative. There needs to be an inter-agency approach, which will tackle prevention of antisocial behaviour rather than just intervention and prosecution
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
These substances pose a serious risk particularly for young people who take them. They are not regulated or tested and their long-term physical and psychological effects are unknown. Prevention is the best option and multi-agency working would be a possible way forward.
20. Councillor pay, iPads as tools for the job, and allowances have all been topics of debate over the last few years. What is your view on this?
Council iPads were provided to councillors in 2012 to replace the laptops and Internet contract payments provided to the previous administration. The iPads are used for accessing the council email system and Committee reports. which cuts the high cost of printing paper copies. The current batch are now at the end of their useful life and becoming unusable. A rental system with future-proof upgrades would be a better option than buying outright and replacing them every few years. The Labour Group have proposed an alternative budget which recommends that Members should pay the full leasing costs for their iPads and pay for their Guildhall parking passes. We have opposed the increase in the number of Executive Board members from eight to ten and have asked for a review of all senior salaries.
21. The ownership and operation of Plas Madoc Leisure Centre has been debated over recent years - where do you believe the responsibility for funding and running such public amenities should lie?
The funding and running of leisure facilities should be an integral part of the Health improvement agenda. In cases where Community based Trusts or Social Enterprises are taking over council services, they should be supported during their start-up phase. The Council should be looking at longer term saving but the priority should be the continuation of the service
22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
Welsh medium education is very successful and popular in Wrexham but as in the English primary sector, demand for school places exceeds supply. There is also a shortage of Welsh speaking school staff at all levels. We need a joined up approach to Welsh medium primary school demand. Adult courses for learning Welsh are very popular and should be encouraged by employers as a valuable workplace skill.
23. Currently Wrexham Council webcast their Full Council, Executive Board and Planning meetings, and some Scrutiny. Would you like to see the webcasting system rolled out to cover all meetings and how else do you think the local authority could involve the public more in the democratic process?
Webcasting of all meetings is a target but there are some serious obstacles to overcome first. At present webcasting takes place only in the Chamber but there will be scheduling issues to be addressed if all council meeting are to be webcast in the Chamber. The acoustic conditions in the Chamber are not good and the radio mike and speaker systems have seen better days and break down with monotonous regularity.
24. This will be the first time some people are old enough to vote, with that age limit possibly dropping in future. Candidates are on the whole older and male. What will you do to represent a more diverse viewpoint?
I have always encouraged young people to vote and to stand for election. Currently in Wrexham there are few women councillors and fewer young councillors. Council meetings are held during the day with no flexibility, which suits older people who are retired rather than people who work or who have caring responsibilities during the day. We have tried unsuccessfully to persuade the current administration to alter the times of meetings and extend the Guildhall opening times which might encourage more diversity in member representation. The Guildhall does have facilities for the use of disabled councillors and visitors, including a loop system in the Chamber and meeting rooms, and a lift from the Ground floor reception area.
25. What local activity have you taken part in over the last few months to improve your ward? Regardless of if you win, will you continue any such action that benefits your ward?
The main pedestrian entry to the Hollies flats and adjoining pavement has now been resurfaced which has helped older and vulnerable tenants and particularly the wheelchair users who were finding the area difficult to negotiate. There are ongoing issues with damaged speed calming installations that need to be repaired or removed. I have had two site visits in recent weeks to discuss the issues and a planning meeting has been scheduled to agree timescales. I am a member of the Community Council Youth Committee and we have recently negotiated a new agreement for Youth provision to replace our original agreement for outreach youth provision. The new service is based at the refurbished Acton Resource Centre, and to date it appears to be popular with parents and young people.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
If re-elected: • I will continue to represent Rhosnesni on Acton Community and Wrexham County Councils with commitment and diligence. • I will continue to work closely with and support our local schools for the benefit of children, parents and staff. • I will continue to work closely with and support our local community groups in Rhosnesni. • I will continue to work unstintingly for all residents in Rhosnesni.
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