Statement of Hugh Jones
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I have represented Rossett since 2009 as a Conservative Councillor, following the 2012 Election I joined the Labour led Independent Coalition as Lead Member for Communities and Partnerships a position that I have maintained in the current Independent/Conservative Alliance. I have previously been a County Borough Councillor in Chester and served as Leader of Chester City Council and Deputy Leader of Cheshire County Council. I am a retired Head of Flight Crew Training having been an Airline Pilot for over 30 years. I have retired as a Magistrate having served as Bench Chairman and Chaired the North West Region Bench Chairmans Committee and sat on the National Committee. I currently Chair the North Wales Safer Communities Board, The World Heritage Site Board and the Aera of Outstanding Natural Beauty Joint Committee.
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)
The main issue os the pressure on our Green Barrier and SSI land for housing development, all of which will put pressure on already overloaded services and road junctions in the Village and deliver little or nothing to the need for homes that are more affordable for first time buyers and those who wish to downsize. The speed of traffic and the condition of road surfaces are some of the other main issues.
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
I am working in partnership with residents to strongly oppose the unwanted developments whilst supporting smaller more appropriate schemes. I have successfully delivered reduced speed limits on a number of roads and am working with the local PCSO to increase the use of speed detection.
3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?
I will ontinue to work with Town Centre Forum and Wrexham Industrial Estate Business Forum. Support Vibrant and Viable Places (VVP) initiatives and take advantage of any Welsh Govt funding/grants. Support markets and encourage a diverse economy. I believe the new Oriel Wrecsam Peoples Market will make a positive contribution to the viability of the |Town Centre
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
By a mixture of local and National funding. Closer working with BCUHB to ensure best possible use of financial resources. Wrexham came in on budget with adult social care expenditure in 2016/17. We still await the outcome of National Green Paper which is imminent
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
The responsibility for School improvement is driven regionally by GWe. They should report regularly to WCBC and be accountable. School Governing Bodies have greater autonomy and control with that comes the need for better trained Governors perhaps introduce more enhanced/mandatory training to allow them to fulfil their role and challenge in meaningful way. Develop our 21st Century Schools building programme
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
This is an emotive, I strongly support conservation, however CADW (the body responsible for listing) and later supported by English Heritage on more than one occasion stated that it was not worthy of listing The land is restricted to Education and the only currently identified need is for the primary sector – secondary has surplus places and in the main post 16 education provision is from other providers. At the time the decision to demolish was taken and did not meet the criteria. Following the Ministers’ direct intervention the listing was eventually confirmed despite the earlier advice. The professional opinion was that it would not readily convert to a primary school(s) given the need for open external access and modern teaching methods. Now it is listed any alterations will be limited and conversion is even more challenging. Meanwhile the site costs are running into millions.
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?
The latest population and household projections indicate a need of 8500 houses over the Local Plan (LDP) period to 2028 not 12,000 as first thought and still being stated by Plaid Cymru. Given there are some sites with permissions not implemented, some deliverable brown field sites and allowing for windfall allowances, the need estimated out of existing settlements is some 4000. This in my view means we ne3ed to protect our Green Barrier Land and focus on more relevant, affordable and appropriate housing schemes
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?
I have no problem with the service being provided via a third party. Given the most complained about area is dog fouling and litter, no reason to support a more lenient approach. However, a review would be timely as there appears to be an over concentration on offenders discarding cigarette butts. Visually these have less impact than, for example, a drinks can or take way wrapper. The targeted areas do not seem to be equitable across the whole of the County and more needs to be done in the rural areas
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
I would not oppose a politically balanced Executive Board with a reduction to 8 and all members accepting a portfolio. However it will be for the new Council to decide
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?
SWpeaking personally I was elected as a Conservative, served in a Labour led Independent Alliance and currently serve in the Independent Conservative Alliance. My priority is to represent the electors of Rossett in the best way I can. Local Government is about achieving the best for Wrexham and the people we represent and much less about political parties
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?
I believe we need to make further progress in delivering services more efficiently, whilst much has been done there is still more to be done. We have already made £30m of savings which have affected all levels.
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
Local Government is limited by National legislation in the areas in which it can raise revenue. Also, some charges are set nationally (e.g planning fees) There is also the need to balance public expectation on what we should and should not charge for and what are mandatory and discretionary services. An annual consultation event takes place and invites new ideas.
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?
Diversification and a wider offer is important for a stronger vibrant town. Reports indicate a lack of restaurants and cultural opportunities. Support for small businesses. Exciting opportunities with the possible redevelopment of the Bodhyfryd site. I believe Oriel Wrecsam and the Arts Hub will encourage re-generation of a part of town that has suffered following the collapse of multiples. We have been working with the owners of these sites in an attempt to encourage re-investment
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 live in the Ward, I issue a monthly new bulletin saying what I have and am currently doing. I arrange and attend public meetings on important issues and I am a Community Councillor and member of a number of local bodies.
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?
Having led on this since 2012 I welcomed Initial cross party support for the proposed new arts hub. All groups represented on the VVP Board raised no objection and no issues raised over it at the Exec Board. Money put in by the Council has attracted £2.5m Arts Council and £770k VVP funding. The decision was signed off as supported by the First Minister in WG as Lesley Griffiths was the Minister with responsibility at the time and also the local AM. Wrexham is also a Pilot Town for the |Welsh Governments Fusion Policy which aims to tackle poverty through the Arts, Culture and Heritage and we have had some real success with this work
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?
In the current climate, the Council can work with the Club to maximise any opportunities and attract support grant applications to W.G.
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?
We must continue to support Nightsafe and the Town Centre Forum and facilitate such things as the wellbeing room available in the former toilets. Continue with the Partnership approach with businesses.
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?
This is a hugely complex subject and Wrexham Council has the led the partnership working with North Wales Police, Health Board, service providers In any way that is effective but will take time. We need to continue to bring together partners including health to address long term issues. PSPOs have a role to play but are a short term feature and tend to be reactionary this is why we have developed a fully functioning action plan aimed at tackling the underlying issues that create the problems.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
The UK and Welsh Government have both struggled with finding solutions to this, it is well docummented as a national problem, we can only operate within the law which is currently complex and difficult to enforce. We are working to promote the very real dangers to Life and Health of these substances and this work includes our Schools. The complexity of the current legislation makes it difficult for the CPS to successfully bring cases to court.
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?
The parameters are set by the Independent Remuneration Panel who look at the structures holistically. Members can then decide for themselves how they deal with the allowance. The IRP make it clear that IT facilities should be provided to members free of charge. If members wish to provide their own, that is their choice providing all compatibility and security issues have been addressed. E-mailing is obviously the preferred option in this day and age given that there are statutory timescales for the delivery of agendas etc. The alternative would be a very expensive paper delivery. It is a matter for individuals how they apply the recommendations of the IRP.
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 Council operates leisure and resource centres across the whole of the County. At that time it was a matter of prioritising between Waterworld and Plas Madoc with Plas Madoc less central and already running at £0.5m loss per annum. We have supported and enabled the local Trust in accordance with the principles of Working Together - supported annual financially by the Council to date as well as officer support.
22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
As Lead Member with responsibility for the Welsh language and cultural heritage aspects of the language. I fully support its use and development and I believe this should be by encouragement first and then legislation to back this up.
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?
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?
Encourage a younger successor
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?
You ask about the last few months, I have worked hard over the past 8 years and will continue to do so whatever the result.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
I have the experience, I am passionate about Rossett and I am the only candidate that lives in, or anywhere near, the Village
Social & Web links
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OTHER CANDIDATES FOR Rossett
- Welsh Liberal Democrats