Statement of Dana Davies
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I am 45 years old, married to Nick and we have two wonderful children, Aimee and Aaron. We are a Welsh speaking family, with my husband still learning (dysgwr). We have lived in Ruabon for the best part of twenty years, in which time I have been extremely privileged to have served as a Community Councillor for the past nine years and Maes-y-Llan School Governor for the past six years. I stood as your County Councillor following the sad passing of our well respected local councillor, Barrie Price and have served you in this role for the past five and a half years.
I have worked for Manweb/Scottish Power for over twenty years, an employer who is extremely supportive of my community work. Three years ago, I reduced my hours to part-time, in order to take on more responsibilities relating to my community work. My background is predominately finance and accountancy, however I have expanded my experience and qualifications in business improvement, compliance and regulation, project management, leadership and management. I am a keen volunteer, supporting our local community groups and also putting my finance and accountancy skills into practice at Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, in support of the continued work and fantastic achievements of the Splash Community Trust and its staff. We have a brilliant group of volunteers in Ruabon who continuously work hard to serve our community.
I am an ordinary resident who, like you, cares passionately about our village and County. We all want a clean, tidy and safe community to live in, good quality education for our children, support services that ensure our older residents can live with dignity in their own homes, a good reliable public transport system and access to vital services at the point of need.
I believe in the provision of high quality public services, preferably State owned and accountable to the people. A keen advocate of partnership and stakeholder working, I believe we can achieve more together by the strength of our common goal, than we achieve alone. For me, the true meaning of democracy is where power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, and where we can live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect. These are my core beliefs and why I have been a Labour Party member since my early twenties.
I am the Leader of the Labour Group on Wrexham Council, and contrary to popular belief - Labour does NOT run Wrexham Council. The current administration is run by a coalition of the Independent and Conservative Groups. Labour have been part of the administration of your Council for only two of the last twelve years.
I believe wholeheartedly that Councillors should lead by example. I am committed to serving our community and will always make the argument to ensure your voice is heard. It has been a huge honour to serve as your County Councillor for the past five and a half years and I have given it my all. My promises to you are simple, I will continue to listen to you and by working together we can resolve any problems and deliver for Ruabon.
There is still much work to do and this is why I am seeking your support for re-election on Thursday 4th May.
Thank you / Diolch yn fawr
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)
From discussions with residents and in addition to those listed in the question, the top five present issues in the ward are;
• The three empty houses on the High Street, Williams Mews.
• Dog Fouling
• Lack of primary school places
• Additional Parking
• Traffic and speeding
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
Williams Mews – These houses have been an eyesore in the village since they were first built in 2000. I, along with Ruabon Community Council, residents and Wrexham Council have been working together to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. Four years ago, we began actively pursuing Section 215 planning enforcement notices to start the legal fight and bring this matter to the attention of the Courts and subsequently the Crown. The legal battle was lengthy as numerous offshore companies complicated matters. Team work and determination has seen this legal battle pursued vigorously and will soon be concluded. The properties will transfer to Wrexham Council for demolition and redevelopment into social housing. A full and meaningful consultation with the community is required in taking this forward.
Dog Fouling – see Q.8.
School Places – see Q.5.
Additional Parking/Traffic and Speeding – Currently developing a Ruabon Environmental Plan to address this. Consultation will follow.
3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?
What is important this year is the way businesses will qualify for rates-relief following re-rating. Some reliefs will be applied to bills automatically and some will not. Wrexham Council can play a proactive part by informing businesses who might qualify for relief in a timely manner in order for them to submit their application. The Council can also help local businesses comply with regulation by developing local partnerships to improve how regulation is delivered and received. I do believe the relationship between Wrexham Council and local businesses needs strengthening and improve communication. We can also work with the business community to create a Business Improvement District, potentially utilising the community infrastructure levy (an extension of 106 agreements and payable by developers) and external funding to minimise set up costs. There is a need to formulate a skills and economic plan to shape the future of Wrexham. Please see our manifesto for more detail.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
Wales has a higher proportion of over 85’s than the rest of the UK and it is estimated that the numbers will rise significantly in the next 10years. We need a rapid shift to further integrate health and social care and pool of budgets. Integrating these services will ensure fast and easy access to services and support that are effectively co-ordinated and simple to use. This requires integrated working between Councils, health and housing as well as the third sector and independent sector. I believe primary care has a prominent role to play in supporting people within their communities, which includes GP’s working with the extended primary care team; nurses, therapists, community pharmacists, dentists, etc. It is essential that all partners are involved in the development and delivery of services, care and support, particularly for our frail older people or those with complex needs, including dementia.
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
The Council needs to address two main issues urgently and these are, raising education standards in Wrexham and to increase primary school places in English and Welsh medium schools and secondary places in the secondary Welsh medium and Faith schools. We need to work with schools to improve support for teachers and ensure wider services are available that enable teachers to teach. Access to children’s mental health and counselling advisors are vital. More work is needed to address the rising demand in Special Educational Needs. A mix of new schools and expansion of existing schools is needed to address demand in the primary sector. Working with the Head Teacher of Maes y Llan School, I have submitted plans to the Education Department for a Foundation Phase extension to the school. This will deliver a classroom per year group. I will continue to pursue the funding for this expansion, which will result in much needed additional school places being made available locally.
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
Labour Councillors worked with partners and stakeholder groups to stop the demolition of this iconic building. We have an ambitious vision for the former Groves School building and site. A Labour controlled Council would work with Coleg Cambria, Welsh Government and stakeholders to deliver a state-of-the-art learning centre. This would see the listed building, which has played an important role in Wrexham’s past, being brought back into use and turned into a centre for further and higher education, specialising in teaching key skills for the emerging markets within the technology sector. This facility could dovetail with the Welsh Government’s plans for a £30m advanced manufacturing and research institution based at Airbus, Broughton. The redevelopment of the Groves would not be at the expense of new schools. Labour Councillors have raised the issue of increased demand and the need for new schools at Council Scrutiny meetings and have identified sites within the Planning Policy process
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?
For the past five years the Council have operated with NO Local Development Plan. It has been ‘open-season’ with developers submitting applications for large scale housing developments. This uncertainty cannot continue. Recent statistics show the need for approx. 8,500 properties within the County for 2018 to 2028 (not 12,000 as per Plaid Cymru). Taking into account properties that have already had planning permission and those currently in the pipeline, this figure could almost halve. These homes need to be dispersed across the entire County to minimise the impact to local infrastructure and services. Labour will build Council Houses in mixed developments alongside private and affordable housing. The Housing Benefit Single Room Subsidy, enforceable in April 2019 will affect single occupants under the age of 35–Bedroom Tax Phase 2. Currently 20% of Council tenants will be adversely affected by these national changes. This must factor into the development of the future housing strategy.
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?
Dog fouling and littering has been outsourced by Wrexham Council to Kingdom Enforcement and it has been confirmed recently the ‘zero tolerance’ contract is now extended for another two years. The Fixed Penalty Notices show Kingdom is focussing on easy wins via cigarette litter and there is very little enforcement of dog fouling, confirming that when you outsource you lose control and we can see this in Ruabon. Our residents are told to report areas where dog mess is an issue and ‘you will have a visit by the enforcement team only if there are a large number of registered reports for your area’. This is reactive. A more proactive measure would be for the Council to actively support information campaigns and educate to reduce littering, fly tipping and dog fouling across the County, coupled with an Enforcement Team who have ethical standards and can follow the National Guidance.
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
The Cabinet Executive Board system has been widely adopted by all twenty two Councils in Wales and appears to work well in many Local Authorities. Whatever system is used it must be effective and this is the responsibility of the Chair. If debate is stifled, the Executive Board Lead Members are not held to account and the decision making process is weakened. The reputation of the Council is then put at risk. The alternative to an Executive Board is a committee driven structure, although this would require the introduction of monthly Full Council meetings to ensure decisions are made. The type of system is not a priority at this time, it is very much about putting democracy back into the Council. One way in which we can do this is by reviewing the current Constitution and changing the closing date and time of public questions, to enable you to see the published agenda and reports and still have time to submit your question to the Lead Member.
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?
Any elected member who switches political allegiance post-election should trigger a by-election. There is also an argument for Independent candidates to confirm during the pre-election period, which Independent Group they intend to join, if any. By voting for us, the electorate has placed their trust in us based on our promises, values and convictions. If these change, the electorate should be given a choice of endorsing or rejecting this change. For the record, I cannot envisage any circumstances that would impact on my core beliefs.
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?
There are opportunities to make substantial savings to budgets by not cutting services but by re-financing the Council’s debt, e.g. the Council could review their Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) for capital expenditure debt and move from the 4% reducing balance calculation to the 2% straight line. Many Welsh Councils have taken this approach, making upwards of £20m compound savings over the next 17years.The Council also currently hold £15.3m of LOBO’s (Lender’s Options Borrower’s Options) loans. At set dates during the loan period the Council has the option of either accepting a new rate or to repay the loan at no additional cost. All the LOBO’s have options during this year. Due to a current low interest rate environment lenders are unlikely to exercise their options. However, there is an opportunity for the Council to exercise their option and refinance, taking advantage of the current low interest rates. I recognise financial risk assessments are required prior to progressing.
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
Labour presented an alternative budget to the February Council Meeting that involved delivering a Street Works Permit Scheme, charging promoters who carry out work on our County’s roads. With the introduction of these permits the Street Works Department becomes self-financing saving £41,202 with the potential to create more jobs as income could exceed £191k. Additional income could be realised from Fixed Penalty Notices for substandard/overrun works and emergency/short notice permit requests. This is reinvested back into the road network and the ‘community benefit’ element could be used to address this County’s issue of un-adopted roads. Through this scheme road works can be better managed with less disruption and delays for everyone. There is also a minimum saving of £170k (10%) by not having to carry out repair work to road surfaces. There is also an opportunity to explore Council owned companies e.g. CORMAC, Kingston Works Limited and Norse Group to name a few.
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 strategy 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 mixed 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 issue newsletters to every house in my ward. I have found fixed surgeries to be initially well attended but over time the attendance diminished. I held a number of street surgeries, which followed the same pattern. Discussion with the police revealed similar attendance issues for their Police Meetings with one resulting in no visitors. As a result, there was a risk of these Police Meetings being stopped. I now hold joint surgeries with the police and we have found this method to be extremely engaging and works well, with many local issues cross-cutting through Police and Councillor roles and responsibilities. In my opinion, this is an area that requires constant review, trying new and alternative ways to engage, be accessible and inform residents. You can be accessible via telephone and email but residents like to talk to you face to face. I will continue to do all I can to make myself available in person to residents.
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 was repeatedly challenged by Labour Councillors. It is reliant on 10 years revenue funding from the Arts Council of £120k per annum. The Business Plan confirms that including this revenue funding it will also require a further £80-£200k in additional funding each year for the next 10 years. The Council has failed to transfer the Arts Hub into a Trust which now puts at risk the option of securing external grant funding to plug the deficit gap. We must source a successful service model as a matter of urgency as the Council cannot subsidise this in the future if it is at the cost of vital front line services. Many small-scale community arts projects could be funded for a fraction of the price of the Arts Hub and could also support other facilities already established within the County.
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?
I received the Dismal Jimmy report mid-February, as did 52 Councillors. Having read it my initial thought was ‘this cannot be true’. Following research to establish the facts, I am now asking the question ‘how could this happen?’ Successive owners have attempted to and succeeded in asset stripping the club. Without the tenacity and sheer determination of the Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) and others we would not have a Club today. Lesley Griffiths (AM) has written to Carwyn Jones with her concerns. Carwyn has since confirmed that Welsh Government could be willing to help fund the redevelopment of the ground into a top class stadium to host international games, he believes the Racecourse is “well placed for that”. The relationship between the Council and WST needs urgent attention. This work could begin with the Council looking at planning enforcement notices to pursue the ‘completion of the development’ and a successful outcome could result in a review of the Unilateral Undertaking.
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?
A key priority is to work with stakeholders, pub owners, taxi firms, residents, and community councils responsible for the town, the police, street cleaners or health services. If it is not properly managed, there are increased levels of antisocial behaviour, more crime, increased degeneration of the area, and more closed pubs and shops. It is also important to balance the needs of the night-time economy, the needs of residents and the needs of 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?
PSPO’s were brought in under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which came into force on 20 October 2014. PSPOs specify an area where activities are taking place that are or may likely be detrimental to the local community’s quality of life. PSPOs impose conditions or restrictions on people using that area, such as alcohol bans, putting up gates, etc. Whilst PSPO’s react to the immediate problem experienced within a specific area, they do not address the root causes of the anti social behaviour and can, very often, shift these problems to another area. A plan needs to be in place to deal with the root causes of the anti social behaviour for the PSPO to be truly effective.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
The Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect on 26 May 2016 and bans the manufacturing, sale and distribution of all NPS’s. While possession of NPS’s is not a crime those convicted of dealing or possession with intent to supply could face a potential of up to 7years in prison. NPS’s are often ‘marketed’ to vulnerable minors and school age children. These substances pose a danger to our young people. 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, delivered on a regional or sub-regional platform could be a possible way forward. It could also address the flow of young people between Counties. The approach must include education and the PHSE framework within our secondary schools could be used to address this issue and will also target the right age group. We need to work with others to support initiatives that raise awareness about this issue.
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?
I believe that Councillors should lead by example and senior salaries should be paid at the lowest level as opposed to the current higher level. Labour Councillors have been consistent in our recommendations for a change in policy, first bringing the reduction for debate to the March 2016 Council meeting and most recently raising this again at last month’s Council meeting. Councillors need the tools to do the job but there are opportunities to make the future IT provision self financing with Councillors leasing their IPAD, negating data protection and licensing concerns and allowing Councillors to benefit from up to date technology when the IPAD becomes obsolete. We would also see the Executive Board reduced from 10 senior salary posts to 8 and Councillors also paying for their parking. We tabled these as budget savings when we presented Council with our Alternative Budget in February.
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 operated this facility at a loss of half a million pound every year and you have to ask the question, how? The community trust business plan showed an £80k deficit in year one reducing to break even in year three. Where the Council themselves cannot provide a much needed cost effective service, I believe there should be support for a not for profit organisation during the initial start up phase, when there is evidence of a strong business plan. For example supporting this venture with £150K would still have realised a saving to the Council of £350k in year one and the people of Wrexham South would still benefit from a much needed and well used leisure facility. I do not believe we should be closing services as the first option and we should be supporting and working with the third sector to develop sustainable delivery models for the future.
22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
I am a proud Welsh speaker, although I am aware my Welsh is far from perfect. I do believe the more I use the language the better it will become. The Welsh language is at the heart of our heritage and culture and it is very important to many local families and communities within our County. I support Welsh Language initiatives along with other projects that encourage respect for diversity. Wrexham Council needs to embrace a bi-lingual policy for the welsh language and encourage this at meetings, which would negate the cost of a translator and possibly encourage more Councillors to use a bit of Welsh during their normal day. A bi-lingual policy can in turn improve tolerance for those who want to learn Welsh and also for those who have minimal use of the language and need to develop confidence through more use.
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?
Wrexham Council currently outsource this service, which brings limitations on access to archived meetings and a restriction of webcasting hours available. I would like to see all meetings, including scrutiny, webcasted and for this to happen the current contract needs to be reviewed and a better more cost-effective solution can be sourced.
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?
Women Councillors are most definitely in the minority on Wrexham Council, with only seven representatives from a total of fifty two in this past term of Office. During many of the arguments presented to Scrutiny, Executive Board and Council, I hope I have represented the viewpoint of women as well as working mothers. The Labour Group has put forward thirty nine candidates for these Local Government Elections and all are diverse in age, gender and experience.
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?
• I am a Governor of Maes Y Llan School and a member of the Appointments Committee who are in the process of recruiting a permanent Head Teacher.
• I have meetings with Council Tenants, Contractors and Council Officers to discuss the progress of the Kitchen and Bathroom programme of works currently underway in the ward.
• I met with Officers to progress a Community Benefit Scheme for Ruabon.
• I have supported and attended local events – Easter Bunny Hunt and Spring Fayre, Held joint Police and Councillor Surgeries. • I undertake regular Environmental Audit Walk-abouts with Housing and the Police.
• I have met with Council Officers for initial discussions to develop an Environmental Plan for Ruabon.
• Meeting with AVOW and Council Officers to promote the role of the Community Agent in Ruabon.
I was a Community Councillor prior to becoming a County Councillor and will continue to be an active member of our community regardless of the outcome.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
I promise to,
• Deliver on the pledges made to you in the Wrexham Labour Manifesto.
• Continue challenging the way the Council works and endeavour to improve policy and process to deliver better outcomes for you.
• Make every effort to ensure a more informed decision making process is in place.
• Proactively establish good working relationships with others to deliver the services we need.
• Ensure fairness and equal representation for all residents.
• Listen to you, work with you and be accountable to you.
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