Statement of Pol Wong
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
This election will be the third time that I have stood in Ruabon. I have campaigned in Wrecsam over many issues for many years. In 2009 I lead the campaign to scrap the West Cheshire NE Wales sub regional strategy which aimed to transform North Wales into commuter belt for Cheshire/Merseyside. I campaigned opposing the landfill site in Ruabon. I also campaigned to save the maternity services in Wrecsam as well as the save Plas Madoc and save Wrecsam's Fire engine.
I was a board member of the NE Wales racial equality network from 2008 - 2011. I am the former chair of the Peoples Council for N Wales . Also I am a member of the Wrecsam cell (Glyndwr) of Cymdeithas yr Iaith ( Welsh language society) and I am the current Chair of Welsh National rights movement.
My motivation has always been the pride and appreciation of the community I grew up in. I have widely travelled the world, having many experiences which have always caused me to reflect on my home. These experiences have taught me a lot about the working of community and shared heritage. I have an international profile within Martial arts and have always promoted Wrecsam and Wales abroad. I value community as being fundemental to a happy and succesful life.
For me Wrecsam council has let Wrecsam down and we see the reults all around us. I believe in the people of Wrecsam's inate sense of unique identity. I see our resilience and heritage of hard working, down to earth attitude as a great asset, which has been ignored and even neglected.
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)
These issues along with dog mess and car parking are amongst the main localized issues. However the biggest local issue is the lack of accessibility of the local Councillor and failure of the Councillor to respond to residents. Although not strictly ward issues, it is vital to recognise that many council decisions directly affect people in the village. For example there is a strong feeling that the council do not work for the people but have their own agenda, which very often runs against the wishes and best interests of the local communities. There is a high level of dissatisfaction over health provision and services in general. People feel that our aspirations are ignored and irrelevent to the council.
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 always available to try to help with any issues that effect people, and I always respond and follow up on any contact. I am and will always be pro active in engaging with the community. I will be energetic and determined in pursuing resolutions for Ruabon residents and make sure that the council's due process works for the people in the village. I will continue to make sure that people in Ruabon are informed about plans ,decisions and developments that impact on the village . I will push to get more council meetings and votes broadcast, so that people can see what is going on. Also I would like to set up a petitions Committee/Peoples panel, where the public have the right to raise issues that are important to them.
3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?
For a start I back Plaid's local procurement policy. Last year, 196 million pounds was spent by Wrecsam council on buying in goods and services, yet only 24% of that spent with local firms. Also as a local business man and a member of the council I would continue to push Plaid's policy of extending business rate relief forward through the Welsh Govt.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
It should be publicly funded.
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
Of course this issue is multi faceted and intertwined with other policy areas and social issues. Teachers and Head teachers work extremely hard. One major influence often cited by education experts on the provision of education, is class sizes. At the moment we simply do not have enough school places and teachers for the size of the population, yet Wrecsam Council and the Welsh Labour Government plan to build 12,000 market houses in the county (This is on top of the thousands either already built in the last 15 years or with planning permission already granted.) This equates to around 20% increase in population. There is an obvious conclusion to be drawn when informed of these plans. I very strongly believe that this will compound the problem. We must stop making things worse then try to improve the situation from a postion of stability.
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
It should be used for education. The site was donated with a covenant that it is used for education. To me there is no question as to what it should be used for. The site could be used for a Welsh medium secondary school. The demand for this is huge and Wrecsam council are failing miserably in providing this service. There is only one Welsh secondary school in Wrecsam county, which is at bursting point.
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?
Wrecsam has been overdeveloped with the wrong type of housing for the past 20 years. This has been a major factor in deterioration in provision of services and amenity in Wrecsam. The council's plans for over a decade have been to attract commuters from Cheshire and Merseyside as part of the Sub regional strategy. Although many thousands of houses have been built, very few affordable houses have been provided for locals. We are now left with the effects of poor planning on our services, our environment and community cohesion. The council overshot it's targets for house building by some 50% in the first decade of the 2000's and want 12k more! We need houses based on local need. This local need would reflect the number of houses, their location and the type of houses built. Also there are thousands of empty properties in Wrecsam and also many in Ruabon that could be brought into use. Also housing associations (Funded by Welsh Government) should be prioritising homes for local tenants.
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 think it should be provided by the council. It should be enforced vigoursly when it is appropriate and proportional. Each case needs to be looked at on it's own merit. There needs to be strict guidelines and procedures to avoid over zealous enforcement as well as tough action on offenders. This is a leading issue in Ruabon and there is a lot of frustration at the lack of action by the local Councillor and the Council.
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
A politically balanced system is the only way. For too long Wrecsam council have had a free reign without any real scrutiny, resulting with disastrous outcomes for the town and the county. The behind closed doors culture of Wrecsam council must end. This situation must change if we are to turn round the fortunes of Wrecsam.
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?
Yes I would, because I stand not only on my own personal commitments but I also promote those of Plaid Cymru. If I changed those commitments I think it only right and fair that people get what they voted for. If I changed that, then I am not being honest about what I stand for. Being an Independent for example, seems a bit disingenuous as you don't have any commitments in terms of policy, so people don't know what theyr'e voting for. Also of course the so called Independents are part of an Independent group within the council, which is not independent at all, it is like a party but without having to put forward what it stands for.
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?
In general for me it is about reshaping the council to make sure that the council's objectives and remit is to serve and represent the people of Wrecsam. Therefore to me cuts should be from the top down. Officers pay is vastly exaggerated in comparison to local wages and in terms of their productivity. The chief executive's wages for example could easily cover the running cost of Nant Silyn elderly care home many times over, which has recently been closed, despite it's excellent record of providing quality service for our elderly. The Mayor's budget is another disgrace at a time when community centres have been closed. Probably worst of all is the millions spent on outside consultants, which basically encourage the council to make disastrous plans, whilst profiting from those decisions. Why not consult with the people of Wrecsam instead?
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
Tourism based on our heritage and history should be massive. The incredible local history is hardly even recognised, even though there is a wealth of local knowledge. Recent "local history" events in Wrecsam museum included the Battle of Hastings, meet the Saxons and meet the Romans ....whereas the local battles of Crogen and the battle of the Maelor at Gardden Ruabon are ignored. Also reduce outsourcing for example litter patrols. At the moment a private company from The NW of England profit from the income when it could be going into the Council purse. There is too much of this type of council mis managment which leads them to pay consultants to tell them to give the business away to private firms.
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 starting point is to realise that "the town" is our home ,it is our heritage, it is our hub and our meeting place. The town defines us. Therfore for me the first step is to talk to the people of Wrecsam and ask them what they would like to see. I don't like the method of making plans unilaterally then pushing them through, enforcing them on the people of Wrecsam. Plans are made by consultants who have no connection or understanding of Wrecsam or her people. How can they possibly be succesful? We need to stop look and think before there is nothing left that can support the Wrecsam community. My vision would be more small, indigenous, specialist businesses. I would like to explore the feesability of reintroducing the animal market into Wrecsam and it's spin off businesses, like the markets. The main issue is that we don't just simply sell off /destroy the town as a residential satellite of Chester and with it, threaten the very existence of Wrecsam and Wrecsamites.
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 don't think anyone could seriously accuse me of that. I have never been an elected councillor but I have continuously campaigned and knocked doors trying to get people involved or interested in various issues. Whatever happens at the election that will not change.
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 Arts in Wrecsam is the same situation as all investment in Wrecsam. Locally grown arts projects are ignored ( Saith Seren, Un deg un...) whilst plans are made by consultants and stakeholders for an arts hub that is enforced upon us. Local market traders have been treated badly and there is no local buy in. Already existing Arts should be supported. Any new investment should be open for local businesses and organisations to bid. At present any investment is not known about until plans are already in place .When there is funding available steps should be made to ensure local benefits, not plans that are made by outside consultants who then say how that investment should be used. The council and the Welsh Government are supposed work for us not for the development companies and consultants. The grant funding from WG is supposed to benefit us not the companies doing the plans. There has always been a wealth of artistic talent in Wrecsam ,why isn't this being supported and nutured?
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 applaud the supporters trust for their fantastic work. I fully support them in their campaign to get what they are entitled to regarding the students accomodation development. I think that greater scrutiny and accountability of the planning department is a must not only for WFC but for all of us. Many 106 agreements have been completely messed up by the council. I have contributed personally to the trust and have raised funds for the cause and am 100% behind them, as a great example of Wrecsam people power.
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?
I would like to see more of diverse mix of offers. Personally, I would like to see more traditional pubs, as community hubs which are a place where a mix of generations meet. There are still examples in the town where these types of places are very economically succesful and where there is a social divdend too.
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 issue is intrinsically linked to wider issues of poverty , education ,community coheshion and life opportunities. To do more than hide the problem we must tackle the underlying issues of inequality ,economic impovershment and marginalisation in our community. Wales consistently year on year languishes at the bottom of UK and EU figures for average wage, child poverty, numbers of Doctors per head of population etc etc. At a council level the PSPO's can do so much but again these kind of actions just tend to move the problem rather than deal with the causes. As a council we ultimately must provide a stake in society for everyone, we must provide decent opportunities for people to be economically mobile, decent education etc. For the council, we the people of Wrecsam should be the priority, our needs and aspirations need to be addressed, not the business transactions of the councils high and mighty, selling off our assets and land, whilst ignoring our communities.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
See previous answer.
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 stand for Plaid Cymru. Our stance on these issues has been the spark that has fuelled the debate and is widely known. I am against Councillors having new i Pads and I am against allowance increases for councillors. To me these things are disgraceful when vital frontline services are being cut. If elected I will refuse both of these things as will all Plaid councillors. I am pleased now that our policies are now being taken up by Labour.
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?
It should be funded by the council and by it's own income. With the closing of community centres, care homes, the loss of services like crossing patrols, outsourcing of Wrecsam baths, selling of council land for housing etc etc ,what is the point of having the council? At the same time using huge amounts of money on Officers pay, consultants, Mayors budget and so on.
22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
Open a new secondary Welsh school in Wrecsam. A big change in attitude towards not only the Welsh language but our Welsh heritage should happen. Welsh history should be taught in schools as well as effective Welsh language teaching. Every child from Wrecsam should be able to converse in Welsh by 16 For too long in my mind Wrecsam council has tried too hard to be a lap dog to the Mersey Dee Alliance,which is a non elected body making decisions that impact hugely on Wrecsam . Their big plan, the sub regional strategy set out clearly that the destruction of Welsh identity and loss of the Welsh language across NE Wales will result from this plan. Wrecsam council have continued to support the plan! We need to recognise the value of the Welsh language socially and economically, we need to recognise the strength of the Welsh brand and promote it not undermine it. The council should be at the forefront of this, not being dragged screaming and resisting this new awakening of all things Welsh.
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?
I think that all meetings should be broadcast or recorded and accesable to the public. Also the democratic process could be improved by having proper scrutiny by the public. A petitions committee would be a good first step, where officers and councillors are put to proper public scrutiny. Council officer's activities should be strictly supervised and accountable. Public consultation should be genune not a tick box rubber stamping of council plans, for example the City status bid, where the people consistently said no but were ignored, another example being the Eagles meadow development, where the people said it would "kill the town" but were ignored, or when the Hafod landfill site was given the go ahead by Wrexham planning department despite huge local protests. The list goes on. We are now living with the effects of these decisions.
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 am an "older male" however I hope that I am well balanced and am capable of understanding other peoples points of view and perspectives. The heart of this, I feel is being active in the community and interacting with the whole community.
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 continuiously working on various campaigns which impact on Ruabon and across Wrecsam. Locally I often help people with housing and social issues. At the present time I am trying to get the council Street scene to deal with the dog fouling in the village. So far I have not had a substantive response. Also I work at my martial arts school teaching young people discipline, confidence and sense of community responsibility. Whatever happens I will always be commited to helping people and to promoting community cohesion as one of the most important building blocks to a happy and succesful life.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
I am energetic, I am 100% commited to doing my best, and I have a fair bit of experience through various roles and campaigns I have been invoved in. I am in the village everyday and night. I am constantly in touch with people in the village. Wrecsam desperately needs change, we need to stop the decline that has set in under this and previous councils. I am part of a strong team of candidates who together have the right mix of expertise and experience and with the energy and vision to change Wrecsam council. Our overarching aim is to make the council realise that it exists to work for the people of Wrecsam, that we are not an inconvenience and that Ruabon, Wrecsam is our home, not the councils commodity. We want a council that supports our communities.
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