Statement of David Foulds
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I am standing for election in the Smithfield ward in Wrexham as an Independent candidate. This is because I believe that it is time that national politics are taken out of the local council chamber. The council chamber in Wrexham County Borough Council has for too long been ran by political groups according to their national policies and agendas which do not suit the needs of the people of Wrexham. Too much time is spend by these political parties squabbling about how they want to apply their national parties policies and their own agendas to decision making in the council chamber. We have seen politically aligned councillors playing to the crowd instead of considering what is good for the town and people of Wrexham. This is not a good way to run a multi million pound funded local authority.
I have lived in Wrexham now for over 18 years. My first home was on Smithfield Road and then I moved to Albert Street. I am shocked at how areas of Smithfield have declined in recent years with many anti social issues causing distress to local residents. I have worked in the charity sector for over 20 years dealing with such issues as homelessness and substance misuse as well as social healthcare. I am able to bring professional knowledge and experience to resolve these issues. I have also worked in social healthcare providing services for the elderly and vulnerable. I currently run a home support charity for the elderly and have previously ran healthcare co-operatives and care homes and worked for the NHS. I have an extensive knowledge of the healthcare sector and I am very concerned about the decline in social services and support for the elderly and vulnerable in our community. My two youngest children have special needs and I see first hand in my work and in my personal life the appalling reduction of support from not just our national government but also our local authorities. I also see the waste by local authorities who pay vast sums to consultants to advise them on ways to cut services and staff. I question why the highly paid staff the authority employs does not have the ability to manage services and why they have to engage highly paid consultants to do their work. It is for this reason that I am standing as an Independent candidate in the Smithfield ward because I believe that I can offer experience and ability to resolve the anti social issues that exist in the area and offer solutions to provide healthcare for people living in Wrexham.
Within the Smithfield ward is the Eagles Meadows retail complex and also the Tesco Superstore. Both high business rates earners for Wrexham CBC. I think it is time that some of this money is invested in the Smithfield area to improve community facilities, local housing and tackle anti social problems such as drug dens and rough sleeping. Resources can be employed by Wrexham CBC to deal with these issues. What is needed is a councillor who knows how their resources can be engaged, where, how and manage them efficiently. I can offer that experience, knowledge and ability. I can also act independently and not be restrained by a party whip or policies. My experience in the voluntary sector and also the business sector gives me the skills to be able to negotiate with any parties involved in improving the quality of community life in the Smithfield area and also Wrexham too. I am open and approachable. I can guarantee that I will always be available to listen to anyone who wishes to speak to me about any concerns or problems they have. I do not profess to know everything but I can always find someone who can help if I can't.
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)
Because of the close proximity of the Smithfield ward to the town centre the area is suffering from the anti social problems in the town centre. There is an element of rough sleeping by homeless people and also drug taking in public areas. These are serious problems of concern to the residents of Smithfield and people visiting Wrexham. There are agencies employed by Wrexham CBC and also funded by the Welsh Assembly Government to tackle these issues. I have a concern that these agencies are not tackling these issues in the correct manner and that a strategy needs to be developed locally as to how this anti social behavior is going to be resolved. I also believe that there is a need for the local authority to have a clear strategy as to how it is going to improve housing in the Smithfield area. There is a large resource in the business rates income which is received from the Eagles Meadows retail complex and Tesco Superstore, both of which are located in the Smithfield ward.
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
Using my professional knowledge I would engage with the agencies who are located in the town to develop a strategy not just to resolve the anti social issues in the Smithfield area but in the town centre and Wrexham CBC area. I would push to have some of the income received from business rates for the Eagles Meadows retail complex and Tesco Superstore invested in the Smithfield area in improving the area and housing improvements and to tackle the anti social behaviour the area is experiencing. There is a lack of community facilities for residents in the Smithfield area. I would consult with the residents to find out if there is a need to develop any or if it is considered there is sufficient facilities provided in the nearby town centre. I will give priority to what needs the residents of Smithfield consider most urgent.
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 have been a business person and my family have had many small businesses. I understand the plight of the small local businesses who have to compete against multinationals. The nature of our high street and retail has changed over the years. There does still exist a need for local businesses and the council has to provide the facilities to allow local entrepreneurs to develop. I have worked in the Wrexham and Flintshire areas developing Social Enterprise businesses that help and support the local economy. I would continue to encourage the development of local businesses and Social Enterprise through such organisations as Glyndwr University, Coleg Cambria and the Wrexham Social Enterprise network.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
The Welsh Assembly Government has recently introduced the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act which Wrexham CBC has to work with. This act sets out the future services to be developed to meet the future needs of the people of Wales. People who need support to continue living in their homes and local communities are entitled to receive support from the local authority and health authority. There has to be joined up working with Wrexham CBC and the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to provide joined up services which are efficient and meeting the needs of the local community. Services which cannot for some reason be provided by the local authority should be offered, with funding, to the third sector to provide. Not the private sector who are more interested in profit than care. The third sector has a proven track record of providing excellent support services in the community using trusted volunteers to support their work. This is part of the SS&WB (Wales) Act.
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
This site has been considered for use by the Coleg Cambria. It is an ideal site for them to expand into. Wrexham CBC needs to revisit this proposal and work with Coleg Cambria to bring this site back to life.
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 housing stock which Wrexham CBC still owns still needs vast improvement. A review of the renovation work being carried out needs to be undertaken to see if the authority is getting good value for money and also to reduce the timetable. I believe that better housing conditions resolves a lot of problems such as poor health and anti social behaviour. Good housing gives people pride in their community. Currently there are a number of social housing developments in Wrexham and Wrexham CBC is one of the main leaders are regards this in partnership with housing associations. However demand is outstriping supply as Wrexham is a desireable place to live. I do believe however that the needs of local people should be met first and local people given priority on the housing list. There is a need for more housing development and brown development sites are now becoming very limited. We have to be careful about where future developments are placed.
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?
Litter and dog fouling is a major problem and also a health concern. If there are areas where enforcement is required because the problem is severe then Wrexham CBC needs to consider what is the most cost effective and efficient way to deal with the problem. Publicity should be given that the council will carry out enforcement and issue fines accordingly if people are not going to be responsible for their own and their animals behaviour
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
I firmly believe that politics should be taken out of the council chamber. I also firmly believe that it is not right that an Executive Board of a handful of people are making decisions which should be made by a full council. Councillors are elected to make these decisions and they should be allowed to do so. The Executive Board should be scrapped and full council meetings held every 3 months should be reinstated so that all councillors can vote on the issues before the council. This will allow for full transparency and accountability.
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 will NOT be joining a political party. I am no longer a member of a political party because of the corruption at local level and also the behaviour of elected members at a national level. I prefer to be able to make decisions that are influenced by the local electorate and not a national party who does not have the interests of local people at heart.
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?
It is time to look at how efficiently the council itself is running and to stop cutting services. I would recommend that consultants are no longer engaged and if a senior member of staff has not got the ability to carry out the work then question their ability to do the job. Senior staff need to be performance managed by their line managers, the councillors! Also there needs to be a review of why agency staff are employed by the council. Instead of cutting services ways should be found to provide these services more efficiently and cost effectively.
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
The council is not a business. It is a provider of services. The council should not be looking to make money thereby competing with local businesses. The mistake too many local authorities have made is to start developing businesses instead of concentrating on providing the services they are tasked to provide. The authority receives a guaranteed set amount of money every year. It should be able to budget efficiently to provide services to the local residents.
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 authority needs to work with the new Well-being Future Generations (Wales) Act which has been recently introduced by the Welsh Assembly government. This is about improving the quality of life for the people living in and visiting Wrexham. Before any more retail space is developed in Wrexham we need to look at what is already there. Developing more retail space will only move around what is a limited resource. Customers! We also need to address the anti social problems in the town centre and find out what is causing them and tackle the root cause. These anti social problems are deterring people from visiting our town centre.
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?
There are many ways to keep in touch with the electorate using social media but you cannot beat speaking face to face. I will always be available to speak to anyone about any issue but I will use social media as a means of communicating what I am doing so that people are aware of my actions. I will also consult with the people of Smithfield about any major issues which I consider will concern and affect them. I will attend any public meetings when invited and I will also hold regular local surgeries so that I can get feedback. I will ensure that my contact details are freely available so people can contact me as and when they need to.
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?
There is a development of an arts quarter in the Peoples Market area which I welcome and am supportive of. It would be nice to have a good theatre provision but we have to consider that there is Theatr Clwyd nearby in Mold and the development of a new theatre in Chester so building our own at present may not be such a good idea. But we can encourage and support what we currently have. The Grove Park theatre provides some excellent productions.
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 profess to not being a football person. I have followed the politics of Wrexham FC over the years out of interest. Currently the football ground is owned by Glyndwr University and I believe they are suitable and good landlords. I wish Wrexham FC the very best of luck and will support their endeavours where I can.
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?
My first career was in the hotel and nightclub trade so I have a professional knowledge and understanding of the Night Time Economy. Wrexham is starting to attract some good quality catering establishments into the town centre. There is a need for more diversity and as the town centre improves hopefully we will see this diversity happen and the quality of catering establishments put Wrexham on the foodie map.
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?
We need to look at the work and funding of the agencies who are engaged in dealing with the anti social issues in Wrexham. We have a number of agencies dealing with homelessness and substance misuse. They have to be very clear about their strategy, how they are dealing with the issues and the results they are achieving. Their needs to be more close working with these agencies so we can see tangible results in the very near future. We should not entirely rely on the overstretched resources of our local police as regards anti social behaviour.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
See above and previous comments.
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?
Councillors are now paid to do a job. They should be accountable for their actions. If asked to explain their decision making they should. Councillors pay is set by the majority ruling group. It concerns me to hear candidates saying they would not vote for any pay rises when some know that they might not have a choice in the matter. You cannot refuse a pay rise because that is the system but you can give it to charity. I am sure local charities would be most grateful for any donations from elected councillors who do not want their increased pay. As for ipads. If a councillor wants such a tool to do their job efficiently then they should invest their own pay in improving their work like most normal people have to. Most councillors don't want an ipad because they don't know how to use them. It should be a personal choice and a personal expenditure.
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?
I have been involved in Community Asset Transfers. It is not an easy route for a council to transfer one of its assets such as a leisure centre to a community group. A lot of scrutiny, accountability and planning goes into such a transfer. It is a long process of which part is the funding requirement. If a proposal stacks up I will always be supportive of a community group running a council owned asset for the benefit of the local community.
22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
The Welsh language is part of the Welsh Culture. As a former director of the North Wales Tourism Board I am fully supportive of the Welsh Culture. As a person born in Wales the Welsh Culture is part of me.
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 see no problem in the broadcasting of council meetings. I believe all council meetings should be open to the public in as many media forms as possible. There should be no closed meetings as council business is public business.
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 believe in equal opportunities, meritocracy and social justice. I therefore believe that everyone should be allowed to develop their ability without barriers. I welcome a diverse electorate with diverse views and opinions and look forward to engaging with everyone.
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 have worked for two local voluntary organisations in Wrexham and Flintshire to improve healthcare provision, social enterprise development and the voluntary sector. Also on Christmas Day for the past 9 years I have cooked for the homelessness. Last Christmas Day I and a group of friends were preparing lunch for over 140 elderly and homeless people in Wrexham
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
I am non political. I am not aligned to any political parties. I am open, honest and approachable. I have experience in the charity sector in such areas as healthcare for the elderly and vulnerable. Experience and knowledge which I can bring to decision making in the council chamber. I have also been a business person in the private sector and in Social Enterprise. I have a lot of experience and knowledge which I can use to improve the quality of life for the residents of Smithfield and Wrexham. I am also committed and enthusiastic. I will devote the time required to carry out the role of councillor plus a bit more. I guarantee I will do my job and I guarantee you will know what I am doing. Politics no longer has a place in the local council chamber. I want to keep it out and make the council chamber one which engages with the local people it represents.
Social & Web links
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OTHER CANDIDATES FOR Smithfield
- Welsh Labour
- Plaid Cymru