Statement of Paul Williams

We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.

Hello, my name is Paul Williams. I am 49 years old, have been a resident of Bernard Road on Smithfield ward for 22 years and am very happily settled here with my wife and family. I am very honoured to have been given the opportunity to stand here in the council elections for Plaid Cymru.

I have been a member of Plaid Cymru since 2005 and am proud of the impact we have had and the hard work that has been undertaken by the party at a grass roots, local level. I helped with the campaign to save our maternity services and the recent effort to save our fire engine.

I have served as a Community Councillor for the past two years and this has given me an insight into the challenges we face both on the ward and in the town in general. It is my belief that both the Smithfield ward and the area as a whole can be better than it is at present. I firmly believe in this town and its people and I hope to be able to play my part in improving things for us all.

Thanks very much / 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)

The amount of drug use and dealing going on is a huge concern. Also general litter and dog fouling are things that have been brought up by residents.

2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?

Our outgoing councillor Keith Gregory has worked incredibly hard to try to highlight the drug use problem – I would hope to work with the police and health board to continue this, though this is a problem for a lot of wards in the area at the moment. Hopefully we could get a regular street cleaner and the presence of an enforcement officer to help with the littering and dog fouling situations.

3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?

We should try to get some sort of rate relief for them. Businesses need all the help they can get at the moment, particularly when they are starting out. It would also be a huge help to hold more events to increase footfall in the town centre, with the positive knock on effect this has for businesses there.

4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?

In Plaid Cymru we favour the merging of health and social care budgets. It should be funded through general taxation.

5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?

I would like to see more places available to meet the growing demand for Welsh medium education. It would also be a good thing if the admission basis was altered so that children from the same family could be sure of attending the same school as each other, which is not always the case at the moment unfortunately.

6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?

Because of the covenant it has to be used for education purposes so the ideal solution would be for it to become another Welsh medium secondary school, which would help meet the increased demand in the area at the present time.

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?

Our priority should be in restoring the 2,500 empty properties we currently have in the area. There is certainly no requirement for as many as the 12,000 extra houses that are proposed under the Local Development Plan, which clearly does nothing to reflect local needs. Any new houses which are to be built should be restricted to brownfield sites.

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?

Far more lenient as far as a lot of minor littering offences are concerned though I am all for zero tolerance as regards dog fouling. I am not in favour of third party involvement as I think this creates the impression of fines being handed out purely to generate profit for them.

9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?

More politically balanced. At the moment I am afraid the Executive Board sometimes gives people the impression that decisions are being taken over their heads by an elite few.

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 don't see any possibility of me changing my allegiance but if it happened I would trigger a by-election.

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?

Savings need to be seen to start at the top not the bottom. It is scandalous that the council spent £2.1m on consultants in two years while some important services have been cut or scrapped altogether.

12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?

We should be looking to adjust our procurement strategy to ensure that more contracts go to local firms, with the result that more money is kept in the local economy.

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?

We have to accept that the nature of shopping has changed in recent years, with more people now doing it online so it is unrealistic to think that our town centre will thrive purely as a retail area. However, there is no reason whatsoever that with a healthy mix of shops, bars, restaurants and leisure facilities that we can't become a hugely successful town. Again, reduced business rates comes into the equation – we have to give as much incentive as possible for businesses to get a foothold here.

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 would continue to attend residents meetings and would issue regular newsletters. Also I like to use social media, which I feel is an excellent way of keeping in touch. I make a point of always replying promptly to any letters, calls and e-mails.

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?

I hope that the new arts hub takes off and becomes a success, although I think the whole development was handled very badly. I am all in favour of holding more open air events – I think the council scored a massive own goal in failing to set up a fan zone during the Euro finals last summer as that could have been a huge boost to the town.

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?

Sadly I don't think that the council has done enough to help the club in recent years. We should be immensely proud of having the third oldest club in the world in our town. The council should support the setting up of a National Football Museum here and hopefully push for the redevelopment of the Kop, which would mean international matches could be played here again.

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?

Keep in close contact with pubs, bars and restaurants and find out what they need to keep them running successfully. Also we need to liaise with the police to ensure that the town centre is a safe environment on Friday and Saturday nights as people need to feel secure when they are out enjoying themselves.

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 Orders alone are not the answer – they often just result in the problem being moved on somewhere else. We have to try to tackle the causes of anti social behaviour rather than trying to patch together temporary solutions. While it is quite right that people should feel safe in our town centre I'm not sure that PSPO's will achieve that aim by themselves.

19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?

We have to start taking on this situation as a public health issue. By all means let's target the dealers and throw the book at them but we should be offering more help to the people affected by taking these substances so that we can get this problem off our streets.

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?

Any Plaid Cymru councillors who are elected will not be accepting a pay rise or a free i-Pad. I think in times of austerity such as we are currently in it would be hypocritical for us to do so while we are seeing cuts happening elsewhere.

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?

Such places are vital to the community – we shouldn't see them close if at all possible and it is up to the Council to do everything within its means to keep them open, including helping out with funding if necessary.

22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?

This ties in once again to the situation regarding more places for Welsh medium education. The language will survive and grow through our younger generation and it is important that we support it.

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 am fully in favour of webcasting of all meetings. The public deserve to know what is going on with their Council.

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?

As a 49 year old man I am probably bang in the middle of that 'older and male' group but I am pleased to say we in Plaid Cymru have put up a good range of male and female candidates of all ages in this election.

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 was very proud to go around my ward collecting signatures to save our town's fire engine recently. Whether I win or not I will always try to support anything which is of benefit to Smithfield ward and Wrexham in general.

In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?

I walk the streets of this ward every day and see the problems we are facing. As well as being a councillor who will work hard to improve the Smithfield ward I also hope to be part of a group of Plaid Cymru councillors who will help make Wrexham a better to place to live in. This town has been neglected and mismanaged for too long and it is time for us to make the changes we need to make it a place to be proud of once again.

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