Statement of Jamie Hack
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I'm a true Hightown boy! I've lived in the same house in Hermitage Ward all my life, currently with my wife Paula and 2 young daughters.
I've witnessed many changes in the area, including the building of the Stockwell Grove houses and the Monger Road estate, the rise and fall of the Hightown flats and the slow demise of the famous barracks.
I've been extremely fortunate to have played my part in the wonderful community spirit that Hightown has always had over the years, and now I feel it time for me to repay the people of Hermitage by maintaining and strengthening that community spirit over the next few years.
I'm determined to help all residents to the best of my ability with usual issues such as dog fouling, poor roads and a tidy area, but would especially like to push for:
more activities for children and families - for example street parties, activity days (treasure hunts, craft, etc.) and opportunities to meet others;
a rise in the melding of our different cultures;
more localized, working neighbourhood watch schemes to help our elderly and families feel safer at all times;
utilization of our local pubs to aid the above - the two in our ward are used far from adequately as community establishments.
As with many other Hermitage residents, I firmly believe that Wrexham County Borough Council requires a shake up, following many poor decisions including planning to demolish the Grove Park school buildings and to close Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, both of which were clearly against what the people of Wrexham wanted. Strong voices for the people are desperately needed on our council and I can assure you all that I will certainly be one of these for our ward of Hermitage.
Although local elections quite rightly should focus on the person rather than the political party, I am standing as a Plaid Cymru candidate due to the fact that their general policies are clearly better for all people in Wales, but also because their local policies are perfect for the type of change Wrexham needs (please have a read - www.plaidwrecsam.cymru).
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)
Hermitage Ward and Hightown as a whole will see in 2017/18 the demise of Community First funding from the Labour run Welsh government. This will impact hugely on our community as it affects adult learning, prosperity, residents' forums, finance advice, community engagement, plus other projects such as family support and play provisions within the cluster. The funding for Wrexham for the next year has reduced by about a third, which will devastate the work that has been completed over the last few years, causing unnecessary hardship and difficulties for the majority of our residents. Other issues include speeding vehicles and parking on pavements, plus severe congestion outside schools during drop off and pick-up times.
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
Community First has been a revelation in Caia Park and Hightown, where this funding was desperately required, especially for parents with growing families and residents with little income. For the Welsh government to reduce and ultimately eliminate this funding is a travesty and nothing less than a complete lack of judgement. I would endeavour to ensure Wrexham Council press the Welsh government to reverse its decision and re-initiate Community First or a similar system of fair funding for communities within Wales. During the interim, I would organise fund raising events involving local businesses and residents to fill the gap and ensure those losing out would be able to obtain at least some help in the areas specified above. The parking and congestion issues clearly call for specified parking zones, along with the push for walking to and from school and the use of public transport. However, this remains a contentious area.
3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?
Lying on the outskirts of the town centre, there are a number of small businesses in Hermitage Ward and I believe rate relief extension (as championed by Plaid Cymru for many years) is crucial to aid these businesses, thus would push for this to be implemented ASAP. As mentioned in my profile and Question 2, I would involve our pubs and local businesses in fund raising events and get-togethers, in order to aid the community as well as boosting trade for those concerned.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
I believe it is the responsibility of everybody within a community to care for their fellow residents to the best of their ability, thus funding would be best through general taxation. Social care is often directly linked to health and Plaid Cymru has a policy to merge these budgets in order to have a smooth transition from community care to hospital and back again. I stand by this to be sound advice and required to be implemented sooner rather than later.
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
Wrexham has struggled over the last few years, for a number of reasons, in the growing number of children requesting places in our schools. Even without any shortage of staff this becomes a massive strain on a school and it is the children who ultimately suffer. Budgets therefore need to expand rather than reduce in order to maintain and indeed increase the number of teachers to ensure the correct level of education for our children. The above clearly leads onto the expansion of the schools themselves, which would need to be planned concisely and accurately to ensure the smooth transition that would be required for this to take place in an orderly manner.
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
Following on from Question 5, this building has an obvious use - to continue as a school (or more than one). The building was actually passed on to Wrexham Council with the proviso it was used for education - the council tried to renege on this but were foiled by staunch campaigning - so this matter is a done deal in my opinion.
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?
I believe the communities themselves should decide where and when development should take place, not developers who obviously would choose simple greenfield sites and school playing fields which require much less initial work than clearing up already used/derelict sites. There are approximately 2,500 empty properties in Wrexham borough, most of which can and should be used (or at the very least redeveloped) prior to any new development that would unnecessarily destroy what is left of our countryside, for example the proposed housing developments for the Ruthin and Cefn roads. Priorities for housing people is a difficult area, but struggling families and the elderly must take priority in our society. Any private development for well-off, non-local buyers should be considered as secondary to ensuring local people are housed ASAP in decent council accommodation.
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?
Initially, feedback I have received indicates that only certain "litter" is generally targeted (e.g. used needles seem to be ignored aplenty). It is my belief that the employment of more local street cleaners to sort out the mess, rather than pay extortionate amounts to private companies, would produce better results and cleaner streets and at the same time ensure employment within our county borough.
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
Definitely politically balanced. During the last few years, the Executive Board has made numerous errors of judgment and a fair but strong challenge to whichever group is leading the council would produce better results, which would also be based on the will of the people of Wrexham, not a small group of people with little idea of what their residents want or need.
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 am a firm believer in democracy; thus if I were to change allegiance 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?
"Top Dogs" in Wrexham Council have been over payed for many years - cuts here, and other similar executive positions, should be made and would see immediate savings. I find it incredulous that the Council sees no problem in paying out incredible fees to external consultants on many issues that would be better sorted in house by the councillors that were voted in to complete such tasks. I would not completely dismiss working with other councils in (North) Wales to share in specialist areas such as human resources and buying/selling.
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
Initially, it is critical to ensure that local businesses (thus local people) are called upon to undertake any work (in all areas) with regard to this. The snowball effect will only act to enhance the growth of the 'Reshaping'. The current council is renowned for employing contractors from outside the area which, not only being morally wrong, clearly affects internal revenue. Plaid Cymru has continuously campaigned for a Wrexham FC history museum, I believe this would be a good place to start. Wrexham is currently missing a 5-star hotel - this could produce a decent income with overnight stays and more - Wrexham needs to promote its history and culture, especially the numerous buildings (e.g. St. Giles Church, Erddig Hall & gardens, Brymbo steelworks museum, etc.). The 'Reshaping' could also include the development of nightclubs, pubs and restaurants into a more cohesive plan.
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?
Many towns and cities have moved into specific areas of revenue income. A prime example is restaurants - Wrexham has plenty of scope here to develop a varied culture. In conjunction with this, the town already has an abundance of pubs, wine bars and nightclubs and with positive guidance this could be an even greater income. Wrexham has always been famed for its football team and the Racecourse Ground is known worldwide. Short bursts in other sports have been tried (e.g. rugby league - North Wales Crusaders), so why can we not try other sports - for example athletics is becoming more popular. It is important to ensure local businesses are first to be offered positions for the above before the large chains, and if elected I would push for reduced rents for local businesses in the town centre, ensuring reciprocal work in maintained between those businesses and the council.
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 always be available to contact by phone, e-mail, text and social media. I intend to instigate a number of surgeries for set areas in Hermitage Ward plus setting up regular meetings with residents. I have plans for a informative newsletter which I would hope to distribute at least 4 times a year in conjunction with a Q&A sheet for all residents to complete and comment on. As explained, my ideas include more family and culture enthused get-togethers, combining these with utilizing local business establishments, especially our pubs and the community centre, and perhaps, if appropriate, even the schools.
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?
A lot more could be done to promote this area. For example, Wrexham has numerous suitable outdoor areas for performances, and these should be utilized to ensure the promotion of all kinds of musical productions. Although the Wrexham theatres show pantomimes and the occasional other theatrical performance, more could be done with regard to plays, ballets and even opera - although fairly foreign to Wrexham, it would be interesting to at least discover how popular these would be if encouraged in the area. I think it would be worth pushing the council to act on promoting the above - perhaps a decent revenue could be accomplished that we are yet to discover?
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?
Clearly the obvious answer here is to push for local fundraising events - local but involving the National football community if possible, which would ensure higher income for the club. All profits from the development of the Crispin Lane End of the ground (the famous Kop) should go straight back into the club. This revenue could then perhaps be used to develop the ground into a National stadium once again, thus ensuring international matches (football & rugby) return to Wrexham, which in turn would mean more income. Plaid Cymru has campaigned for a Wrexham FC history museum - this would surely bring in a decent amount to aid the club. Finally, I believe the council could do a lot more to aid the club with regard to pushing the Welsh FA to help out financially - as a councillor I would demand that this was initiated and maintained in order to help our club survive and indeed flourish.
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?
Better advertisement is required. The Council must forward plan for this by creating a good relationship with the nightclubs, pubs and even some restaurants. The Council should be responsible for the organisation of events for all such establishments - this will kill the two birds above with one stone.
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?
I believe it is necessary to get down to grass roots in this very tricky area. Wrexham Council should plan active alternatives - in cooperation with the police and other services - in order to stop the anti-social behaviour before it has chance to expand. Strong solutions are required, not part-time cover-ups like PSPOs.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
This problem will only get worse if not tackled immediately. The dealing of drugs is the key aspect and should be stamped out without delay - the police should have and use the powers to enact this ASAP. Clear and cohesive alerts should be posted on all aspects of media (especially social media) in order to deter youngsters from even contemplating buying any form of drugs. Perhaps it is also time for us to take note and act on the success of other countries in keeping down drug misuse and addiction?
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?
Recent Council decisions such as upgrading i-pads at approximately a £32,000 cost (cheaper, less complex machines would be adequate) whilst simultaneously headlining the closure of 2 day care centres in Wrexham was scandalous. I don't argue with the fact that councillors require i-pads, but the red tape behind this is ludicrous - all councillors are on a fair salary (£13,300) and can easily afford a decent i-pad in order to carry out the required tasks. All Plaid Cymru candidates have pledged not to accept any pay increase or the upgraded i-pads - I stick by this.
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?
We in Wrexham were fortunate that a community cooperative kept this leisure centre open - this has been proven by how popular it still is. I have been visiting the centre since it opened and visit with my wife and two young daughters there fairly regularly - so many of us can relate to this or similar. The Council was wrong to vote for its closure and those councillors that did should hang their head in shame. The Council has the responsibility to fund such places, as they are not there to create revenue, but to supply the people with health & fitness in body and mind - elements critical to a working community - we are already paying taxes to fund these places, so lets keep it that way, its the right thing to do.
22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
Culture can be described as the most important element of any country. The most important element of a culture can be claimed to be the language - it is the essence of a people. Wales has miraculously managed to maintain its language, and we should do everything within our means to promote it for the future - for our descendants. Further advance into Welsh medium schools is essential - primary schools in Wrexham are overflowing already and high schools are scarce to say the least. Focus on centres for adult Welsh learning needs to be addressed and promoted to ensure all ages enjoy the opportunity to learn one of the oldest languages in Europe.
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?
Webcasting should cover all meetings - many of the poor decisions that have taken place over the last few years should have been witnessed by the people they affected. Many voters are still unaware how their own councillor voted on crucial decisions (e.g. the closure of Plas Madoc Leisure Centre). As previously stated, I am a firm believer in democracy, which works better the more locally, de-centralised it is. The public should be involved more in the democratic process and Ward briefings following Council meetings should become compulsory - all residents deserve the right to voice their opinion in matters that affect them and their families. Pre-meeting briefings should also be considered - this would enhance the involvement of the public from the early stages.
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?
Plaid Cymru candidates are a good mix (approximately 60% male / 40% female, and even one 18 year old). This diversity lends to a fantastic rapport within the team, a positive connection during meetings and get-togethers and generally augers well for the future of the branch in Wrexham. The representation I present would evolve from this background - promoting camaraderie and an excellent working relationship for the betterment of fair democracy requiring a mix of all ages, genders and other elements.
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?
As a member of Plaid Cymru, I have contributed to the awareness of the possibility of Wrexham losing one of its two fire engines for the area by delivering hundreds of leaflets to the residents in Hermitage Ward - thanks to this and the will of the people, the fire authority finally backed down and kept two engines. Although a county campaign, this obviously impacts my ward. Similarly, I have recently leafleted the ward concerning the plan for 12,000 homes on the outskirts of Wrexham on greenfield areas. Anytime in the future this could seriously impact the ward, as it has done in the past (e.g. school and playing fields utilized for housing). I am determined to continue this campaign and am certain the people of Wrexham and Hermitage ward will once again win the day.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
I was born and bred in Hightown, have never moved and am proud to say all my children have been brought up in the area as well. Thus I am fully au fait with many of the current affairs and its history. I know many individuals and families in the area, so already have the luxury of being able to converse on a friendly basis with the many of the residents. My wife is also very active with Community First and other local activities and has kept me updated with areas beyond my knowledge, so I have a fairly deep understanding of many current issues in the ward. My plans to enhance the community by promoting family life and instigating many more meetings, activities and get-togethers for all residents, not just the select few, is a positive forward move in ensuring a cleaner, safer and happier community. The local manifesto Plaid Cymru has prepared for Wrexham is distinct and clear in its belief in the voice of the people, not the executives, running the council.
Social & Web links
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OTHER CANDIDATES FOR Hermitage
- Welsh Labour