Statement of David Anthony Bithell

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

I am 53, married and my wife is a staff nurse at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and we have two daughters. I have lived in Wrexham all my life and I am a lifelong Wrexham fan. I have worked in the Railway Industry for 37 Years and I am currently a Railway Signaller based in Wrexham. I am a member of a trade union (Rail Maritime and Transport Workers Union) and I am actively involved in the workplace, on the Wales Route and Nationally both as a lead representative and Branch Secretary. Since being elected as a councillor I have served as Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Lead Member for Children’s and Young People Services and was Deputy Leader of the Council in 2011/2012. I am currently Leader of Wrexham Independent Group. I have represented the council on the Mersey Dee Alliance, TAITH, Transport Advisory Group, Chair of the Chester to Shrewsbury Rail Partnership and member of the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency. I am also a member of the WLGA Waste Ministerial working group working to increase our recycling targets and future direction of waste. I have been a school governor at both the Infants and junior schools for over 10 years prior to amalgamation and I am Chair of Ysgol Y Hafod Johnstown.

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)

I have supported significant investment in improving our council homes to be brought up to the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (new kitchens, new bathrooms, external wall insulation, new roofing – these works are currently ongoing In Johnstown and will be ongoing for the next 2-3 years). I have also supported and continue to support more off road parking schemes. Country Parks – concern in Bonc Yr Hafod Country Park with motorbikes entering the parks which causes a Health & Safety concern to members of the public, children etc. Concerns from residents on the speed of vehicles entering Johnstown from the A483 and litter at Hafod cross roads and Hafod Quarry. Litter and Dog fouling- addressing this via the council’s new enforcement team and promote this on a regular basis via my newsletters and local schools.

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 working with local rangers and the North Wales Police to address motorbike accessing the country park. A new style kissing gate is soon to be erected to reduce the number of incidents and safety and noise nuisance to local residents. Continue to maintain the provision of local facilities in Johnstown for example the Community Centre in Heol Kenyon (supporting user groups). Maintain and enhance Children’s Play Areas to a high standard. I supported the introduction of 20MPH and continue to work with the Police and Go-safe to further reduce/monitor speeds. Work with council officers to ensure the efficient delivery of council services and ensure Johnstown is a present place to live, work or visit.

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

Provision of parking is an important part of supporting local businesses as is car parking fees. I have supported free car parking days for major initiatives in the town centre, more recently the whole of December 2016, including altering the tariffs and freezing car park prices in the town centre in my role as Lead Member. I have supported the provision of local parking improvements in residential areas throughout Johnstown to help the community and parking pressures. Maintaining our local environment e.g. public open space, roads, footpaths as it is important for the economic success of communities and Wrexham that we have a pleasant and attractive public realm. I have in my time as Lead Member ensured that maintenance and service standards have been maintained and improved even with the difficult financial constraints.Connectivity for economic success is vital with appropriate and high quality infrastructure helps to facilitate this.

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

This is a difficult area given the significant issues of demography and pressures and we need to work with Welsh Government to secure more funding to local authorities. We also need to work closely with the local Health Board.

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

As a Council we have continued to minimise the impact on school delegated budgets whilst also supporting and funding the schools renewal programme (21st Century Schools) and seen a number of new school buildings and modernisation. I think School Governing Bodies now have more responsibility and accountability to support schools and take the lead in driving education standards up, mindful of the financial challenges Governing Bodies face now and in the future. As Chair at Ysgol Y Hafod Johnstown we are making good progress following amalgamation into one primary school.

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

I supported, as an Executive Board Member, the decision to demolish the Groves prior to the building being listed. The reason for my decision is to build a new school/schools which would provide modern, 21st Century provision and standards for future generations.

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 local development plan is still to be adopted in Wrexham and no decisions have been made. I think there is clearly a demand for more housing provision in Wrexham, the location to this is sensitive however, it needs to be provided and have accompanying infrastructure to support the new communities that we strive for. I do support the building of new Council homes and I am also mindful that in approving the new plan we need to protect Public Open Space for existing communities.

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 supported the introduction of a new approach to littering and dog fouling enforcement in Wrexham and feel that this is a significant issue in Wrexham and I am aware that every town, village and community has persistent problems with littering and dog fouling. I took a zero tolerance approach “If you don’t drop litter or allow your dog to foul you have nothing to fear” as the clearing up litter from our Streets costs the Council Tax Payer a minimum of £1.2m a year and is a massive cost to Wrexham and Wales. We also need to work more on education and awareness that dropping litter and dog fouling is not acceptable.

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

I have worked on both systems and believe in accountability in the decision making process of the Council. Under the previous politically balanced system this may mean that some Executive Board members don’t accept portfolios or 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 am not a member of a political party and as an Independent I vote without the fear of the party whip.

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?

Reduction of Senior Management structure, look at the number of departments across the council and reduce waste duplication systems and processes. I support and maintain front line services and standards with better technology to deliver a better service to the tax payer.

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

The Council is a public sector organisation. The Council does have a cost recovery policy. There may be opportunities for income generation but these needs to be balanced with the risks of stopping public services.

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?

I supported the Town Centre Master Plan and would like to see more investment in the infrastructure, i.e. roads and pavements. I would support a funding plan of investment in the Town Centre working with Welsh Government.

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 produce regular newsletters updating my constituents on council developments/news and local issues and initiatives. More recently I have been engaged in social media and am always readily available and contactable to address constituents concerns. I pride myself on getting back to people.

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?

Supporting and developing initiatives for these types of facilities are extremely delicate and sensitive in the current financial climate. I do think these types of projects improve social and economic prosperity of the area. I do support the provision of arts related projects and hopefully this will generate more footfall in the Town Centre.

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 am a lifelong supporter of Wrexham Football Club and think it is an asset to the area and the region, I have supported the Club 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?

Wrexham Council supports the night time economy and facilitates and supports the licence trade where it can. The council also support the night safe scheme within the town centre and works in partnership with the police.

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 supported the introduction of Public Space Protection Orders and believe this particular issue in the town centre needs more time to see the benefits of the multi-agency approach which is currently taking place. I am aware of recent concerns and believe that this causes the public a lot of concern. We need to work together on these issues to reduce these incidents and continue to evaluate the PSPO order to ensure its effective.

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

There seems to be a massive problem with i.e. legal highs with many local authorities experiencing these problems. This is more than just a council matter and needs addressing. I will continue to support work with relevant agencies to tackle 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?

In respect of Councillor Pay – this is set by the Independent Remuneration Panel. iPads – the Council have supported the introduction of iPads which reduces significant costs of printing (100k plus have been made) and allows better access to services to support constituent’s needs.

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 did not support the closure of Plas Madoc Leisure Centre (closed by the Labour led administration in 2014), a decision our group campaigned against. I supported Council funding to re-open the centre and more recently in December 2016 a further £50,000 which helped secure a grant for key improvements to the building. PMLC has 400,000 visitors a year including many disabled groups, families and older people. Leisure facilities generally never make a profit in public sector organisations and the provision of these services will always be a balance to provide local facilities in times of severe financial pressures. The importance of Plas Madoc is that it serves the south of the county and provides a valued service to many surrounding local communities.

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 support the Welsh culture and heritage and support future development within the council.

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 support developing and improving transparency across decision making in the Council. I am keen to see this as a further enhancement of social media tools available to improve the accessibility to the public. We have introduced webcasting for some meetings and this could be extended if future funding is available.

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?

In my role as local member I engage with various age groups within the community, which include, over 50s and over 60s group. I have also met the local school council at Ysgol Y Hafod and worked with youth groups.

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?

In the last few months I have been involved in keep wales tidy initiatives with Ysgol Y Hafod and Strys Las Country Park. I am in daily contact on ward related issues, ie Housing Improvement works, housing applications and the new kitchen and bathrooms programme. I am also liaising with officers over flooding issues and meet with the Head Teacher in my role as Chair of the Governing Body at Ysgol Y Hafod to discuss agendas local issues or concerns raised by parents and staff.

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

In my role as Councillor I have supported the local community in bringing improvements to Johnstown during very difficult financial times we have faced from central government. Despite these challenges I have worked to secure funding to open the new Community Pavilion in Bryn Avenue and worked to retain the Community Centre supporting local user groups. I have supported local businesses and supported the largest capital investment in our council homes to bring them up to Welsh Housing Quality Standards. I worked and voted to secure funding which saw the re-opening of Plas Madoc leisure centre following its closure in 2014. In my role as Lead Member I have also worked to support and enhance our recycling which is now one of the top performers in Wales at 64%. I am Chair of the Schools Governing Body and I am committed that Johnstown is well represented. I am focused on getting things done and believe my record speaks for itself.

Social & Web links

Map of Johnstown

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