Statement of Ethan Lewis Jones
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I was born and raised in Johnstown, attended the local school and many of my family and friends live here. I studied at Coleg Cambria and was on the Campus Council in Grove Park and then became Vice President in Bersham Road in the Student Union. I now have an apprenticeship with a company on the Llay Industrial Estate as an electrical engineer which I am starting in June.
I studied Politics when I was in college which piqued my interest and made me think about the issues we face in our country and our county. From looking at our local and national government, I decided I didn't want to watch from the sidelines and I knew I had to make change. I had a few friends who were members of the Labour party and I decided to join them back in 2015. Since joining the party, I have also joined Unite the union.
Aside from the Labour party, I have been a member of a youth military organisation and have done a lot of work supporting our local communities. I am a firm believer in encouraging young people into youth organisations, military or civil. Volunteering with this organisation gave me pride in myself and in my local community.
On my political views I am a believer in justice, liberty and equality. In recent times, we have seen austerity in government and people are falling on hard times. We need to support people who work hard on minimum wage to feed their children. Our elderly, disabled and mentally ill are struggling and it is my belief that we have to help them, if we do not then who will? Wrexham has seen a phenomenal amount of homeless people, nobody in this country today should be living on the streets. The drugs problem in our county and our country as a whole speaks volumes about mental health problems and poverty. I believe that these people need help and rehabilitation and something has to be done to protect our young and vulnerable people.
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 heard about many issues from people in my local ward, some of the biggest problems I have come across is speeding and parking. Aside from that, some of the other major problems we face in Johnstown is dog fouling which is still prevalent despite the new enforcement against inconsiderate dog walkers. The odour from Johnstown/Hafod landfill affects many across the entirety of Johnstown, but especially those living down Bangor Road, Heol Orsaf, etc. The loss of GHA has meant some residents who used public transport later in the evening are now missing this service. Many people I have spoken to are also concerned about the care that our elderly receive in recent times. The closure of daycare facilities such as the Plas-Yn-Rhos has affected residents in Johnstown. I believe that these are the key local issues that need addressing.
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
Action, more than words is what is needed. I will take the necessary steps to put these issues to rest. It will be difficult to undo the damage done to care facilities. I will work with Labour to reinvest in social care, we can do this through integrating the health and social care budgets, to ensure we look after those who need us. I will work with our bus services to make sure that transport is available and demand is met. There are measures in place to report odour from the landfill, I will make sure people have the ability to report the odour easily and that action is taken. Dog fouling is a similar issue and not enough is done to reduce it. We must enforce anti-fouling measures properly by making sure inconsiderate people are made aware of how they affect our local neighbourhoods. For speeding, I will make sure calming measures are more widely used where they are needed. Parking is a lack of planning that I will also address to keep our streets clear for residents to park.
3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?
Local businesses in Johnstown are the bread and butter of our community. Across Wrexham, we have seen the council failing to keep our local businesses just that - local. To help local businesses, I am committed to using the various instruments available to the council to support them. Community development credit unions and loan funds can be used to grow our local businesses and put local people first. The Johnstown high street benefits from local businesses which bring our community closer and improves our local economy. We should continue to invest in these and not let them reach the same fate as our town centre. Local businesses for local people is something we should be proud of and keeping the businesses in Johnstown is a priority.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
Adult social care in Wrexham is currently not the vision I have. We have seen the budget to look after our elderly cut, but I do not want to talk about the failings we see, I want to deal with them. I will see that adult social care is funded properly and that people who need help are given it. Integrating the health and social care budgets will allow us to tackle the problem head-on, keeping the funds accessible and well-managed. We should use not-for-profit corporations/social enterprises to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and deliver high quality care. Social care in Wrexham will be better if myself and Labour is put into administration, this is a fact. Refining our responsibilities to see a real improvement is what I want to do.
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
In my local Ysgol Yr Hafod school we have seen a rise in the pupil-teacher ratio which is a curve that must be stopped. I will commit to ensuring that additional school places are created and Welsh-medium school places are created. This will put an end to growing class sizes due to places not being created for children where they are needed. I will also see that expectations are put in place for education so we can raise standards and make sure that far less than 1-in-5 pupils from Ysgol-Yr-Hafod are not achieving their expected outcome. I will work to see the education system in Wrexham is improved. Proper measures against poverty in children is needed. I will work with teachers and institutions such as Coleg Cambria and Glyndwr University to enhance opportunities. I want us to have one of the best education systems in the country.
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
I am a firm believer that the Groves should be kept as a historical building and redeveloped as a centre for skills and lifelong learning. This will help make sure that both younger and older people develop skills to progress in their workplace and also prevent people remaining unemployed for long periods of time. Wrexham needs more skills amongst its workforce if we want to build a strong economy. Wrexham has a good record on employment right now and we want to see unemployment reach record lows with the current trend. We can do this by working with the Welsh Government to invest in local people.
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?
It has been five years since a Local Development Plan has been in place. I would want to change that and work alongside councillors to build as many homes that are needed in Wrexham. About 7500 homes are needed in Wrexham and these are needed all over the county. I am committed to everyone, to ensure that no family in Johnstown - or Wrexham, is left without an affordable home. I will commit to: Robust quotas for affordable housing, work with the Labour party to suspend the Right To Buy, get on board with ethical developers & housing associations to increase social housing stock, a landlord's charter and local lettings agency to support good landlords and complete the work with Welsh Government finance to make sure our council houses provide good quality housing. Housing in Wrexham needs to be tackled head-on and I will do that.
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?
The current private contract that Wrexham has on dog fouling enforcement needs amending. The national guidance on dog fouling should be followed like the council's own enforcement officers do. I believe that this must be enforced more robustly to ensure that Johnstown and Wrexham as a whole is much cleaner and pleasant. I will make sure that the issue is met with the necessary response to make a change. I think we need to deal with the problem better by talking to residents and finding out how to resolve it. Making sure enforcement officers are present at the necessary times when the issue is most problematic and taking a targeted approach is how I will strive to deal with the problem.
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
As a person I am a firm believer in democracy and debate in government. The current 'Cabinet Executive Board' system does work in other councils within Wales. I have also been looking at a committee structure, however this would require all councillors to meet monthly. Logistically this may pose difficulties, however it is definitely worth looking at in the interests of democracy and giving all councillors chance to input. Regardless, Wrexham is suffering a lack of democracy and debate is discouraged by the current system. The voices of councillors are not heard and the issue has to be fixed if the people in our communities whether it be Johnstown or elsewhere, wish for their representative to be able to do their job. It would be my duty to bring democracy back into our county.
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 change my allegiance to the Labour party. I have always been and will continue to be a member of the Labour party. The people of Johnstown, if they elect me, will be voting for me to represent them with the Labour party. To leave the Labour party after the election would be a betrayal of not only the party, but the people of Johnstown. However, if someone were to leave the party whilst serving on the council, then they should trigger a by-election. They should consult their ward members to see if they want to be represented by someone who is no longer a member of the Labour party.
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 can be made on Wrexham council by ensuring that core services are protected such as social care, housing and education. We must also protect our workforce and continue to invest in our local businesses. However, I believe savings can be made by looking at projects such as the arts hub which is strongly opposed to by the public. The council can also make savings by sharing services with other councils to take the cost down on departments. We should also make sure that the administration is run correctly by analysing payments and ensuring no duplicate payments are being made. Fraud should be looked at also and ensure that everyone is playing fairly, not avoiding taxes and not misusing services. These things and more can be implemented to make the council more efficient.
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
The Labour party set out an alternative budget in February. I will work to make sure that the council fills the gap of austerity by creating and growing revenue streams. We want our departments in the council to be self-financing. Our council needs to be run more efficiently to save people's hard earned taxes from being wasted, I will work with the party to ensure that the council is efficient. The council should also be looking at job creation as a result, we would employ more workers to exploit these revenue streams to further maximise the self-financing. Ideas such as a Street Works Permit Scheme will allow the council to charge companies who dig up our roads and issue fines to companies who do a bad job of resurfacing. Also, we will be looking to save on our 'reactive works' budget by making sure that work is not substandard on our roads and save £170,000+ by doing this.
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 Town Centre Masterplan is aspirational as a document, but we need action not words. Work must begin now for our Town Centre, we must begin by consulting the public to ensure that our high-street is well used. The town centre forum and the business community is a good start for making sure we provide a flourishing town. The key to providing the best town centre, however, is by making it well-kept, attractive and desirable to visit. This means working with police and other agencies to tackle anti-social behaviour and support campaigns to reduce littering, dog fouling and fly tipping. If elected I promise that our town centre will not fall into decay, but will end the trend and return to a town we can be proud of.
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?
As a member of the Labour party, I am bound to serve the people of Johnstown and Wrexham through more than just election time. I will hold regular surgeries and street surgeries within the village. I will make sure that I speak to all of my residents to ensure they are happy. I will provide newsletters to the people so they can scrutinise me and hold me to account. The input from the people is the most valuable input of all. I will provide a service that the people of Johnstown want which is why I will strive to keep in touch. I want Johnstown to be represented properly.
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 hub business plan is currently put forward by the council which Labour has challenged and I too believe that it is not a promising idea. We can better support the arts through current facilities such as the museum and by working with our educational facilities in Wrexham. Currently we are looking at £80-200,000 per year subsidies for 10 years in the arts hub with no sign of it reducing under the current plan. This money could be far better spent on making sure our education standards improve and we are properly caring for the vulnerable through social services. An arts hub is a luxury we cannot afford in these times of austerity.
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 have friends who are very loyal Wrexham AFC fans and that club means a lot to them as it is more than just a football team, it's a community. I support community organisations such as the one that the fans have to own their own club. I will strive to make sure that the club is not let down like it has previously. I will work within the council to make sure that we see closer ties being made to grow the club further and help the fans as much as possible. I see the council having a substantial role in future for promoting the club.
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?
To improve this sector of our economy, I will strive to work with businesses and the town centre forum. I will work to keep this industry safe and keep crime and anti-social behaviour from developing out of this industry. The night economy provides many jobs to people in Wrexham and brings in substantial amounts of revenue to local businesses. The night economy is one of the most successful in North Wales. I will work to keep it a safe atmosphere managed to keep the issues of crime and anti-social behaviour down to prevent businesses closing. I will also make sure that the right balance is struck to make sure that the needs of businesses, residents and the public sector are all heard on the night time economy.
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?
These 'PSPO's are not tackling root problems of the anti-social behaviour in our town. We are seeing many young people behaving anti-socially and these PSPOs are not going to change that. As a councillor, it is a responsibility to act to tackle these problems and not let them manifest by moving them out of sight. There is an underlying reason as to why we have seen an increase in this problem and I will work to reduce anti-social behaviour through developing a plan of action. I will find the root causes and deal with them to make these PSPOs effective by reducing anti-social behaviour throughout.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
Personally, I have seen this problem first hand on many occasions as someone who has been on King Street waiting for a bus like any other person. I have seen people watching and the look is not fear nor anger, but shame and pity. I am frustrated that the council does not feel responsible to deal with this problem. I do not believe there is nothing that can be done by the council and we have a duty to protect the public from these dangerous drugs. I have been informed that these 'legal highs' can be laced with drugs such as heroin to make it more addictive. I will work to get these drugs made illegal by pressuring Parliament and work alongside North Wales Police to devise strategy. We must educate young people in schools and through our colleges, charities, hostels and other organisations to ensure they are safe from these substances.
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?
My view on this is very clear - we are facing huge cuts from Parliament and these are tough times in Wrexham. Councillors should not be given iPads by the council to lead by example on making savings. Councillors should also pay for their parking outside the guildhall if they wish to drive there to make sure that they are playing fair. If staff for the council have to pay for parking and have to make do with older technology, then so should councillors. Also, due to austerity, our senior councillors should only be paid at the lowest level in their role (lead members, mayor, etc.) For too long I have heard of people complaining about the cuts in the council and yet the council leader and mayor being paid far too much. About iPads, it is my view that we should lease iPads to councillors from the council to ensure that councillor IT is then self-financed and we can provide high quality IT in the future with no expense to the taxpayer.
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?
When Plas Madoc was running under council ownership, it was losing £500,000+. The council before 2012 should have recognised that the facility was becoming unsustainable and should have started a community trust/social enterprise like Splash Magic to run it. The council should have pushed for and helped to start a community trust to make sure Plas Madoc Leisure Centre didn't close and that it was sustainable. The council needs to ensure these services are still there for local people and that they are not losing money. I am committed to making sure that our facilities in local communities do not close and that they are properly funded to avoid instances like Plas Madoc.
22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
In Wales, we should be proud of our culture and as a council we should be championing Welsh language. Learning languages is a skill that should be encouraged and promoted. I am a firm believer that the council needs a bi-lingual policy for the Welsh language. By creating a bi-lingual policy, we will encourage councillors to learn Welsh or give them the confidence to use it. Here in Wrexham we should be striving to embrace culture and promote pride in our language. Cymru am byth!
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 as a council, Wrexham needs to roll out their webcasting service across all meetings. The Welsh government provided funding to ensure this was possible for every council in Wales. I am a firm believer in full transparency of the council. The council works for the people of Wrexham and the people must know what is going on in their local government. In the interests of democracy it is essential that the council can be held to account through scrutiny from the public. Democracy is when the citizen keeps their mouth open.
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?
This is the first time I am old enough to vote to start with! I turned 18 recently and I have seen the apathy surrounding young people. "Why should I vote?" "It doesn't affect me." "I don't care." The rhetoric around young voters is a call for a political education in our system. I will speak to younger people and ensure their voices are heard, speaking to young people on school and college councils. I will make sure that I speak to people from every background if elected to ensure that nobody is left out and everyone's issues are taken on board. As a councillor I will make sure that I am inclusive of anyone who lives in my ward.
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?
Over the last few months one of the main activities I have taken part in was in writing to North Wales Police to have action taken on ensuring that speeding in Johnstown is tackled. Speed cameras have since been deployed on the main road by the garage and prospects have been raised to deal with speeding on Bangor Road and behind the shop on the main road. I will continue to listen to people's issues in Johnstown and I will be more able to take even more action now I am a part of the community council and hopefully go further on the county council.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
I live in Johnstown and have lived there all my life. I grew up in our local schools and local parks. I want to see Johnstown improve and become even better. If you want someone who is young with new ideas to bring to the table and a fresh perspective, then I believe I deliver that opportunity. If you want a councillor to listen to people and deal with the problems presented in Johnstown and Wrexham as a whole, I will do that. The council needs to turn Wrexham around and I want to deliver a real change. Vote for me if you want to see a new Wrexham and a new Johnstown that works for everyone and makes us proud to live here.
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OTHER CANDIDATES FOR Johnstown