Statement of Gareth Alun Baines
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I am very pleased to have been selected as the Welsh Conservative Candidate for Llangollen Rural ward, which includes the communities of Trevor, Garth and Froncysyllte, because I care deeply about our community.
I live here in the stunning Dee Valley and was born and brought up locally – so I want what´s best for us all. I am active in the local community and last year campaigned against bank branch closures in Chirk and Ruabon – understanding fully the impact these closures would have on their respective local communities.
A career in senior management in international companies has taught me how to stand up for what´s needed, to secure the best possible deal, to see through officialdom and to get things done. I´m keen to bring my experience to this role, to help people in the local community to make sure I secure what´s best for the ward of Llangollen Rural. With World Heritage Status, our area has so much potential and I am keen to do my best to realise and promote it.
I have been knocking on doors, and speaking to people in the local community since I was confirmed as a candidate in February – I have taken up many items of case work and as a result writing letters, emailing and phoning different departments, bodies and institutions on behalf of local residents. I´m proactive, and will fight hard to do what´s right and what´s needed for local residents.
If I´m elected as the Councillor for Llangollen Rural in May, my priorities will be the priorities of local residents, whatever anyone´s concerns – as their Councillor I would be eager and proactive in offering whatever assistance I can.
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´ve been knocking on doors, and speaking to local residents since my candidancy was confirmed in February, so i´ve spoken to a huge number of local residents, taking down their details, and taking action on their behalf. A common issue people within Llangollen Rural are experiencing is poor frequency of busses, and that the routes the busses take aren´t suitable – I´ve written to Arriva busses regarding this, if elected Councillor this will be one of my highest priorities. Other common themes include unsafe parking in Trevor and Garth, and the availability of SuperFast broadband – as always I have written to the relevant departments and I´m keeping residents up to date with the progress I´m maing.
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
It´s not just about what I plan to do, it´s also about what I´ve already done since I was nominated as the Candidate in February, and what I´m doing at the moment. Every local resident who has raised an issue with me, has had their issue catalogued and dealt with in any way I can, whether that´s writing to the bus company, e-mailing our local PCSO, e-mailing the Council´s highways department. For cases that have warranted it, I have passed their details onto the North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood AM. For instance, I have been working closely with the Friends of the Lime Kilns to set up a meeting with Mark Isherwood to see how we can further develop tourism
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 would seek to help businesses gain applicable grants and support, seek better recognition for our World Heritage Status assets – to make it realise its full potential, the local community can benefit greatly from increased tourism, or by getting the 300,000 people who currently visit our ward stay for longer. Whilst it may not be strictly applicable in our ward, parking charges in Wrexham town centre have a lasting and detrimental impact on businesses in the town centre – I´d seek to work with colleagues to ensure that parking costs are reduced where possible, oppose increases in parking fees, and seek further free days – such as on Small Business Saturday and Wrexham Street Festivals.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
I was pleased to hear the Government had committed an extra 2billion to Councils to help further fund social care. These choices are hard, as every government over the last 20 years has discovered — that is why we are still talking about it. Councillors must lend their support to help foster rapid action and help find a solution that works for disabled people, and the elderly. The government´s Green Paper on social funding is an opportunity that must be seized, we must build a consensus on a long-term, sustainable solution about how we provide and pay for care for years to come
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
As a former school governor, I understand the huge potential our local schools offer, and the pressures schools and teachers are under. As a Councillor I´d be keen to make businesses and schools work more closely to ensure pupils are as prepared as possible for the working environment – as a senior management in one company, I introduced a system to see employees of all levels serve local schools as governors. Sustainable, responsible and accountable funding is key to deliver a robust education system.
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
Now it´s listed Grove Park needs a long term plan, to ensure the building is restored to its former glory, but importantly it also needs to meet the requirements of modern Wrexham. I´d be keen to lend my support in whatever way I could as a Councillor, with experience within top flight management within international companies. There will be a sustainable use for the building. Naturally it lends itself to an education establishment, and I found the plans of Coleg Cambria in terms of providing further education facilities for them, and sports fields on the site as something that could be viable and attractive for the community.
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?
Housing is a national problem, and it´s encouraging to see the amount of homes being built ever year in the country is increasing, I personally favour using brown site developments to help meet the housing needs of local communities. Housing developments wherever situated should consult local residents, it should be sympathetic to local surroundings and meet the needs of the local area.
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 was surprised to read that Wrexham was the first Council to raise more revenue through fines for people dropping litter than it did from car parking charges. I think the enforcement should be firm but fair – never heavy handed. Dog fouling is something that blights the local community whenever irresponsible dog owners aren´t cleaning up after their pets, we all deserve, and should have some civic pride in our area. The issuing of fines should only ever be to enforce rules, it should never be about making revenue, as such I´d be skeptical about a third party carrying out these activities.
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
I favour the executive board, in a way it mirrors the way the government runs at cabinet level. I find it makes the executive members accountable for their actions, and provides greater drive and expediency. However, it is not one or the other – all Councillors have ample opportunity to have their voices heard and to act on the issues that are affecting or are important to their constituents.
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?
Obviously I have no plans to defect, or to leave my party, let alone join another one – however, I think if a Councillor, or any elected representative for that matter, does cross the floor and join another party or grouping – the Councillor owes it to their constituents to seek a by election to ensure the mandate they received at the election is still valid, this applies to Councillors who have stood for a party and then become an independent.
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?
Executive remuneration and external services.
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
Lots of opportunities exist to secure revenue streams – this can be done naturally. Making Wrexham an attractive place for businesses serves the community well, it creates jobs, it sees greater income received into the Guildhall. Wrexham needs a long term, sustainable, visionary plan. In the ward of Llangollen Rural we have an asset that´s visited by 300,000 people a year – the Council must do more, in conjunction with the likes of Visit Wales, to drive up numbers and encourage those who are visiting to spend longer in the local area.
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 support the Town Centre Masterplan – and would do all I can to make sure it realizes its full potential. The priority must be in getting more businesses and retailers to return to the centre of town, this may require help with business rates, and, as I´ve mentioned before, lower parking charges would likely increase footfall in the town centre – which would make Wrexham an attractive place for new businesses, startups, retailers.
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 was confirmed as a candidate in February, since then I have spent at least every Saturday knocking on doors, leafletting and speaking with local residents – I have already acted upon the issues raised on the door step. It is both striking and noticeable that before the list of candidates were published no other candidates had made themselves known to local residents – this was something mentioned on the doorstep frequently. I have already given my commitment to work with the community councils. All issues raised by residents are catalogued and acted upon, and the resident is informed as to what I´ve done on their behalf. This won’t change. If I´m elected a Councillor, I will be a public servant, I will be there to serve you: your priorities will be my priorities.
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´ve always thought art is something to be fostered and encouraged – that begins in school. Also it requires a show place. There are fascinating examples of such in Llangollen and in bigger cities. I work closely with The Boathouse in Chirk, which has been working closey with local artists to showcase the best of the county. They´ve replaced genetic cups with hand thrown mugs from a local artist, their walls feature the work of local artists and a local wood carver, this should be supported, encouraged and embraced.
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?
A better more joined up offering from the public sector to embrace and encourage one of our local focal points. I´d be happy to work with Wrexham Football Club in any way I could to ensure the efforts of dedicated fans are not wasted.
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 offers a vibrant and popular night life economy. The Council and the Police do a good job, but there´s more to be done. The Council must act in a responsible and expedient manner when complaints are made against establishments in the town centre, we want Wrexham to be a welcoming, friendly and popular destination for people to enjoy their down time.
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?
Anti-social behavior shouldn´t be tolerated at any level, I think our local police do an excellent job in ensuring we all feel safe. I give them my full support, and will work with any residents or organisations that are experiencing anti-social behavior.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
Organisations such as FRANK offer free, balanced and unbiased advice with regards to drugs. Fundamentally we all want to feel safe and secure on a night out – the police and the council have powers to act on establishments abusing the communities trust and expectations.
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?
Councils across the country have much to learn from the private sector in terms of productivity and efficiency – just as the private sector has lots to learn from the public sector. Councillors using iPads and phones to conduct Council business is good for efficiency and is something I welcome. In terms of Councillor´s allowances, these are set nationwide – however I would be opposed to any increases in Councillor pay, fundamentally I see being a Councillor as a public duty – it isn´t something you should do just for remuneration.
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?
The current owners of Plas Madoc are doing a tremendous job, and should be applauded, the Council and Councillors should do what they can to support this venture. I´ve met with the people running Plas Madoc and I´ve been impressed at their efforts and their results.
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 would support businesses having better access to translation services.
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 all levels of government should be fully accountable and accessible. As such, I would welcome webcasting of meetings where appropriate. All levels of government must be engaged with the people they represent, and all people must be engaged with all levels of government – this makes for better, more informed dicision making, and better communication between all parties.
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 was accused on my Facebook page of “being too young to be a politician” (which came as a surprise to me!), I think the wider the field, the more varied the candidates and those elected the better the Council is able to represent the whole borough. Help should be offered to younger people to stand as a candidate. The Council should do more to engage younger voters with the political process.
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 I´ve said previously I´ve been knocking on doors and speaking to residents since my candidacy was confirmed in February. I have followed up on every issue raised, and informed every resident what I´ve done on their behalf. Before this I was a school governor, I´ve been working with the Friends of The Lime Kilns and the Friends of Whitehurst Gardens to increase their profile, maintain progress, inform the North Wales AM about these issues to get his involvement in them to ensure both come to reality. These activities will continue whether I´m elected or not, I live here, this is my community, and I care passionately about it.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
I´m approachable, hard working, honest and direct. Your priorities will be my priorities. A career in top flight management of international companies has taught me how to get on and deliver results, I want to bring that experience to the Council, for the benefit of the residents of Llangollen Rural – I hope I can count on their support in making this a reality.
Social & Web links
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