Statement of Paul Rogers
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I am Paul Rogers and I am seeking re-election as Councillor for Brymbo Ward which includes the villages of Brymbo and Tanyfron.
I grew up within the community and lived here most of my life, attending St Mary's Primary School before going on to secondary education at Ysgol Bryn Alyn. My family have also lived in Brymbo for generations with many members working at Brymbo Steelworks up until its closure.
It has been a privilege to serve as Councillor for two terms during a period which has seen significant changes and investment in our community. In particular the community has seen the construction of the spine road across the former Steelworks Site, significant investment in improving both Council owned and private housing, many local roads resurfaced and the refurbishment of children's play facilities.
In my role as a County Councillor I sit on various committees at the Guildhall and am also involved in several organisations locally. I am a Local Authority Governor at St Mary's Primary School and also a Director of the Brymbo Sports and Social Complex, as well as the Brymbo and Tanyfron Regeneration Trust which manages the Enterprise Centre at Blast Road.
Politically I sit as a Conservative Councillor however I fully recognise that at local level residents often vote for the person they feel will do the best job rather than the party. I therefore put the interests of the community first and often work with individuals in other political parties in the best interests of the local community.
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)
From talking to local residents over the last few weeks there have been a number of issues which have come up frequently on the doorstep. The issue of activities and facilities for children and young people is a major issue. Wrexham Council has changed the way in which it delivers youth services with Community Councils now playing a greater role in funding the activities. In Brymbo and Tanyfron this has led to concerns from some residents that the lack of activities and engagement with young people could be contributing to anti-social behaviour. The need to develop the former Brymbo Steelworks site further, in particular new school and retail developments are also a key issue for many residents. Both proposals were held up significantly due to the lack of funding to construct the spine road across the site. There is a pressure on school places locally and it is hoped that the new school will help attract retail opportunities and kick-start further regeneration of the site.
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
With regards to activities and facilities for children and young people, I recognise the importance of this and recently secured £16,000 from the Community Council to deliver youth provision in both Brymbo and Tanyfron. If re-elected I will work with the community to identify suitable locations to open youth clubs in both villages. I will also continue to seek funding to create and refurbish children's play areas and facilities. In relation to the former Brymbo Steelworks site, a lot of progress has recently been made with regards to the new school which was recently granted outline planning permission. If re-elected I will continue to work with officers to help deliver the project. It is vital the community are kept informed and that residents are involved where possible in the project as it moves forward. The new school is key for attracting retail opportunities to the site and therefore it is vital there are no major changes or delays this project now it is at a key stage.
3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?
It is vital the Council works to maximise opportunities working with Welsh Government to help businesses. The Vibrant and Viable Places (VVP) programme is an example of where the Council has secured significant investment in the town and it is important future funding opportunities are taken advantage of. I feel it is vital that we support businesses of all sizes within the Town Centre, in particular to continue to invest and support our markets. It is vital we work with business and listen to their concerns. The Town Centre Forum, Industrial Estate Business Forum are good examples of this and I would like to explore the potential for a forum to work with local businesses within the Brymbo and Tanyfron area.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
A mixture of local and national funding is vital for adult social care. I feel there are opportunities for the Health Board and local government to work more closely together on this issue to ensure best use of resources.
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
It is vital that the Council continue to provide support and training for school governors and Governing Bodies to ensure that they are are in a strong position to challenge standards in education in our schools across Wrexham. Representing a community which has two primary schools built over 100 years ago, I know how important it is that we continue to invest in modernising school buildings. The Council must continue to work with Welsh Government to secure funding to ensure schools are equipped with modern resources and that our children can have the opportunity to learn in a 21st century learning environment.
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
The Groves school site can only be used for educational purposes, which I fully support however it is my understanding there is a need for more primary school places in the Town Centre and there are a surplus of secondary school places. The recent listing of the building makes it more likely that it will be difficult to adapt it to a primary school which meets 21st Century School Programme requirements. It is vital that any conversion of the school for educational use is delivered within budget and not at the expense of other school improvement projects.
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?
There has been much political debate about this in recent years and the latest population and household projections suggest that Wrexham will need an additional 8500 homes up to 2028 for the Council's Local Development Plan to satisfy the Welsh Government. Over the past decade over 700 new properties have been built in the Brymbo and Tanyfron area, in particular on the former Steelworks site which has put pressure on local infrastructure and services. I am strongly of the view that the area has had it's fair share of housing. It is vital that any future large developments are in conjunction with infrastructure improvements such as the A483-Ruthin Road junction which is often backed up with traffic at peak times. From speaking to residents on the doorstep there appears to be a need for more housing to meet the needs of older people in our community and if re-elected I will work with Council officers to look at options for delivering such schemes to meet the needs of our community.
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?
Since a third party has been enforcing environmental crime in Wrexham there has been a greater success rate in the number of fixed penalty notices issued. Dog fouling and litter is an issue regularly complained about in both Brymbo and Tanyfron and therefore there it needs to be enforced. I understand a contract for two years has recently been awarded to a third party and I feel further scrutiny of this service may be required over this period. There currently appears to be a disproportionate amount of focus on cigarette related litter, if re-elected would urge a review to ensure that there is a greater focus on dog fouling, more visually damaging litter and fly tipping. From the statistics it would also suggest a lack of fixed penalty notices issued in rural areas which may also need to be reviewed.
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
I feel this is an issue which needs to be considered following the election and may inevitably be dependent upon the political make up of the authority. Personally I have no issue with a reduction in Executive Board members from 10 to 8 to reduce costs and no objection to a politically balanced system provided all members take on Lead Member responsibilities which was previously not supported by the Labour group.
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?
During my term of office, my contribution to the Council and community has never been determined by national political policy but actually what is in the best interests of the community. I fully recognise that at local level residents often vote for the individual or the best person for the job rather than party and therefore I would consider whether to trigger a by-election based on the circumstances at the time.
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?
Over £30 million of savings has already been made by Wrexham Council in recent years. Difficult decisions and deep savings have already been made across all departments and at all levels including senior management.
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
Whilst Council's can create revenue, it is difficult as we are restricted by legislation and many fees such as planning are set nationally. There is also the issue of public perception around increasing or introducing fees for services. I am of the view that the Council should be supporting keep the costs of living down for families across Wrexham. Such discussion around income generation takes place through the budget setting process which is subject to public consultation and residents can put ideas forward.
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?
It is clear that we need to diversify the Town Centre to maintain footfall to support the existing shops and attract new retail into vacant units. There are opportunities to develop the cultural and restaurant offer in Wrexham which can assist generate footfall and the recently opened Fat Boar restaurant demonstrates the potential that exists. There needs to be continued support for independent traders to open up in Wrexham and the new People's Market provides an opportunity for this. With the Bodhyfryd site likely to see major changes in the coming years with the demolition of the Police Station, there may be exciting opportunities to develop this part of the Town Centre however there needs to be careful consideration about how this site is developed and it's use.
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?
Since I have been Councillor for Brymbo and Tanyfron I feel I have been very accessible and approachable. If re-elected I will continue communicate with the community through a variety of means including email, local newsletters, surgeries and walk-abouts. I work closely with a range of community groups, attend local events and often support the local Enterprise Centre which helps keep me in touch with local residents and any issues they may have.
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?
It has been identified that there are opportunities to support the arts greater in Wrexham. The New People's Market will provide a new platform for the Arts in Wrexham and I will support its development because it is vital we make this project a success for the Town. There has been cross party support for the Arts Hub and new Peoples Market until recently and it would concern me if all political parties do not get behind this venture.
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?
It is important that as a Council we support the Club to maximise opportunities and work with Welsh Government to support any potential applications for funding to improve the Racecourse.
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?
The Council has supported the night time economy through a range of initiatives in recent years and worked with partners to refurbish Brook Street toilets and creating a "well-being facility" in response from feedback from local businesses. It is vital we listen to the concerns of this sector which does employ a large number of people in our town and the NightSafe and Town Centre Forum have an important role to play.
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 behaviour can only be tackled by people working together to address the issues which cause it. It is vital that the Council continues to work with North Wales Police and other partners to address areas of concern.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
This issue with NPS is not unique to the Town Centre and is a national problem. The continued negative press is not helping the image of our Town and it is vital all agencies work together to address the 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?
The Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales sets Councillor allowances and also makes clear that ICT equipment should be provided to elected Councillors to enable them to do their duties. Since changes were made and Ipads were introduced for Councillors there has been a significant savings to the Council through reduced printing, supplies and postage costs.
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?
There is no one-size fits all approach to the funding and running of community facilities. There are two excellent examples in Brymbo which are not funded or run by the Council, Brymbo Enterprise Centre and Brymbo Sports and Social Club. Both very successful independent organisations which can access funding unavailable to the Council. The Council still own and fund leisure services across the County however in Plas Madoc's case the facility was losing £0.5 million a year and a difficult decision had to be made. The Council supported the community to take over the facility and have provided funding as well as officer support to do so. If re-elected I will continue to work with organisations in Brymbo and Tanyfron to secure grant funding to improve their facilities and make them more sustainable.
22. What actions would you take, or support, as a councillor to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
Welsh language, culture and heritage should be supported and promoted where possible. I understand the Welsh Government are reviewing current legislation around Welsh language due to the cost implications for organisations in meeting the standards that they must meet.
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?
Fully support webcasting of meetings and would like to see it rolled out further to all meetings which are open to the public. The Council carry out a number of consultations annually and these should be made as accessible as possible.
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?
If re-elected I will continue to represent all sections of my community. I will continue to be accessible and approachable to all residents wherever they live in the community.
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?
During my term of office I have worked to improve the local environment, character and physical appearance of the community. During recent months I have worked with the local Housing Estate Office to hold environmental action days in both Brymbo and Tanyfron. These have included supporting tidy up areas of Council land such as garage sites, removing litter and fly-tipping, replacing damaged fencing and supporting tenants remove unwanted bulky items to take to the local recycling site in Lodge. I have also been working with the Community Council to improve the area around Bronwen's Green and Brymbo Pool, helping to negotiate a new maintenance contract for the football pitch on behalf of the Council and carrying improvements to the site with the installation of new fencing and accessible gates. Regardless of the election result I would hope to continue to support such efforts to improve areas in Brymbo, Tanyfron and Vron through working with other members of Brymbo Community Council.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
During recent years it has been a privilege to work with local residents to improve our community and I would like to thank everyone for their contribution. If re-elected to serve Brymbo, Tanyfron and Vron I pledge to represent all sections of the community, listen to local residents and make your priorities, my priorities. If re-elected I pledge to - Open youth clubs in both Brymbo and Tanyfron. Prioritise the delivery of new school on the former Brymbo Steelworks site whilst also ensuring that Ysgol Tanyfron has a long term future serving our community. Use available budgets to deliver additional off-street parking in both Brymbo and Tanyfron. Work to improve facilities and services for older people in our community. I will not promise anything I cannot deliver. These are just some of the areas I will focus on if re-elected. This election is an opportunity to continue to build on the positive work which so many have contributed to in recent years. Thank you for your support.
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