Statement of Darren Picken

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

Having spent the last couple of years actively campaigning in Wrexham over local issues close to my heart and tired of the same old options on voting day, I am standing this year as a candidate in my community of Borras Park Ward.
I love this town, born in the Maelor, I have spent my entire life living and breathing this great place called Wrexham. I consider myself to be a "true homegrown candidate" having experienced Wrexham as it has changed throughout the years. I have lived in Borras for the last five years with my fiancee and our 3 young children and I feel humbled to be part of such a great community, with fantastic neighbours and all of its proud residents.

Standing as a candidate has given me the opportunity to rise up and be heard and also offer the residents of Borras a hard working, passionate, honest, strong voice so the people can be truly represented on the council and have confidence that I will address all local issues current and future, improving and maintaining our area and town to a high standard.
Living in this beautiful Borras community I have first hand experience and will always be available to help with any issues, ideas or support that may be needed.

Residents can expect a regular newsletter to every single home in my ward which has been the norm since I started my campaign many months ago, a flexible communicator with many ways to keep intouch, I embrace social media, email etc and their will always be an open door for all when you need me.

A short insight to me, my family are everything, myself and my fiancee maintain strong traditional family values for our children and take great pride in their achievments. We try to give to our community where we can supporting local events and currently are both active members of Barkers Lane School PTA and I asisst with our local Borras Park Albion football team. I have worked in various roles up to and including management level since the age of 15 starting with my apprenticeship at Air Products, Acrefair and for nearly 30 years have been involved in most aspects of engineering within various local industries.

I am an avid amateur photographer, music collector and keen caravanner with all our family holidays spent in this beautiful country of Wales.

I am proud to be a candidate in Borras Park Ward, proud to be part of Plaid Cymru the local party for local people and very proud to be part of the change Wrexham needs if I am elected.

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)

Dog fouling has been a key talking point while on my ward rounds, as is speeding on certain roads and parking especially around schools. The appearance of the whole area has also been mentioned with regards to cleanliness as well as the upkeep and maintenance of street furniture and greenery which is generally lacking or non existent.

2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?

We need to identify hotspots of dog fouling and littering, then apply the correct waste container with an increase of collections especially relating to the dog mess bins. Patrols would be increased to coincide with the number of dog walkers. Speeding awareness signs to be placed at key points to highlight excessive speed to drivers. I would resist the use of traffic-calming measures like speed ramps and road narrowing islands as these generally reduce speed but increase noise and inconvenience to residents and road users and would only be used as a last resort. Approach the schools about staggering start and end times and ask to issue regular communication to parents about respective parking in the area. Increase the frequency of street cleaning and reinstate a maintenance program across the ward in order to compliment the residents efforts

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

As a Plaid Cymru member I support my party's commitment to extend rate relief for small businesses. We also need as a priority to address the issue of high rates and increasingly high rental charges making the town a viable centre for a greater diversity of shops which would boost the regeneration scheme and give the people the retail experience everyone now has come to expect. We have great facilites in Wrexham with forthcoming headline names performing at the Glyndwr stadium and William Aston Hall as well as ComicCon, Wrexfest and Focus Wales events. These all bring a major important revenue boost to the town and I would encourage and increase these and create a portal for all local businesses to highlight their services and facilities for such events.

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

Plaid Cymru's policy is to have health and social care budgets merged into one to improve the transition from one to the other and vice versa, funding would be provided from general taxation.

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

School budget cuts are leading inevitably to staff cuts. This can be so detrimental to our children. As a member of Barkers Lane PTA the fund raising is being relied on more and more to bolster school items needed. Primary school classes and Welsh-medium especially are oversubscribed. Priority should be placed on all these issues for the sake of our children's education

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

The whole site is to be used for educational purposes due to covenants. It has already been identified that a primary school is much needed in Wrexham and part of the site could be used for this. Since the closure of the excellent facility Ysgol Powys Special School in Gwersyllt the town would also benefit from a purpose built facility similar to this and their is enough space to accomodate this as well the other educational requirements. I think Coleg Cambria and/or Glyndwr could be approached to create a centre of learning excellence and possibly in collaboration with The Maelor Hospital it could be based around a medical staff/mental health/ care training facility. Providing primary school places is the utmost priority.

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?

Currently housing is in great demand and as a member of Plaid Cymru I support our manifesto call for the 2500 empty properties in the area to better effect, developing all brownfield sites before using the proposed green belt areas and playing fields currently allocated and building council houses for the first time in a generation. Personally I would also like to see use of alternative housing projects involving recycled sea containers, tax/rate relief and encouragement for low/zero carbon housing projects, co-op housing communites and encouragement through reduction of planning restrictions for sustainable homes and 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?

The third party initiative for me doesn't work. The cost of the contract is limited to an 11% return only, no matter how many fines are succesfully completed. The cost of employing council representatives would be covered by the fines and maximum return from the financial charges would go straight to the council for use in the area. A missed golden opportunity to bolster funds for all. The contract has just been renewed 3 weeks prior to the local elections which is unfair for the newly elected council so for the next 2 years unfortunately we are stuck with it, as I imagine their would be penalties for cancellation.

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

Politically Balanced. The current system has proven that decisions made historically are sometimes not in the best interests of Wrexham and its people and this needs addressing with new honest strong councillors acting in the best interests of Wrexham.

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?

Any change to any councillors status that differs from the time of being elected should see a by-election and let the voters decide if the change is acceptable. So if I were to change my status for any reason then 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?

Too many cuts happening from the ground up. Cuts and efficiency improvements should begin at the top. Utilise current staff and their abilities to remove the need for external consultants and third parties. There are great people working in the council who are more than capable of performing the tasks required currently undertaken by the third parties and consultants.

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

Wrexham council procurement could be better used supporting local businesses which then in turn would reinvest in our industrial areas and towns. Future alternative energy sources like solar power would, after a time reap much-needed revenue as is currently ongoing.

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 plight comes from years of over developement and too much expansion of the shopping areas. We need to build on its strengths, fill our empty shops with a greater variety of retailers and increase Wrexham's appeal by reducing business rates and rents in the town. Events in the town have been very succesful and their needs to be more emphasis on the amount being held. National sporting occasions need to be pre-planned effectively and fully supported wholeheartedly so the Wrexham people dont miss out on the occasion, example Wales in the Euro's. Sunday public transport needs to be aligned with the 7 days-a-week shop opening times. We need to bring the town up to speed with all current transport requirements and provide free/low cost parking, charging bays for electric vehicles and ultra safe cycle routes with secure cycle parking. Question why the monday market has dwindled and instigate a rescue plan. Reinstate the Christmas Parade - a major spectacle most towns and cities lack

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?

In my campaign I have leafleted every home in Borras Park with no partiality to voter or non voter as I truly believe everyone is entitled to keep abreast of the current situation in our community and town. As part of these leaflets, all means of communication with myself are included and this would continue on a regular basis as not everybody is internet friendly. I embrace social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc and would have a dedicated page for the Borras community to post events, issues, ideas and any other relevant information or be able to contact myself with ease. Erect community notice boards in strategic postions around the ward for all to use with relevant information. Utilise our community retail shops for a community drop box for any non urgent communications. Stand for election on the community council to coincide with the local councillor position so I am intune with all aspects of fulfilling my duty to the residents of the Borras Park community

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?

In Wrexham we lack enough provision for the arts but with the new arts hub well under way and current projects it is beginning to grow. More support for other projects should increase inline to bolster the growing arts scene. We are lucky to have such a creative space for the community at Undegun, Saith Seren supports arts and music with some great events and very recently a gallery has opened in the peoples market tWIG the Wrexham Independant Gallery all which require future support to ensure survival. To encourage future arts their needs to be incentives and further town centre festivals celebrating the styles, invite schools to participate, have designated areas for performing street art, liven up walls with pre-approved murals, create an art trail around the town with local sculptures and displays and an annual art and photography competitions of varying themes like our history, landmarks, industry etc utilising display areas to show what our towns people can do.

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?

My son and I are firm Wrexham supporters attending as many home games as possible. The utter contempt shown to the club involving the student accomodation needs rectifying and all monies reimbursed should go towards refurbishment of the Kop in order to complete one of the best football grounds in the country. We need to assist and support the excellent DSA a pioneer in the field of disabled fans in football The announcement of Wrexham FC trainining at the Nine-acre field is great news and facilities should be modernised for the club going forward. Wrexham FC is steeped in history and bringing a Welsh Museum Of Football to its spiritual home would compliment our town and bring visitors with it. I assist in running Borras Park Albion under 8's football team and as grassroots football is where it begins I would like Wrexham FC to be involved more with schools and youth teams via appearances and training camps, encouraging support for our towns club and inspiring the players of tommorow

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?

I would encourage close communication between local businesses, the council, police and any other agencies to promote a safe, friendly enviroment for all nightime activities. Reduce legislation for local businesses to expand events onto the streets with support for themed evenings around national and local celebrations. Encourage more festivals and incoroporate Glyndwr stadium events with supporting acts in the town centre venues. Offer free parking in all car parks after 6pm with discussions to involve privately owned car parks and improve coach pick up points to accomodate ease of drop off and collection within the town centre. Increase family-safe evening events in the town of varying themes and ensure public transport supports such events.

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 public space protection orders solve nothing - they just move the problem to another area so it's a case of out of sight out of mind. We have some great resources available in the council, police, health board and other agencies but these need to work more closely together and stop the problem at its source. Prevention is better than a cure and that is where efforts should be concentrated.

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

For many years it is well documented that in this country we treat all drugs except alcohol and smoking as illegal substances imposing criminal sentences and ostracisation of the user. This hasnt worked as it drives the whole system underground and promotes criminal activity. We need to have discussions over a new approach and take factual evidence from countries that are succesful in the legalisation of certain substances with priority on medical use to begin with. Portugal, California and this week Canada amongst many others have a different view on drugs which is proven to reduce many issues associated with illegal substances and legal highs. It saves tax payers money across many departments dealing with drug related issues as well as generating a substantial income in taxes. Currently front line services are being cut thus reducing the help most people need. Stop the cuts, increase front line services and adopt a new modern approach to drugs.

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?

As a Plaid Cymru candidate I have pledged not to take a pay increase for the term of councillor, provide my own IT equipment at no cost to the council and reduce allowances to an absolute minimum. We need to be realistic where cuts should come from and resist over indulgence and unnecessary spending. Ask the people and staff for realistic areas of savings and offer incentives based on the annual financial return from these think tank proposals. If we look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves.

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 would certainly question the financial value for money over a 3rd party running our Wrexham facilities and bring Plas Madoc leisure centre back under the umbrella of the council by continued funding of the current community co-operative . Waterworld is suffering due to lack of maintenance and this is causing restrictions for certain groups to be able to use the full range of activities. These facilities are provided for all the people of Wrexham to promote health and well being of all our residents and should not be seen as a burden but as a priviledge to provide such services. We should be giving our people the best we can.

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-medium schools are over subscribed and more places are required urgently which shows greatly the increased demand for the Welsh language in our town. We need to actively promote the Welsh language, encourage its use and approach Welsh speaking community facilities like Saith Seren, for help with this. A couple of my ideas are a new style of Welsh language lesson where families can attend together as one, which enables everybody to learn and practice at the same level. Approach retailers and businesses to display Welsh phrases at point of sale areas and encourage participation by customers and employees. Host Wrexham's own eisteddfod and affiliate it with St Davids day celebrations. I can only speak a little bit of welsh and I would dearly love to be fluent in this beautiful language so I would lead and encourage the education of Welsh in our communities.

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?

All meetings and discussions should be broadcast over the webcasting facility with public and press able to attend. This would increase the honesty and transparency of the council to all and give the people of Wrexham a better understanding of how the council works and clearly show the decision-making process so that all councillors would then be more accountable for their actions and choices. As a councillor you are voted into the position by the people, should act accordingly for the people and have no reason not to be held accountable for your actions. Being a councillor is a priviledge.

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 am part of the Plaid Cymru team because they represent best the people of Wrexham and Wales. The candidates reflect a true representation of all walks of life, within our team we have people with disabilities ,the most number of women candidates of any party, the youngest candidate in the election and we all truly believe we can be the change Wrexham needs.

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 Barkers Lane school PTA I attend and assist with fund raising which adds greatly needed funds to bolster our children's education during these times of cuts. I actively communicate local issues to the council to help resolve matters including potholes, pavement repairs, inappropiate spending of valuable council funds, street lamp issues, attend community council meetings as a public member, report and communicate information on social media via my dedicated Borras Park candidates page which will become a community focal point if elected. My family and neighbours rallied together to provide support and care for an elderly neighbour when failed by social services and care at home, facilitating a meeting to resolve some serious issues. I actively campaign for community, enviromental and Wrexham issues when required and I have and always will regardless, be a good neighbour, an active supporter of my community and a proud Wrexham resident.

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

We need a change, Borras and Wrexham need change. The council needs change with new councillors that offer genuine true representation for all people. A new approach to make our communties and town great again. A council that is driven to deliver the best it can for everyone. Im not just a candidate, I am a born and bred Wrexham guy who has decided enough is enough, I am a Dad of 3 children who lives an everyday life like everyone and now I am standing up to be heard and offer the good people a realistic choice at the polls. I am a down to earth, honest, passionate hard working candidate with traditional family values at my core and I will be your strong voice on the council so all the people will be truly represented. I hope you will lend me your support and together we can be THE CHANGE WREXHAM NEEDS. A VOTE FOR ME IS A VOTE FOR YOU You can find me on facebook @BorrasPark, or contact you can read our manifesto at Thankyou/Diolch

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