Statement of Callum Wyn Edwards
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
My name is Callum Edwards, I’m born and raised in Ruabon and I’m standing as your Labour candidate in the Penycae & Ruabon South Ward. I was educated in St Mary’s School, Ruabon and attended Ysgol Rhiwabon for both my secondary education and 6th Form.
I went to Aberystywth University and graduated with a First Class honors degree in International Politics with Economics, since returning from university I became really interested in local issues especially Plas Madoc Leisure Centre where I now work as an Admin Officer / Duty Manager.
The hard work and dedication of the local people in keeping this facility open proved to me what the real meaning of ‘People Power’ is and is a testament to the fact that we can have an effect on political decisions not just bow down to the cuts to local services which have had such a devastating effect on our communities.
I’m standing because I want to make a difference, I love living in Wrexham especially the Penycae & Ruabon South Ward we have so much to be proud of but there is so much to improve on.
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)
Local 6th Form Closure – I went to Ysgol Rhiwabon 6th Form and know what a great facility it is, a one size fits all policy to Post 16 education cannot be in the interests of our young people. Parking Issues – Many of our local roads and car parks are overloaded and causing major congestion. Planning – Our communities are being squeezed by development, from huge proposed housing developments to acres of Solar Farm. Local Services – Local Banks to Local Bus routes are being lost we must protect our vital local amenities.
2. Further to the above issues you have specified, at a ward level what would you do to resolve these problems if elected?
The best solutions to local issues are found by speaking with local people, not those in the Guildhall with little knowledge of the needs of the locals. I would speak widely with the people affected by such issues as parking and ask how they feel it needs to be improved. With issues such as 6th form closures and local service erosion I would help support the creation of petitions and try and get local people activity engaged in the issues in their communities. Much of the reason behind local disengagement is lack of information; I would try to address this.
3. As a councillor and as a member of the council what would be in your power, and your priority, to help local businesses?
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and if I was lucky enough to be elected councillor there are a number of things we could do to support them. We need to work with small businesses to help them create local partnerships which will allow us to create strategies which will drive in new business and allow regeneration of their communities, because a thriving local economy will lead to thriving communities.
4. How do you think adult social care in Wrexham should be funded?
The shortfall in funding for Adult Social Care is one of the biggest problems facing any local authority. We need to look at merging the Health & Social Care budgets which will better pool resources. We also need to work with the Third sector (Not for Profit and Social Enterprises) and explore how they can help.
5. What do you think is the most urgent thing, in the power of councillors, required to improve the local education system?
The biggest problem is rising costs, a lack of investment, and cuts to the education budget. We need to make sure our schools are correctly funded as austerity should not be a reason to deliver poor quality education and risk our children’s futures. There also needs to be a review of places at primary school level, to make sure everyone can get to the school of their choice. We also need to strive to raise and maintain standards across all levels of education in the county by supporting teachers, parents and pupils.
6. What do you think should be done with the Groves school building, and the site?
The Labour Party has long been supporters of the site, our town has already lost so much of its architectural heritage and we must preserve what we have left. I would support the creation of a centre for education, skills and life long learning at the Groves site.
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 current council has left Wrexham open to poorly planned housing over the last few years due to the lack of a proper Local Development Plan. We know there is shortfall of good quality new housing in the borough but these developments should be properly planned and adhere to a strict set guidelines that benefit the communities they are joining. There should also be a fixed commitment to a percentage of social housing on all new developments. The development should be shared evenly throughout the county, rather than just focusing on the areas which are seen as the ‘easy targets by developers.
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?
Wrexham Council need to amend their contract and follow the National Guidance, which the Police and the Council’s own Enforcement Teams work to.
9. Do you favour the current Executive Board system or a politically balanced system? Why?
I believe in any system that delivers for the people of Wrexham. What is clear to see is the farcical way the current council leadership has stifled debate at every turn; you only have to watch the online webcasts to see this. The Cabinet Executive system currently used by the council can and has worked at other authorities but we should always be willing to find better ways to encourage debate and discussion on issues.
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?
Simply Yes. People deserve the right to decide whether you have made the right decision for the right reasons.
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?
I think co-operation is key here. We are bordered by a number of councils who offer very similar services, at times of austerity and budget cuts we cannot be an island - we need to pool our resources to offer the same services for a reduced cost. I would like to see more cooperation between Wrexham, Denbighshire and Flintshire in future.
12. With the 'Reshaping' programme, which specific areas would you look to grow and create revenue streams in?
Much of the potential for growth and revenue creation has been outlined within our ‘Alternative Budget’ which despite going through the recommended internal processes of costing and approval were thrown out by the last administration without thought or consideration. For consideration these included areas such as a ‘street works permit scheme’, working with neighbouring authorities on shared projects therefore enabling both savings and budget generation.
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 Labour Party has set out a strategy for our town centre in our manifesto. We need more than aspirations, we need action. Many people feel uncomfortable shopping in the town centre due to the negative image around drugs etc., even if they do venture into the town they are greeted by empty shops and dilapidated buildings. We need to do more to increase footfall, campaigns to change the image of our town to attract outside shoppers and work with businesses in the town centre not just talking to them but listening to what they have to say. I hope we can start to make Wrexham the town it deserves to be, the town North Wales needs it to be.
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?
If I get elected I promise to hold regular advice surgeries in our communities. I will also continue to door knock throughout the council term and keep you up to date with progress on issues via a newsletter – I think it is really important people have the chance to get to know their councillor and I will always make myself available to help.
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?
Like most Wrexham residents I was shocked when I heard the council was closing our Peoples Market to plough money into the ‘Arts Hub’. What makes it worse is the poor business plan which accompanied it will leave the Wrexham taxpayer funding the project for years to come. Like Leisure, The Arts play an important part in enhancing our lives. We can still achieve this without the arts hub but via things like pop up theatres and art installations throughout the town and wider borough.
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?
Wrexham Football Club has an epic story to tell, one we hope with a happy ending and the club’s return to the Football League. I’m a keen fan of our local side Cefn Druids AFC and I know how much hard work and effort goes into running a football club. The fans drive to save and eventually buy the club back in 2011 shows what it means to people, just like Plas Madoc we should do all we can to support our local side. When Wrexham AFC thrives Wrexham Town thrives. Aside from football we need to work with the club and Welsh Government to ensure there is funding to make this a world class venue hosting major sporting events and concerts like last summers Stereophonics concert which was fantastic and which I personally feel brought Wrexham together and demonstrated just what a great venue The Racecourse is.
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 has a thriving nightlife but this is a double edged sword, anti social behaviour and vandalism can be side effects of this. We need to work with the businesses of Wrexham’s nighttime economy to make sure there is a balance between the long term growth of this sector and its effect on the town centre population.
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?
Public Protection orders are just a short term fix to a long term problem, anti-social behavior is rife is all our communities but it has different perpetrators and different causes and effects. We need to work closely with local communities to develop action plans to deal with anti-social behaviour, not just a one size fits all approach.
19. New Psychoactive Substances are a recent well documented problem in and around town, what do you think is the solution?
We all saw the images of ‘Zombie-like’ people in our town shown on news outlets and social media, it was yet another kick to Wrexham’s image around the country. These new ‘legal highs’ need to be tackled via government legislation, making the law clearer and giving the police the power to handle the issue. We also must educate people about the danger of these drugs and discourage people not to use them in the first place.
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 a time where our services are being cut, it makes sense for the council to show willing – I support the calls for councillors to pay for their parking at the Guildhall. I think senior salaries should come down in line with other local authorities of comparable size. The iPads can be a great way to reduce our paper consumption but we should look at more cost effective ways of having them such as councillors leasing them.
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 have worked at the Leisure Centre for over two years since leaving university. It’s a fantastic community asset loved not just by local residents but the many hundreds of thousands who travel miles to visit it. The Community Trust have done an amazing job reducing the level of loss making that was seen at the site while the council operated it, but like all leisure facilities it needs support. The council have seen fit to hand over a huge amount of money to Freedom Leisure to operate their other centres yet this truly grassroots created trust is left out in the cold. We need to reassess this and make sure Plas Madoc and other Community Trusts who have taken over running our local amenities are properly supported.
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 a fully bi-lingual council – Where all services can be accessed by the user in their preferred tongue. I will do anything to further the welsh language and its accessibility for those who wish to learn it.
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 webcasting is fantastic! And fully support its roll out across council meetings, democracy should be open and transparent and tainted by holding meetings behind closed doors. In this day and age the best way to reach out to people is via social media and online, as many people cannot find time to attend council meetings.
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’m only 23 so I feel I already offer an alternative to the older candidates many of whom have spent many years at Wrexham Council and have become accustomed to its sluggish pace. Local government is so important to us all, yet we all (myself included) fail to notice its significance. It was great to see younger people fired up in the recent EU referendum and I will do anything I can to create more of an interest in local politics.
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?
I’ve always been keen to get ‘stuck in’ to local activities and events whether that is soup lunches, community clean ups or village fetes and festivals …. I would certainly recommend a visit to the annual Bridge End Beer Festival! No matter what the result I will continue to play an active part in my local community.
In a few hundred characters to wrap this up, why should people vote for you?
I’ve grown up in this community and I’m passionate about improving it. I know the issues that affect and impact on our lives and I will work tirelessly to improve our area. Over the past two years I’ve worked at Plas Madoc Leisure Centre serving the local community and I know how passionate we can be about our local services and protecting them and I’ve also seen how Wrexham Council have failed over the past few years to make a difference. Together we can improve our communities and our town, together we can make a difference.
Social & Web links
The above is a ward map screenshot taken from the OS Map - if you click the map itself it will show a slightly bigger version.
If you click here it will open this map on the OS website itself, allowing more options to zoom and move around.
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OTHER CANDIDATES FOR Pen-Y-Cae & Ruabon South