Statement of Ian Edwards

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

This is my first time standing in any political election. I was born in Wrexham and have lived in Wrexham all my life. I have lived in Llay for the past 15 years, along with my wife and my son who is now 12.
For the past 2 years I have been Chair of Governors at Llay Park CP School. It is this role that has driven me to want to do more for my community. I am also a governor at Darland High School. I am currently a director at the local law firm Allington Hughes and have worked there as a solicitor for the past 10 years. I deal with mainly residential and commercial property matters. Previously, I was a solicitor with Wrexham County Borough Council, dealing with property matters and advising members in meetings. This gave me a real insight into how the council worked.
I have been a Wrexham FC supporter since 1977 and have taken part in youth football management in Wrexham. My other sporting interest is rugby league and I have been Chairman and Director of North Wales Crusaders since the club was set up in 2012. The post is voluntary and I receive no remuneration for doing it. I am also a trustee of the North Wales Crusaders Wheelchair and Disability Sports Association which I helped to set up as a charity in 2013 and which runs a wheelchair rugby league team for both disabled and non-disabled adults and children.
I am also a committee member of the Wrexham Business Professionals group which aims to promote businesses in the Wrexham area and keep work in the Wrexham area rather than seeing it disappear across the border into Chester and the north-west of England. I have a particular wish to be involved in improving the image of the Wrexham town centre which has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
I am a member of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, as this is the party whose values are most similar to mine. I have also been very impressed by local Lib Dem representatives such as Llay`s current councillor Rob Walsh and former Assembly Member Aled Roberts, with their commitment to the people they represent.
I hope the people of Llay will vote for me and Rob Walsh to enable us to continue the good work that has been already been started.

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)

My biggest concern is the lack of capacity of Llay Health Centre. I am aware that people struggle to get appointments promptly or at all. As someone who deals with residential property a lot of the time, I am also aware of how difficult it is for local people to get themselves onto the housing ladder if they do not have financial assistance from parents and I do believe that having somewhere comfortable to live is a basic requirement of human existence. Private sector renting is never usually secure because landlords are generally reluctant to offer anything more than a 6 month Assured Shorthold Tenancy which can lead to frequent moving house and feeling of insecurity but that is an issue to be addressed by central government, not locally, unfortunately. Finally, it can never be said that there is an acceptable level of littering and dog fouling on pavements, but the pavements of Llay are often bad in that regard.

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

There is no such thing as a magic wand and I know from the work I do with my schools that budgets are forever being tightened. It should be possible for the council to work with developers to ensure small-scale housing developments can proceed without the strains and expense of red tape. The GP issue will require funding and one of my frustrations is that in the north we seem to fare badly when compared with the south. That is something that I would particularly like to help redress.

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 am a director of two local businesses myself so I’m aware of the challenges businesses face. Helping to keep down business rates would obviously assist but there is little the council can do about rents on town centre shops. I believe that businesses are badly affected by the appearance of the town centre and some of the anti-social behaviour which can be seen on a daily basis. I also get frustrated when local jobs are lost such as when it was decided to close the tax office - as well as this being devastating to the people who will lose their jobs, more money is taken out of the local economy that businesses need to survive.

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

Of course Adult Social Care should be funded publicly. However, Wrexham Council need an injection of cash from central government to deal with this long-term.

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

The financial cuts have already had a real effect. The loss of one-to-one teaching assistants impacts not only on the child which has lost their one-to-one support but also on the rest of the class if the child concerned can be disruptive if not offered the one to one support it needs. The vast majority of teachers work hard and work long hours despite common misconception but they need the funding to do it properly. I am concerned that across the county borough that does seem to be a higher than expected staff absenteeism rate and that is something I would take a particular interest in as it cannot be in the children’s interest to have three or four teachers in one school year. It also concerns me that many of my son’s friends’ parents only applied to send their children to secondary schools outside of the Wrexham area. More must be done to stop this drift of Wrexham children to out of county schools.

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

It is within the public domain that there is a covenant restricting the use to which the site can be put, but of course if there is no demand for the site to be used for that purpose the site will remain vacant. With financial constraints being what they are, it may be that there are more cost-effective sites to use for providing educational provision within the town. Also, altering a listed building is rarely cheap or easy, so it may be that taking The Groves on may not be an attractive proposition to third parties.

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 supply is a sensitive issue. Large scale development is never popular and can place unsustainable demands on local community infrastructure such as schools, roads and health provision. Having said that, those of us fortunate enough to own our own homes should not abandon those younger than us who wish to have the same opportunities we had at their age. And houses need to be built where people want to live, not just on abandoned sites near noisy railway lines. So, I am in favour of the building of more affordable starter homes within the reach of first time buyers – too many small developments seem to target the people moving up into 3 or 4 bedroom homes.

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 problem with third-party provision is the third party will always only be prepared to do it in return for making a profit but if the council can’t do it, there is no alternative. My view on enforcement is that it should be done with common sense – deliberate littering or failure to clear dog fouling should be punished but inadvertent dropping of something should be dealt with by request to pick up before rushing straight to the issue of a penalty notice.

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

I think the politically balanced version would be more representative of the electorate than a cabinet system.

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 see no reason why I would change allegiance, but I believe that if the public vote for a member of a particular political party then they are entitled to expect representation by that party. If an elected member left the party of which they were a member when elected then my view is there should be a by-election, so yes, I would.

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?

It is 10 years since I left the legal department in the Guildhall and even then in pre-recession times, everything that could be cut back was being cut back so I would be surprised if there is any more fat to trim from the bones. Unfortunately as Council Tax has to increase just for spending to stand still it becomes more and more difficult to tell people they are getting less for paying more. In my experience as a school Governor, the cuts are starting to bite to the extent that they are now impacting upon the delivery of teaching in the classroom. I personally do not think there is any more room for further cuts although I suspect the reality is there is going to be unless Cardiff gives Wrexham a more realistic financial settlement.

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

It would have to be from sources that people pay into voluntarily rather than because they have to, otherwise there’s a sense of paying twice. It is tempting to charge for car parking at places like Alyn Waters and Ty Mawr but that just leads to people parking on verges and outside residents’ houses. I do often wonder though how much people who travel in from out of the borough pay to use the facilities which the Council Tax payer pays for at both those places – probably next to nothing. When I visit places like Leigh and St Helens I see floodlit 3G and 4G pitches being used to capacity which must generate a considerable income throughout the year – it’s a shame that we can’t have similar facilities in Wrexham, not only for the income but for the social benefits aswell. Saying that, the council exists to supply the services it is obliged to supply, not to make a profit out of its residents

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 think the dream that the town centre shops will ever return to near-full occupancy is unlikely to ever materialise. But are people really going to want to move into a housing development on Henblas Street? Unlikely. Until Wrexham becomes more prosperous with people having more disposable income, there won’t be a demand for those empty shops to be occupied. I think the starting point has to attract more of the jobs with decent salaries that at the moment go to places like Chester or Cardiff and then make people want to spend that money here rather than over the border.

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 will work along with Rob Walsh who has already done wonders with his regular newsletters. It is my intention to make major contributions to this. I deal with clients on a daily basis, so am used to having frequent face to face, telephone and email contact with people. People will know how to contact me if they need to and I am more than happy to discuss any issues people 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?

If the schools were fully funded, if everyone needing social care got everything they needed, if the road network did not suffer from a single pot hole then I would agree that spending on the arts would be a wonderful thing. Until then, I think it is a difficult thing to convince the majority of people that spending on the arts should be a priority.

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 been a long term supporter of Wrexham Football Club and whenever I speak to people from out of the area, Wrexham Football Club is the thing for which Wrexham is most famous. Whilst I want to see Wrexham Football Club back in the Football League as much as anyone, not every Council Tax payer would regard utilising public funds to assist a football club as being desirable. As someone who runs a semi-professional sports team as a volunteer on a smaller scale than the Wrexham FC Board do, I have the utmost respect and admiration for them – you can only spend what you bring in and sometimes that will mean they’re subject to unjust or unfair criticism from the people they’re giving up their time for. I would be more than happy to champion the cause of the club with the Welsh Government, the FA or anyone else the club thought would be able to help it. My concern for the club at the moment is that whilst it holds many fond memories, the Racecourse might prove costly to maintain.

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 night time venues all seem to be well concentrated along the High Street area and seem to me to function well. It would be nice to see more diverse venues but that is down to market forces not the council. It needs to be adequately policed of course as late night takeaways and taxi offices are always likely flashpoints and people won’t come into the town at night if they don’t feel safe.

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?

People should not underestimate the seriousness of the problem. My office is on Grosvenor Road, between Rhosddu and the bus station and the photographs which went viral in March this year are an accurate depiction of the situation as I see it on a daily basis. Anti-social behaviour has to be dealt with by the police but I do question the wisdom of fining people who clearly won’t pay the fine. People have to be able to live their lives without fear of harassment or intimidation so I favour the zero tolerance approach.

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

The users need to be given the chance to be helped, but it they won’t engage then they must be dealt with for the reasons I gave in my response to question 18. I want Wrexham to have a positive image which it never will have whilst people are sleeping in flower beds in broad daylight.

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?

I bought an ipad to use in my school meetings, found it a waste of time and went back to a laptop. I can see that printing out agendas and supporting papers is expensive and probably more expensive than going paperless but if elected I won’t need an ipad. With regard to allowances I don’t think you can run a country or a county purely on the goodwill of volunteers so I don’t have a problem with councillors receiving an allowance – that said when many of these questions have been about financial cuts, I think increasing councillors’ allowances at the same time as making cuts sends out of the wrong message, and I am baffled by the independent remuneration panel`s decision.

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?

Who in Wrexham didn’t love the wave machine and the slide when they were kids? I would love to see a fully functional Plas Madoc in operation so future generations can have the same fun there that we had. I am led to believe that the council does not have the resources available but I believe anyone who can realistically take it on should be given all possible assistance and encouragement because of the health benefits partaking in exercise brings. And if the kids are having fun, they won’t think of it as exercise.

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 think it has to be encouragement, not coercion because human nature is such that if you tell someone they have to do something, they’ll do the opposite. There is a financial cost to promoting the language and I do believe the Welsh Language should not be exempt if other important areas are facing painful cuts.

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?

If the cost is not prohibitive then what reason could there be to object, albeit I doubt many people would find it compelling viewing. I think people generally think there is no point in engaging in the democratic process because they perceive that it never achieves anything. I always get annoyed at the phrase “We’ve always done it like that” which to me isn’t an acceptable explanation for anything. I think if people can’t have the result they want, they need to be given proper reasons why so at least they can see that the engagement wasn’t just a futile exercise.

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?

Apart from school Governor meetings I attend, most people I come across in meetings are white males over the age of 50. From memory of my time at the council women were better represented than in other forums I attend but were still in the minority. I think the only way younger people will be encouraged will be by the people doing the job already to persuade them that there is a place for them to have a go. It must be recognised too that it will be harder for younger people to take time off from work to attend meetings and maybe consideration needs to be given to the scheduling of meetings to enable more people to attend. And it is ridiculous that at 16 you can pay tax to pay the politicians but not vote for the politicians you're paying for so reducing the voting age is long overdue in my opinion.

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 have been a Governor at Llay Park CP School for about 5 years and Chair for 2, as well as my role at Darland. I enjoy it, as I enjoy all my other voluntary work and none of it was undertaken to win an election, so of course I would carry on if not elected. I hope my experiences particularly the work I have done as Chair of Llay Park CP School are just the start of what I can do within the village.

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

I have already built a good work relationship with Rob Walsh, school staff and governors and I would like to think my clients find me approachable so I hope the residents of Llay would too. Whilst I try to be approachable, I am not afraid to stand up for people and fight for them – it’s what I do for a living. All my voluntary commitments are commitments I took on because I was approached to do so, which I hope means people think I can make a valuable contribution to the causes I’m involved in. I have experience of working within the Council and I do enjoy helping people who might otherwise feel they have to accept what is said to them by people in authority. Whilst I can be critical of Wrexham, that is because I think it can and should be better than it presently is. I will be supporting Rob Walsh in his bid for re-election as he has been an excellent councillor for Llay. I hope the people of Llay will give me their second votes so I can work with Rob to make Llay even better.

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