Statement of Gary Hall

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

My name is Gary Hall, I am 46 years of age and I am standing as an Independent candidate to represent the views of the people of Llay. I was born and brought up in Nottingham and moved to Wrexham in 1992, after graduating from Anglia University in Cambridge, with a degree in Modern History. I have now lived in Llay for just under 10 years.

I have spent my entire career to date working to try to better the lives of families and individuals living in social housing, having grown up on a Council estate myself, this has been a career I have passionately pursued for almost 25 years. I began my career as a Housing Management trainee at what was then Wrexham Maelor Borough Council. I then moved on to more Senior positions at Delyn Borough Council and Flintshire County Council before returning back to Wrexham CBC as a Senior Housing Manager from 2005-2014. My last post was at Stoke on Trent City Council where as a Senior Strategic Housing Manager I worked to bring together a range of public, emergency and voluntary services for the benefit of communities across the city . I am now about to build an apprentice-'offer' with a Llay-based company, working with Housing Organisations, to mentor the next generation of public service staff. As well as my professional career I also volunteered for many years on hospital radio at Wrexham Maelor, which I enjoyed immensely and brought me into closer contact with the friendly people of Wrexham.

My election priorities include:-
-Housing-it is important to me that this and future generations are able to access affordable housing in the village and across Wrexham. Good quality housing is a key cornerstone in enabling families and individuals to lead successful lives.
-Community Safety- ensure we continue to build good relationships with local Police over issues such as anti-social behaviour in Llay and Wrexham. We all have concerns about some of the issues around the town centre and I would look to bring Police, Council and agencies together to look at what concrete measures can be taken collectively. My experience of leading cross-agency work could allow me to make a valuable contribution in this area.
-Youth provision-I will work closely with Llay Community Council to ensure that our youngsters have positive activities that they can engage in, in Llay (and organisations across the County Borough), as diversionary work such as this can bring huge family and community benefits.
-The Growth of Llay-any further expansion of the village should only happen with the support of the people of the village and it should be sustainable, particularly for local health services and schools.
-Participation-I will promote more resident involvement, giving people a say in decision-making at the top of the Council and will look to break down departmental 'silos', where they exist, as peoples lives are not compartmentalised in this way. Participation and engagement are vital and something I have actively promoted throughout my housing career.

The village has made me feel very welcome over the last decade and I really would like to reciprocate that by offering my service. My wife, Melanie's family have lived in the village for over 50 years and have a proud tradition of local representation so I also feel privileged to receive their endorsement and support. My Independent status is very important to me as I will, at all opportunities, be the voice of the people of the village, without the need to have cognisance of a party 'line'.

I am proud to stand for Llay in this election and I feel that my experience, honesty and independent integrity places me as a strong candidate. I am well aware of how the machinery of local government works having spent all my career as a local government officer. Having worked for a total of 11 years at Wrexham Council,I have built a well-regarded professional profile with Councillors, Officers and other bodies, locally and would look to build on that , for Llay, if 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)

As a housing professional I make no apology for promoting the need for good quality , affordable housing in the village and indeed across Wrexham. It is critical though that any further supply, or expansion of the village, is endorsed by the people of the village and that supporting infrastructure is in place, particularly in local health services and school places and that green space is not lost. It is also important to tackle anti-social behaviour and speeding in the village and I will look to build strong partnerships with the Police as such issues can have a disproportionately bad effect on peoples lives. My campaign is also very much centred upon improving the way that residents are connected to the Council and have a real say in decisions made and services shaped. I am also keen to break down departmental 'silos' where they exist and are not effective in improving peoples lives.

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

I would ensure that any expansion of the village is done in a way that can be supported, it is, for example, already challenging to get a doctors appointment in Llay. It would, therefore be critical that planning applications are closely scrutinised and that we have the consent of local people in moving forward. I will work closely with the Community Council and Police to ensure that anti-social behaviour and its causes are addressed, better youth provision and positive diversionary activities can be crucial in this. As a Senior Manager in a number of Local Authorities I have long-promoted resident involvement. At Wrexham I was a long-standing participant in the Wrexham/Tenant Member Partnership, which gives residents a real say in the way services are rolled out and challenged service performance-I would like to see this type of model rolled out across the Council.

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 concerned that Brexit could mean that vital funds to support business (such as the recent injection from the European Social Fund) will be lost and not replaced. It is critical that as Councillors we support the growth of business and ensure that Wrexham's voice is not lost in the all-consuming Brexit work in Whitehall and to some degree Cardiff. Struggling businesses should feel they can come to the Council to get assistance and prevent them failing, with the loss of employment that brings. There needs to be some 'creativity' around business rates and perhaps look at some mini enterprise zones around the town centre. It is important that the Council bring landlords to the table and work with them to fill vacant premises, surely it is better to have businesses in occupation and paying some (possibly reduced) rent/rates. I would also promote the Council's excellent Business Line as a way to bring entrepreneurs together.

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

There needs to be an adult conversation nationally about the future of social care. We should be judged as a society by how we educate our young, how we look after our ill and the way we support the vulnerable and elderly. We recognise the importance of care workers, yet because of poor pay and lack of support, over 900 of them leave their jobs every day in the UK. The Welsh Govt. have announced that those who have saved up to £50k will no longer have to pay for their social care. Whilst this is laudable it will worsen an annual funding gap in Wales, which is already £ 40m -so politicians have to be honest and present the public with a range of options (which may include increased taxation) to fund such critical services. Failure to do this will limit any impact that local Councils can positively make.

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

The allocation of places for schools appear to be somewhat random. Raising standards to ensure that all local schools are excellent should take care of this 'postcode lottery'. I would actually like to see politicians get a bit less involved in education-for decades the stability of schools and the curriculum has been short-lived-with young people in the middle of that. I would promote vocationally-based education to the level of the academic arena. It is vital that our education system is flexible enough to not write off those who are not necessarily academic and may have something valuable to offer.

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

It is a great building in a prominent location in the town-I would love to see it become an education/training and employment hub.

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 Housing system is broken- long-term under-supply of housing, increased reliance on an unstable private sector, shift in affordable social housing from Councils to Housing Associations (but not replaced in the same numbers) has created a crisis that has been several decades in the making. In Wales alone around 45% of social housing has been lost in the last 35 years and over the last few years home ownership has plummeted-particularly in the 25-45 age group. Housing on brownfield sites has to be exhausted locally before the loss of the greenbelt is considered. Crucially developers must continue to have an element of affordability on sites so that local people can access the homes they require in the places they want them. This is as true for Llay as it is across the County Borough.

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 have little sympathy for those who litter our streets or allow their dogs to foul. However, successful enforcement will only happen with the consent of the public and I would advocate giving people the opportunity to pick up what they have dropped before they are fined. A policy where enforcers seem to 'jump out' on people to catch them and fine them seems to suggest a policy that has lost it's reason for being implemented. If someone refuses to pick up what they have dropped then they should be fined. This appears to suggest a contract with the third party based upon 'results', which is inevitable, and may call into question the use of the private sector in such work, as it is causing a tremendous amount of ill-feeling.

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

I favour a politically balanced system but of more importance to me is some resident representation at the highest level to have a greater influence in the way the (full) Council operates

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?

My independent status in this election is important to me-I do actually find it slightly odd and unrealistic to expect all members of a political party to completely embrace and publicly endorse every part of a manifesto. I do feel that anyone changing allegiance has to place that change before the electorate again at a by-election, as to do otherwise would erode trust and have the effect of widening that democratic deficit with the people we seek to represent.

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?

The way local authorities are organised into rigid departments may not be the most effective, efficient and economic way of serving the public. I have been involved in projects that have sought to place the needs of people at the heart of the way services are brought together across the public and voluntary sector, to great effect. This had also brought about savings to the public purse.

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

The golden days of local govt. funding (if they ever existed) are over and will not return but I do not feel that public services are there to make money from the people they are there to serve. My experience of working with Councillors and officers at Wrexham Council is that they are very effective at getting the balance right between collecting things like rents and council tax ,as well as supporting those that are struggling to pay. Clearly getting more business into the town will produce more revenue and I would look to support that happening.

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?

Wrexham needs to sell itself as the 'capital' and gateway to, North Wales. We have to look beyond retail, it is clear that there is already too much unsustainable retail space in the town centre and the 'vision' has to be about how we perhaps 'zone' areas of housing and retail and the incentives to bring in those who can deliver this but for the benefit of the town. The high street is no longer necessarily the retail destination of choice, with the way the internet has changed our shopping habits and this needs to be factored into future developments.

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?

Living in the village I will be available for face to face contact, as well as by e-mail, social media, phone, and if residents require it, through surgeries. It is, though, important to me that residents feel connected to the Council through engagement and true representation-if something important is happening in the village I will always seek the counsel of the people who it will affect, and I am representing.

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 feel that it is an improving picture. The arts can bring real pleasure and can really enrich lives. The concerts at the Racecourse over the last couple of years have also brought significant revenue to the town and help to put us on the arts map. I am aware that the new arts hub has not been universally welcomed but hopefully it will produce something that people enjoy and make good use of the space it is inhabiting. The museum is also becoming a more prominent town feature that should be supported.

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?

As someone who is a member of a supporters trust (not Wrexham) I would hugely support what the fans are doing to move the club forward through genuine supporter empowerment. It should not be underestimated how valuable a successful football club can be for a town and anything I could do to champion efforts to promote the club and help them to get back into the Football League I would welcome.

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?

We need to support, where we can, with competitive business rates, to support existing business, encourage new business and retain and improve employment opportunities in the night time economy. It is difficult to envisage Wrexham being the night out that it was many years ago, as better transport links take many local people away from the town to larger cities who will inevitably have more to offer, but for those who cannot or do not want to take that option, it is important that we have a good local 'offer'.

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?

I have great experience in working with a range of agencies to tackle anti-social behaviour and would look to bring this experience with me if elected. It is critical that officers are supported to effectively use tools and powers to ensure that residents have quiet enjoyment of their homes and communities and that we build a close relationship with locality police. Allied to this is ensuring that resources are available to put together a youth provision of diversionary activities that young people will want to engage in-I will work with Llay Community Council locally and will promote this approach across Wrexham.

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

-Education-at the earliest possible age to get a hard-hitting message across -Council-to lead with the Police and agencies in tackling the issues-offering support but also seeking outcomes from agencies and not just support. A town the size of Wrexham should not have this problem, to this degree-have we created it through the support the town offers? -Media-need to stop the casual use of the phrase 'legal-highs' as it places a legitimacy on their use which has not been helpful and is factually incorrect. I would also like to see the word 'zombie' taken out of reporting this, as it is de-humanising, and users will be someone's son or daughter -Police-taking dealers off the street supported by stiff sentences-they are destroying peoples lives and placing an unwarranted stain on the reputation of the town.

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 do not view Councillor's allowances as necessarily excessive but I do believe in committing myself to the role to earn it and I would expect electors to hold me to account if that was not the case. Technology is hugely important and could bring considerable efficiencies across the Council-from my considerable experience of Council meetings they can produce dozens of pages and so an iPad will pay for itself pretty quickly and bring environmental benefits.

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?

It would be great to be able to see such vital facilities, which can do so much for the health and well-being of communities, publicly funded but this is probably unrealistic. I do feel that the Council still has an important role to play in ensuring the quality of facilities, that they meet local needs and are affordable, as part of an over-arching health strategy.

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 ensure the Council continue to promote the Welsh language as it is so central to the soul and culture of the country.

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?

Representation for residents is high on my list of things I would like to achieve. If we can get more people involved in decision-making, service delivery and shaping the future then people will feel more connected and have ownership of the Council. For those who do not wish to get involved to that degree , the use of technology across all meetings may just widen interest and diversity in local politics.

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?

As a Councillor I would be looking at ways to get people involved at all ages and from all backgrounds. Not everyone wants to attend meetings but they may have something valuable to contribute. We therefore must use all tools at our disposal to widen that engagement-whether that be social media, webinars, face to face, or use of local meeting places.

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 always been someone who local people have come to for advice about the Council and particularly housing-I would look to bring that experience, knowledge and honesty to representing the people of Llay, should I be elected.

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

I would like to take this opportunity to urge people to go out and vote-at a local level a few votes can make a big difference and you can have real influence in effecting change On a personal level I would be extremely honoured to represent the village and would give everything to ensure that individuals, families and the wider community have the best chance to live their lives well. I would bring a fresh perspective to the County Borough Council backed by almost 25 years of local govt. experience and knowledge.

Social & Web links

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