Statement of Rob Walsh

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

I am Rob Walsh and I am standing for re-election as county councillor for Llay. I have been a councillor for just under 2 years having won a by-election in 2015.

I have spent most of my life in Llay, having attended both Park CP School and Darland High School. It has given me such pride that all these years later, I am now a governor at both schools (I`m Chair of Govenors at Darland). Before being elected as a county councillor, I was a lecturer at Coleg Cambria (and Yale College before that). Since being elected I have devoted my time between the Llay Community and the workings of the Guildhall.

In the community, I put a newsletter out 4 times a year, keeping all residents informed as to what is going on. I am also in regular contact with residents who contact me about a variety of issues that concern them. Many of these I am able to resolve but some take a bit longer to sort. As the people`s representative on Wrexham Council, I keep fighting their corner for as long as is necessary. Now and again, there will be some issues that I cannot help residents with, in which case I am open and honest about this. I also have regular meetings with the Housing Estate Office, Streetscene and the police about issues affecting council tenants and the village as a whole.

In the Guildhall, I have been Chair of the Safeguarding, Communities and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, and overseen major issues such as quizzing the Betsi Cadwalldr Health Board and looking at how to safely discard needles to protect the wider public. As a member of the Planning Committee, I have voted on several applications that have affected Wrexham`s communities.

Politically, I am a member of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and I work closely with an excellent local party. However, my priority is always my community and the people who live there. I work and engage with people of all political persuasions, as that`s how it should be.

For me, being a councillor is about 2 things. Firstly, it is about keeping in touch and engaging with residents. Secondly, it is representing the people of your community on Wrexham Council. If you get the first one wrong, then you will fail at the second one. I like to think that the reason the people of Llay voted for me 2 years ago, was not because I was special, but because like them I am a member of their community, with the same hopes, aspirations and challenges as everyone else.

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)

Housing – I come across many individuals and families who struggle to find housing they can rent at an affordable rate. Many of new developments and housing already on the market are financially out of reach for the average person. Protecting Green Open Spaces – With the threat of new housing developments, it puts our green fields at risk. Once green spaces are lost they are lost forever. Bus Services – Most of Llay has an excellent bus service, but unfortunately there are some parts of Llay that do not. This includes Gresford Road and Croeshowell. These parts of Llay have been badly affected by the collapse of GHA Coaches. Doctors Surgery – Whilst we have excellent doctors and staff working at our local surgery, too many residents struggle to get appointments quickly.

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

Housing – I believe the council`s current housing allocation policy needs revisiting. The current policy of placing applicants in Bands, is an improvement on the old waiting list. However, I see too many local people let down by the policy. The key is finding a suitable alternative. This is something I will continue to pursue if re-elected. Protecting Green Spaces – I have already been very active in Llay with the Save Hayward`s Field campaign and the Gresford Road Development group (against the building of 365 houses). Bus Services – I will do all I can to try and reinstate a 6 day bus service for Gresford Road and Croeshowell or ask for a review of the current routes that serve Llay to see if they can incorporate these parts of the village. Doctor`s Surgery – My dream is to see a brand new modern health centre built in Llay, one which will also allow access to some specialist services and a chemist on site.

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 welcome the fact that business rates have recently been revalued across Wales. However, I am not convinced this will make a difference for all businesses. We could see some rates bills increase. Wrexham Council could see increased costs as a result of the changes too. This is an area I have not had a lot to do with since being elected, as I don`t sit on the Employment, Business and Innovation Scrutiny Committee. However, from my perspective Wrexham Council is doing all it can to help local businesses.

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

With public money. The National Health Service has been a success story since its invention. However, its biggest failing was that it did not incorporate social care into the system. One of the reasons why we are seeing such problems now is because of the lack of joined up thinking between health boards and local authorities. Whilst I am a great believer in prevention and keeping those in need of care at home as long as possible, I fear for the future of adult social care without a greater injection of funding. But where is that funding going to come from? The council? The Welsh Government? The UK Government? Who knows.

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

What is it about the local education system we wish to improve? Are we looking to prepare our youngsters armed with the skills needed for the workplace and for wider society? Or is our education system simply a competition based on examination results? I question the motivation of politicians from a range of political parties over many years in Westminster and Cardiff about this issue. In terms of what councillors can do, I would like to see an overhaul of the school allocation policy. I think it tries to be “too fair” but has resulted in common sense being thrown out of the window. It is wrong that someone on the bottom floor of a block of flats would have a preferential advantage to one school over someone living on the top floor. I could not see the problem with school catchment areas, but I was a lone voice in the last council on this issue. If re-elected, maybe it will be different with the new council.

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

Coleg Cambria had a robust plan for the site, so why not re-open negotiations with them? I don`t think the current building would be suitable for a primary school. I should point out that although I used to work for Coleg Cambria I have no formal ties with them now (just in case anyone is thinking that).

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?

I have touched on this already. It seems to me that the Welsh Government has a gun to Wrexham Council`s head over this issue. Who is better placed to determine how many new homes must be built in Wrexham? Cardiff bureaucrats or Wrexham residents? Whilst there is a big problem in Wrexham with finding housing for those most in need, the large housing developments planned for the future will not solve this. Most new houses are out of reach financially for many local people. This can be seen by looking at the houses for sale or rent around Wrexham. Many of which, remain on the market for very long periods. It seems to me as if new large housing developments are catering for people who currently who live outside of Wrexham. Whilst I welcome anyone who wishes to move to the area what sort of long-term effect will that have on local services? Will our health services, schools and highways see an injection of cash from central government? I have my doubts.

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?

Ideally, dog fouling enforcement should be provided by the council. However, due to budget constraints I can see why it is being provided by a third party. I am a tolerant liberal minded person on the vast majority of issues, but dog fouling I believe should be met with zero tolerance. Dog faeces are dangerous to human health. This message needs to be made clearer to the wider public. If someone now, walked into a public indoor space and lit up a cigarette then they would be dealt with swiftly. I support the council`s approach to dog fouling and hope those who are inconsiderate enough to not pick up after their dog get this message quickly.

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

I prefer the old politically balanced system, even though this had been abolished before I was elected. The Executive Board should mirror the political make-up of the full council. Ideally, I would like to see less items at the Executive Board and more at full council (with extra meetings if necessary) allowing all councillors to vote on the important 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?

I strongly believe that residents should vote for the individual who they think can best represent their community and not vote for a candidate purely on their party label. Politicians are often labelled “out of touch” with by the public, especially at parliamentary and assembly level. This is because too many inappropriate candidates have been elected purely as a result of the party they belong too. As a result, I do not think it essential to resign your seat purely because you have left your party. I have no intention of ever leaving the Welsh Liberal Democrats, but if in the unlikely event I did, I would trigger a by-election out of courtesy to the residents I 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?

I honestly can`t think of any. I think the council`s main service areas have all been hit hard as it is. I understand the public frustrations with senior salaries, but cutting these actually costs the council a lot more in the short-term, as has been recently reported. Having said that, many senior posts have now become obsolete since I was first elected. I do think that the UK and Welsh Government do see local government as an easy target for cuts, but I am concerned about how much more Wrexham Council could take if the funding is cut much more.

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

Wrexham Council is there to provide a service to local people. It is not there to make money. However, any revenue that does come in is a bonus. In terms of where I would like to see more money spent, I would have to say the environment budget. Most of my complaints from local residents are about potholes, overgrown hedges, blocked drains, litter, etc. The staff of Wrexham Council`s Streetscene department are first class. However, there is not enough of them and they are often covering larger areas than before. Environmental issues are what residents see the most and it is this that they judge the council on. I can understand residents frustration when their council tax rises every year (albeit lower than other councils) yet they see jobs taking longer to complete. Unfortunately, unless the Welsh Government settlements improve for Wrexham, then I cannot see this happening, as the alternative would be to make deeper cuts to other essential services such as education or social care.

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 remember Wrexham town centre in the 1980s, and it was a far more vibrant place than it is now. We have to face facts that shopping habits have changed dramatically in recent years so the Wrexham of old cannot return to how it was. I must admit that not being a town centre councillor, I have had very little to do with this issue. My vision for Wrexham town centre is a place that is active and all the buildings are used for something positive. The one thing I would like to see eradicated is long-term empty shops/buildings. I would not be opposed to some of these buildings being transformed into flats for people (though not all).

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?

As already stated, I produce a newsletter 4 times a year in Llay. I am always out and about in Llay, so people see me often throughout the year and not just at election. I do my best to keep people up to date with the latest goings on and am very easily contactable.

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 can understand the public`s reluctance to accept the new arts hub in Wrexham, but as most of the funding came from the Arts Council for Wales, it was too good an opportunity to turn down I suppose. I am not someone who takes an active interest in this area. What concerns me is that in these times of austerity, the Arts Council for Wales have all this money to spend. The Welsh Government need to get their priorities right. Having said that, I appreciate that the arts does a have a role in the wider community and I respect all those who give up their time voluntarily to pursue these interests.

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 watching Wrexham play for the past 34 years, though I don`t get to the Racecourse as often I used to. I agree the club has been targeted by some who don`t have their best interests at heart. I was so pleased when the Wrexham Supporters Trust took over the club. My priority would be to listen to the supporters who watch Wrexham through thick and thin, As I don`t watch Wrexham as much as I did in the past. The supporters are the true champions of the club. If re-elected, if the Wrexham Supporters Trust ever wish to meet with me I would always accept their invitation.

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?

As previously stated, the lowering of the business rates. I remember Wrexham 15-20 years at night, and the bars were packed full of people. Sadly, this is not the case anymore, though there were problems back then with anti-social behaviour in some cases. Like with shopping habits, social habits have changed a great deal in recent years with alcohol being a lot cheaper when bought in shops and supermarkets. So maybe a return to how things were is off the cards.

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 am a great believer in rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. Having said that, I think the priority must always be to protect the public. I would like to see an extension to PSPOs. It may be the case, that those who gather in large groups are no threat to the wider public. However, if some of those individuals are intoxicated or high on drugs, most residents are going to feel threatened. This is not an easy issue to address, but I believe the responsibility for reducing anti-social behaviour lie with the police and the central governments. I believe that Wrexham Council, the police and our elected representatives in Westminster and Cardiff should be doing more to work together to solve this and not engage in political point scoring.

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

In most cases the individuals who take these substances have mental health issues and are in need of treatment. Ideally, I would like to see these people taken away from the public and into rehab to help combat this behaviour. I do sympathize, but as previously said, the priority must be to protect the public.

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 don`t agree with the Councillor`s payrise of £100 per year and must question the Independent Renumeration Panel`s logic for granting this. I am more concerned with the cost of having 10 Lead Members on the Executive Board. Ideally, I would like to see a return of a politically balanced Executive Board, but failing that, a reduction in the number of lead members would be a good move and would save public money. As for iPads, these are beneficial as they do save money. The cost of printing agenda/minutes packs for meetings is colossal. As I was only elected 2 years ago, my iPad works well and doesn`t need replacing. However, some councillors have told me that their iPads no longer work as well as they once did. If re-elected, I will make clear that I do not need a new one.

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?

In an ideal world, the council should run and fund public amenities. However, it is not an ideal world in local government anymore so the need for trusts and private companies to step in is a must now, otherwise the public could be left without leisure amenities.

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 am not a Welsh speaker, but support the promotion of the Welsh language. When I was in school in the 1980s, there was a perception that the Welsh language was irrelevant. However, this has changed considerably in recent years. I will always support the language`s promotion but it is not without its pitfalls. As Chair of the Safeguarding, Communities & Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, I always begin and end my meetings in Welsh. However, I feel as though my pronunciations are more insulting to the Welsh Language than beneficial.

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?

Absolutely. I have chaired 3 meetings that have been webcast and enjoyed every single one. Ideally, all committee meetings should be webcast, as this allows the public to get a flavour of what is going on. I think the Executive Board and Planning Committee have come along away in engaging the public and this has been seen through greater public interest. I would like to see a greater public involvement in scrutiny committee meetings. That`s why I would like to see some of the more contentious issues go through the scrutiny process first to allow greater public engagement.

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?

The sooner the voting age is reduced to 16, the better. I do believe that is the ideal age in which to engage young people. By the time they are 18, they are more likely to become apathetic to politics. From those I have spoken to, those who voted in the first election they were able to do so in, have continued to vote regularly throughout their lives. Those who don`t vote at the first time of asking are less likely to vote throughout their lives. It is unfortunate that most candidates tend to be older males, but I do believe that if the best person to represent a particular ward is an older male, then so be it. Having been a councillor for 2 years and previously a lecturer at Coleg Cambria teaching adults of all ages, I would like to think that I have had experience of communicating with people of different ages and gender. Hopefully, this has given me a broader insight of the different needs of different individuals in the community I represent.

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?

For the past 2 years I have taken part in community litter picks that I arrange with Keep Wales Tidy. Keeping on top of litter is very difficult at times. Despite the best efforts of the council`s Streetscene department, the litter is dropped faster than it can be picked up. These litter picks create a sense of pride in the community, especially as it is something we have done ourselves. If I am not re-elected I will continue to help out. After all the council seat, does not belong to an individual but to the whole community. It just happens to be that I am the person they have chosen to currently occupy it. But I do hope I am chosen again.

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

I have been a councillor for 2 years now in Llay and I believe I have brought a fresh approach to the role. I produce a newsletter 4 times per year keeping residents up to date with goings on and am very easily contactable for residents. I have taken an active role on many issues affecting the community, including building on green space, speeding, bus services to name but a few. I am a very regular attendee at meetings at the Guildhall and have taken active part in many debates, standing up for Llay in the council chamber. The first 2 years was just the beginning, please let me complete the work I have started.

Social & Web links

Map of Llay

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