Statement of Graham Kelly

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

I have lived in Coedpoeth since 2003 with my wife, Glenda, who is a Coedpoeth Community Councillor. Born and educated in Wrexham, I have lived in the Wrexham area for most of my life. My grandfather, George Kelly, a miner, was born in Coedpoeth.
On leaving Grove Park Grammar School, I studied Economics at Cardiff University and moved back to this area immediately after graduating. I became a Local Government Accountant, working in both Denbighshire and Flintshire County Councils. As a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants, I have had a long and detailed interest in local government finance, which I shall be able to put to practical use as a County Councillor. For some years, I taught Public Finance and Accountancy at Liverpool Polytechnic (now Liverpool John Moores University) and was seconded for 5 years to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, where I carried out public finance research at the European level.
On my return to the UK, I worked in a Senior Management post at The University of Liverpool until my early retirement in 2004. I have worked as a Consultant with Glyndŵr University until recently and I am still actively involved in helping young people to achieve their full potential, through the company set up by my wife and myself, Higher Education Consultancy Services Limited. As the Co-ordinator for the Wrexham and Flintshire Seren Hub, I work closely with schools and colleges in the area to help capable young people to find places at the best universities. I have also been a Governor at Castell Alun High School, Hope, for the last 8 years.
I am an active member of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and have recently become Treasurer of the Wrexham and Clwyd South branch of the Party. During the past year, I have produced several Coedpoeth Focus Leaflets and have carried out surveys to highlight the concerns of residents in the village. I look forward with great enthusiasm to being able to deal with these concerns by working hard for the people of Coedpoeth as one of their County Councillors.

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)

During the past year I have produced and circulated a series of Coedpoeth FOCUS leaflets and have carried out surveys to highlight the concerns of Coedpoeth residents. Apart from the issues listed in the question above, the concerns which have been identified as requiring action are speeding through the village, parking problems, pavements in need of repair, public toilets and deteriorating bus services. There is also a significant problem of loneliness and isolation within the community.

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

I believe that it’s important to work closely with other agencies:- the police to deal with the issue of speeding; local bus companies to deal with the inadequate bus services. If elected, I would put pressure on both the Community Council and the County Borough Council to deal with all of the issues of concern raised by local residents. In an attempt to deal with problems of loneliness and isolation experienced by older people, I intend to work closely with the Community Agent who is employed by Wrexham Council to help to improve the quality of life of older people. In order to address the issue of speeding, I have become a Community Speed Watch volunteer, which gives me the opportunity to help to regulate the speed of vehicles travelling through the village.

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 think that it is important that local businesses are given the opportunity to thrive. Business rates need to be fair in order to attract new businesses to the local area. There are far too many empty premises in Wrexham at the moment; I would welcome the opportunity to work with members of the council to attract more businesses to Coedpoeth and to the town. In Coedpoeth, particularly, it is very important to ensure that parking spaces in the village car park are kept available for use by shoppers during the day.

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

As we live longer, pressures on the social care budget are bound to increase. As a Councillor, I will ensure that the Council upholds its responsibilities in this area, even if this would require an increase in Council Tax. I would also ensure that greater co-operation takes place between the Council and other agencies concerned with adult social care such as Nightingale House Hospice, the RVS and The Red Cross.

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

As an experienced Governor of an excellent local secondary school, I am well aware of the issues facing schools. As a Councillor, I would do everything in my power to support the headteachers and teachers of our two good primary schools in Coedpoeth. Morale in schools needs to be strengthened - the children in our village need to continue to enjoy their learning experiences. One of the issues which concerns me greatly is that young children general do not read enough. Playing computer games does give them some skills, but excessive time spent on such games can be harmful. I know that schools are concerned about the fact that some younger children often play games which are designed for much older children and which provide access to inappropriate language and experiences. All of us - teachers, parents and grandparents - have a responsibility to protect our young people from these dangers.

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

The Covenant attached to the land at the Groves designates that the land must be used for educational purposes. I understand that Coleg Cambria had a robust plan for the site - whatever happened to that plan? Negotiations should be re-opened with the College as there is a great need for extra teaching and recreational space at Coleg Cambria. A major restoration project is required to make the building functional again, but the long-term benefits will far outweigh the short term financial implications

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?

We desperately need more new and affordable housing in Wrexham. Selling off Council houses was a great opportunity for many to become home owners, but the funds raised from this activity should have been used to increase the housing stock. We need to build new low cost houses for people to rent and to provide supported housing for the homeless. But we don’t necessarily need to build new houses – there are many empty properties in the Wrexham area which could easily be refurbished at much lower cost. Empty properties attract crime and disorder and can easily become a blight on the visual amenity of the area, often driving down house prices of neighbours wishing to sell. Transforming empty properties into family homes should be a priority of the next administration in Wrexham. This would give us brownie points in Cardiff as bringing empty properties back into use is one of the National Assembly’s performance indicators.

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?

We need to be responsible in our streets and be proud of where we live. Ideally, dog fouling enforcements should be provided by the council. But I understand that budgetary constraints have meant that it is being provided by a third-party organisation. Whoever does this work, it is important that they have the correct training and guidance to enable them to be effective, yet sensitive, offering some leniency perhaps to first time offenders but enforcing the law vigorously to those who offend repeatedly. Dog faeces are dangerous to human health – this message needs to be made perfectly clear to the general public.

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

In my opinion the Executive Board should mirror the political make-up of the full council. Too much important business is dealt with by the Executive Board – more issues need to be dealt with by the full council, with extra meetings if necessary, so that all Councillors will have the opportunity to vote on 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 would never change my political allegiance. If, however, someone did do this, the only honourable thing to do would be to resign and seek re-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?

In my opinion, there is little scope for ‘Reshaping’ the activities of Wrexham Council. All of the major service areas of the Council have been hit very hard by budget cuts which have needed to be imposed as a result of cuts imposed from Cardiff and Westminster. It is tempting to see senior staff salaries as a source for future savings, but providing high quality local services in difficult budgetary conditions requires very high-level management skills, which do not come cheaply. One way forward might be to enter into partnership initiatives with other councils to share the implementation of some activities such as IT, HR and building maintenance.

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

We need to place a strong emphasis on our local services, transport links and the redevelopment of the town centre. We need to look carefully and imaginatively at all sources of income and continue to monitor our outgoings very carefully. If elected, I would use my professional skills as an Economist and Local Government Accountant to undertake a thorough review of how the council’s budget could be improved.

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 Centre Masterplan sets out a future Wrexham town centre that is attractive, unique and accessible to all. Wrexham should be appealing both to its residents and to investors in the area. We should encourage re-development of the town centre, but ensure that it remains in keeping with the visual amenities cherished by Wrexham residents. I intend to lobby for lower business rates to encourage more independent shops to set up new businesses in my ward and in the town, which will provide more employment opportunities and help to regenerate the local economy. We need to make Wrexham a more attractive town, ensuring that people visit time and time again.

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 a Lib Dem Councillor, I would continue to produce and distribute throughout my village the Coedpoeth FOCUS leaflet. As indicated earlier, I have produced several of these in the past few months and they have enabled me to share information with all residents. By undertaking FOCUS surveys, I have been able to identify the concerns of local residents and their hopes for the future. If elected, I would continue to produce and distribute regular Coedpoeth FOCUS leaflets to ensure that we are all kept fully up to date with developments in the village. The FOCUS leaflets will always contain details of my email address and telephone number - residents will always be encouraged to contact me. As a Councillor for Coedpoeth, I would also hold regular surgeries to hear the concerns of local people and, of course, would continue to enjoy meeting Coedpoeth residents on their doorsteps. I would want to provide face to face assurance that residents’ views are listened to and understood.

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 see a very lively arts and music scene in the town already, with frequent free concerts being offered in local churches. The street music festival, which took place in Wrexham last September, was an amazing experience. As a member of a local choir, I was very excited to perform in this event - I hope it will be repeated. The new Arts Centre, which is part of the Masterplan, will be a very great asset to Wrexham. Cultural activities bring in visitors to the town, who will also shop and use local cafés, coffee bars and restaurants, bringing much needed business to Wrexham.

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 to own up to not being a football fan! However, I am aware of the role of Wrexham FC in uniting the town and giving a sense of pride in Wrexham. The Racecourse stadium has been used for many other events and is a valuable asset to the town. I would encourage this wider range of uses for the stadium, bringing in extra income to the town. However, local residents should be disrupted as little as possible.

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 economy of Wrexham is rather one-sided. Apparently, the Club scene in Wrexham is buzzing, but older residents are sometimes put off by over enthusiastic young revellers. If Wrexham can develop a wider range of restaurants and cafés open in the evenings, the night time offer of the town will widen its appeal to other age ranges. Local police and charitable organisations such as Street Pastors do much to keep our young people safe when out in town. I have tremendous admiration for them and would do all I can to support them.

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?

Anti-social behaviour is not a simple issue – there is not one simple solution. PSPOs can help to protect local residents from frightening, threatening and unpleasant activities, but they must be supported by agencies tackling the causes of the behaviour. If elected, I would look to helping agencies such as CAIS to tackle the increasing drugs problem in the town. We must be aware that this is not just a problem being experienced by Wrexham, despite what we see in the national press. Homelessness and lack of support for individuals and families with difficulties are main contributors to this problem.

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

As a volunteer to a homeless charity in Wrexham, I have experienced drug induced emergencies at first hand. Detox and rehabilitation are lengthy processes and the average person will detox several times before being successful. Some people never get free of their problems. The growth in the use of new psychoactive substances is frightening. There is no quick fix to this problem. Somehow, resources will need to be found to provide treatment and care, including accommodation, to the rising number of, mainly young, people who are affected.

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?

The job of a County Councillor is a highly responsible and time-consuming one and, as such, needs to be remunerated appropriately in order to attract appropriate candidates. IT is an integral part of our society, let alone County Council business and so equipping Councillors with iPads would seem a reasonable thing to do. I already have an iPad, so would therefore not need to be supplied with one by the Council.

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 was sad to see Plas Madoc threatened with closure. Wrexham has a very enlightened policy towards leisure activities and I am pleased to see that access to them is made easier for families, especially at holiday times. Plas Madoc is a very special case, being surrounded by a residential area with specific needs. The physical and mental health effects of exercise are well known and I would place responsibility for providing and running such amenities on the shoulders of the local authority. In economic terms, public amenities such as Plas Madoc have a wide range of external benefits to the whole community and therefore need to be subsidised by local government.

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 totally in favour of encouraging the growth in use of the Welsh language. A country’s identity and culture is dependent on keeping its language alive and I fully endorse the support and emphasis that has been given to this in recent years. It has made a difference. As with all things, however, public spending must be done with attention to effective use of funds so I would not write a blank cheque to Welsh Language development. My father was Welsh speaking and so is my son. I am able to hold very simple conversations in Welsh but I am ashamed to say that that’s as far as it goes. My Welsh pronunciation, however, is excellent - this comes from years as a chorister with Cantorion Rhos. I love to sing in Welsh! Becoming fluent in Welsh is certainly an urgent priority on my to do list.

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 am in favour of transparent and open government, subject to legal, data protection and personal privacy provisos. Webcasting all meetings would certainly improve accountability, although I cannot imagine that it would become primetime watching for most people!! Regular webcast Question and Answer sessions might encourage more residents to take an active interest. Anything which results in greater public participation in the process of local government is desirable.

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 do fit the picture you paint of most candidates - older (I prefer ‘mature’) and male. I think it is essential to engage the interest of young people in all levels of government. Much can be done to involve young people through citizenship education, with activities such as mock elections and simulation budget exercises, and the council chamber could even be used to give authenticity to these activities. I would support a reduction in the voting age to 16, so that the interest generated by schools can encourage young people to get involved in local politics. Some young people are very switched on politically, but the majority are totally apathetic. If their interest can be engaged, young people will go on to represent themselves. I have a great deal of contact with young people through my work with the Seren project. In this programme, we put great emphasis on encouraging students to become more politically aware and to think critically about many issues of topical concern.

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 am in constant touch with a wide range of people in the Coedpoeth ward. As I have indicated previously, during the last year, I have issued several Coedpoeth FOCUS leaflets and carried out a number of residents’ surveys locally which have generated local opinion on issues and concerns affecting the village. If elected, I would continue to produce a FOCUS leaflet of information for Coedpoeth residents at least three times a year. Each leaflet would provide the opportunity for Coedpoeth residents to comment on the issues that most concern them.

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

Wrexham Council needs a fresh approach and some new blood to re-energise local government in our town. Wrexham has much potential but many problems. I would work hard to ensure that, for the residents of my ward, the town would become a more enjoyable and pleasant place to visit. I would use my professional experience and knowledge to support and defend the interests of the people of Coedpoeth and enable their voices to be heard and acted upon. I hope that electors will choose me as one of their new County Councillors on 4th May.

Social & Web links

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