Statement from Andy Gallanders

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

Hello, I’m Andy Gallanders (32years) born and raised in Wrexham.
People normally recognise me from one of two places - Bank Street Social or Central Station.
I own Bank Street Social, a coffee and craft beer shop with my brother Phil (I’m the funny one) in the heart of Wrecsam Town Centre.
At Central Station, I literally spent my teenage years bringing some of the biggest names in Alternative music to our town with my friends. The proudest part was running an under 18s club night called Rebellion which was officially the biggest under 18s club night in North Wales. 18 years on I still get people fondly tell me how important that time was to them, and the community we created.
Politically I used to always vote Labour, however, I became a Plaid Cymru member during the first lockdown as I saw how members stepped up and helped the community.
I love Wrecsam and finding a community that cares for ALL is the reason I’ve decided to stand as a Plaid Cymru Candidate.

Questions & Answers

1. What are the three biggest issues for your ward, how do you think they need to be resolved, and what will you do to achieve it?

Dean Road Playing Field. It is absolutely disgusting that this playing field is being cut up for housing. There is obvious contention over the ownership and the development itself. I’m so impressed how the community has navigated the issue and continually campaigned. I’d like to just thank the ‘Save Dean Road Playing Field’ group for being so resilient. The group has applied for Village Green Status and I have submitted evidence to support their hard work. I’m really hopeful that the group will be successful, and we can get Village Green Status and bring back this valuable green space for the community. Another planning nightmare is the housing development of up to 1700 homes opposite Wrexham Golf Course and next to The Fairways estate. This will have a huge knock-on effect on GPs; which we know are already at breaking point, roads, schools, and also increase pollution. Whilst I agree that we do need housing, especially good quality, affordable homes for young families, it is vitally important that the infrastructure and stock is correct. If we fail at this point, we will have huge problems when families move in. Lack of Youth Provision. These issues are all linked, and if we want to live in a strong vibrant community we need to review and increase spending on youth services. WCBC recently came 165th out of 173 councils for the lowest spend on youth provisions, a massive -33% change since 2010. Not to do the classic, ‘back in my day’, but I was lucky to have the most amazing people around me and that was all thanks to youth provisions. Young people are our future, so why aren’t we giving them the opportunities to be the very best young people possible? Ohhh and I wouldn’t be a candidate if I didn’t mention dog poo!….which of course I will tackle hands on…with the use of gloves.

2. What do you think needs to be done to help Wrexham recover from the pandemic and what hands-on-role can you play as a councillor ?

Having run a business in Wrecsam town centre since 2016 (Bank Street Social) I know the importance of a strong community – especially in recent years with the pandemic. However, one thing the pandemic showed us was we are better together. During the lockdown I headed up several zoom meetings with the council and AS Lesley Griffiths to navigate and get the most up-to-date information to business owners. Communication is key. The town centre needs to evolve and fast. We need a proactive, honest and transparent approach about our economy and regeneration, something we don’t have at the moment. In the ward we need to bring the community together. I believe that if we bring the community together, we will recover. Many are still struggling to recover from this awful period. I want to help in any way I can, be that simply signposting residents to services, creating community events to socialise, help resolve issues that are troubling them or just being approachable for a chat.

3. As a councillor you may have the chance to take on further roles eg. Lead Member, Audit, Scrutiny. What appeals to you and what skills do you bring to that role?

I’m going to be completely honest, shock! Local procurement is my jam, perhaps a tad sad, but this is literally a direct tool the council has. Only 16% of the council’s yearly budget is spent locally compared to 39% in Gwyneth Council, a Plaid Cymru led council. If WCBC made it to 39%, that would be £57.5million back into the local economy. It is possible. If successful I want to expand my knowledge and I am up for any challenge that is presented. Youth Provisions would also be on my target for audit/scrutiny.

4. What do the words climate emergency mean to you and your ward?

As mentioned above, the ward is in danger of losing a large green space, thus letting down our future generations. We have 3 years, just 3 years to either drastically change, or damage the Earth beyond repair – UN climate report. WCBC declared a climate emergency in 2019 and set the aim of zero carbon emissions by 2030. When 74% of our carbon emissions are a direct result of outsourcing procurement it doesn't feel the current administration is taking the emergency seriously. We need to act fast, or we will have big environmental issues on our hands.

5. What is the biggest thing you would have done differently from the ruling administration over the last 5 years? (Or, if you were part of the Administration - what would you have done differently?)

To be blunt - stop, listen, improve. I would have stopped making the same mistakes, listened to the electorate, and looked at what went wrong and learnt from that. This ruling administration has failed to listen to the people of Wrexham, and in turn failed every single community in the borough. The people of Wrecsam elected 52 representatives to make the decisions they feel are important. This administration seemingly prefers to make decisions behind closed doors and kill off any attempt at democracy. Time after time they have, literally, taken a sledgehammer to the promise of being open and transparent. By doing the above, we; Plaid Cymru, will make improvements to the lives and economy of Wrexham.

6. Local health pressures are well documented, from delayed ambulances to issues in the hospital. How can the council help resolve those problems?

We have an NHS crisis on our hands. We need to support the amazing doctors, nurses and staff at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. The pandemic has shown they are quite simply the best of us. They haven’t stopped - and we should be immensely proud of every single one of them. To get the NHS back on track we need a top-down approach. We need to take the pressure off the hospital. The biggest issues are out of council control; however we can play our part in finding a solution. The first steps would be to create an integrated, functioning and caring system within the health and social care sector. Another starting point would be to look at implementing this infrastructure and provision ahead of housing developments - no point building houses if we are not looking after the people that want to live there.

7. What will you do on a local level to help support people in your ward affected by the cost of living crisis?

Everything is going up. Plaid Wrecsam were the only group that voted against the 4% council tax increase that we have all just been subjected to. This was a direct opportunity missed by the current administration to help everyone. It’s worth noting, at this point, that last year the council added £1.4million to their ‘rainy day fund’ taking its total to £8.4million. This poses the question, if a pandemic wasn’t a rainy day, then what is? Plaid Cymru have already committed to rolling out the Free School Meals programme, extended to include secondary-school pupils, over the next five years. This would ensure every child has the option of a school meal and ease the pressure on many parents' budgets. The same is the case for Plaid's proposal for free childcare for children under two, therefore making returning to work after parental leave more accessible and affordable for working families. Again,local procurement – buying local. If we did this then we would keep more money locally; spent within local businesses, and paid as wages to local people. Also, the drive of supply and demand would, in theory, create more jobs within our borough. If elected locally I would make sure I was available, visible, and accountable - these go without saying. I would keep myself continually up to date with support provisions with the borough, to be able to provide a ‘one-stop’ stream of support to my residents; meaning I could either help, or sign-post to any relevant agency needed. I would hold the council to account, and ensure that I fought for every single decision made by the Executive Board was in the best interest of the residents, not only in my ward but across the county. I know the sentiments are echoed amongst my fellow Plaid candidates, and I believe that we really do have a unique opportunity to create stronger communities, together.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

The ward is having huge investment with a new Welsh medium primary school – Ysgol Llan-y-pwll, due to open its doors to reception pupils in September. This will be a huge benefit to the local area, and to the education of our youngsters. I went to Rhosnesni High/St Davids, and I truly feel that I had a great education. We need to make sure every child has the best education possible and that includes looking at different learning styles. We need to make sure that our young people are supported, especially after the pressures of the pandemic. Also to be considered is that our youth are growing up in an age of social media, it’s increasingly important to be raising issues such as cyber-bullying and online harassment frequently, and leading by example as councillors with our own use of social media. There are major questions to be asked about how the current lead member is handling his portfolio, especially as they also sit on the board of Governors of a school where major issues have recently arisen.

9. When the public view the Full Council meeting in June, do you envision you could be part of a Party, Group or coalition, and if so, specifically who and why?

I feel it is quite obvious that there will be no clear party or group majority this time. Obviously, I am standing with my friends at Plaid Cymru, and I would love to see all 24 of our amazing, diverse, skilled and passionate candidates at the full council. With the Rhosnesi ward becoming a 2-councillor ward, I pledge to you that I will work with whoever; with the clear understanding that we are elected to represent everyone. On a county level I will work with any elected councillor that shares the similar values and work ethic as myself, and puts Wrexham’s values first. If elected, I look forward to the challenges that will no doubt be thrown before me, and to challenge others - hopefully creating a unique dynamic in Wrecsam where the majority of the council are able to work in harmony for the better of the community, educate each other, and keep each other held to account.

10. This is a noteworthy election with 16 and 17 year olds now able to vote, what have you done to engage this new electorate and what do you think is the biggest issue for them locally ?

This is a historic election. I’m proud to say that Plaid Cymru has an inspiring 18-year-old candidate standing this time, hopefully the first of many in Wrecsam. If that doesn’t say more about how our youth want to be heard and represented, then I don’t know what does. Listening to - and understanding, the younger generation will make for a better, fairer and more interesting town. I have actively been speaking to customers at the shop, and using social media platforms to inform them of the upcoming election, my intents, and views, these have shown to be popular and innovative ways to engage with a demographic that is quite often underrepresented or overlooked during election periods. This generation is more politically and worldly aware than many of the older generations. If we just listen, we may just learn.

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