Statement from Peter Derrick
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I have lived in Bradley Road for over thirty years and my three children all went to local schools. Much of my working life was spent working in both the War Memorial and Wrexham Maelor Hospitals. I feel honoured that during my career I was able to work with other health care professionals to work on so many improvements which put people first, not only in Wrexham but as a part of an all Wales team. An extra bonus for me was being a part of a team in Wrexham who pushed forward innovations in Organ and Tissue donation, which ultimately has done so much in improving the quality of people’s lives.
I have never in my life been a political animal, but like so many of you I have watched in horror as our politicians have made a mockery of our democracy. The antics of our National leaders seems to have infiltrated into politics at a local level. I was always taught that to serve as a Councillor was an honour and that you were there to represent your constituents and to be their voice in the Council chamber. So often in recent years we have seen our Council imposing their will on this town and acting in a way which has disenfranchised other Councillors and the public at large.
It was when I met the local Plaid Cymru members that I found a group of people who also wanted honesty, transparency and decency returned to the Wrexham Council, where service to the public was actually put first and not promised as a vote gaining gimmick in the last few weeks before an election. I do not support rewarding failure which is what will happen if so few of us vote for change and allow this old guard to keep their seats on the Council. I am standing for putting Wrexham first.
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?
Writing an answer to this is difficult as the ward is so diverse. Any candidate who tries to give a blanket answer to this obviously hasn’t visited every part of the ward. Areas of concern include difficulty for residents finding parking, “football parking”, litter, dog fouling, anti social behaviour, traffic pollution, the number of HMOs in a given area, traffic congestion and drug taking on an increase. With regard to parking, we have suffered with vague promises of the problem being solved as a vote winning gimmick plied by incumbent councillors seeking re election and other candidates seeking election. Unfortunately these promises are made by people who do not live in the ward so are not living with this as a daily problem. My family have suffered with having to pay to park on Island Green as there has been no space in the area. That is one of the joys of living near town centre. The answer clearly is not to dangle the carrot of selective vote giving streets being offered residents only parking. Having explored this route in the past and come up against the reasons this will never happen, giving false hope is not the answer. The only way forward with this is to actually speak to every resident in the effected area and to the appropriate Council officers to work together to solve the issue. Litter and dog fouling are the results of the failure of the council to invest in the man power or to use existing resources to deal with the issue. Prevention is better than cure. Like many of the Plaid candidates if elected I would try to invest more into prevention of offences and to actually take action against offenders where appropriate. The current council has failed in pushing forward public education and dealing with the problem effectively. Our council has yet to have issued any or few fines for dog fouling in the last twelve months, and although prevention is better than cure, that is not a good track record. But for the work of the many volunteer litter pickers across the borough we would be in a much worse state. If elected I would insist that we address the problem of dog fouling and that we do more to support the fantastic work of the volunteers out there.Traffic pollution is symptomatic of the Councils lack of a comprehensive transport policy. If elected I would want to make sure that our proposed transport hub isn’t a white elephant and we end up with in effect two bus stations which become hubs for antisocial behaviour. We need to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport but with a U.K. wide ageing population some people will find this difficult. We need to form a group which is user based to develop a plan which actually bears fruit and will encourage less use of polluting vehicles. This would be a massive undertaking but would be a greater environmental and a healthier project to lead with rather than the resources being used on status symbol projects like seeking City status.
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 ?
Recovery from the effects of the pandemic sound like a single focussed ideal. However it is not a simple matter of throwing some money at a few prestige projects and waiting for a result. The Council must not work in isolation with this. Recovery can only be pushed forward by looking at what has succeeded in other areas of the U.K. and seeing if they can be applied in Wrexham. We need to work with other organisations and businesses based in and around the town and the public at large. We would need to work together to regenerate the town centre. It would have to be an integrated project which looks at transport, parking, pedestrian access, how we use the town centre streets, how to encourage development which would survive if there was a similar health crisis. It need not be a horror story. Many improvement projects are cost neutral as they are more about how we use resources rather than replacing what already exists. The role of the Council should be as enablers in all of this. We should be using the expertise and experience we have in this town to stimulate our regeneration. This cannot be done behind the closed doors of a council chamber. We need open and open minded governance in the town.
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?
The question about roles Is difficult for me. I have never pushed myself forward seeking power or position. I have always joked that the advancements in my career were because I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. In reality, if there was something needed doing I have never been afraid of stepping forward to do it. When asked to do the impossible I have not shied away as I believe that if you have the will and can offer the right encouragement to those around you then nothing is unachievable. So in answer to the question, I would slot into any role offered me for which I believe my skills or experience would be a benefit to the role. I am guessing that as I am particularly intolerant of anything which is taking advantage of previously seen loopholes, misdirection, deceit, rule bending or breaking, the throwing away of principles, decency and tolerance, that I might serve well in scrutiny and planning.
4. What do the words climate emergency mean to you and your ward?
The climate is a major concern of mine. The human race seems to be heading lemming like over the cliff. We are as a nation driven by the interests of the press. The national media has taken us through brexit, the climate crisis, party gate and now the war in Ukraine all in quick succession and generally we move along following their agenda. But whilst the war rages and lives and a Country are being destroyed the destruction to the global environment marches on unabated.Our current councillors seem to have missed the boat on the climate crisis. There are so many ways that we as a Council can lead on reducing the environmental tragedy we are enhancing. Again, this is not an issue which can be addressed in isolation. Addressing our transport policy, how we use the town centre, recycling, can all help reduce the climatic destruction. If the council adopted a policy of local procurement this would reduce the Council emissions by 74%. Though if our current Council is re elected I despair as one of our esteemed councillors thought that local procurement meant car sharing.I am delighted that so many of the Plaid candidates are young people who care about the planet, the climate and the future for them and their children. It is time that the tired and irrelevant men in grey suits moved out of their impotent positions in power and handed over the reins to the future. We need to move out of the dark ages of waste and save the planet. The lack of achievement and ambition of our Council over the last five years would be a tragedy for the climate crisis if allowed to continue for another five years. I believe that the climate crisis is real, it is urgent, it is global, it is now.
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?)
I feel that the last five years have been five years of wasted opportunities and abhorrent governance by the Executive Board. I play a lot of board games and amongst the board gamers there are a number of individuals who seek out loopholes in the rules in order that they can win every game. They are obviously reviled by the whole community as the rules are written to make an enjoyable and fair game. The rules of government are not dissimilar as they are designed to offer rules on conduct and protection for the law makers and the public at large. We have seen in Boris government all manners of making use of loopholes and misdirection in order to do what they want when they want. It is sad to see that this has infiltrated into local government and into our own Council where the Executive board used these tricks to stifle debate on our bid for City status. As so much of the council business is conducted behind closed doors we can only wonder what else may have taken place over the last five years which has yet to be revealed. It is a tragedy of our democracy that our incumbent councillor who is a leading member of the executive board is proud of his backing of our bid. Personally I would have been deeply ashamed of such chicanery taking place to push an unpopular and unsupported decision.The efforts put into this and money wasted on resurfacing the council car park are only two of many dubious decisions forced through by the so called Independent group which I would have fought against in the hope of turning this council from the dark side.
6. Local health pressures are well documented, from delayed ambulances to issues in the hospital. How can the council help resolve those problems?
The issues with health care in the area will not be solved easily by any Council. One step in the right direction would be to only build affordable housing in the area. This would help house locals who are in need and prevent a growth in population from people moving into the area and putting even more pressure on our limited services. One of our biggest problems is Labours creation of Betsi Cadwaladr NHS Heath Board. Amalgamating health bodies in close geographical proximity, such as in a city works well, but one health board trying to operate three acute hospitals plus numerous satellite sites, G.P. surgeries and ancillary services in an area spread from the English border to the Irish Sea would never work. Staff on the frontline could see this when it was first proposed and were told it was exciting. I often responded by saying that it was not exciting as staff didn’t know if they would have a job, or where, and expecting staff and patients to travel up and down the A55 was madness.So, here we are some years down the line. I can almost see the Wrexham Maelor Hospital from my front window and I was sent an appointment in X-ray in Bodelwyddan for 9 am on a Saturday morning. With no car this was impossible. I am just one of many patients for whom the system fails. One problem is that of attracting staff. Imagine you are newly qualified and seeking a senior post, would you choose a specialist hospital of good reputation or a Health Board which has been in special measures for some time and no cast iron guarantee that your job could be moved to any of the three sites. The council has no power to make Welsh government untangle this mess but it can certainly put pressure on the Assembly to take decisive action on this.As I mentioned earlier we do not need extra housing which will impact NHS services. It is projected that the population of Wrexham, indeed the whole of the U.K. is set to decline so why do we need to displace people from elsewhere into the town? Another problem is the shortage of social care both provided in the home and care facilities. This is impacting on the speed with which people who need help can be discharged from hospitals. Hopefully the Assembly proposal to integrate NHS and social care will address this, though I have concerns that without Plaid Cymru keeping a close watch that a Labour or Conservative government might not protect the monies deemed for social care.We need a proper walk in centre for minor ailments. A vast majority of people waiting hours in our accident and emergency just need patching up and sending home or referral to day time services. These people do not need to set foot in A and E unless referred by a minor ailments centre. Phone triage, triage in A and E clearly aren’t working so why is the Health Board still tinkering with this unworkable model?The NHS is not answerable to the Council and only meets on a voluntarily basis. I would fight for this to change as your elected Councillors are your voice and so should be heard. The NHS should both be allowed to listen to you and be accountable to you not solely to a room full of faceless bureaucrats in Cardiff.In summary to what needs improving. We need more local services and local accountability. How can we do that? By using people power supported by our Council to lobby the Welsh government. It is our NHS.
7. What will you do on a local level to help support people in your ward affected by the cost of living crisis?
Regarding the cost of living crisis, it is going to be a very fortunate few who will not be adversely affected. The shame of it is that the less people have the harder they will be hit. Every councillor will have to work with their local community council, the voluntary sector and local businesses to ensure that people get the help needed. However each community cannot work in isolation as different areas of the town will have different levels and numbers in need. The council will need to work together to deal with this. I know that there is an election due but I do hope, (though doubt), that the council has done some groundwork to get this going. Luckily as we move into the summer months we will have a cushion of time in order to get the support in place. Come October when we start to get colder weather and we get the higher gas prices hitting we will need everything up and running.If I am fortunate enough to be allowed to represent the people of Brynyffynnon I would advocate for the Council to get an action group together to manage our response in Wrexham. I would be keen to ensure that this group is a group which promotes, assists and takes action and not a group which talks about the problems and achieves nothing. We need more than giving out food parcels and advice. Though these have their place and are for many literally a lifeline, they are sticking plasters. We need innovative solutions so that we don’t end up with a town divided between the haves and have nots.
8. How would you improve the local education system?
Anyone who makes the decision to take up any role in the education system has my utmost admiration. As parents all we often see is the backs of our children as we drop them off each morning, collecting them at the end of the day, sometimes helping with homework and seeing the teacher at the end of each term. What we don’t see is the hours teachers give for lesson preparation, marking, assessments and examination preparation. We often don’t see that a teacher is a leader, a mentor, an example, a shoulder to cry on, an advisor, a friend, a supporter, a peace keeper and sometimes substitute parent. These people need the recognition, help and support they need and deserve. The best way we can do this by giving them a Lead Councillor in Education who can lead, who can see a way forward to make the standard of education in Wrexham, the gold standard. Unfortunately for the last few years this hasn’t been the case. Our education lead has failed the very people on whom our children rely, so in turn he is responsible for any failings in the education of our young people. This council has been in post since the last council election five years ago. If education is in such a state of neglect as it is now and hasn’t been pulled up after five years of poor leadership, it isn’t a particularly re assuring thought that the lead for education is promoting his endeavours in his quest for re election.If I were in post my first move and most important move would be to support the choice of a lead for education who is clearly up to the task ahead rather than failing our children. With the right person in the right job I would offer my unfailing support to any and every effort they make to bring our local education system up to an acceptable level. Without good leadership any efforts are likely to fail again.
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 would be a member of Plaid Cymru. Having said that I would primarily be the voice of the residents of the Brynyffynnon Ward, secondly I would be a Plaid Cymru councillor and lastly I would be me. I do not, nor have I ever sought any title, position or office. If any were offered, if I feel that I would be the right man for the job then I would take one step forward. Being a member of Plaid Cymru I know that if any of our residents need support for a just cause that they will be supported not by one voice but by all the voices of Plaid Cymru. By the same token my Plaid colleagues would know that they could call on my support. I would be part of a team working for the people of this town. We would be one voice, one Wrexham.
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 ?
I feel honoured to be a member of a party which has encouraged candidates from all walks of life, all genders and all ages. So often political groups or parties are fielding older and predominantly male candidates. This makes Plaid the party for all. We have candidates and hopefully in May councillors who are in touch with all generations. We will be more able than most to embrace, understand and action the needs of all of the people in our town. With our forward thinking, and engaged young people we can shake up the Council. Now is not a time to retain the men in grey suits, now is the time to celebrate the future of our time by embracing new ideas, a new outlook to save our people, our town and our planet.
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