Statement from Carrie Harper
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
I was born and raised in Caia Park where I still live with my family, I currently represent the Queensway ward as a Plaid Cymru County Councillor.
I was first elected to serve the ward in 2008 and have also stood to represent Wrecsam and Plaid at both Parliamentary and Senedd elections in recent years.
I'm very proud of my Welsh identity so Plaid Cymru is a natural political home for me, Plaid is also the only party solely based in Wales so will always put the needs and interests of our communities first. I feel that's the vital difference between Plaid and other London based parties.
I believe Wrecsam council needs an overhaul, it's often not open and transparent, it doesn't listen to the people it's supposed to represent and it lacks real political leadership. That's what I hope our amazing team of candidates can change if elected on may 5th. We're determined to shake up the council.
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?
1 - Housing repair backlog - My ward is 70% council housing and there is currently a huge backlog of repairs due to Covid and Brexit. This is causing a lot of frustration for residents. The councils housing stock is still significant and I believe we need to expand the in house team to meet demand and manage it more effectively in the longer term.2 - Roads and footpaths locally are in poor condition and need renewing. I don't believe it's cost effective to patch pot holes in areas where it's clear full resurfacing is needed. That policy needs revisiting.3 - Cost of living - I am hugely concerned about the imapct this will have on families in my ward. We have some of the highest child poverty levels in Wales and sky rocketing energy price rises and food price hikes are going to hit people hard. Although I'm sure local organisations and the local community will step up to help, ultimately the UK Government need to intervene and fast to try and offset a crisis.
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 ?
If you could inject millions more into the local economy every year and slash the councils carbon emmissions with one simple policy change, would you do it asap?Unfortunately Wrecsam council have not stepped up when it comes to ensuring more of the councils money is spent with local firms. Frustratingly this is a point Plaid Cymru have been arguing for many years. The council budget is over £250m annually, much of this spent on buying in goods and services, sadly most of it leaks straight across the border when it could be going into local pockets. 'Procurement' as it's known, also accounts for 74% of the councils carbon emmissions.However there is good practice not to far away, Gwynedd council led by Plaid Cymru increased the amount it spent locally by 39% during lockdown, so it can be done if the political will is there. We need to build in community benefit clauses, unbundle larger contracts and set ambitious targets for local spending. The council needs to lead the way on this.
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've enjoyed chairing the councils Customers, Performance, Resources and Governance scrutiny committee over the last few years. I have previously chaired the Lifelong Learning scrutiny committee and served on the Planning Committee and Homes and Environment scrutiny committee amongst others. This work has given me a good overview as regards how the council works.I do have strong views on issues such as housing and procurement and believe I could bring a new perspective to the table in those areas in particular.
4. What do the words climate emergency mean to you and your ward?
Plaid Cymru sucessfully put forward a motion to declare a climate emergency in Wrecsam. On a local authority level this should mean a robust effort to reduce the councils carbon emmissions but in truth it has to be about much more than that. It has to be about an entirely new way of thinking.The climate emergency, the recent pandemic and global context combined are showing us just how vulnerable our communities are on so many levels. We're vulnerable to energy price rises as we're all experiencing, we're vulnerable because of the over reliance on global supply chains as Covid has exposed and we're vulnerable because we're just not living in a sustainable way. We can't continue to consume resources on the scale we are and not expect disaster.On a council level, (and at all Government levels) we need a real culture shift that ensures policy priorities work cohesively. For instance, what is the point of declaring a climate emergency and at the same time building thousands of houses that aren't needed and encourage commuting? How can we have a procurement policy that's seen us buy school dinner produce from Rochdale and Liverpool when we could have bought those items locally? We also need to be proactive as well, the council should show leadership by supporting more local food production and supporting outlets for that produce as well (who knew markets were such a great idea!?). Back to the future may well be an appropriate phrase.The council should also support sustainable community energy projects that give direct benefits to the communities they're based in.In a nutshell, we have reached a crisis of excess, the remedy will require applying a new way of thinking consistenly across the board. We simply have to meet that challenge if we're going to build the resiliant and sustainable communities of the future.
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?)
Given the word count is pretty generous, I'll give you 10 things as a starting point.1 - City status - No, it was clear from the off that most people locally didn't want it and have expressed that view on several occasions. I believe pursuing that without local buy in was a big mistake by the council leadership. Confusing the culture bid with this has also caused a lot of unnecessary confusion.2 - Council Tax rise - Given the unprecedented cost of living crisis I believe there was a strong case for not increasing council tax by 4% this year, Plaid Cymru were the only party to argue that case and vote against the recent hike.3 - Local development Plan- No, building thousands of houses that most can't afford was never based on local need, it is not sustainable and will do a huge amount of damage to local communities and put immense pressure on services and infrastructure. The ruling administration should have fought our corner but didn't, it has always been clear that the evidence base for that plan was and continues to be fundamentaly flawed.4 - Local Procurement - Yes, it's a no brainer to spend millions more locally. It's a shame the council refused to listen to Plaid Cymru on this.5 - Kingdom Litter Enforcement- Remember them? They gave out fines like smarties. One person was even fined for throwing a chip to a bird. Plaid Cymru successfully campaigned to get them ditched, thankfully.6 - Resurfacing the council car park - That sent out completely the wrong message given the condition of local roads.7 - Exec Board membership - Should have been reduced from 10 to 8, it's difficult to justify some of those positions.8 - Protecting local heritage - Too many time's local people have had to fight the council leadership to protect buildings locally, the current adminsitration wanted to knock down the Groves and more recently demolish Centre 67 in Rhosddu, valuable council assets have also been auctioned off when they could have been used by our communities. This has to stop, it's time to listen to people on this.9 - Openness and transparency - There has been too much behind closed doors decision making, unnaccountable bodies are making key decisions and basic information that should have been made available to aid the democratic process has been denied to councillors (the cost of the city status bid as one example). I believe this culture is not healthy and has to change.10 - Petty, personal politics - I believe the public have seen a number of examples of this from the current council leadership unfortunately. Scouring Plaid Cymru social media accounts and complaining to the councils legal officer, submiting Ombudsman complaints over social media posts and taking pictures of a fellow councillors parking fine are just a few examples that come to mind. I don't think this reflects well.
6. Local health pressures are well documented, from delayed ambulances to issues in the hospital. How can the council help resolve those problems?
The council could stop adding to pressure on the hospital and doctors surgeries by not building thousands more houses we don't need.There is also a fundamental problem with the health board simply not being accountable enough. Although representatives attend some scrutiny meetings, there simply isn't time to cover the range issues and concerns related to the current crisis. Discussions are needed with Welsh Government about how we build in more accountability.Ultimately, Welsh Government also need to step up, we need to recruit more doctors and nurses which has been a long standing Plaid Cymru policy and we need to integrate health and social care into one seemless service free at the point of need, we will never tackle the crisis in the NHS unless that happens.
7. What will you do on a local level to help support people in your ward affected by the cost of living crisis?
It's a good question. I fear the situation will be more difficult than any I've seen in all my years working in a community that has high levels of deprivation. In response to backwards Tory policies like Universal credit and the bedorom tax, I've seen new charities emerge to deliver food parcels to those in need, I've seen holiday hunger projects spring up to support children during school breaks and I've seen a surge in demand for local food banks. That was pre Covid and I fear what's coming will see people struggling on an unprecedented scale. I will do everything I can to support people and to signpost them to any help that's available but we all need to demand that people aren't allowed to slip through the ever fraying safety net
8. How would you improve the local education system?
Having chaired the lifelong learning scrutiny committee for a period and hearing the same frustrations over a number of years, it's clear there is no silver bullet to tackling some of the long term challenges we have locally, particularly in terms of secondary education. Ensuring good attendance has been a stubborn problem in some secondary schools and making sure we provide sufficient resoruces for improving that is vital.I'm the chair of Governors for the new Welsh medium primary school Ysgol Llan Y Pwll which is opening in September in Borras, so I'm looking forward to that providing a brand new provision locally. In terms of Welsh medium, we desperately need a new secondary school in the borough and that must be a piority for the next council administration.
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'll be a member of Plaid Cymru - The party of Wales.
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 ?
Through work at the county borough when I was chair of the Lifelong learning committee we sought to directly engage with young people and schools on issues like period poverty and access to sanitary products. That had a very good response and helped shape and direct council spending on the issue. I believe that was the first time such an issue had been discussed in the council chamber.I'm also aware that issues such as climate change matter hugely to young people and I helped support the youth climate strikes in front of the Guildhall in recent years.Issues such as mental health support are also a priorty for younger people, the lack of services and facilities are often a concern I regularly hear from this age group.Plaid Cymru are lucky enough to have candidates who are 18, 19 and 24. I very much hope they're elected as hearing from young people directly when they have a seat at the decision making table is by far the most effective way to ensure representation.
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OTHER CANDIDATES FOR Queensway
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