Statement from Andrew Ranger

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

I made Wrexham my home in 2000 and have lived in the heart of Offa ward for the last 20 years - after having spent several years working in various parts of the UK. Following a career in hotel management and finance I now work in Wrexham as an accountant and consultant, supporting businesses of all sizes and types across north Wales and northwest England.
Having been a Labour Party supporter for all my adult life I became a member of the party in 2011. I share the Labour Party’s values of fairness, equality of opportunity, social justice, and compassion. Working alongside other members and elected representatives in Wrexham, I have been proud to be able to campaign for and achieve changes for the better in the community and give assistance to those that need it. I am currently Chair of Wrexham Labour Party.

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?

Residents in Offa ward are telling me that their main local concerns are environmental issues such as littering and dog fouling; traffic and parking issues; anti-social behaviour. These are all long standing, persistent issues to which there is no easy solution but are so important to tackle if we want to improve the quality of life for everyone living in Offa. The best way to approach all these issues is as a community, working together - residents, the county council, community council, police, businesses, and other stakeholders. I would consult with residents and work to bring all parties together to tackle these issues using a holistic approach. There are tools already available to tackle some of these issues such as penalties for dog fouling, however, Wrexham Council have failed to meaningfully implement this, and the problem persists. Wrexham Labour’s promise of a rapid response team to provide cleaner and better maintained streets would offer considerable support to residents. Similarly, the use of more 20mph zones could be investigated in terms of traffic calming and residential parking permits to help mitigate parking issues in some of our older streets. However, the solutions must be right for Offa, and they must work. I promise to listen to all residents in Offa, always be open and honest with them, and work with them to deliver the best possible outcomes.

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 ?

Now that we are emerging from the worst of the pandemic, Wrexham needs a broad-based approach to supporting residents and businesses. Wrexham has been underserved by the council long before the pandemic started, and the past two years have only made things worse. Wrexham Labour has presented a clear plan in our manifesto that has been written by local people, specifically with Wrexham in mind. I am pleased to support this plan which includes an economic growth strategy to reinvigorate the town centre, bring inward investment and high-quality well-paid jobs, prioritises local supply chains, a sustainable and improved local public transport offering and a strategy to combat poverty at its core. The nature of town centres across the UK is changing significantly with more people choosing to do their shopping online or at out-of-town shopping venues, so we need to consider the town centres of the future and not of the past. This will include making the town centre a place where people want to live, work, play and shop. Establishing Wrexham as a vibrant cultural centre will help in this, using already existing venues and developing others. Improving the public spaces in the town centre to make it an attractive and welcoming place to visit. All of this will require working in collaboration with residents, businesses, Welsh Labour Government, and others. I would use my business experience to make a valuable contribution in this area.

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 Welsh Labour Group in the council has a democratic process to ensure that they select the best people for any roles on offer based on the appropriate skills and experience. In my working life I have successfully led and managed teams as well as worked with businesses and helped them develop from start-ups into thriving concerns. I would want my skills and experience to be used to greatest benefit of Wrexham and its people. If elected my focus will be on being the best councillor I can be for the residents of Offa ward and for Wrexham as a whole.

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

The climate emergency is the single biggest challenge that the world faces today and for the future. If we do not all act now to tackle climate change then we are dooming our children and grandchildren to an uncertain future and denying them the same opportunities that we were given. We have seen the effects of climate change in Wrexham with the more frequent and more severe flooding incidents. Once rare, they are now an annual occurrence, causing significant disruption to families and their lives. In Offa ward itself we see increasing pollution due to the higher levels of traffic on our roads – which has significant impacts on the health of residents and particularly our children. Wrexham’s Labour Senedd member, Lesley Griffiths, declared the Wales Climate Emergency back in 2019. As Wales has led the way with recycling, I believe Wales can be a world leader in tackling the climate emergency too. We simply cannot continue using fossil fuels in the way that we currently do. Every one of us needs to reduce our carbon footprint and move to more renewable sources of energy for our homes, businesses, and transport. On a local level this will involve having better, sustainable public transport in Wrexham so that people do not have to rely on their cars. Better infrastructure for electric car charging across Wrexham. In terms of homes, we need to be looking at insulation schemes that make them more energy efficient as well as supporting homeowners to move away from gas and oil fuelled boiler systems. This is a huge task that will require cooperation across the board. I believe that a Labour run council in Wrexham working with the Welsh Labour government gives us the best chance to move forward and make the necessary changes as soon as we can.

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?)

Where to start!! The current Independent – Tory administration of the council have failed Wrexham on so many issues over the last 5 years and more. We have all been let down by their failure on the local economy and public services. This has been exacerbated by the swingeing cuts to council budgets since 2010, ultimately imposed by the Conservative government in Westminster. The biggest issue for me is how the council has failed our children and their education. They are the future of Wrexham, Wales, and the UK. We have seen several secondary schools placed in “special measures” and others on the verge of being put in them. In addition, the Care Inspectorate Wales and Estyn have placed the council in the “cause for concern” category regarding the delivery of social care and education. This is just not good enough and the council are failing pupils, parents, and teachers. Teachers are working extremely hard, against the odds and without the resources and support they need. All these issues should have been tackled far sooner and not been allowed to develop in the way they did. An open and honest approach was needed bringing pupils, teachers, parents, and the council together to get this resolved. We need to understand what has gone wrong in our local education system and put plans in place quickly to get it resolved to the satisfaction of all, and most importantly to give future generations the best possible start in life.

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

There is a long standing and persistent issue across the UK with a shortage of GP’s and lengthening hospital waiting times. The pandemic has exacerbated these issues and is still having a significant impact on health services. We are seeing many GP’s retiring and closing their practices. There is also a shortage of new GP’s coming into the sector to replace them. This is increasing the already excessive demand on A&E and other hospital services. Indeed, in Offa, we saw the closure of the Beechley surgery a few years ago with the practice being transferred to the Hightown Medical Centre. Given the circumstances a new approach to primary healthcare needs to be considered that gives patients the access they need to various medical services and alleviates the demand on our overstretched A&E departments and hospitals. The council needs to be working closely with the local health board to resolve these issues. One solution, that has been shown to work in other areas, is the introduction of Community Health Hubs where patients can access the services that have been provided to date by GPs alongside other services such as diabetic, cardiac, mental health, minor surgery, and others. In conjunction with this the health board needs to be employing salaried GPs in these hubs who can focus on providing excellent healthcare without the unnecessary distraction of also having to manage a business – as is the case with the traditional practice model that we have.

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

The cost-of-living crisis is the issue that most voters are telling me is their main concern and will be one of my priorities if elected. Access to information is key as there are many sources of support available that go unused due to people not being aware of them. I will work to help signpost people to the right places for help should they need it as well as to help then navigate access to the various support that is out there. We must also ensure that Wrexham Council draws down every penny of support that has been made available by the Welsh Government and directs it to those who with the greatest need. Wrexham Foodbank is situated in Offa and is increasingly relied upon by working families as well as others. I will support the Foodbank and other third sector agencies in their efforts to assist those in need. In the longer-term Wrexham Labour has announced in its manifesto a plan to tackle the root causes of poverty in Wrexham as part of our economic growth strategy for Wrexham.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

Pupils, teachers, and schools deserve better than what they have been subject to under the last 8 years of the Independent – Tory run council in Wrexham. Our local education system is about the opportunity, success and well-being of our children and grandchildren. They are the future of Wrexham. Several of our secondary schools in Wrexham have been placed in special measures, or on the verge of being in this situation. Teachers and teaching assistants are doing a fantastic job in very challenging circumstances whilst not receiving the support that they should from the council. I have close family members who work in primary education and through which I keep aware of the issues and challenges they and pupils face. Across Wrexham we need to review the funding and support that we give to our schools and ensure that this meets the needs of all our children. We need to look at the tools we can offer parents so they can also better support their children’s educational progress – every parent wants the best education for their children, and we must support them in achieving this. This is about ensuring that the correct resources are available in the right place at the right time to improve education across the board. It is too important for us not to tackle this urgently. In Offa ward we have two schools – Victoria Community Primary and Ysgol Clywedog as well as the Bersham Road campus of Coleg Cambria. If elected I will work with the staff, pupils, and parents to ensure that we deliver the best education possible.

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?

As I am standing as a Welsh Labour candidate, then if elected, I will be a member of the Welsh Labour Group of councillors. On May 5th voters will select a total 56 councillors of various political persuasions. It will take 29 councillors to form a majority on the council and lead it for the next 5 years. Welsh Labour is the only party that is standing enough candidates to achieve this. We have a local manifesto, written specifically for Wrexham by people from Wrexham – not one written in Cardiff or Westminster. Wrexham is desperate for change after the failures of the Independent – Tory administration of Wrexham council over the past 8 years. This election should be about more than just one ward as we need to bring back the immense pride Wrexham people have always felt for their town.

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 my work in Wrexham Labour party, I have engaged with young voters and members over many years. I am pleased that Welsh Labour has several younger candidates standing across Wrexham in this election – it is vitally important that we have a diverse council that covers all age groups so that it better reflects everyone who lives, learns, and works in the borough. I supported the Welsh Labour Government in extending voting to 16- and 17-year-olds – it was the right thing to do. After all they are voting for their futures and should absolutely have a say in what that future is. Young voters face similar issues to everyone else – climate change, the Conservative cost of living crisis, housing, issues in the local education system, employment concerns, issues around mental health. With the advent of new technologies, it is now easier then ever before to access a huge amount of information on the issues and I often find that young voters are more aware of and more engaged with the political issues than many others. The concern I hear about most from younger voters is that of climate change and the environment – if we do not tackle this it will have a devastating impact on the future of our children and young adults. They know this. Older generations have created the climate change and environmental crises and we now have a duty to fix our mistakes to give the younger generations, and the ones that follow them, the same, or better, opportunities in life that we were given. Wrexham Labour’s promise to become the greenest county, drive decarbonisation, promote biodiversity and improve outdoor recreation will, hopefully, resonate with our younger voters.

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