Statement from Iolanda Banu Viegas

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

My name is Iolanda Banu Viegas and I am Plaid Cymru’s candidate for the Erddig ward. I’m from Mozambique originally and grew up in Portugal before moving to Wrexham 20 years ago to work.
I have a teenage daughter who was born here and feel that Wrexham is my home.
I currently work on a number of projects in the town - including as a Team Associate for the National Theatre of Wales. I am an elected councillor representing the Portuguese community in the UK and chair of Black History Cymru 365.
I am a founder of the Portuguese Speaking Association of Wrexham - CLPW - and have worked hard to integrate the Portuguese into the wider Wrexham community.
I’m standing for Plaid Cymru because it’s the party that’s closest to my vision of a Wales that puts social justice, the environment and the people first.
If elected, I will work with everyone in Erddig and the Plaid Cymru team to ensure a stronger voice for you in the Guildhall.

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. Improving bus services into Wrexham town centre is something that would help many elderly residents in the ward - our public transport system isn't fit for purpose at the moment. With my Plaid Cymru colleagues, I would look to improve our public transport network into areas such as Erddig. 2. Dog fouling remains a problem. Wrexham Council has an enforcement team but it doesn't appear to visit the Erddig ward very often - I would ensure they did if elected. 3. Potholes are a problem throughout the county borough and we need more investment in fixing the problem properly rather than patching ineffectively.

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 ?

Wrexham Council needs to use its £250 million annual budget more pro-actively to help the local economy recover. It spends more than £100m a year on contracts and tenders across the border - two thirds in total and just 16% in the county borough. Imagine if that increased to ensure more work locally for Wrexham companies and enterprises. At no extra cost to the taxpayer! I and my Plaid Cymru colleagues would press for that in the next council.

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 think I bring a different perspective to the table and that's always important. I work with a wide range of national and international bodies and institutions and that means developing listening skills as well as being able to argue the case on its merits. I am currently a councillor representing the Portuguese community in the UK and that enables me to meet regularly with government representatives to advance our case.

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

It was Plaid Cymru councillors who moved a motion to declare a climate emergency in Wrecsam in 2019. It's a small but significant step that we all must take to face this challenge. The Erddig ward is not immune to the climate emergency so it's a problem we must all face - both locally and globally - together.

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?)

There are so many issues, it's difficult to know where to begin! We have a council that has huge potential to lead positive change but it doesn't engage with the people it is meant to represent. Take one example - when it was challenged about Tarmacing the councillors' car park, the council leader denied it was happening. Four months later it happened! This was a full resurfacing and cost tens of thousands of pounds despite the car park being in a good condition. By contrast, many areas in Erddig ward and elsewhere had to put up with temporary patching and large potholes that damage cars and put cyclists and bikers at risk. If you want an example of what's wrong with the council, that's it!

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

The problems facing the NHS locally are interlinked and we need to accept the role of social care in helping to ease pressure on the health service. Plaid Cymru wants to see an integrated health and care service so that patients, especially the elderly, are unable to leave hospital because of a lack of care in the community. It's a real problem that unfairly leads to people being called 'bed blockers'. It's not their fault the system is not functioning correctly. Plaid Cymru has argued for many years that we need to train, retain and recruit many more doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. The lack of GPs is critical in some parts of Wrexham with people being told to attend A&E because of the long waits. That's not a sustainable situation and I would expect the council to prioritise discussions with the local health board to see what can be done by both social care and health service.

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

My colleagues in Plaid Cymru argued against the recent 4% Council Tax rise as a practical way to ease the pressures on local households. We also advocate free school meals for all primary and secondary-school pupils, which will help families with children to a degree. There is a wider problem where the rich are getting richer and not contributing to society because they do not pay taxes - even Government ministers are doing it. A vote for Plaid Cymru is a vote against those greedy politicians that fail to contribute to public services.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

Teachers need the freedom to teach with active support from teaching assistants, school governors, specialist support services and administrators. I would like to see teaching assistants being recognised for the job they do alongside teachers. It's been an incredibly tough two years for everyone but trying to teach online, with masks and all the additional challenges can't be easy.

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 am standing for Plaid Cymru so will be a part of the Plaid Cymru group if elected.

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 ?

Young people's mental health has been badly affected over the past couple of years and we need the council to be aware of that additional challenge. I'm very pleased younger voters can engage in the process now and hope they will turn out in large numbers to ensure we get the council that reflects our needs as a community.

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