Statement from Katie Wilkinson

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

Hello, I’m Katie Wilkinson standing for Plaid Cymru in Offa Ward. I am 33, and I live in Offa with my partner, Steve and two children, Leon, who is 12 and Bodhi, who is 11 months. I have lived in Wrexham since I was 16 and have called it home ever since.
I have a life-long passion for community and social values, having committed much of my life to being an active community member, including volunteering with many charitable organisations focused on creating positive social change. I spent four of these years at Family Friends, supporting vulnerable families dealing with challenging life circumstances. My work led me to become a trustee for the organisation, giving me the confidence to pursue a career helping people full-time.
I completed my studies at Glyndwr University, achieving a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Post qualifying, I worked in older people’s care for WCBC until 2020. I was then fortunate to secure a role as a Senior Mental Health Social Worker, supporting Veterans medically discharged from the military with mental health needs. Working so closely with vulnerable people has informed and strengthened my views on human rights, community values and empathy.
I will be candid; I had previously voted for Labour most of my adult life. However, I felt repeatedly let down by their failings as a party. I chose Plaid Cymru as I have seen how active they have been in our community, creating such a positive impact where it matters to people’s everyday lives.
I have chosen to stand for Plaid Cymru in the county council elections because I genuinely believe we can create a council that serves local people, creating a better future for us all. By focusing on building a strong community with a council that listens and cares for its residents. As elected members, that is an important role that I fear has been neglected in recent years but now is the time for change.

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?

From speaking with residents of Offa, it is clear there is much work to be done in the ward. Protecting our green spaces, cleaner/safer streets, more community events, and more spaces/activities for our youth. Some Offa residents have already proposed great ideas that I would like to take forward if elected. Including "get to know your neighbours" events, summer fayres on the Brickfield Park, and local "food swapping for volunteering" initiatives pitched from some of our residents with allotments, to name just a few. I believe we have a rich and diverse community in Offa, and we deserve a Councillor who will take the time to listen to all residents and act effectively within our ward and in Wrexham as a whole, that goes beyond the basics. Repairing roads and pavements within the ward is another essential. Like many, we have potholes that aren't rectified or given a cheap fix that does not last long, and our streets must be useable and safe. Some of our pavements are also in a state of disrepair. Many were damaged by the poorly managed installation of fibre broadband. Some of our residents who are wheelchair users have highlighted how un-accessible parts of the ward are for them, which needs addressing urgently. Also, a lot of our pavements are prone to dog fouling. It really is a crime that no fines have been issued in the whole of Wrexham over the last year for dog fouling. We need to address that by increasing resources to the department responsible, to manage and police this. Parking concerns are an issue for many of our residents, with many requesting a parking permit system to minimise non-residential parking in the ward. Also, concerns regarding the continued development of multi-occupancy homes and the impact this has on parking, alongside other issues presented with these developments, are something that I will be keen to find solutions for. I would not want to determine definitive answers at this stage, as I feel this needs to be further discussed with residents to ensure we create a solution that best suits everyone in the community. I believe the key to building a better community is listening to residents, challenging the systems that are not fit for purpose and ensuring we receive our fair share of council funding.

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 ?

For Wrexham to recover, we first need the residents to recover. As a mental health professional, I have witnessed first-hand the impact of the pandemic on mental well-being, and we are currently in the middle of a mental health crisis. I have spoken with residents who feel isolated and lonely, and I feel strongly that we need to focus on supporting residents' well-being. As a councillor, I want to be as open and approachable as possible to help those still struggling to make those steps to recovery. Whether by signposting them to the appropriate service, helping them access services they need, creating community events where every resident feels welcome, or just chatting with someone who may feel a little overwhelmed with life.

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?

My priority is to get elected and see what options are available afterwards. This will be determined by the balance of power post-election and the opportunities available for Plaid Cymru councillors to play a more significant role.I am a registered social worker and have worked in social services for most of my career. Still, my priority is to support the residents of Wrexham above what appeals to me personally. I hope that my skillset around safeguarding, well-being support, mental health and social care will benefit the role.

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

The Climate emergency is very real, and we must act urgently. Many residents have discussed concerns regarding the climate crisis with me, and although it is a global issue, our local services can and should be making greener choices to reduce our carbon footprint. Wrexham council can support this by:·Making certain that new council buildings, including homes, are energy efficient and incorporate renewable energy generation so that more buildings become carbon positive.· Ensuring older buildings retrofitted to improve insulation and energy efficiency· Improve public transport and increase its usage· Upgrade council vehicles to include cleaner vehicles and electric vehicles· Invest in electric charging points to allow more people the option of electric cars· Protect our green spaces and encourage more tree planting, working with many of the local groups who are already doing some great work like Incredible Edible WrecsamPlaid Cymru is also working at a national level to secure 'Ynni Cymru', a publicly owned energy company for Wales based on green, renewable energy generation with a specific focus on community-owned projects that support local economies.On a more personal level, I have a keen interest in promoting greener approaches to services, and I am currently completing a master's degree, researching how social care can take a more ecological approach to service delivery.

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?)

For me, the council leadership's decision for yet another attempt at City Status showed just how out of touch the current administration is with the electorate.Even after the Council commissioned a report, at a yet to be disclosed cost, which failed to demonstrate any clear economic benefits, it still decided to press ahead. This shows poor judgement and a total disregard for the opinion of Wrexham's residents.I have heard repeatedly whilst out talking to people just how unhappy they are with this decision and how disengaged it has made them from local politics. The confusion around the City of Culture bid and city status has also caused unnecessary misunderstanding.Council tax increases, given the unprecedented cost of living crisis, is another area I feel the administration has not considered the impact this will have on residents. Plaid Cymru was the only party to vote against the 4% rise in council tax.

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

Health workers across Wrecsam have done a fantastic job, but they suffer from underfunding, mismanagement, and being overworked. Being a social worker in older people's care during the pandemic, I witnessed first-hand the challenges faced by our health services and how tirelessly they worked to support residents. However, our local health board was struggling before the pandemic and has not been adequately supported by the national government for a long time. Unfortunately, a lot of that is out of the control of the Council; however, pressure needs to be placed on the Welsh Government to step up. We also need to remember that health and social care go hand in hand, and by supporting more robust and functioning social care services, we can take the pressure off the NHS. On a local level, we can support social care services by increasing staff levels and developing more third sector initiatives that promote well-being and engage the community. Develop more care provider services, utilise direct payment schemes for more flexible care packages for residents and adequately support our social care staff to ensure they do not suffer burnout. I am also a firm believer in Plaid Cymru's National Care Service policy which looks to create a national care service that is free at the point of access.

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

This is one of the most significant issues facing us as a community. So many people have expressed to me their concern about the cost-of-living crisis, and it will be such a challenging landscape to navigate for many of our residents. Plaid Cymru has recognised this locally and has tried to reduce the Council Tax increase, voting against the 4% increase supported by the Lib Dems, Tories and Labour alike, and most independent councillors. I am committed to rolling out Plaid Cymru's universal free school meals programme to include secondary schools, which will ease some pressure on parents and ensure every child has a meal in school. Also, Plaid's proposal for free childcare being extended to include under 2's as I know first-hand how financially straining it is to afford childcare in the current climate. Within the ward, I will work with residents to ensure they access as much support as possible and do my utmost to carry forward any practical solutions that the Council can develop, supporting our community during these challenging times.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

Thanks to Plaid Cymru's influence nationally, we have guaranteed that every primary school child receives a meal in school from September. As already mentioned, extending this to include secondary school pupils would further support parents and ensure there are fewer barriers for children accessing education. We can also work with schools to ensure policies on uniforms, extra-curricular activities, and events don't create additional financial pressure, ensuring all children can fully participate in education. Once again, I feel we need to listen to our community here. Students, parents and teachers have first-hand knowledge and experience that will be invaluable when looking to improve our education system locally. We need a council that is willing to engage with residents and public sector workers to develop more cohesive and functioning strategies that support the people of Wrexham.

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 will be a member of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales. Our candidates standing across Wrexham are a diverse, experienced team offering a refreshing, much-needed change. I am honoured to stand beside them.

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 are our future, and they must have a say in running the Council. We have two of the youngest candidates in the elections within the Plaid Cymru team, at ages 18 and 19. They have been a valuable voice within our group, and I hope to see them elected so that they can be a strong voice for the youth of Wrexham. I have engaged with social media to encourage registration to vote, and I have spoken with some first time voters within Offa ward, and it is fantastic to know they will have a say in this election. The current administration has increasingly let young people down, and we must rectify this. We need to invest in youth centres and services, develop more spaces for younger people to enjoy leisure time, and ensure opportunities for their future.

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