Statement from Ben Connor

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

Hi, I’m Ben and I am the Welsh Labour candidate for New Broughton Ward.

I grew up in Wrexham and have lived here for most of my life. My mum has worked as a nurse at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and my dad worked for many years on the industrial estate. I went through the local education system and studied my A Levels at Yale College (now Coleg Cambria) before leaving for university and settling back in the area a few years later. I feel deeply connected to the town and the wider local area, I want what is best for New Broughton and what is best for Wrexham.

I currently teach History and Politics A Levels at a Further Education college. My role as a teacher gives me the privilege of working alongside enthusiastic young people, passionate professionals, members of the wider local community and national political figures. As the course leader of Politics A Level and a senior History teacher at the college I need to be organised, creative, caring and compassionate. I am a firm believer in taking action and getting things done. In 2019, I became a Parliament Teacher Ambassador, this role allows me to enhance the experience that young people have with politics and democracy by organising college-wide votes, Parliament Week events and debates involving my own students and those from local secondary schools.

It has been a fantastic experience meeting residents of New Broughton and hearing your views and concerns. I am standing to be your councillor on 5th May because I believe in people having their voice heard and taken seriously when major decisions are being made. If elected, I will act with honesty, integrity and openness and strive to help build the community that we deserve.

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)Cost of living crisis – The cost of living crisis is a huge concern both nationally and locally. The council must carefully manage investment from the Welsh Government to ensure that people are fully supported. This means working hard to ensure that residents of New Broughton who are hardest hit by the cost of living crisis have access to support and services when they need them.2)Local provisions – One of the biggest issues I have encountered when speaking to residents is the lack of local provisions such as shops and health services. With the expanding number of residents and proposed new homes it is vital that the community has access to services and goods.3)Community spirit – Another big issue with residents is the lack of community. A growing local population, lack of youth facilities and activities, and anti-social behaviour are all issues that need to be tackled. These issues will be addressed by Welsh Labour’s youth and play provision, and a coordinated effort between the council, the community and local police and PCSOs.

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 ?

The council will have a fundamental role in recovering from the effects of the pandemic. The pledges in the Welsh Labour manifesto seek to provide affordable green housing, to provide greater opportunities for young people, to create a more streamlined and connected transport system and to deliver an economic growth strategy aimed at creating a resilient and inclusive local economy. Wrexham needs a clear post-pandemic recovery plan that is centred around compassion, opportunity and forward-thinking action. As a councillor, I would always listen and respond to the views and concerns of residents of my ward and always act with transparency and openness when involved in decision-making.

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?

If elected I will be part of the Labour Group which implements a rigorous democratic process of electing Chairs, Lead Members and Group Officers. This process is all about finding the right person to fit the right role on the council. As an educator and course leader I am deeply passionate about improving the provision of education across all age ranges and encouraging younger people to become more involved in the democratic process.

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

In 2019, the Welsh Labour Government was the first country in the world to officially declare a climate emergency. Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths MS said at the time that “We hope that the declaration by Welsh Government today can help to trigger a wave of action at home and internationally. From our own communities, business and organisations to parliaments and governments around the world.”I wholeheartedly support this declaration and feel that the climate emergency is affecting us globally, nationally and locally. Calls for change and anger at inaction have grown in recent years and I believe that saving our planet must start locally and be community driven. Localised flooding in the ward last year has shown that the impact of the climate emergency and environmental mismanagement can impact us at home and in our community, this can be avoided in the future with careful planning and management. We also need to nurture and protect green spaces such as Moss Valley, not just for ourselves, but for future generations to enjoy. Any further developments in the ward and the county must be done sustainably, keeping in mind the needs of residents, wildlife and the natural environment.

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, openness, transparency and accountability are paramount for any elected representative. Any administration must respond to the needs of those that it represents, and this council has failed to invigorate the local economy or consistently deliver the high-level provision of education and social care that people work hard for and expect. Our manifesto pledges seek to create a stronger bond between elected representatives and those who we represent, to develop a social and home care service that fits the needs to the community and to ensure that our education system provides for all through a better supported and connected local education system.

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

Our NHS is our single greatest national asset. The provision of free at the point of use health care is a treasure that must be protected and carefully managed in the post-pandemic world. My mum has been a nurse all of her professional career so this issue resonates particularly deeply with me. Speaking to residents, not being able to see GPs and a concern about local health care is a priority. The strains on local health care have been made worse by the ravaging impact of the pandemic and the UK-wide issue with GPs, but locally we need to do more. A Labour led council will seek to work alongside the Health Board on a local level to create Community Health Hubs with the aim of alleviating pressure on hospital provision and re-establishing the focus of health care in the community. Nobody should go without health care, be that seeing a GP or dentist, family services, mental health or social care. For me, a community that cares for and protects its most vulnerable is a truly strong community.

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 has been at the heart of many conversations I have had with residents over the last few weeks. With rising prices of heating and electric, food and fuel there is a large amount of concern. One of the main reasons I am running to be a councillor is to make decisions in order to help people overcome the rising burdens of this crisis. Locally, we must put to good use every available penny of Welsh Government financial support to ease the burden of local people and families. This includes access to support services when they are needed. My priority as a Welsh Labour candidate is to work to limit the crippling impact of this crisis by making decisions at council level which will help people now.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

As a teacher, I place enormous value in education. Education sets people up for a happy and fulfilling life through the provision of opportunity. Wrexham has enormous potential to become an education hub, with a well-connected system of education from early years to tertiary level education at Glyndwr University. Locally, it is vital that all children have the chance to learn at a well provisioned and accessible school. As a councillor, I will fight to ensure that there are enough places for all local children, work alongside local schools to encourage provision of breakfast clubs and transport to school. It is important that we get this right, our children are out future.

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?

If elected, I would proudly be part of the Labour Group. The Welsh Labour Party is fielding 30 candidates across the 56 seats available, making Welsh Labour the only party that can form a majority on the council and fulfil its pledges to the electorate. Wrexham Council is currently led by independents and conservatives, therefore a vote for Welsh Labour is a vote for change.Fundamentally, the makeup of the council is decided by voters is New Broughton and across the county. It is the responsibility of the council, whatever makeup after 5th May, to work together for the good of 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 ?

Working with politically minded 16 and 17 year olds on a daily basis, I am delighted that the right to vote has been extended to allow them to have their say on the issues that matter to them. From my experience and discussions with younger voters, the issues weighing most heavily on their minds are concerns about education, training and employment opportunities as well as the climate emergency. Welsh Labour’s pledges to support and improve local schools, colleges and Glyndwr University, our economic growth strategy that will seek to bring well-paid jobs to the area, and our target to become the greenest county, aim to tackle these concerns.

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