Statement from Rob Walsh

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

My name is Rob Walsh and I have been councillor for Llay for almost 7 years now. Previously I was a lecturer at Yale College/Coleg Cambria. I am also a governor at Llay Park CP School and Chair of Governors at Darland High School. I am a former pupil at both. I have also had the great honour of being Mayor of Wrexham between 2019-2021.
What drives me to be a successful elected representative is my desire to help my residents to the maximum. Both at an individual level and at a community level. As a councillor you are approached to help with a variety of issues. It is not always possible to resolve every issue, but I will always try.
My priority is to let residents know that I am one of them and am always on their side. In a world where public opinion tends to be very anti-politician/political figures, residents take great comfort knowing that there are local people within their community fighting their corner.
Being councillor for Llay has also taught me a lot about myself. I do believe the responsibilities of the role and learning from the experiences that many of my residents have had to endure has made me a better person. Going forward I am prepared to keep learning and to keep trying to give residents the confidence that they are being represented to the maximum.

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) Biggest Issue is primary healthcare provision. Whilst Llay is blessed with a wonderful surgery and first class staff at its local practice, it is under increasing pressure due to local demand. By 2024 Llay will have over 400 new dwellings compared with 2019 and no extra provision was provided for primary healthcare. Hopefully with the worst of the pandemic now over, we can kick on and lobby hard for extra provision from the health board and Welsh Government as it is desperately needed. 2) State of the roads. This is not solely an issue for Llay but many of our lesser roads are badly in need of resurfacing. Whilst I accept it is going to take many years to see all of all our roads resurfaced, it is important that there is a clear plan as to how long it might take. Also, there needs to be much more flexibility in terms of how we approach road surface treatment. For example, I have a street in Llay that is covered in shallow potholes making it very uncomfortable to drive over, but not deep enough to warrant treatment. This must change otherwise the council will lose public confidence as road maintenance is often seen as one of the main reasons residents pay council tax. 3) Housing Allocations. As a councillor I regularly get approached by residents asking me for help to secure council properties for them in Llay. This is not possible as councillors have a very restricted input into housing allocations as decisions are now made by the council`s central housing allocation team who follow very strict guidelines. My biggest frustration is that often Llay people are forced out of the village to take properties elsewhere in Wrexham, which subsequently ruins any chance they have of ever moving back. Llay is a very close community where many residents have known each other for years creating lifetime bonds. Whilst a tenant maybe adequately housed on the other side of Wrexham, opportunities should still be there to allow them to move back to their home community. After all, such an initiative would still leave a housing vacancy for someone else who desperately needs to be housed. As a county councillor, I do not have the power to make these changes on my own, but I will work with many people as possible to get the best outcomes for all 3 issues. Working together is the best way forward.

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 ?

We need to encourage back into town and back into our communities. Our local businesses need the public back so every effort must be made to win hearts and minds, as it is so easy to fall out of the habits we used to take for granted. I used to spend lots of time in Wrexham on the days I was at the Guildhall. However, I have hardly set foot in the Guildhall over the past 2 years and this has subsequently lead to me spending less time in Wrexham itself. If re-elected I desperately want to return to the Guildhall for in-person meetings.

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 have been fortunate enough to be Mayor and to have been Chair of 2 Scrutiny Committees in my time as an elected member. Also, I have sat on every committee bar two. Ultimately, I am a member of the council to represent the people of Llay, but I am willing to rise to any challenge that comes my way and will accept any role within the council if I believe I can make a positive difference.

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

They mean protecting our environment and reducing waste that harms our environment. That`s why I am firmly believe in protecting the open green spaces in my ward so they are not developed. Whilst I am pleased with the council`s recycling record, it must make sure that no residential collections are missed and recycling is continued to be encouraged. There have been a few times when residents have had recycling collections missed and if this happens too often it creates disillusion and only manages to encourage the disposal of recyclable items via the general waste.

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?)

Only issue that I have been at loggerheads with the administration over has been car parking charges in country parks. I can understand why such a decision was made as the alternative would have meant further cuts to the environment budget (which has already been badly hit over many years) or even higher council tax. I do not have the local knowledge to state whether the charges have been a success or not at Ty Mawr or Nant Mill but on the Llay side of Alyn Waters they have had a negative knock-on effect on the Llay community. Charges have encouraged parking down the village side streets creating new problems. One road has had to have double yellow lines to stop dangerous parking occurring. It has also encouraged at times parking at Llay cemetery across the road from the park which is there for bereaved families & friends. What has upset Llay residents the most is that when McAlpines sold this land to Wrexham Maelor Borough Council in 1988 for the sum of £1, it was quoted by McAlpines that this was a gift to the community of Llay in response to years of quarrying. To be told 30 years later that you must now pay to park on this land has damaged local confidence.

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

I touched on this in my first answer. Quite simply, any approved housing developments in Wrexham must be subject to the healthcare provision version of a Section 106. No major development must ever be allowed until it can clearly demonstrate that the local health infrastructure can cope. Whilst the way we seek medical advice may have to change going forward there must be public confidence that new housing developments won`t make what is a bad situation even worse.

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

There is no easy answer to this other than to lobby our national governments for more funding to help struggling residents. I welcome the decision by the Welsh government to give £150 council tax rebates to those in housing bands A-D. Some will point to reducing council tax rates going forward but this does not necessarily resolve the problems. Whilst lower council tax bills result in more money in residents` pockets, it could also have a negative effect on the services that the council provides, many of which are primarily there to help the poorest in our communities.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

In Wrexham we have excellent primary schools. Of course some have more challenges than others but as a primary school governor and having visited many others around Wrexham in my capacity as Mayor and also as a former Chair of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee, the vibrancy is clear to all. Excellent practices are also demonstrated in our secondary schools. As Chair of Governors at a local secondary school and a keen observer of others, we really do have first class staff in Wrexham. Historically, our secondary schools have underachieved due to a culture lacking aspiration from some segments of our pupils. In a nutshell, the secondary system is tailor made for those pupils who are academically-inclined and perhaps have not faced the social challenges in their lives that some others may have. As a result, some pupils particularly those who are not naturally academic or may have faced personal challenges in their young lives feel as those they do not belong in school and subsequently stop trying. This is a real shame as all human beings have worth all add value to wider society. Whatever your background, whatever your abilities, whatever your interests, all pupils must be made to feel valued when they come to school. This is easier said when than done especially when staff are already under enormous pressure to deliver high attainment outcomes, particularly at KS4. Hopefully the new Curriculum for Wales that is being rolled out will address many of these issues, especially as the pandemic has done an incredible amount of damage to the education of our children. Again some more than others. I just hope the days of being kept off school due to Covid are coming to an end and if the worst does happen in future that plans are put in place to avoid pupils being kept off school for weeks on end.

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?

One thing I have learned being a councillor is that the best way to achieve positive outcomes for your residents and wider Wrexham is to work together. For me the most important group of all is the council itself that has 56 members. In an ideal world there would be no groups and all 56 of us would work together to make our communities better places. However, I strongly suspect we will see political groups in the next council. For the past year, I have been a member of the Independent group and if I am re-elected and they are willing to have me back then that`s where I am likely to be.

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 ?

I don`t target my residents based on age. I treat all equally and with respect. In my role, it is fair to say I am contacted by older residents for help more so than those in their teens. However, I am always keen to engage and listen to the younger members of the community. Many of our 16 & 17 year olds will have seen me tagged on social media posts so they know who I am. In fact it can be the source of much comic banter, as when they see me about in Llay they may shout out me, “Rob Walsh, there`s a cat on my garage roof, what are you going to do about it???” It`s all good fun, but I do hope they realise that if they do have genuine issues they need assistance with, I am there to help. I think the biggest issue for those of that age is finding somewhere safe & secure where they can hang out.

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