Statement from Tim Sly

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

I’m Tim and I live in Tallarn Green with my wife Barbara. We moved to this area three years ago because we love it so much and we expect to stay here for the rest of our lives.

I grew up in a small rural community in the south of England before going on to study Chemistry at Swansea University. After a short career as a researcher, I worked in industry for thirteen years before founding the green technology company which I still run today.

In 2002, I was elected as a Borough Councillor, representing the community where I lived, campaigning against a Council plan to close a popular local leisure centre and sell the land for housing. As a councillor, I served on the planning and audit committees, as well as scrutiny boards covering environment, education and transport. I like to think that I got a reputation for working across party lines, to get things done for the benefit of the local community.

I have been a school governor (and chair of governors) of two primary schools and I still retain a keen interest in education.

When I’m not working, I love to go cycling and walking in the Maelor and the surrounding areas. I enjoy music and I’m interested in military history and the history of technology. I speak some Welsh (I’m improving slowly) as well as French and German.

I’m standing for election this May because I want to see improved services from our Council, and remind them that there’s more to Wrexham County than just the urban areas!

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?

Protecting our schools, and doing whatever is necessary to make these sustainable in future (see my longer answer below). Making sure that Wrexham gets a Local Development Plan in place as soon as possible. Every local authority has to produce a local plan showing which areas will be developed for housing, where new schools, retail or leisure facilites will be placed, and which areas are to be protected. For the last ten years, Wrexham has been without a local plan, and this has made it easy for developers to build housing estates, poultry farms and industrial units in very unsuitable places, often against the wishes of local residents. An approved Local Development Plan will stop this. It will also facilitate the building of affordable homes in suitable locations, to allow young people to get a decent home of their own. Last, but by no means least, we need to look at providing better flood protection for areas such as Bangor and Worthenbury (see my longer answer below). Oh, and fixing all those potholes too!

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 needs more jobs, more inward investment and to become somewhere with a bit of a buzz around it. The bid for UK Capital of Culture, and the buyout of Wrexham FC by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have both helped to raise the profile of the town, but there’s a lot more to be done to put Wrexham on the map. I’m very much in favour of the bid for city status as I feel we need to have an ambition for the whole area, but it’s important that the Council remembers that much of Wrexham is rural and we need to see a much bigger share of Council resources supporting rural businesses and jobs. Anyone walking round the town centre will see the empty shops, we have to attract small local traders back into the town and the Council can help here by offering concessions on business rates. We have to face the fact that many of the empty shops may never re-open as traditional retail spaces, so we have to re-imagine the town centre as somewhere more than just a place to shop. Again, the council has a clear role here and I recognise the work that’s being done to regenerate the centre of the town. I have experience of planning and could contribute to this.

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 served as a borough councillor for six years when I lived in another local authority area and I was a school governor for over twenty years. I was a member of the planning committee and feel that I could contribute a lot in that role, or in a role related to education. As a business leader, I have good financial and management skills, so a role related to business or energy efficiency, audit, financial planning or scrutiny would also allow me to use my abilities in this area.

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

Flooding, flooding and more flooding! Large parts of the ward lie close to the River Dee, Worthenbury Brook and other tributaries and these areas get flooded every winter, along with the main A525. We urgently need better flood protection for local homes and businesses, however this is only part of the answer. Ultimately the best way to minimise flood risks is to slow down the flow of storm water so that it is released more slowly into our rivers, at a rate they can cope with. This needs long-term action from the Welsh Government to encourage the planting of more trees and other vegetation on hills and mountain areas upstream, to trap the water on the hillsides for longer and release it into the rivers more slowly.

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?)

I think the failure by the Council to approve the £50m ‘Eco Greenhouse’ project in 2020 was an avoidable mistake and a missed opportunity. If it had gone ahead, this proposal would have created over 100 high quality jobs for local people, whilst growing almost half of Wales’ consumption of tomatoes in a carbon-neutral and sustainable manner using waste gas and heat from the Five Fords water treatment plant. Sadly, it was rejected without even going in front of the planning committee.

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

The reality is these issues are primarily the responsibility of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board and the ambulance trust. However, local Councillors can lobby these organisations to up their game and provide better services here in Wrexham. One issue that the Council can help with is the delays caused by the inability of social services to provide suitable care packages for patients who are well enough to leave hospital but are not able to look after themselves in their own homes. This will need more investment in the provision of social care, as well as ensuring that care workers (whether employed directly by the Council or via private contractors) are paid a fair salary and have a manageable workload, to reduce the numbers of skilled people leaving the caring professions because of poor pay and overwork. I acknowledge that Wrexham Council has taken steps to improve the conditions of the care staff it employs directly, but there is still much to do in this area.

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

Our ward is rural, with very poor public transport connections. Many local residents have to travel significant distances to work and this usually means travelling by car. As fuel costs have shot up, many people are finding it hard to afford the costs of getting to work. I’d like to see a ride sharing site set up, so that someone travelling (say) from Bangor to Whitchurch could advertise for a lift at certain times and match with someone else travelling the same route at a similar time. This would allow the petrol costs to be shared among two or more travellers while also cutting pollution.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

My number one priority in this area is to protect small rural schools from closure. During the last Senedd, former education minister Kirsty Williams (a Liberal Democrat) got the Welsh Government to approve a policy of protecting and maintaining small primary schools in rural areas wherever possible, backed up with a sizeable budget to cover the extra costs that this entailed. Recently, the Labour government in Cardiff announced that they were scrapping this policy and putting the money back into the general education budget. As local councils come under increased financial pressure, there will be a strong temptation to close smaller schools because of the higher costs per pupil that these require to keep going. Schools are focal points for our village communities and we let them close at our peril!

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’m standing as a Welsh Liberal Democrat and if I’m elected I will be part of the Lib Dem group on Wrexham Council.

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 have suffered greatly during lockdown, and with the disruption to their education many are understandably stressed about their futures. There is a big issue of mental health amongst young people and I believe we need to see much earlier access to treatment, especially in emergencies, in exactly the same way that someone who’d suffered a physical injury would expect to get rapid treatment at A&E. I will do whatever I can to ensure that local young people have access to high quality education, and good quality jobs in the local area. As I’ve been going around the ward, I’ve tried to speak to these new electors encouraging them to get out and vote, whichever party they support. Voting is a habit for life that starts when you’re young! Many young (and not so young) people don’t bother to vote, especially in local elections, as they feel their vote counts for nothing. I want to show that their votes do matter and that they can directly influence things in the area they live in.

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