Statement from Michael Morris

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

Hello I am Michael Morris and have, for a number of years, had the privilege of being the County Councillor for the Holt Ward. I decided to stand for re-election and was the only candidate nominated. This means I have been elected unopposed and so there will not be polling in the Ward on May 5th.

I have lived in the Ward, at Isycoed, all of my life. My mother originated from Holt and there are still family members living there. With the exception of five years working in private industry, I have worked mainly in local government finance and administration. I now have a flexible part time post which allows me to attend Council meetings as necessary.

The Ward is one of the largest in terms of geographical spread and population within the County. It extends from the boundary of Rossett to rural Borras, the whole of the Wrexham Industrial Estate, Isycoed and Abenbury including the Llwyn Onn Estate. Recently, the Boundaries Commission removed Abenbury Fields from the Ward. This is quite a large estate on the edge of Abenbury and Caia Park running down to Kings Mill. The reason for this was because the electorate in the ward was one of the largest in the County and so it is an attempt to make the representation more equitable.

I have always felt it is important to represent the three communities of Holt, Abenbury and Isycoed equally. Each has their own unique features and issues. I have always attended Abenbury and Holt Community Council monthly meetings and have been a member of Isycoed Community Council since the late 1970’s. My attendance rate, as with County Borough meetings, is very high.

I stand as a Conservative Councillor because that is the way I vote at a general election. I am conscious that at local level, National politics should not hamper good local decisions and as such I vote for what I feel is best locally. I have chaired the Planning Committee since 1999 under different political administrations. I strongly believe that as a local councillor it is not appropriate to overly promote political views which may discourage some ward constituents from making contact.

I am a trustee of Holt Endowed School Foundation and the William & John Jones Trust.

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?

Often at ward level it is the general things that are important and affect daily lives. In Holt, speeding and dog fouling is often cited as a big problem and the provision of smaller bungalows so that older members of the community can remain in the village but down size to a property of a more manageable size. Common to the ward as a whole is indiscriminate littering and fly tipping. The industrial estate suffers from this, particularly around Pentre Maelor with HGV drivers parking up over night and irresponsibly disposing of their rubbish. On the industrial estate we are seeing increasing problems with inconsiderate parking usually when businesses have outgrown their premises and resort to parking on roads and pavements often dangerously. Common to all three villages is the condition of the roads Abenbury and Isycoed sometimes suffer from industrial planning decisions impacting on the community in terms of noise and visual amenity. I have accompanied the Police on speed monitoring and work with the PCSOs to look at this as well as illegal obstructive parking on pavements and junctions. We are seeing some encouraging progress to establish a HGV lorry park with facilities on the Industrial Estate. This infrastructure is vital to improve what is the largest estate in Europe. Enforcement is an issue in terms of parking, fly tipping/litter and dog fouling. There is a limited staff base but more needs to be done.

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 ?

In common with the rest of the world, we all face the challenge of recovery from the pandemic. It will be a gradual process but there is a comprehensive structure to support those residents and businesses affected. We have some signs of recovery with the Wrexham Gateway project aimed at strengthening regeneration and employment as well as the City of Culture bid and town centre investment. Unfortunately, the global challenges of energy costs and cost of living may impact on progress. I am a member of the Employment, Business and Investment scrutiny committee and so have the opportunity to monitor things more closely.

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?

As longstanding Chair of the Planning Committee, this is an area where I have experience and a sound knowledge of local and national policies and procedures as well as involvement in the preparation of the Local Development Plan. Unfortunately, it is often a difficult role as objector expectations far exceed what is allowable under the Planning legislation or national framework policies. This is a misconception that applications can just be refused if not popular but this is not the case. Reasons for refusal have to be clearly given and form the basis of any consideration in the event of an appeal.

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

No-one can tackle climate change in isolation – its needs a concerted effort from all and a will to succeed. Wrexham Council are working hard on their responsibilities and all Members see this as a high priority. Locally, Holt has a strong community base who have promoted village walks and trails. There is a very active Gardeners Group who have allotments within the village powered by renewable energy, undertake projects to improve the environment and lead by example having been successful in obtaining awards and grant funding. With the assistance of the Living Landscape Projects we have seen enhanced planting and strengthening of the woodland copses and open spaces. I am a member of its Steering Group. There are also electric vehicle charging points publicly available in the village car park. Within Wales, Wrexham recycling rates are favourable and better than most areas. Abenbury Community Council and myself are currently in discussion with Wrexham CBC to convert the former community centre site into a community garden.

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?)

As a member of the ruling administration, I feel, given the circumstances and challenged faced, it has done the best it could. With hindsight there are always things that could have been done differently. Any administration has to make decisions and can never please everyone. There is a much stronger call for greater consultation on certain matters and perhaps that could be improved. However, at some point the elected body have to come to a decision and that will please some and disappoint others.

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

Welsh Government and the Health Board are the two main influencing factors in terms of primary care. The Council can try and influence by scrutinising, lobbying and highlighting issues. I get increasing frustrated when we have significant planning applications for housing when clearly Members and the public highlight pressures on surgeries and hospitals only to find the Health Board fail to respond or if they do they seem unable to quantify and effects or make tangible suggestions which would allow us to attach a monetary requirement via a planning obligation. Only too often we see at planning appeal stages, the Inspectors dismissing reason for refusal on health grounds due to a lack of supporting evidence from the Health Board. However, latterly, dialogue with the Council, Health Board and Ambulance Trust seems to be improving.

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 is impacting on everyone – residents, businesses and Councils. It is a National and International problem. At local level, we should be more closely scrutinising what we spend, have regular asset reviews and make disposals if redundant to the Council. As a Member, I will signpost residents to specialist advice. In this year’s budget the funding to Citizens Advice was increased to cushion the anticipated increase in demand for their services.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

Improving schools is a priority in Wrexham Council. The regulatory body GWe who oversee improvement are in regular dialogue with schools and LEA. I would hope to contribute to ensuring pupils have the best opportunities by providing fit for purpose accommodation which is conducive to good learning and supporting the highest level of funding our budgets will allow. We are fortunate within the Ward to have good schools in Holt and Isycoed with dedicated staff and committed Governing Bodies. In recent years Governing Bodies have been greater autonomy and with it greater responsibility.

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 have always stood as a Conservative candidate and have never hidden behind the Independent label. That said, I do not follow party policies slavishly and vote for what I feel is in the best interests 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 ?

The 16 and 17 year olds are the foundation of democracy going forward. Engagement and maintaining interest is an issue. I think they should be encouraged to participate in a fair and balance way without over politicising the process. Unfortunately there are few premises based youth clubs operating which could facilitate forums or discussions. There is, of course the Youth Parliament which I would like to see strengthened now that Covid 19 is reducing. Schools could perhaps put greater emphasis on citizenship and similarly parents have a responsibility.

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