Statement from Colin Powell

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

I have lived in Gwersyllt for over 25 years, in areas such as Saxon Park, Pandy and for the last fifteen year on the Park Wall estate. I am married to Donna, who works for a women’s aid organisation, with five children and five grandchildren. I am a qualified social worker with an additional Honours Degree in Criminal Justice.
My working career has been mainly focused on developing community based services for children, young people and families. I enjoy working with children, young people and communities to develop and deliver services that they both want and need and which have gone on to win national and international recognition as centres of excellence. This process is fundamentally about listening to, supporting and empowering people to develop local services that they want rather than something that someone externally decides is maybe a good idea.
I previously spent nine years as a Wrexham Labour county councillor, representing the area that I worked in, bringing about significant improvements which helped many but this helped me to recognise that opportunities were being missed within the area that I live and within which my children are establishing families of their own. With more time now available this is the ideal opportunity to use my skills and experience to make the much needed improvements within Gwersyllt South. Crucially, the people I represent will identify the issues that matter the most to them and it is from this starting point that progress is made within the area. My role will be to engage, to listen and to represent to make improvements within the area and across Wrexham.

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. Gwersyllt South is a new ward within Wrexham having been separated from the old Gwersyllt and Bradley ward by the Boundary Commission. Unfortunately, due to the lack of completion of a Local Development Plan (LDP) by the current administration, made up of the so called independent and Conservative councillors, the ward is primed for speculative housing development on top of the new estate currently being started at the top of Rhosrobin. This could lead to the ward doubling in size over the coming term of this new administration, with resulting impacts upon all essential services and increased traffic problems. One of the main priorities within the Labour group manifesto for Wrexham is to ensure that the LDP is completed, ending speculative housing developments and giving a well thought out strategic housing development vision for Wrexham going forward. 2. By far the biggest issue at the moment is the cost-of-living crisis which is affecting everyone. Throughout my working and political life, I have been actively involved in developing services and provision that meets local needs delivered within the areas that it’s needed most. An example of this is the Caia advice service which is delivered at community centres and local agencies so that it is easily accessed and has realised many millions of pounds during its operation. There is no reason why this kind of service couldn’t be developed in Gwersyllt or in fact across Wrexham because it brings real tangible benefits for those that need it most. Significantly large sums of money are unclaimed within the benefits system because people in need are unaware of their rights or find it difficult to navigate often complicated processes.3. Anti-social behaviour is a blight across Wrexham and causes real harm and distress wherever it occurs, Gwersyllt South is no different. As a person who has developed youth and play services throughout my working life, I firmly believe that you ignore the needs, rights and aspirations of young people at your peril. When children and young people are valued as members of the communities within which they live they become much more engaged in positive action. The flip side is that issues within the community arise when you remove youth and play services and the only form of engagement remaining is via punitive measures. Gwersyllt South has very little provision in the way of youth and play services and this needs to change for the benefit of all.

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 pandemic has impacted many people in relation to their mental health: it has led to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness and has been particularly traumatic for those that lost friends and family. In order to move forward we need to ensure that the right kind of service is available for those that need it. Wrexham’s need for a plan for economic recovery was evident pre-pandemic and has only got worse during it. We need a bold economic development plan for the whole of the town which will bring a broad range of well-paid jobs, a revitalised town centre ensuring that any economic prosperity remains within the town. The recovery plan will ensure that business leaders recognise our positive aspirations, therefore, they will have confidence going forward ensuring that future employment opportunities for our young people are secured. Only Wrexham Labour can deliver this plan for Wrexham.

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 previously been a Wrexham councillor, utilising my professional qualifications in social work and criminal justice and served on various scrutiny committees. Therefore, I have developed a wealth of experience of the many departments which deliver services in Wrexham. Externally I was Wrexham’s representative on the Police and Crime Panel scrutinising the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales. During this time, I actively campaigned for increased police numbers within Wrexham, to put the area on an equal footing with other parts of North Wales. As a result of my campaign, an additional 17 police officers were at the disposal of the Wrexham town inspector. I fully support Wrexham Labour Group’s democratic processes which ensures that all Labour councillors are placed where their skills and interests are best utilised for the benefit of Wrexham. I trust in this system which identifies the right person for the role.

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

The term climate emergency was used for the first time in Wales by Labour’s Lesley Griffiths MS within Welsh Government in 2019. In this declaration Lesley stated “Tackling climate change is not an issue which can be left to individuals or to the free market. It requires collective action and the government has a central role to making that collective action possible.” Wrexham council has a key role to play in responding to this emergency by leading the way in carbon reduction, increasing accessibility to a fit for purpose public transport system and engaging the public and businesses in ways in which we all can do our bit.

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?)

During the term of this last administration, we witnessed children’s services and a number of schools going into special measures or being classified as sub-standard by regulatory bodies. We know that there are first class schools in Wrexham offering excellent opportunities to the children and young people who attend. Sharing good practice is important and the local authority has a responsibility to work across Wrexham schools to ensure that all children are offered the same high standards of education. Of course, our schools need to be well funded and well resourced. Similarly, children’s services going into special measures is a terrible indictment of the previous administration. Quite frankly, it is not good enough and our most vulnerable members of society deserve so much better. An area of significance within the gradual decline in Wrexham’s town centre and general prosperity is the demise of the economic development department which was crucial in developing new business opportunities and securing inward investment. This expertise is vital going forward. Included within the concerns identified above is the willingness to be open and transparent about areas of concern because ultimately, they affect us all.

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

Wrexham Council does have a role to play in relation to health services at primary care level. Within our current system, many GPs are business holders and, therefore, responsible for not only being a GP but also running a surgery and all that this entails. When these doctors retire, often their practice closes. Younger doctors leaving medical school saddled with student debt are not in a position to invest in the current general practice business model so there is a need for a new form of provision. The models that have proved successful are called community health hubs and involve the engagement of salaried GPs and advanced nurse practitioners providing a range of community- based services. This development involves a partnership approach between the council and the health board and has been proven to alleviate pressures on the local hospitals and the ambulance service.

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 will affect many people in Gwersyllt South and across Wrexham. With rising energy costs, national insurance contributions and ongoing inflationary rises, lots of people are going to start feeling the pinch. As previously stated, I have been instrumental in developing localised advice services, ensuring that those people who are eligible are able to maximise their incomes. The council’s welfare rights service and the CAB are absolutely vital services and these need to be given the support and finances to target certain members of our society where local take up of support is particularly poor. It is crucial that Wrexham council accesses every penny of support available from external sources, e.g., Welsh Government. These measures are introduced to ease the financial burden on Wrexham residents

8. How would you improve the local education system?

As mentioned above I think it is of huge concern that we have any schools in Wrexham which are identified as being of concern. We are failing so many children and young people at the start of their educational journey. We have excellent schools in Wrexham and they really must be celebrated but, more importantly, emulated so that every child gets the best possible start. The role of the local authority in this improvement journey is absolutely crucial to ensure that there is a partnership approach benefitting schools, senior leadership teams, teachers, support staff and perhaps more importantly children, young people and their parents.

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 am standing as a member of the Labour Party and as such we are the only party that is fielding enough candidates, which if all are elected, would be enough to have a majority within the council. The ability to run a majority one-party council though rests with the electorate and this then paves the way going forward because we are the only party that has a locally developed manifesto rather than a Westminster or Cardiff one designed by the national party. Independents don’t have a plan, and the lack of strategic development is evident to all. The Labour Group’s determination will be to serve the people of Wrexham in the best way possible securing its economic, social, physical and environmental future.

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 ?

Throughout my working career I have engaged with children and young people in order that they are able to access all of the rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. From this work I have enabled and supported young people to become active contributors to Children in Wales conferences and participation events. Young people are the future and unless they are engaged and consulted in a meaningful way they do not feel as if they are valued within the communities where they live. One of the biggest issues facing young people is the decimation of youth services. Due to a lack of funding and value placed upon such services it is no surprise that young people feel disengaged from community life. Getting the right to vote hopefully means that they are going to be in a position to argue for the services and provision that best suit their needs.

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