Statement from David A Bithell

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

I have lived in Wrexham all my life and I am a lifelong Wrexham supporter. I have worked in the Railway Industry for 40 Years and I am currently a Railway Signaller based in Wrexham. I am a member of a trade union (Rail Maritime and Transport Workers Union) and I am actively involved in the workplace on the Wales Route and Nationally both as a lead representative and former Branch Secretary. Since being elected as a councillor I have served as Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Lead Member for Children’s and Young People Services and was Deputy Leader of the Council in 2011/2012. I am Leader of Wrexham Independent Group and I have represented the council on the Mersey Dee Alliance, Transport Advisory Group and member of the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency. I am also a member of the WLGA waste ministerial working group working to increase our recycling targets and future direction of waste and proud that we have maintained approx 70% levels I have also chaired the all Wales APSE group on Climate change and Climate Champion for Wrexham Council. I am Chair of the school governors at Ysgol Y Hafod, Johnstown.

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?

One of the biggest issues in Johnstown and the surrounding areas is the demand for social housing. The current housing waiting list is over 80 and there is not enough council homes being built to meet the demand. I have worked to secure 6 new properties in Heol Offa and these are currently awaiting construction. I also feel since the housing allocations we made central elected members don’t have much involvement to support our constituents. I would like to see a review of the allocations policy and would support the function returned to the local estate management function so that effective representation can be made. Parking and speeding are live issues and create many problems for local people, I have supported many off road parking schemes for tenants and would like to see more off road parking together with better active travel links supporting more walking and cycling. I regularly liaise with the police and discuss speeding hot spots and general crime and have good working relationships. Work to build the new school has started in Bangor Road which is part of the 21st century schools programme much work is required to be carried out with local residents within the community during the next 12 months to address local parking concerns and I continue to work to ensure disruption to local people is low. This is a major project for the community and as local councillor and Chair I would like to see the work completed so that Johnstown has a community school its proud of.

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 changed people’s lives and views and as we start to re build and recover there are a number of areas which need to be addressed. Shortage of available workforce is already impacting local services and businesses including rates of pay for workforces. We need to create new jobs and apprentices and attract inward investment from major companies together with better public transport links, i.e. road and rail to support economic growth and build a strong economy. The Gateway project is a very good start to creating and supporting Wrexham into a vibrant place to work, visit and live and the future does looks very promising. You can see how well Wrexham FC have done to create the feel good factor back into 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 am currently Deputy Leader of Wrexham Council and have served as Lead Member for Environment and Transport for the last 5 years. I have represented the Council at the WLGA, ministerial meetings, current regional Chair of the Economic Ambition board and Chair of APSE all Wales Climate group. I meet on a regular basis with MS/MPs and ministers and I feel I have experience to meet the challenges going forward. The next two-three years will be extremely difficult as we start to emerge and recover from the pandemic and we will need elected councillors with the right balance of skills and experience to meet the many challenges we face. The roles of chairs and Lead members needs to be strengthened to ensure that we have the right people for the key roles and responsibilities within the council.

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

I was pleased as Lead Member to declare a climate emergency for Wrexham County Borough Council and as climate champion I have been promoting and working across Wrexham and Wales to support many initiatives. We have started but need to accelerate our work together with more and public engagement so that the public understand the significant challenges elected members will be facing when making future decisions. As I have said many times at full council meetings, as community leaders and to those who are new to the council in May we all need to take collective responsibility for future decisions we make. All decisions need to be embedded across the council.

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?)

The last 5 years has been extremely difficult especially the last two years. I am pleased that we have successfully continued to maintain local public services like refuse collections and other key front line services through the difficult C19 period. I do feel that our local services at times have been stretched beyond capacity and over the last two years we have increased budgets in key areas to support growing demand, in particular for health and social care and front line provision. It is clear that local residents want better local services and communication from the council and I am keen to strengthen this aspect. We also need to review our pay structure for all staff to ensure that we recruit and retain the best possible staff for Wrexham Council. This is a particular issue that needs to be addressed to ensure stability within the workforce, this is key to ensure that front line delivery is maintained and improved.

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

During last summer I was covering for Lead Member for Adult services for a short period and was pleased to support and collaborated with the health board for greater engagement with elected members, this included a review of doctor’s surgeries in the south of Wrexham where many local people have had difficulties accessing general GP practices. I am pleased that work continues and we now have regular dialogue and updates on how future GP practices will operate in the future, this will be a hub type model. There have also been a number of high profile cases where the Welsh Ambulance service response times have been poor, this has been due to capacity issues within Wrexham hospital. I have made representation to the Welsh Ambulance service requesting a review asking how this can be improved, to date I am still awaiting a reply. I would like to see greater accountability within the NHS so that access to key critical services can be improved. I feel the NHS trust need to be more open and transparent so that we can understand the challenges and work with elected members. My wife recently retired after working 40 years in ITU following the pandemic and I fully understand the pressures that NHS staff are under to ensure that patient care maintained to the highest levels. I am also concerned with a backlog of non essential treatment and operations and I feel that more funding is needed together with more staff to address this issue.

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

Over the past two years as a community council member we have supported a local resilience group which has been working with the voluntary sector like AVOW and Rhos Community café supporting those most need. Part of the work has also been supported by the community agents and this needs to be funded and continued. At local level elected members can influence some of the cost of living crisis by ensuring that fees and charges, parking charges, fees for services, green bins etc, are kept as low as possible. I am pleased that we have frozen car parking and green bin charges this year.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

I have been happy to support the roll out of the 21st century schools programme in Wrexham and locally at Ysgol Yr Hafod Johnstown has been awarded £4.5 million pounds to bring the two schools onto the one site. In terms of education system, one of the biggest challenges for a local authority is having the right people with the expertise to support education. I am fortunate in Johnstown that we have the best possible leaders to take the school from strength to strength. This in my view needs to be replicated across all schools and elected members play a major part taking on roles of school governors in a voluntary capacity. As community leaders who are elected in their respective wards being a school governor is very rewarding and makes you feel part of the community. Funding for schools also needs to be stable and long term so the school have the stability and resource requirements to further improve educational standards. Being a school governor is very rewarding.

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 not had any discussions prior to the election with any other group/s or parties.

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 ?

Welcome young people engagement and I regular post of social media and engage with a host of young people. The biggest challenges for young people is getting on the employment ladder and I am keen that we develop apprentice schemes and future jobs. We need to ensure that we have the right structure within the council to encourage young people to take up trades and develop their skills and progress from within. Some of this work has started but would like to see a commitment across every department with targets on how we can progress. I am pleased that social care have started some of this work under grow your own and this is an excellent initiative so that staff have a future based locally.

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