Statement from Stella Matthews

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

I was first elected to Rhos Community Council in 1983 and to Wrexham Council for Pant Ward in 1986. My husband and I ran two businesses, following which I worked as Martyn Jones MP’s Constituency Office Manager.
I served for over twenty years on Labours Welsh Executive Committee, I was elected to both the Chair and Vice Chair of the Labour Party in Wales, also a member of our National Policy Forum. One of the organisations I represented Wrexham Council on was the Federation of Economic Development Authorities, a national body of which I became the first Female Chair. I served as Deputy Leader of Wrexham Council for six years alongside Cllr Warren Coleman who was the Leader.
I am the daughter of an Acrefair father and a Yorkshire mother, my late husband Howard was from Rhos and we have two children Greg and Dana.
I have strong ties with Acrefair and Cefn through my family links, also being part of the fight to keep the Leisure Centre open when WCBC made the decision to pull it down in late 2013. I have many years of experience in representing people and I was asked to stand for Cefn West for these very reasons, this was supported unanimously by the Labour branch members.

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?

There are many issues in Cefn West but some of the main issues that have become obvious through walking the ward and speaking to people are: • Acrefair School – This is a Victorian school building with high pupil numbers, over 200 new properties are being built just up the road. This School needs a full refurb or a new build. It must become a priority on the 21st Century Schools initiative. • A new Health Centre has been promised to this community for a number of years, the Health Authority must deliver on this much needed facility. I would lobby hard. • The state of the roads and the huge number of potholes throughout this community is a disgrace, if elected I will follow up on this issue immediately. • It is vital we continue to support the Leisure Centre, it is also a Community Hub, services such as CAB, Warm Wales, and others are available there. The Health Authority’s cardiac rehab program, GP referrals, Mind and many services are delivered there, it has also been a vaccination centre during the Pandemic,

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 ?

Many businesses and employers have been badly affected by the Pandemic, there are even more empty shops wherever you look and empty factory units. I believe Wrexham Council needs a proactive Economic Development Strategy to bring business back into the Town and good quality, well paid jobs onto our industrial estates. Good policy development is the responsibility of elected members.

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 I explained in my introduction I have taken on many lead and supportive roles over the years, I believe I have transferable skills that I can bring to whatever role I am asked to do. The Labour Group has a democratic process where members are asked to submit their CV’s, outlining the skills and knowledge they can bring to a given role and the appointments are made on that basis. If I was appointed to any role on behalf of the Group I would be proud to serve.

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

The climate emergency is of great concern to everyone you discuss this issue with, it is an issue we all have to change to even start to resolve. In many areas community councils have changed their street lighting to LED which reduces usage. Council vehicles and local buses must become greener, our Labour Manifesto points to the need to create a sustainable local public transport system. Supporting the Welsh Government’s tree planting initiative is a start, trees play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions. I believe there should be a national program to insulate homes, which will reduce energy costs and add to the help families need to even begin to cope with this horrendous cost of living crisis. These issues should be part of the consideration on all new development within the Borough.

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?)

These last two years have been extremely difficult for any organisation due to the pandemic. None have felt this more than our NHS and the Care Sector but our schools have struggled too and the impact on pupils has been hard, a lot of effort needs to be in place to help those young people it has affected badly. The ESTYN Report that puts Wrexham Council into the ‘Cause for Concern’ category shows there is major work to be done and the Council must evidence that improvement. The needs in social care for those who wish to stay in their own homes has also been recognised in our Manifesto, we have identified the need to provide a Council run service for those who want to stay at home.

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

The National Health Service has been under severe pressure for several years and the pandemic has made the situation much worse, the waiting times at the A&E Department at Wrexham Maelor Hospital are unacceptable, the A&E staff face impossible odds and the answer is difficult to see without a significant increase in the number of doctors, nurses, physios and all the other profession. The waiting times for treatment and surgery has also increased dramatically and people are struggling. Staffing levels and training places have to increase and that long promised new Health Centre for Cefn is a must.

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 a growing concern and one that is going to get worse, it needs Government intervention above the small amount that has been announced to even start to make a difference for people. The huge increase in energy bills, fuel prices, food prices and National Insurance increase is impossible for many families. Our Labour Government in Cardiff have announced a £350M package of additional support and Wrexham Council should be chasing any that is available, monies that will assist the people of Wrexham. As I mentioned earlier, at the Plas Madoc Leisure Centre we have several organisations that can support and advise and I urge local people to use the services available there during these difficult times.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

I have been a School Governor over many years but improvement is badly needed in the Wrexham education system to safeguard the future of our children. Unfortunately a number of schools in Wrexham have been in special measures and as I referred to earlier the ESTYN report is a particular concern and the Council need to tackle this and evidence that improvements are being made, particularly in 11 to 16 education. This would be a priority for a Labour administration as shown in our Manifesto.

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?

Voters across Wrexham, from Chirk to Bwlchgwyn will make that decision, the make-up of the Council is their choice . The Council is currently run by an Independent and Tory alliance and over the last 17 years Labour has only been a part of the administration for just 2 of those years. I feel it is time for change and I hope the voters do too. I believe Labour is the only party that has taken a serious look at this, the only party fielding the number of candidates needed to run an administration without a coalition, needed to get things done.

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 ?

As the first time young people aged 16 to 17 years are able to vote in local elections I really hope they take part and also make their views known on the doorstep. I speak to as many as I can when out in the ward and to my family members too. I think it is an important step forward and perhaps time for a change in all elections. I hope I have answered at least some of your questions in my submission, my contact details are on all my leaflets so please get in touch if you have any further questions. Take care, stay safe and well Stella Matthews Welsh Labour Candidate for the ward of Cefn West.

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