Statement from Michael Dixon

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

I moved to Coedpoeth in 2002, having met and married a villager, becoming a Community Councillor soon after.
Since then I have continued to volunteer in and for the local community, as well as being a trustee of a disabled charity.
Having worked in the U.K. and abroad I have been able to bring a wide range of experience to my roles - as well as the ability to listen.
Coedpoeth is a fine place to live and to work, with so many local facilities and offerings and I am proud that we even managed to reduce the local precept by 2%, holding that reduced level for four years. That seems an age ago and now we look to gain even greater value for money as funds are stretched further and central and national government tighten our pursestrings yet again.
As an independent councillor, at both community and county level, I am not beholden to a party whip and am able to pursue the most effective route for the best outcome - for Coedpoeth and for Wrexham. And I don’t have to make false election promises either.

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?

I believe that the three biggest issues in Coedpoeth are parking, road / traffic-related challenges and dog-fouling (closely followed by and allied to littering). I have been able to develop some parking improvements, whether by working with my fellow county councillor to use the Environmental Grant or by using schemes within the WCBC portfolio to increase controlled parking - with more in the pipeline. Challenges from levels of traffic are more difficult, because we have a major A road running through the village, with very narrow pavements in some places. Forthcoming changes to speed limits and speed controls may yet prove effective. National governments continue to cut county funding, but better and longer-term road planning remains paramount. Council Tax is large to each payer, but small in relation to the needs of Wrexham. WCBC is a very efficient tax collector, but central government still keeps too much.Dog-fouling should again be pursued more effectively - and I speak as the keeper and assistant walker of three dogs. I clean up after ours; why wouldn’t I? I’m proud of the village and hate to see it dirty.

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 ?

To help, actively, Wrexham’s recovery we need sensible use of the planning laws and maximal use of any grants and support. Wrexham does appear to be going places with the transport plans and the gateway plans, but there is more to be done to encourage better use of our buildings. The independent inspectors rejected Wrexham’s first local development plan, citing lack of provision for population growth. Their subsequent targets were below Wrexham’s original assessment and we now appear to be nearing completion of the second process, but woefully late. As a member of the Planning Policy Panel and vice-chair of the Planning Committee I see this first hand and do my best to support and encourage controlled use of the land. We need more houses, of the right size, at the right price or rent, in the right place(s) with proper local facilities (GP visit anyone?).

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 well as my planning involvement above I am a member of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority, sitting on their Standards Committee and their Executive Panel. I am also the Authority’s board champion for environmental policy. Yes, the environment and climate change do affect the Fire and Rescue Service and we try to reduce our effect on the environment - at all levels. I also sit on the county Appointments Panel and the Grievance Committee. Being a member of the Democratic Services Committee and the Customers, Performance, Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee gives me a wide overview of where we can improve services and where we can help officers to make Wrexham a better place by working more effectively and more efficiently.

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

The climate emergency clock is ticking with increasing acceleration. I have seen this since I first started specifying recycled paper back in 1972 and now find that such changes are becoming more acceptable and widespread. We have already seen the erosion of distinct seasons, followed by the erosion of roads and fields. Once in thirty- or even fifty-year events now occur more frequently and with less chance of respite and recovery. Not for nothing does Natural Resources Wales (NRW) stop development in central Wrexham - to the dismay of all when there appears to be no solution to being able to use the derelict spaces, even as town parks.The climate emergency has meant that we really should make the most of our natural resources. Many of our council housing stock carries solar panels, but we do not harvest rainwater, nor have any wind generation locally. There have been plans for solar farms and they may yet help us to stave off disaster, but we’ve seen the results of flooding first hand in our village. We must heed the many warnings - and act.

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 my time as vice-chair of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee we managed to achieve some improvements to transitions of pupils and learners between establishments, to the benefit of all and I am proud of this initiative. I would want to continue to hold my nerve and to stand up to members of the administration, when I have the support of and see the need of the village and others. I know that one can not make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but at least I will not try to redesign the ear.

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

The council’s involvement is both peripheral, because we neither run nor fund the NHS, and close, because we do run and fund social care. Making sure that our social services are equipped to support those in need will reduce some of the load on the NHS, but again we need funding. Planning rules do not allow refusal of development owing to poor or non-existent GP and other resources, but we need to have a proper working relationship with the NHS, rather than the piecemeal approach set up by national government.

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

As chair of the Tenant and Member Partnership I see at first hand what we are doing with our council housing and how a lack of tradespeople and skilled craftspeople continues to slow the process of renovating council properties. We need to build more properties and our housing teams are working hard to renovate the properties to a high standard. This helps to reduce running costs for our tenants, although we have no control over private landlords.I can only help to try to ensure that we have facilities and staff in place to support those of us in need. Here the various scrutiny committees come to the fore so that we can stop abuses and try to prevent people falling through the net. And reining in unnecessary expenditure means that there is more available for focussed use.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

Coedpoeth is blessed with two excellent local primary schools, supported by committed and experienced staff, well-led by head teachers and supported by dedicated boards of governors. I see the results when pupils attend village events (with the National Poet of Wales at Nant Mill or at Remembrance Sunday events) or when slightly older children make presentations to the community council. I have not yet persuaded the community council to admit youth councillors, but it must surely come.Again funding is a challenge. Throwing money at a problem is never effective, focussed planning is.

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 should like to see full, open fair and active debate amongst fellow councillors. That can only be the best outcome for Wrexham. I stood on an independent “ticket” and stand by that. I joined a coalition so that I could participate more effectively in committee work, but I have retained the courage of my convictions and disagreed with the coalition, not always voting to support its motions. To my mind that is the best, responsible way forward.

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 ?

Engaging with young people around the village and locally has shown that there is a huge interest in the world. After all, we are the ones mapping out their future. We’ve already done that with BREXIT and I believe that their desire for climate action holds the best way forward for us all.

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