Statement from Graham Kelly

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

I'm Graham and I live in Coedpoeth with my wife, Glenda. We are both Community Councillors for Coedpoeth - we love the village and are very happy here. I have lived in the Wrexham area for all of my life, except for a 3 year period at University in Cardiff and a 5 year spell working for The Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. We moved to Coedpoeth 19 years ago and I am very happy now to be living very near to where my taid, George Kelly, lived many years ago.
After graduating with a degree in Economics, I trained as a Public Finance Accountant and worked as an accountant in Denbighshire and Flintshire County Councils before becoming a lecturer on the Local Government Accounting course at Liverpool Polytechnic. For many years, I worked at The University of Liverpool and now continue to work as a Higher Education Consultant, helping young people to secure places at the best universities for them.
As a Governor at Castell Alun High School, Hope, I am able to maintain my keen interest in education, concentrating especially on sixth form issues.
When I'm not working, I enjoy singing bass in two good local choirs. I also enjoy walking, gardening and travelling. Although I do not speak Welsh fluently, I enjoy using my limited ability in casual conversation; but I love to sing in Welsh.
I joined the Welsh Liberal Democrats in 2015 and strongly share the Lib Dem emphasis on tolerance, equality and fairness. Having previously been a supporter of the Labour Party, my political views are to the left of centre.
I'm standing for election this May because I want to see improved services from Wrexham Council. I will be a strong voice for all residents in Coedpoeth.

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?

Making sure that Wrexham gets a Local Development Plan in place as soon as possible. Every local authority has to produce a local plan showing which areas will be developed for housing, where new schools, retail or leisure facilities will be placed, and which areas are to be protected. For the last 10 years, Wrexham has been without such a plan. This has made it easy for developers to build houses in unsuitable places, often against the wishes of local residents. An approved Local Development Plan will stop this. It will also facilitate the building of affordable homes in suitable locations, to allow young people to get decent homes of their own.One of my particular concerns is the isolation and loneliness of many people, not only those in old age. We are very lucky in Coedpoeth to have a very effective Community Agent. If elected, I would work closely together with the Agent to improve the lives of the many lonely people in Coedpoeth.Potholes and pavements! When I stood for election in 2017, I highlighted the poor state of the roads and pavements in Coedpoeth. In the last 5 years, things have got a lot worse. This is a major problem for vehicles and a severe danger to cyclists.

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 ?

Education has been one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic. There are children sitting public exams this year whose school careers have been disrupted over 3 school years. The mental health of young people has also suffered. If elected, I would play an active role in the Council's education responsibilities, to make sure that all young people are supported to overcome problems caused by the pandemic.It is obvious to all that Wrexham town centre has suffered from the effects of the pandemic. I accept that Wrexham Council is in a difficult position, as many of the empty commercial units are owned by private landlords who continue to receive rent even though the property is no longer occupied. The Lib Dems have some radical proposals in this area which I would like to see introduced. Wrexham Council could give incentives to new businesses by offering concessions on business rates.I strongly support the Council's plans for reviving the town centre and I am very much in support of Wrexham's bids for UK Capital of Culture and city status. We need to be ambitious for our town - both of these initiatives will help to raise the profile of the town and will help to create new job opportunities.

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 a school governor and former lecturer, I would be very interested in helping Wrexham Council to tackle the significant education problems in the town. See also my response to question 8.As an experienced local government accountant, I have some sympathy with the financial planning problems facing WCBC. About 75% of the Council's income each year comes from the Welsh Government in the form of grants for the financing of specified services which must be delivered at defined standards. The Council has a legal obligation to provide these services. The other 25% of Council income comes from some local charges, but mostly from local Council Tax. This can be used at the discretion of WCBC to provide the services which the Council itself wishes to provide. The cost of providing these services rises, of course, from year to year, but there is considerable political pressure on the Council to keep Council Tax at a reasonable level. If elected, I would use my local government accounting experience to help to resolve this dilemma. I would also emphasise the need for a constant review of the efficiency of service delivery to ensure value for money for local taxpayers. I feel very strongly that WCBC has an important obligation of transparency by keeping local taxpayers informed of how its resources are being spent and the clear reasons for future Council Tax rises.

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

Coedpoeth is a windy village! We should be tapping into this resource by erecting a limited number of wind turbines in socially acceptable locations. Solar panels have been placed on many Council owned properties in Coedpoeth. These help to reduce the energy bills for those householders but also generate surplus electricity which can be transferred to the National Grid. I am sure that some residents in the village would appreciate financial help from WCBC to establish solar panels on their own properties.Although flooding is not a serious problem in Coedpoeth, we could help to prevent flooding in villages lower down the hill. The best way to minimise flood risks on low level land is to slow down the flow of storm water so that it is released more slowly into our rivers, at a rate they can cope with. This needs long-term action from the Welsh Government to encourage the planting of more trees and other vegetation on hills and mountain areas upstream, such as in the areas around Coedpoeth, to trap water on the hillsides for longer, releasing it into rivers more slowly. If elected, I will investigate the introduction of Environmental Days to raise the profile of recycling and re-use in the village. I support strongly what Caru Cymru is doing to make our villages cleaner and tidier places to live in.

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 failure of WCBC to support green initiatives in the Wrexham area has led to the loss of opportunities to create good quality local jobs and has had a damaging effect on attempts to help Wales to improve its sustainability. Public transport has also deteriorated considerably over the last 5 years, seriously affecting those on lower incomes. Fewer public transport opportunities result in more cars using the roads, creating significant negative effects on levels of pollution.

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

The major responsibility for hospitals and ambulances lies with Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board and the Ambulance Trust, but they are subject to pressure from local authorities such as WCBC. If elected, I would play my part in contributing to this pressure. The Council can also have a direct impact on treatment waiting times by investing more to improve social care, so that patients who are medically ready to leave hospital can be supported in their own homes rather than taking up valuable hospital beds. Care workers play an essential and highly skilled role in the system and need to be paid and valued accordingly, whether in Council or private employment.

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 set to worsen considerably as the year progresses and not all needs in the community are obvious. As an elected member, I would do my utmost to help any resident of Coedpoeth to identify sources of help and to successfully claim any relief to which they are entitled.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

As a school governor, I have seen that schools are finding it very difficult to manage their budgets effectively. One reason for this is that significant sources of funding are often received at the very end of the school's financial year which require immediate spending in order for these sources of funding not to be lost. If elected, I would put pressure on funding bodies such as GwE and the Welsh Government to release these funds to schools much earlier in the year, in sufficient time to enable them to be included in schools' financial planning more effectively.

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?

As a member of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, I look forward to becoming a part of the Lib Dem Group on Wrexham Council. Liberal Democrats have a long history in Wrexham Council of being local champions and have a proud reputation for getting things done. I look forward to the opportunity of living up to this reputation. Of course, as a member of Wrexham Council, I would be happy to collaborate with any other councillor or grouping under certain circumstances, in order to move forward with reasonable and progressive proposals.

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 ?

Our newest voters have had their education disrupted over the past three school years. Their main concern now is that this should not harm their future prospects in education and/or employment. I talk to many young people and am impressed by how serious they are about making a success of their lives. I will help in any way I can to repair the damage done to their education and mental wellbeing by the pandemic. We also have a duty to make sure that future generations inherit a world fit to live in. As a member of Wrexham County Borough Council, I will play my part in this responsibility.

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