Statement from Chris Jones

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

I am Chris Jones. I live in Plas Bennion, Penycae but, uniquely, as far as our current candidates are concerned, I have lived in all three broad areas of the Penycae and Ruabon South Ward. I grew up on a farm in Rhosymadoc and lived there for 25 years before moving to Ruabon itself, I now been a resident of Plas Bennion Road in Penycae since 2010. So, I think that it is fair to say that I am as aware as anyone about the issues facing residents right across this ward.
I am currently working within the Operational Excellence Department of Wockhardt Ltd on the Wrexham Industrial Estate where we have been manufacturing the Astra Zeneca Covid Vaccine which has done so much to bring the green shoots of normality back into our world after such a difficult period. Prior to working at Wockhardt I have enjoyed a career in finance working for a range of manufacturing companies ranging from small family businesses right through to global corporations.
Since 2019 I have also been lucky enough to be able to help with the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association. To be part of this organisation is something that has taught me so much. They are a fantastic group of people who have a collective knowledge that is second to none when it comes to promoting inclusivity in sport, and indeed in all walks of life. I am constantly learning and, putting the election aside for one moment, I would encourage anyone to consider joining such an important organisation. Not only is it very rewarding but it is also something that is very educational.
As far as politics go, I have always been a Plaid Cymru voter. To me, on a national level, it is the logical choice that the best party to run this country is the only party that truly has this country’s interests at heart. The clue is in the name The Party of Wales. Any party that is ultimately led from Westminster cannot, by default, have Wales best interest at heart. I say that as a proud Welshman, but I believe that whether you born in Wales or not, whatever your background, if you live in Wales then the party to best look after your interests is the party that cares most about the country in which you live.
Similarly on a local level I see the team of candidates that Plaid Cymru has put together as being the answer to an age-old problem within Wrexham Council. Ask anyone on the streets of Wrexham and its surrounding villages and they will tell you that all they want a council that listens to what its residents want and then goes out and does its utmost to deliver on those wishes. If you look at the team that Plaid has but together, you will see a dedicated team of people with skills in key areas who are determined to shake off the dusty old image of Wrexham Council and deliver what the people of Wrexham want.

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?

Obviously, priorities will differ wherever you live in the ward but the two things that have been mentioned constantly throughout my conversations with residents across the breadth of the ward have been roads and road users. If I start the condition of roads in the ward. When I first started canvassing, I visited Hill Close in Penycae, every resident pointed to the fact that their road has been unadopted for over 40 years and essentially, they must drive down a rough track to gain access to their homes. I realise that these issues can be complex and difficult to sort out, but this has been going on for over FORTY YEARS! If you look at some of the outlying areas such as Rhosymadoc on one side, and Trefechan and Tai-nant on the other, the condition of these roads is simply shocking. Residents here are justifiably angry because they simply feel abandoned and forgotten by the council. They pay their council tax and receive very little in return, and yet they read in the press about how the priority for the council leadership has been the council car park. To me, this just proves that the current council leadership are completely out of touch with residents. Obviously, these are not the only examples. Many other roads in the ward are in such a state of disrepair that pose a risk of damage to vehicles or even a danger to road users. That brings me onto something that is a serious problem in many parts of the ward and that is speeding. - This is an issue in Groesfan in Penycae where residents have long since campaigned for speed bumps to be introduced due to speeding motorists along Cristionydd lane. - It is an issue even on the narrow lanes of Trefechan and Tai-nant where residents are fearful of pulling out of their own drives. - It is an issue for the residents in Cil-y-Coed in Ruabon where the link road between the Aldi roundabout and the A483 is used as a makeshift racetrack by motorists. I feel for residents here who can no longer enjoy sitting outside in their gardens due to road noise from speeding motorists. - As a resident of Plas Bennion Road, I can safely say that this is the number one issue for residents in this area, this is an area that needs to be brought under the same speed restrictions as Penycae itself, from the junction at Plas Madoc, right through to Copperas Hill. - This was even raised in Paddock Row in Ruabon, a very narrow street where motorists are not taking account the fact that people’s front doors open directly onto the road. As a council, we urgently need to address this issue before someone is killed or seriously injured. We need to look at a far higher level of enforcement, vastly improved traffic calming measures and far stricter speed limits in many areas. This one point alone will be the most urgent to address. As with many other wards we have an issue with anti-social behaviour. Many residents of Cristionydd and Groesfan in Penycae and around the new retail area in Ruabon have complained about this going on and this is obviously a concern to them. We have groups of people gathering in certain areas and sometimes behaving in a way which is intimidating for residents. We need to work with NWP Rural to improve enforcement in these areas as well as addressing a lack of facilities for young people throughout the ward.

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 ?

From an economic point of view, I think that one of the most important tools the Council has is its procurement policy. Only a fraction of the council’s procurement budget is spent locally. If we were to follow the example of Councils such as Gwynedd for instance where 39% of their budget is spent locally this could prove to be a huge boost to local businesses. As a councillor I would see it as my role to help residents in any way that I can, whether this be directly myself, or using the vast experience within our group to point people in the right direction for the help and services that they require.

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 worked in a finance role within manufacturing throughout my career so have developed a sound understanding of business and finance during that time. This would be the kind of area where, if opportunities arose, I would most likely find that my skills could be put to good use. Having said all that, there is the small matter of getting elected first and with the issues facing the ward, if I am lucky enough to get elected then my primary focus would have to be towards resolving those issues first and foremost.

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

Climate change is something we simply cannot ignore. Even within the ward it is apparent that we have been subjected to more severe storms than I can remember. Only last year we had a storm that left many homes without power for four days. It was very frustrating, especially when you consider that power companies prioritise repairs on the basis of potential compensation claims. So if you live in a remote area, then you drop to the bottom of the list. Many parts of this ward fall into that category. There are also houses along the Afon Eitha that could potentially be subject to flood damage, albeit in extreme circumstances. On a wider scale though I think that there are many areas that the council could do far more to help with the issue of climate change. Living outside the town centre I would say the most obvious is public transport. The provision of public transport to outlying villages is an issue that requires a complete revamp of current thinking. Bus operators will naturally look to service the most profitable routes, this is fine if you live on one of those routes, but I would guess half the people in this ward are not so lucky. Buses to/from Penycae are perhaps not as frequent as buses from Ruabon. And I think I was about five years old when I last saw a bus visit Rhosymadoc or Penylan (Perhaps residents of Trefechan or Tai-nant could also share their views on this). As a Plaid Group, we have discussed the possibility of community-based bus services. Since then, I was lucky enough to meet a resident on the doorstep who works for Public Transport Wales who mentioned an app that allows people to track buses on various routes. I do wonder that rather than ploughing £8m of Welsh Government funds into unprofitable bus routes, shouldn’t we be targeting that money into technology that already exists into smart request-based bus services? Going back to the council’s procurement policy over 74% of the council’s carbon footprint arises from procurement, by adopting a policy of buying local, not only would this boost local businesses, but this would also help to reduce our carbon footprint.

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?)

I think that if you ask any member of the Plaid Cymru group this question, you will find that you may well get a universal answer to this question and that is, to LISTEN! This has to be the most important message that we can send out to the people of Wrexham and its surrounding villages. Plaid Cymru is a party that very much focuses on Community. Throughout this campaign it has been obvious that the team that we have is dedicated to changing the way Wrexham Council works and make it a council that works for the people rather than a council that ignores their views and engages in vanity projects. The lack of engagement by the current council leadership is the very reason I decided to stand for election. They have consistently shunned the democratic processes that should apply to council decisions and instead used their supposedly “Independent” groups to ride roughshod over the views of the council as a whole. This is not how representing the people of Wrexham should be! We need a council that listens.

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

I believe that the main area in which the council can help is through improvements in the way we provide social care. It is well documented that improvements in social care provision would, in turn, help to free up beds within the NHS itself. Plaid Cymru is working to secure a National Care Service. This service would see the integration of health and social care into a seamless unit. It would also see care workers receive pay and conditions that are compatible with those offered by the NHS.

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

Plaid Cymru councillors in Wrexham were the only party to vote against a 4% increase in Council Tax. With the financial pressures that the people of Wrexham are facing, it just proves how out of touch the current council leadership are in implementing this increase, especially when you consider that they have “Rainy Day” money in reserve. Nationally Plaid Cymru have already secured free school meals for all primary school children in Wales. As a councillor it would be my responsibility to direct residents to any resources available to offer assistance.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

Plaid Cymru has ensured that all primary school children will receive free school meals, this is something to we will work to roll out to all pupils within the next five years. Ensuring that pupils are not hungry is the first step towards giving every child the education they deserve. We need to support teachers in order to help them develop their skills through providing additional support staff in order to allow teachers to make the most of development opportunities and, indeed, time to teach.

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?

Obviously, I am standing as a Plaid Cymru candidate, I genuinely hope that every one of our candidates gets elected as they have so much to offer the people of Wrexham. As part of a team, the group we have put together would offer Wrexham a complete change in terms of dedication and dynamism. It’s difficult not to feel excited about that prospect because this genuinely does feel like a time for positive change. Ultimately though progressive politics means that we progress together. We have 24 candidates, if we were all to win our respective wards we would still need to cooperate with other groups or individuals. Let’s face it, most “Independent” candidates are already aligned to a particular grouping or even “Party”, but there are some very good individuals out there who I would be very happy to work with so long as we share a common goal.

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 a group, this is something that we have discussed often. To be the council that listens, we need to engage with everyone. It would be no surprise, given the current dinosaurs within the council leadership, that young people would feel disengaged with the whole electoral process (Not just young people to be fair!). I do feel however that the Plaid Group has taken on this challenge better than most. If you look at our candidates, I think it is fair to say that you will not be getting dusty old grey suited politicians who have become part of the furniture in the council chamber. We have the two youngest candidates standing in the Elections in Cameron Hughes and James Holland. We are lucky to have many candidates who work directly with these age groups and individually we are all aware of the need to maintain a social media presence to promote engagement. It is something that we can all do better, but at the same time we seem to forget that this generation are perhaps the most switched on in terms of accessing information. The days of getting your opinions from the Daily Mail are long gone and I think young people are better placed than ever to form their own judgments. As with issues, I think society, as a whole, shares pretty much the same issues except that young people are perhaps a bit more concerned that we haven’t totally destroyed the planet before they get a chance to live their own lives and try to correct the bad choices that we have left them with. We have a lot to learn from our younger citizens, Hopefully come May 5th they will give us the chance to listen.

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