Statement from Jerry Wellens
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
My name is Jerry Wellens and I’m proud to introduce myself to you as the Welsh Labour candidate for the Minera Ward in the forthcoming Wrexham County Borough elections.
I’m married with two adult children and live in the beautiful village of Bwlchgwyn, where we’ve made our family home for 23 years. I work as a freelance International Trade Advisor, and away from work, I’m a musician and songwriter and have been playing music around the local area solo and in bands for as long as I have lived here. My lifelong support for the Labour Party has made me committed to working on behalf of the Community, and I have been closely involved in a number of roles: I was a Bwlchgwyn School Governor and later Chair of the governing body, and I retain a role in the school supporting the Head Teacher in specific projects; I also spent two years as Chair of the Bwlchgwyn Village Hall Association at its formation.
In difficult times such as these, the role of Community becomes increasingly important, and I strongly believe that what brings us together is stronger than what pushes us apart. Mutual support and mutual responsibility give us the strength to meet challenges ahead, and I believe those principles have a home in Welsh Labour.
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?
•Improving access to local transport: Funding for improved rural transport – which has been made significantly worse under the recent Council regime – must be a priority. This is a particular issue for the older residents of the Ward, but equally affects younger non-drivers. Reliance on private providers has been proven not to work, so we must look to setting up and funding not-for-profit Community transport schemes to combat isolation for vulnerable groups.•Road safety and local infrastructure: As the Brymbo housing development grows, pressure increases on the Minera Ward’s roads and services. Roads and pavements in the Ward have significantly deteriorated and threaten safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike. An overdue priority – and of course funds – must be given to resolving this issue.•Access to publicly-funded health and social care; Hand-in-hand with the Tory cost-of-living crisis comes increased need for good, publicly-funded health and social care provision. A joined-up, community-focused response to the well-being effects of this crisis is long overdue.
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 priority must be to create and deliver a strategy for economic growth for the area – not just centrally-focused, but supporting local potential business through timely advice, publicity and grant-funding where possible. The green economy in particular is a fertile ground for this – and the timing couldn’t be better or more urgent. My background as a business owner for over twenty years gives me the opportunity to mentor and advise new business and help identify the paths to convert opportunities into reality.
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?
If elected, I am happy to fulfil any role that a Welsh Labour administration would see as suitable. I have experience as a business owner and in supporting Community bodies. My communication, organisational and problem-solving skills at all levels are excellent and would be suited to a number of potential roles.
4. What do the words climate emergency mean to you and your ward?
The climate emergency is just that – an emergency – and emergencies need urgent and co-ordinated action. The Welsh Government has been clear on its approach to building a low-carbon economy and legislating sensibly in this area. In terms of the Ward, we need to further learn how best to minimise our reliability on carbon fuels, and continue to take care of the environment we have. We all share equal responsibility for changing the way we think about our lives in response to the emergency. Again, Community groups and initiatives can support this.
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?)
For me, the last administration should be ashamed of how – even pre-pandemic – it has allowed certain secondary schools to be left behind and to slide into special measures. This is a generation of young people who have been failed during a crucial period in their development – some of whom will be looking to enter a crowded job market at a disadvantage.
6. Local health pressures are well documented, from delayed ambulances to issues in the hospital. How can the council help resolve those problems?
Unfortunately the Covid pandemic is still with us – though we hope the worst is behind us – and Health Services are still feeling the effects. But leaving that aside, we suffer from unbalanced health provision. GP surgeries are very varied in the number of doctors available, NHS dentistry can be very hard to come by and mental health support can be under-resourced (though people within those areas work hard and well) and as a result, people resort to Accident and Emergency more than is necessary. I think the council needs to develop more community-based health centres that can treat patients closer to their local area and take pressure off hospitals. Again, Community initiatives can help provide support to those with long-term needs if supported by the Council.
7. What will you do on a local level to help support people in your ward affected by the cost of living crisis?
This appalling state of affairs has the potential to drag more and more people into poverty. The Welsh Government has made money available to help ease the worst of the effects – the Council should ensure that all of this money is used and targeted where it can do the most good. Support services should go out to affected areas to ensure those in need are aware of the help available.
8. How would you improve the local education system?
My answer to question 5 shows how much I feel the administration has let down the pupils of certain secondary schools. It is the proper job of local authorities to prioritise education across the board – particularly in monitoring performance and working with Estyn to spot problems before they become critical. More work should be done to make teachers feel supported and valued. In the Minera Ward, we are lucky to have two very successful primary schools, well-run and staffed by dedicated professionals, but even here – as I experienced during my time as Chair of Governors in one of the schools – some tough compromises are forced on them and there are always shortfalls to be negotiated.
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’m proud to stand as a Welsh Labour candidate. My expectation is that Welsh Labour will form the new administration without recourse to compromising the change that our constituents will have voted for.
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 ?
Traditional politics is seen as a turn off for many young people and they can feel disengaged from the process. However, many of them are very aware of issues that affect them directly as well as the wider headline-making events. At this age they are starting to look forward to beginning adult life and they can see hurdles and obstacles to realising their potential: housing expensive to buy and expensive to rent; Higher Education entailing the burden of long-term debt; low wages and high cost of living; the scarcity of apprenticeships to develop skilled employment. Locally, I think there is a feeling of the lack of opportunity for many of the population. The solution is a combination of the factors mentioned in response to previous questions, but I feel that a network of youth representatives with a voice at Council level can help them feel that their concerns are at least listened to: after that, the onus is on the Council to act.
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OTHER CANDIDATES FOR Minera
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