Statement from Malcolm King
We invited them to tell you a little about who they are, any political history and about their political leanings.
For over 43 years and most of my working life, I have been involved with the people of Wynnstay. I have also been the Wynnstay councillor for 33 years, supported throughout by my family - my wife Anne, a children’s nurse, and two daughters Hannah and Becky. During this time, I started the Venture with the help of hundreds of children, young people, staff, volunteers, parents and grandparents and together we have built one of Britain’s leading local children and families organisations, which has positively influenced and changed the lives of many people in Wynnstay and far beyond.
I have led numerous local and national campaigns to improve services or uncover the truth about wrong doing in public life and achieved important changes, most of which have considerably benefited people in Caia Park. In 2007 I was awarded an OBE for services to young people in Caia Park.
I have always been a Labour Party member and councillor because I believe in fairness and equality. The Labour Party is not always what I would want it to be, but it is a million times better than the others and the only party that stands up for working people. If we all work together, we can make our society a better place and Labour is the party that can do this. I believe passionately in public service and I have been honoured to serve the people of Wynnstay, many of whom are like my family. There are very difficult times ahead for everybody in our area and I hope I can continue to be able to help people get through this.
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?
After 12 years of austerity under the Tories and their responses to the pandemic, the country has been left crippled and divided. Many people feel disillusioned with politics. The cost-of-living crisis is getting worse. The job of local councillors is to support people in their ward. Three of the main issues in Wynnstay are: 1. POVERTY. Lots of people will struggle even more to put food on the table, or heat their homes next winter. I will continue to fight for people in Wynnstay to get what they are entitled to and what they deserve, for example, access to welfare rights, in-work benefits and food (see Q7). 2. IMPROVING THE LOCAL ENVIRONMENT. I have constantly tried to ensure investment in good quality repairs and improvements to houses and spaces in our area and much has been done such as new fencing, parking, lighting, green areas and flood control. However, there are still too many examples of poor repairs and agonisingly slow improvements, sometimes taking years. The lack of road and footpath repairs and litter picking provision compared to other areas of Wrexham, is disgracefully unfair. This absolutely must change under a new council. I have led the provision of skips across Caia Park, which has been very popular and I will want to continue this. I will continue to fight for Wynnstay residents to get what they deserve in order to keep improving our community’s environment. 3. SUPPORTING CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE TO ACHIEVE THEIR TRUE POTENTIAL. Many young people in Wrexham have been failed needlessly in recent years by inadequate schools and education services. I am committed to drastically improving these. (See Q8).
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 ?
COVID-19 has been an unequal pandemic. It has killed unequally, been experienced unequally and its impacts will be felt unequally. Many have lost loved ones, developed long COVID, or become more vulnerable, whilst the Tories have partied. We must make sure the people of Wynnstay are not left behind. Working people in Wrexham have been badly let down. Wrexham Council has fallen behind other areas in economic development and we need to invest far more effort into getting good quality and decent paid jobs into Wrexham - and keeping them. We also need a Buy Local First policy to support smaller local businesses and the self-employed. The pandemic has highlighted how important local and accessible services within the community are and these will be crucial moving forward. I have a strong record on getting services into Wynnstay - for example Dr Rao’s GP Surgery, Caia Park Health Centre, Deva House Old People’s Centre, the Moorlands and Caia Park Welfare Rights Service (see Q7). These services will also play an important role in addressing the health and wellbeing impacts of the pandemic (see Q6). Children and young people have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. The Venture has played a massive part in supporting people in the community to get through the pandemic, by providing services including delivering food during lockdowns, free hot meals, Coco’s Community Café Club, safe outdoor play and green spaces. I will continue to push to get more resources into the area.
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 had much experience at a local and national level, including playing leading roles in Social Services, Child Protection, Police and Finance, for example, Leader of Wrexham Council, Chair of North Wales Police Authority, Vice-Chair of CEOP (UK’s police child protection agency) and Lead Member for Finance, Chair of Democratic Services; Scrutiny and Policy Development. I believe in and enjoy bringing people together from different political parties and backgrounds and am experienced in doing this to achieve successful outcomes for the people of Wrexham. I also have a reputation for getting jobs done in Wynnstay, across Wrexham and in Wales. I apply this attitude to every role I take on. Driven by social justice, I am never afraid to take on difficult issues and support those affected by them, including well-hidden wrongdoing in public services, such as uncovering child abuse. I am not afraid to admit when I get things wrong and to try to learn from my mistakes. As one of the longest serving and most experienced councillors, I would be delighted to serve in whatever capacity I am most needed.
4. What do the words climate emergency mean to you and your ward?
This is the biggest problem facing humankind and as always it will be the poorest communities who suffer the most. However, most people in our area are faced with the daily and weekly battle to feed their children and themselves. Within this context, it is very hard to think about the likely impacts of climate changes ten years ahead. Despite this, we must all take action now and plan for radical changes over the next 10-20 years, as we have already almost passed the point of no return. As a councillor, I have always been extremely committed to driving forward important changes regarding this issue, including increasing recycling, getting solar panels on houses across Wrexham, setting up Wrexham Solar Farm and campaigning for Wrexham to become one of the greenest councils in Wales. The recent failed attempt by the Labour Group to persuade this Tory/Independent led council to stop paying into oil and coal pension investments shows how far we still need to go in waking up most councillors to the urgency of the situation. A Welsh Labour led council would change this and introduce other much needed policies, such as buying local, growing local, a green transport plan, and more insulation, solar and hydro power schemes.
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 Independent/Tory led Council should have been honest, fair and entered into meaningful consultation with Wrexham residents. We have witnessed 5 years and more of Wrexham Council failing the people of Wrexham in so many ways with shocking examples in the public domain. The fact that several secondary schools and the whole education service have been put into special measures; the running ‘failing’ of Children’s Services; a stagnant local economy and being taken to court for breaking health and safety laws are all indications of how the Independent/Tory administration has let Wrexham down. The council has not been straight-forward with the truth about many of these failures. Wrexham deserves so much better than this. Being honest and open with the public should be at the heart of everything a public service does. Once that is lost, everything starts going wrong. Wynnstay ward has received very unequal levels of public service, which I battle against every single day. This is particularly true of Environmental Services – just look at how much better other wards outside of Caia Park and Plas Madoc are treated. This council should be ashamed of the way it has failed so many children in Wrexham, particularly in Caia Park. Despite having some very dedicated social workers and support staff, the council has failed miserably in its child protection duties and, finally, has been caught out by Care Inspectorate Wales. The education service has also been poorly led and consistently underperformed for years but, thankfully, now we have excellent senior officers, newly appointed under our current Chief Executive, in both Education and Social Services Departments. If re-elected I would continue to work closely with them to put this right.
6. Local health pressures are well documented, from delayed ambulances to issues in the hospital. How can the council help resolve those problems?
Although the council has very few direct responsibilities for health, it is still possible to influence health services. During my time as the Wynnstay councillor, I have worked with key partners to successfully set-up the Older People’s Centre in Deva House, Health Visitor Clinic at the Venture, Dr Rao’s local GP Surgery, and worked closely with our excellent Wrexham MS, Lesley Griffiths, to open a new health centre in Caia Park. All of these will play a crucial role in improving the health and wellbeing of residents as we move out of the pandemic. My first priority for Wynnstay ward would be to start a conversation with the health board to see how Hill Crest Surgery could be improved. It is overwhelmed by demand and drastically under-resourced. People with long-term health needs and disabilities, particularly older people, urgently need better and more accessible services. My second priority would be to address the mental health and wellbeing of young people. The Venture has recently been appointed to lead a major new mental health initiative across North East Wales, which will bring huge benefits to the children and young people of Wynnstay.
7. What will you do on a local level to help support people in your ward affected by the cost of living crisis?
For most people in Wynnstay ward the cost of living crisis has been growing over the last 12 years, getting harder each year and made worse by COVID-19. Everyone in Wynnstay will be badly affected. After a decade of crippling austerity, the situation is likely to keep getting much worse. A Labour led council will work with the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff to make the most of every penny of support available to reduce the financial impact on the people of Wrexham. Strengthening accessible and local services will be crucial (see Q2) as well as fulfilling people’s welfare rights. Thousands of people in Wrexham are not getting the benefits and support that they are entitled to and we need a joined-up Welfare Rights Service to address this. Caia Park Community Council runs the largest Welfare Rights Service in Wales, which I have helped develop over the last 30 years. I will continue to press for it to be expanded. Increasing food provision, particularly for families and the vulnerable will be a key way to lessen the impacts of this crisis. For example, expanding free school meals for all primary school children, as recently introduced by the Welsh Labour Government. Over the last 6 years the Venture has run a holiday hunger scheme and is about to launch Coco’s Community Café to provide free food for children and young people. I will push the council as hard as I can on these plans for the people of Wynnstay.
8. How would you improve the local education system?
Many of our secondary schools in Wrexham have been in special measures and Wrexham Council has lagged far behind other councils across Wales. Our council has lacked the leadership qualities needed to run public services, failing our children. The children and young people of Wrexham and the dedicated teachers and support staff, who work tirelessly to educate them, deserve much better than this. Rhosnesni School, where I have been a Governor since the school began 18 years ago, is a good example of how we can turn our schools around when good leaders are put in place. At last, we have an excellent Chief Education Officer and if re-elected, I would work closely with her to improve our local education system. The priority is to put more resources in to supporting the many children and young people who are struggling for numerous reasons, not least because of the pandemic. I have been a governor for all of the local schools and maintain close professional relationships with them. For example, working together to use spaces in Caia to support different groups of children and young people to learn in ways that best meet their needs; expanding home education provision; facilitating the Venture’s Alternative Learning Project (ages 14-16) and running groups for children with Additional Learning Needs.
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?
Welsh Labour has 30 candidates standing and is the only party with enough candidates to win full control of the council for the next 5 years. Whatever the outcome, Labour councillors will work together in the best interests of the people of Wrexham to deliver the desperately needed changes and forward-looking policies that the people of Wrexham deserve. It is also important for us to work together co-operatively with councillors from other groups and parties, when necessary, as this can often be more effective and produce better outcomes for local people. As an experienced Welsh Labour Wrexham councillor, I hope to be re-elected to the council and to be able to continue to work hard to make sure we have a council that is fair, has integrity and makes decisions and implements services based on evidence and the needs of local people. Most importantly, Welsh Labour in Wrexham has a clear, locally designed manifesto which sets a vision for the future and gives us all the hope we need after these two difficult years. The other parties have national manifestos which are not necessarily relevant for Wrexham. Independents do not stand on a manifesto so it is difficult for voters to ascertain how these councillors will vote on the big issues which affect the whole town. Of course, this helps to explain why Wrexham has lacked a clear direction and under achieved for so many years now.
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 longstanding community and youth worker, I have actively supported the policy of extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds for many years and am very pleased that it was finally introduced in Wales last year, by the Welsh Government. My job is to advocate for young people, to support them and above all to find a way that their voices can be heard. That has been at the heart of everything that I have done for the last 43 years. Almost every visitor to the Venture comments on how confident the children and young people are. It comes from building a culture where everyone’s voice has equal value and importance, whatever their age, gender or ability. As a result, many young people from Wynnstay/the Venture have been elected to different representative bodies in Caia Park, Wrexham and Wales. The Venture has also been engaged by Welsh Government to encourage 16 and 17 year olds to register to vote. Furthermore, it has been appointed to lead a partnership of 20 organisations across North East Wales to co-produce with young people a five-year project to improve mental health and well-being services for young people. All the evidence from research and surveys shows that young people across Wales and also Wynnstay are overwhelmingly concerned about climate change, but are also worried about their own futures – and why wouldn’t they be? As adults we have in so many ways let them down and our performance needs to drastically improve!
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OTHER CANDIDATES FOR Wynnstay
- Plaid Cymru
- Welsh Conservative Party
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