Statement from Colin Ridgway

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

I am the only candidate standing who lives in the ward and standing as an independent non-aligned candidate. I moved to the area of St. Giles/ St. David’s Crescent almost 35 years ago. First with my auntie Mags in St. Giles, before moving into one of the ‘White Flats,’ then back across the road to my present home in St. Giles Crescent in 1995. In the early nineties, I volunteered as a youth worker in QP youth club. In 1997 I completed a degree in Youth and Community Education. The demolition of the ‘White Flats,’ led to my first involvement in representing the community as the tenant’s spokesperson. My next involvement in our community was as the founder of the original and organiser of “Rock the Park.” After completing a year as Vice President of the then NEWI Student Union, I moved on to turn my passion for live entertainment into a business. After the banking crash, I returned to my former job as an HGV driver until health issues meant I had to give up my licence. Since then, having more time on my hands, I have again become involved in various community groups. I am passionate about community development and believe communities have the answers to their issues. We just need to be given the opportunity. I am a member and great supporter of the Local Conversation Project in Caia Park, which does take this approach, have made many friends of all ages through this project. This involvement has also led to me being elected as a trustee of the Caia Park Partnership.

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?

1.Tenant or resident, one that affects us all is the poor state of the roads and paths. I was walking around Tan Y Dre and the state of the road shocked me. If you could call it a road, I have seen better farms tracks in my days as a driver. A lot of the roads are still the originals ones and are long overdue for resurfacing.2.Repairs - I know there is a backlog due to covid, but some of the cases I have seen are just appalling. There is no way some of what I have seen complies with the Welsh Governments housing standard. This will be one of my priority areas of work and if elected I have already collated an extensive list from residents. I have said I will follow up and get back to them. If work is going on in an area of my community I want to be there, visiting and checking with the residents to see if they have any issues. I have faced issues with the contractors, as I know other tenants have.3.I struggled with this one, but although not just an issue for Wynnstay, Wrexham or Wales for that matter, is the cost-of-living crisis. We are going to see more people in need of advice and support. We have a good advice service located at various points on the estate and Jackie is doing a once a week drop in at the housing office. I believe we are going to need to see an increase in these services to cope with the unprecedented demand the cost-of-living crisis is going to put on our community.

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 ?

We were lucky in our wider community of Caia Park in that a lot of organisations, groups, services and people came together to help those in the community in need. It has shown that we as a community, can rise to the challenges and if given the opportunity, shape our community for the better. I hope to be at the heart of continuing this collaborative approach by working with all as a councillor.

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?

Not that I would want to, as I want to be a community-focused councillor, but hypothetically, I have a background in community education and youth work so that would be very interesting.

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

Unfortunately, I see climate change as an issue we as individuals, or as a community, can do little about. I can just about remember global warming, as it was referred to then, being talked about when I was in school in the 1970s. Fifty years on the levels of pollution and its effects on the environment have been catastrophic. We as a community can try our best to recycle and be “green” but the answer to the climate issue is in the hands of governments. I am just hoping science can save us.

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?)

Easy one, listened to the public of Wrexham.

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

Being on the waiting list to be seen, I am all too aware of the dire state of Betsi Cadwaladr as a whole. Just before the last Senedd elections, it was removed from “special measures,” but all we have seen is a stream of local media reports about past and present failings. This is fundamentally an issue with the management of Betsi Cadwaladr and lack of funding which the council can do nothing about. The staff do an amazing job as always but the pressure they are under cannot be good for them or the public of Wrexham they serve. My 89-year-old neighbour waited for over 9 hours on the floor after a fall, for an ambulance to attend a nursing home where she was in for respite. Then there was the sad news of a pensioner dying on the road locally, a few weeks ago, waiting for an ambulance. It is not good enough; people are dying because of these failures. Within the ward, the number of complaints I have had about Hill Crest surgery, must run just behind roads, paths and repairs. I do not know what the problem is with that surgery, but if elected, I will certainly be looking more in-depth into this issue so I can explain it to the many disgruntled and angry patients in the ward.

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

I was lucky enough last year to get an invitation to join the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Grassroots Poverty Action Group (JRF GPAG) as a lived experienced expert. There, I not only got to share my experiences, those of my community and friends but to hear from others across the UK: single mothers, family’s suffering from in-work poverty, carers, and those with disabilities both mental and physical. Listening to some of the experiences was quite distressing at times but informative of the wider impacts of poverty on individuals, families and communities as a whole. Campaigning on poverty and energy price rises has become a bit of a passion for me. I have already taken part in some national media interviews on the issues of poverty and the effects of rising energy bills on us all. I will continue to work on the various projects I am involved in through the Local Conversation and Caia Park Partnership in developing services to support our community though this cost of living crisis. GPAG is the only outside area of interest that I will continue with if elected as councillor.

8. How would you improve the local education system?

Education and policy are primarily a function of central government implemented by local authorities. It is no secret that Wales has the poorest ratings in the UK for school-based learning. One area I would certainly like to see improved is the support for pupils with learning difficulties. I have a number myself and did not achieve academic success until later in life. Unfortunately, there are still far too many young people labelled as troublemakers or uninterested in education that have undiagnosed learning difficulties. Life long and community learning has also suffered from a lack of funding over the past 15 to 20 years. I am seeing that more of this type of funding is becoming available again and hopefully we can harness that to have a wide program of community education in the area again.

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?

No, I do not intend to be a member of any party or group. I am standing for election because I want to be an active local councillor, dealing with the issues raised by any tenant or resident and concentrating on community development. With the increase in the number of seats, and no party fielding enough candidates to take a majority, it could be a very tightly balanced council. If it meant my support or not would be the difference in a change of regime in the council, I would seriously have to consider the options. The only thing I would rule out is joining the present ruling group.

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 ?

One of the things I love about living in this area is I have always talked to young people, or they have talked to me first. From “Hey Col, how does that work on your bike?” to ones I have had knock on my door with problems they just wanted to talk about as they grew older. Many have become good friends. I have had different answers when I have asked walking around campaigning. The one that made me laugh was “parents.”I would say by far, the most mentioned, is nowhere for them to go, especially in the winter. I worked in the old QP youth club and that was a haven for a lot of teenagers for a few hours a night a week. Again, we are back to funding, not just QP, across the UK we have lost our youth clubs. Not holding out much hope, but you never know, the government might finally realise that it was a mistake to shut down our youth clubs.

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