Timothy John Sly – Welsh Liberal Democrats – Wrexham
All views on this page are from the candidate unedited.
1 – Aside from Covid and Covid recovery, what do you feel is the top issue for this constituency in the forthcoming parliament term, and briefly explain how you would like to see your desired outcome achieved ?
Recovering from the pandemic is THE issue for the next five years, which is why we’ve adopted the slogan ‘Put Recovery First’!
That means health recovery, dealing with the after effects of Covid, clearing the backlog of treatments which have been delayed by the pandemic, improving mental health care services, and boosting pay for health professionals and carers.
It also means getting businesses back on an even keel so they can thrive and offer jobs to more local people. We have a plan to invest £500 million over five years in a Welsh Towns Fund, to help shops, small businesses and our high streets recover, so they can sustain and create new jobs.
But another massive issue is making sure Wrexham is equipped to deal with the massive climate change that’s coming, and making sure that the local workforce is equipped for the jobs of the future.
2 – What is your plan for helping residents and businesses in your constituency in the coming years to recover from the pandemic?
I want to stop the flow of young people moving away from our area. The Lib Dems are planning £1 billion a year investment across Wales to fight the climate emergency and create new, sustainable green jobs. Wrexham has a great engineering skills base here, so it makes sense to develop Wrexham as a centre for green technology and energy storage.
I want to see investment in green high-tech jobs that give young people a reason to stay in the local area and build a career here. We can lead the way in building products and solutions to tackle climate change, but we need to attract fresh investment and we need Senedd representatives with the experience of science, technology and industry, who’ll fight to secure the jobs of the future that our communities deserve.
I believe that with the right investment and training, this area can emerge as the “green powerhouse” of Wales.
3 – The pandemic has highlighted to many for the first time the powers that the Senedd have under devolution. How has the pandemic changed your views of devolution?
I think the pandemic has made the Welsh Government seem real and relevant to the lives of ordinary people in a way that it hasn’t in the past. That’s partly down to the fact that so much of the media is based in London, and partly because managing the delivery of services like transport, health and education is not seen as very exciting.
For me, it’s reinforced my view that we need more devolution. I firmly believe that local issues like vaccine rollout, managed within Wales, have been far more successful than Track and Trace, which the UK government organised centrally by throwing billions often at their friends in big business, bypassing local public health bodies.
4 – What would you have done differently on the Welsh covid response?
With the benefit of hindsight, we should have locked down earlier. The Welsh government took a more precautionary approach than Westminster, but it was still too little, too late and tragically many people have died as a result. But it’s easy to be wise after the event and I believe that the Welsh Government thought they were doing the right thing at the time.
5 – Would you support legislation to hold an independence referendum for Wales? How would you vote in such a referendum and why?
Independence for Wales is not the answer, I would not support a referendum, and if one were held I would vote no.
Areas like Wrexham are so closely tied economically to North West England that the idea of setting up a hard border along the River Dee makes no sense at all.
I believe the future lies in devolution across the UK, with power devolved to the English regions alongside Wales and Scotland. The UK government should be reduced to the things that need to be organised on a national level, like defence, while Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the English regions should decide pretty much everything else.
Lib Dems believe in doing things locally wherever possible! Until we see devolution to the English regions and a federal structure for the UK, we’ll continue to get Westminster politicians who act as though Wales was a part of England, to be dictated to from London. By their actions, they are dangerously fanning the flames of nationalism in Scotland and Wales.
6 – What actions would you take, or support, as a MS to encourage Welsh language use growth? Or, if you are against this, why?
The Welsh Lib Dems are committed to increasing welsh medium education and I welcome this. As a Welsh learner myself, I think it’s important to make it easy for learners to access courses in a variety of ways that suit the individual, whether that’s online, in person or a mixture of the two.
I learned Welsh many years ago using the Wlpan method, but this is very intensive and demands a big time commitment from both learners and providers, which isn’t always possible.
The Welsh Lib Dems will pass a Welsh Language Education for All Act, giving equal status to the Welsh language in education including for life-long learning and in post-16 education.
7 – What does “climate emergency” mean to you, and why?
It means exactly that – an emergency! We are facing a crisis that goes beyond anything else for the foreseeable future. If we don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases and deforesting the planet, our children and grandchildren are going to live in a world that’s unrecognisable, and largely uninhabitable.
The Welsh Lib Dems are pledging a massive investment of £1 billion a year in green jobs, for example, to ensure that our homes are better insulated and that we can switch to more sustainable ways of heating and encourage a move to renewable energy sources. This can be done without raising taxes.
Almost every politician pays lip service to the need to tackle climate change, but I’m trying to practice what I preach. I work for a company that makes energy-saving products, I drive an electric car charged from renewable energy, and I’m avoiding all long-haul travel.
8 – There can be a perception that politicians are too “South Wales focused” and can see a north south divide. Do you think this is the case, and realistically if elected which of your North Wales specific goals do you think you can deliver?
Since the bulk of Wales’ population is based in the south, it’s inevitable that much of Welsh politicians’ attention will be focused there. But we also have to face the fact that the formula used to distribute Welsh Government funding to different parts of Wales is out of date and doesn’t adequately reflect the needs of an area like Wrexham – that’s one reason why local residents have seen such big council tax rises in recent years.
I would like to see Welsh Government departments distributed around Wales instead of being centred on Cardiff. If we had some key departments located in the North, we might see a greater focus on the needs of the North Wales communities.
One thing we do have is the North Wales Growth Deal. I want to see as much of that investment as possible brought to the Wrexham area to create and sustain jobs and leverage private investment in our area.
9 – What are your views on a LGBTQ+ plan for Wales?
I believe that every individual should be valued for the person that they are. I support the idea of an LGBTQ+ plan for Wales.
The Welsh Lib Dems are committed to ensuring sufficient funding for programmes which support people not traditionally represented in politics to access public office, including tackling harassment, bullying, and discrimination in public life.
10 – Children and young people have missed almost a full year of regular education – what are your plans to make sure that children who have missed out on academic and social experiences are not left at a disadvantage in the next few years?
Families have been able to give varying levels of support to their children during lockdown. Some mums and dads have effectively become full-time home tutors, others can’t because of work or other commitments, and poor broadband (or for many, a complete lack of connectivity) has meant that some children have missed out on their education completely.
Teachers that I know tell me that there are some students who have thrived with online learning, while other pupils have been unable to make any progress at all.
The Conservative government in Westminster has talked about catch-up classes in the school holidays, but this is really a non-starter as our teachers are exhausted after having to try to juggle class teaching for the children of key workers with supporting pupils’ learning online.
Welsh Liberal Democrats led the way on investing in early years education because that is where it makes the most difference. In Government, Kirsty Williams has continued to invest in the Pupil Development Grant (PDG), more than doubling funding for our youngest pupils and established PDG Access to further support families that need it more.
We will continue targeted financial investment to support our learners: we plan to extend provision of Free School Meals during the school holidays beyond the pandemic and to invest in programmes which tackle holiday hunger, isolation, and exclusion.
We want to continue funding to give our poorest pupils the same opportunities as their peers, from helping to cover the cost of school uniforms and sports kits, to supporting trips and IT equipment. And we will promote more inclusive school environments to ensure that all children can engage with their learning and receive appropriate support.
11 – Local services such as libraries, leisure centres and community centres have been badly affected in recent years due to lack of funding – how would you support local authorities?
I would view libraries, leisure and community centres as essential services, but sadly for many councils these have become ‘optional extras’ as they struggle to deliver basic services after years of effective funding cuts.
Local authorities need a better funding package from the Welsh government. The formula that determines government cash for each local authority is out of date and unfairly penalises areas such as Wrexham. So we need to reform it, to ensure that money is allocated across the various council areas on a fairer basis.
Looking ahead, we need to have a debate about how much we’re prepared to spend if we want to enjoy good public services, and how this should be funded. Other countries have tried a local income tax which could replace Council Tax. But any change to the tax system would have winners and losers.
The Welsh Lib Dems want to move local councils closer to the communities they serve, by replacing our large county boroughs with a larger number of small ‘Cantrefi’ Councils, by amalgamating town and community areas into meaningful and efficient units serving a small local area, with greater local accountability and autonomy.
12 – How would you resolve issues at the local health board that are emerging from special measures?
When an organisation as important as the health board spends so long in special measures, you really have to question whether it’s fit for purpose. I believe that Betsi Cadwalladr is so big that the leadership has become remote from staff, patients and the communities which they serve. One answer would be to break it up into two or three smaller organisations, but that didn’t work so well the last time it was tried.
So I feel that the board should consider moving to a decentralised management, where strategic leadership is set by the senior management, but the key decisions are taken locally, within each hospital or health centre. We need to see that the health board and the services it provides are truly responsive to the needs of the people that it exists to serve
13 – What are you planning to do to help those who are finding it hard to find work?
We want to focus on improving opportunities for lifelong learning, so that those who are finding it hard to get a job can train to acquire the skills they need. At the same time, our Welsh Town Fund will deliver £100M a year to support shops and small businesses and enable them to take on more workers.
The Welsh lib Dem plan to fight climate change by investing £1 billion a year will create thousands of new, sustainable green jobs over the next five years, I want to make sure that as many of those as possible are located in Wrexham and the surrounding area.
14 – Earlier this year after flooding hit parts of Wrexham you spoke of inadequate flood provision and called for more action and not words from the Welsh Government about the climate emergency. If elected how would you deliver improved infrastructure to prevent future flooding in the area and deliver “actions not words”.
We need to attack this problem in two ways. We need to improve flood defences at key points (for example, at Bangor-on-Dee and Rossett), but we need to start changing our landscape to minimise the risk of flooding in the first place.
By reforesting some of our hillsides, for example, we can make sure that floodwater is held back upstream released more slowly, to allow rivers and flood defences to cope. This is a long-term project but the Lib Dems are committed to making the investment we need to protect our communities from flooding.
15 – A lack of bus services, a poor road network, a need for more active travel and an improved train service are some of the more contentious issues in Wrexham. If elected what would you campaign for and deliver for your constituency?
In the long term, we need more and better public transport, to get people out of the cars and reduce congestion and air pollution in our town centres. But for the foreseeable future, many people are going to be reliant on cars, so we need to make sure the roads are fit to use. First off, we need to get rid of the pot holes!
Wrexham’s roads are in a particularly bad state. Much of this is down to a lack of basic maintenance over many years. So we need to repair the roads, and then make sure that they’re looked after so that they stay usable, by doing basic things like emptying the gullies regularly.
I would fight to electrify the Borderlands line, and campaign to get the trains to run all the way into Liverpool, instead of having to change at Bidston (there are plenty of trains available that can run through the underground tunnels). That opens up new possibilities for work, education and leisure.
Many communities are effectively cut off by the lack of a proper bus service. I believe we need a commitment to a minimum level of service to every area of Wrexham, so that no-one is excluded from work, education or other activities due to a lack of affordable, accessible public transport.
We are committed to providing free transport to everyone under 25.
I’m a keen cyclist and I would use my efforts to encourage the development of dedicated cycleways around the Wrexham area, so more people can get active without the fear of having to cycle amongst the traffic on our busy roads. The Lib Dem manifesto includes a commitment to promote active travel.
16 – When Kirsty Williams joined the Welsh Labour led Cabinet she was accused of being ‘elastic in her principles’, is a vote for Welsh Liberal Democrats going to enable Welsh Labour again?
Kirsty Williams is quite simply the best education minister we’ve ever had in Wales. Politics is about the art of the possible, and by accepting a ministerial post, Kirsty was able to push through a large part of the Lib Dem education manifesto.
This includes the new Welsh curriculum, which is being viewed as a model for how schools should be run by education experts all over the world. And in her last act as education minister she secured over £60M of funding so that Welsh students can continue to study abroad on the same terms that they could under the European ERASMUS scheme, which the Conservative UK government scrapped after Brexit.
If you vote for the Welsh Lib Dems, we will work with the party that helps us to get our party policies put into effect, without sacrificing our principles. Kirsty’s record over the last five years is proof of that.
17 – Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for a trial of a Universal Basic Income as part of ‘Putting Recovery First’ – Has the coronavirus pandemic changed the demand for such a measure and how would it be funded and implemented if your party receives a majority?
There’s a big debate around this topic at the moment. We believe – based on the growing body of evidence from trials around the world – that UBI not only reduces inequalities and increases wellbeing, but that it strengthens local economies.
If it’s implemented well, it should deliver a great benefit to many people, while costing a lot less to administer than other forms of benefits. Any trial of UBI would be funded by a realignment of tax thresholds. The exact level of any UBI payment is still under discussion, but no-one should be worse off as a result.
18 – If you change political allegiance from what you are currently seeking election for (eg. resigning from, or joining another party or group) will you trigger a by-election? If not, why not?
I’ve been a Liberal Democrat all my life, I can’t imagine any circumstances in which I’d ever switch party.
19 – At the time of writing where has the top three sources of funding for your campaign come from, and are there any funding sources you feel would be relevant to voters to know about?
All the funding for my campaign has come from the Welsh Liberal Democrats, via the local party here in Wrexham and the North Wales regional organisation. They in turn receive their funding from individual personal donations, through the generosity of ordinary members and supporters. We’re not in the pockets of any big donors!
20 – In a few lines to wrap this up, why are you the best candidate compared to your competitors?
I’ve seen a lot of life, working in both research and industry, then running several businesses, leading not-for-profit organisations and serving as a Councillor and a school governor.
I’m a good listener, I can get the measure of a person or a situation quickly and I know my way round both the public and private sectors.
I care about people and I know how to get things done for our local communities!