We’ve invited all the local election candidates to complete this questionnaire so you know more about the people asking for your vote on the 4th of May. We’re also compiling a list of their websites and social media accounts so you can follow them and get in touch if you have any questions.
Name – Mike Jones-Pritchard
Party – Conservatives
Ward – Whitchurch and Tongwynlais
Website – wandt2017.wales
Twitter – Not yet!
Facebook – whitchurchandtongwynlais2017
How can people get in touch with you? – Phone, MikeJonesPritchard@wandt2017.wales, Facebook – see web page for number.
Tell us about yourself
I live in Tongwynlais with my wife Janine and we have three sons, all of whom attended Tongwynlais Primary and all of whom have now finished university. Born in Cardiff, I attended Heol Hir, (now Llanishen High) and Cardiff High, before going to University here. We moved to Tongwynlais in 1989 and I started an Architect’s Practice in Whitchurch in 1991, moving it to Tongwynlais in 2012.
I had the pleasure and honour to serve as one of Whitchurch and Tongwynlais’ local councillors from 2008 – 2012 and have been a Community Councillor in Tongwynlais since 1999. In an uncontested election, I have just been re-elected for another term.
I really enjoyed my time as a Cardiff councillor, serving on the Planning Committee, the Housing Appeals panel and others, while representing the ward, helping many residents and having an impact on Cardiff wide issues and initiatives. Linda Morgan and I had the only successful opposition motion in four years, where we succeeded in keeping the schools music service in existence. This service, which can benefit all children, is under threat again. In addition to my business, I enjoy working in the community and undertaking voluntary work. I have been the Chair of the governing bodies of both Coryton and Tongwynlais Primary Schools for a number of years. I am a leader in the 1st Whitchurch Scouts and I sing with, and am Chair of, Castell Coch Choral Society. In Whitchurch, I am Treasurer of the Community Centre and in Tongwynlais, I am a member of the choir in St Michael and All Angels Church, am on the committee of the Village Hall, and the TON group, and have helped organise the festivals in Whitchurch and Tongwynlais for many years.
For relaxation, (yes I do have some time left!) I enjoy time with my family, you might see me out running down the Taff or up to Nantgarw, or through the forest on one of the numerous paths in the area. I enjoy listening to music, usually Classic FM these days, reading, chatting with friends and a nice glass of red – but not all at the same time! With my family, I’ve also been in the Cardiff Scout and Guide Gangshow and Pantomime cast, virtually every year since 2008.
What are the biggest issues in your ward?
The main issues raised are traffic, potholes, parking, dog mess and litter. The results of our ward wide survey showed the condition of the roads to be of the most concern with the retention of the Recycling Centre in Wedal Road and the library in Whitchurch, coming second and third. Better youth facilities and improved cycle routes also received support.
The high levels of traffic coming in and out of Cardiff on Junction 32 affects Tongwynlais and north Whitchurch and the parking demands of UHW at Heath Park cause problems for many residents in south Whitchurch. “Rat runs”, with drivers taking short cuts to avoid traffic, cause concern in many parts of the ward, along with high levels of traffic around schools at the start and close of the day, with a demand from many for more parking enforcement.
The new proposals for Velindre Cancer Centre, are generating interest, with differing opinions on the benefits and impacts that they will have on the northern meadows and Whitchurch. The site has had outline permission for housing for around 20 years with the plans now showing a new hospital instead. A major difference is a new access from junction 32, to reduce traffic in Whitchurch. With an outline application to be submitted in May, and a planned construction by 2022, this and the proposals for the rest of the site, including the listed Whitchurch Hospital buildings, is likely to be a major issue in coming years.
Other issues that may arise from additional housing here, and elsewhere, will be the pressure on local schools from the need for additional places, both Welsh and English medium, and the capacity of the roads to take any additional traffic.
With the LDP bringing thousands of new houses, the management of the additional traffic and the proposals for an integrated transport network, will concern many in the ward. We need to ensure that Whitchurch and Tongwynlais, do not suffer from even more traffic on the roads in the area.
What’s your favourite place in Cardiff and why?
Apart from home in Tongwynlais with family and friends, the City is just too wonderful to choose a single place. The tranquility and beauty of the parks and open spaces, one of the best shopping centres in Britain, with new buildings and old arcades, the fantastic civic centre with the university, civic buildings and castle, Llandaff Cathedral, the Bay with the barrage, Mermaid Quay and the Millennium Centre, in the centre, the New Theatre and St David’s Hall. I could go on!
What do you think should be done to improve engagement in politics?
Politics has gained a bad name, sometimes rightly, from people who should know better. However, individuals and the media treat politicians in a way that non politicians rarely get treated. They are an easy target and often portrayed negatively. We have an electorate of over 16000 and even if there were only 2, our views would probably be wrong half the time!
Avoiding answers, or lying, puts people off but interviewers with alternative lines of argument to catch them out, doesn’t help. We all change our minds but when a politician is persuaded to, it’s a U turn and criticised. More public debates with schools and local groups instead of soundbites might improve engagement.
There is a tendency to focus on those that shout loudest and where this was once from a soapbox, now, a petition of 100 on social media, from a population of 20,000, becomes a headline “Local residents oppose..” Some politicians then agree with those shouting and forget the other 19,900. The loudest are not always right and the quiet ones sometimes have the correct answer. That also applies to politicians. If politicians sought and listened to the views of the quiet ones, there would be more engagement and less “I don’t do politics.”
There need to be many changes, we need to educate, young and old, into how our democracy works. The politician is not there to do what every individual wants, but to represent them. It’s wrong to label individuals as the same because they’re from a particular party, they are people too and their opinions differ. If voters are listened to and understood, if their representative really does want to help and does care, they would engage more and want to use their vote.
What people expect from their representatives and what those representatives can actually do is different. Better understanding by politicians of what the electorate expect and, by electors, of what their representatives actually do for them and the limits of their powers, may be a start.
What’s your favourite film?
It’s a Wonderful Life.
If You’re Elected
What will you do to improve your ward?
Firstly I have to be elected and then, depending on the make up of the new council, whether I am in opposition or part of the ruling group, will have an impact on what I can do.
We have good schools but there is more that can be done to raise standards and I would seek to help all the schools in the ward to do that.
The city has thousands of miles of roads and footpaths that need maintaining and residents are very concerned at the deterioration of these. Money might be tight, but lack of spending now on maintaining roads and footpaths just leads to higher costs in the future and more problems now.
An integrated transport network that keeps through traffic away from residential areas and allows more commuters to choose public transport with roads that allow traffic to flow freely, at all but the busiest times, would reduce rat runs and pollution and improve safety.
I would seek more traffic enforcement officers, booking people for parking on yellow lines and outside schools, where the safety of children is paramount. I would also like to see more lollipop people, along with better home to school walking routes.
Litter is a concern and I would aim to see how local cleansing representatives could be placed back into the community, both keeping the areas tidy and acting as educators, and maybe even wardens, working with enforcement officers to reduce littering and illegal parking.
I would work to maintain a library provision in both Tongwynlais and Whitchurch and develop the libraries as local hubs for other council services as well as a base for the local PCSOs. There is no council hub in the ward for residents to access council services, the nearest, in Llandaff North, has only just opened with the rest all in the south of the city.
The ward is served well by the Taff Trail but cycling on our roads needs to be safer and that needs to be coordinated with the integrated transport plan. There are proposals for a 20mph limit in many residential areas of the city to be introduced by 2020 but they are all south of Gabalfa. What about the safety of our children and older residents? Surely, 20mph is fast enough on the street outside your house and given average speeds now to cross the city, a reduction to 20mph would make little difference in travelling times but would make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
How will you communicate with residents in your ward?
As I and my colleagues live and work in the ward, many know us already and we can often be seen at local events and working in the community, where we would be happy to chat with residents.
I would also be available on the phone, by email, by Facebook and via a website, I would even try twitter! In addition, I would hold regular surgeries, and be available to meet local groups and schools, both to hear their views and to explain what a councillor can do, and does, for their communities and the wider city. I know from previous experience that it’s a lot more than attending a council meeting once a month. As part of the local Welsh Conservative team, I would distribute regular newsletters and carry out local surveys, where appropriate, both to inform and obtain views. The surveys could be door to door, by post or via social media on line.
What issues that affect the whole city would you like to get involved in?
There are so many but top of my list would be
- The development of an truly integrated transport network.
- Improving the standards of education throughout the city and seek ways to improve the abilities of children before they enter schools.
- To seek to maintain the quality of our city centre for visitors, residents, sport, business and shopping.
- Working with other agencies to help those in greatest need.
- Working with Welsh Government to build Cardiff into an ever better capital.
What would you change about Cardiff and why?
There are a tremendous amount of things in Cardiff that need to be preserved or enhanced, but change is a constant and some will go and be replaced with things that will initially get opposition but will come to be appreciated. Just because something is old and been here for a long time, does not mean that it is good and can’t be improved!
As a councillor we have a greater ability to direct and influence that change. I’d like to see the Bay and the City Centre linked. There is the potential of the Taff river taxi but why not a tram from the Castle to the Roald Dahl Plass, via Callaghan Square with the train and bus station. That will also need some filling in the gaps, the biggest of which might be Callaghan Square itself, but a tram link through it might help with this. It would serve commuters and local residents alike, leading to reduced car use and a reduction in pollution. Callaghan Square could be a fantastic public open space with virtually direct access to the train and bus station, serving commuters, shoppers, visitors and residents alike.
There are also quite a lot of small things that I would change, perhaps unimportant to some but noticed by others, such as keeping our main “gateways” into the city tidy and well tended. Making sure roadwork signs are removed when not used and also removing redundant road signs and posts.
I would also like to see a change in how play areas and our parks are financed. There is very little, or no, budget for works to the parks and play areas, unless it comes from a 106 planning agreement with developers. That’s not the way to do things!
Any final comments?
My personal view is that we should never start with “We can’t because …. “ We should always start with “How can we…?” and if you want to get things done, that’s the best way to start.
We in the UK are known for our tolerance, openness, fairness and friendliness (particularly in Wales, so I’m told by visitors). Recently, there has been a rise of populism along with considerable rhetoric and opposition to certain groups. I would like to see a city where politicians remember it’s not about party politics, or Westminster, or Cardiff Bay, or anywhere else. It’s about people, the people of Cardiff, wherever they live in the city and whatever their situation and it’s for the next council to ensure that Cardiff works for all of them. The first question they should ask is – How can we do this?
I would like to be asking that question, with my colleagues Linda, Mike and Tim, and whether or not we are is in your hands.