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Friday, May 02, 2008

Local Elections Part One - South Wales West

If truth be told I really am too tired to blog and should instead be tidying up the Committee Room, cutting the grass, doing the shopping and all the other little jobs that have been neglected for the past eight weeks. Nevertheless, I did want to make an early comment on the outstanding results in my region of South Wales West.

Firstly, it is difficult to know what happened in Bridgend. Their website is devoid of information and all I have is rumours and unsubstantiated press reports. I know we lost Coity to an independent, which came as a shock, but we also regained Nottage in Porthcawl from the Tories. All else is shrouded in mystery.

What appears likely is that if we stand still in terms of the number of seats we and the other parties hold in Bridgend, Labour will take charge in coalition with a group of independents. It seems that this deal was arranged sometime ago irrespective of the name-calling that passed between the two groups during the election. This is because the existing Liberal Democrat-led Administration never had an overall majority there but took charge because of the disarray within Labour following their defeat in 2004.

Neath Port Talbot are also tardy in putting results on their website but it is reported that Labour have held on to power. We shall see. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have doubled the number of seats they hold on this council, gaining the second seat in Cimla at last and winning Cadoxton through long-time party stalwart, Frank Little.

Swansea was one of Labour's top targets but they fell back, ending up two seats down, subject to the outcome of a recount this morning. The big losers were Plaid Cymru and the Tories. Plaid won five seats in 2004 but they now only have one. Their Cockett stronghold, where Plaid AM Dai Lloyd was once a Councillor, has been lost to them. Three of the seats in this ward are now held by the Welsh Liberal Democrats. The fourth seat is the subject of a recount. The Welsh Liberal Democrats go into this recount nine votes ahead of Labour.

The Tories too failed to live up to expectations and indeed, bucked the national trend. They regained the Oystermouth seat, which they won in 2004 only to see their Councillor go independent. In truth that is a hold, not a gain. They also held on in Pennard, Mayals and Fairwood, however in Sketty which they had high hopes of wresting from the Welsh Liberal Democrats they face disaster.

In 2004 this ward returned three Welsh Liberal Democrats and two Tories. One of those Conservative Councillors subsequently defected to the independents and then became a Welsh Liberal Democrat. All four of those sitting Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillors appear to have held their seat, a Lib Dem gain from Tory. In the fifth seat our candidate is currently nine votes ahead of the sitting Conservative with a recount due to start shortly. It is possible that not only will the Tories come out of this election one seat down on 2004 but also that any hope they had of holding the balance of power on the Council has gone.

That is because between them (and subject to the recounts delivering) the two coalition partners on Swansea Council now hold between 36 and 38 seats out of 72, a possible overall majority if they agree to renew their partnership and if our party membership endorses such a deal.

Whenever I was asked what would happen in Swansea before the election I said that the Welsh Liberal Democrats would win between 19 and 23 seats but that whether we continued to lead the Council depended on the performance of the Independents and whether a new deal could be struck. Well it looks like we will win between 21 and 23 seats and the Independents have gained four.

I may be tired but I am also quite excited at the challenges that now lie ahead. The people of Swansea have recognised the work that has been done by the Welsh Liberal Democrat Administration in turning the City around. We have doubled recycling rates, invested in public transport measures, re-opened the Leisure Centre that Labour closed, opened a new Central library and brought the first retail development to Swansea for decades. We have improved street cleansing, protected school funding and invested in school buildings. We have done all this whilst keeping Council Tax rises at half the rate they were under Labour.

The challenges that face us now are immense, not least the £150 million plus backlog in school building maintenance. Nevertheless we are up for it and ready to make the difficult decisions that are needed to take Swansea forward again.

The full Swansea results are here.
do you think we can have a rest now from the threats of political apocalypse for Lib Dems that the Nat-Soc hacks love to put out? Even just for a few weeks? :o)

ps: well done, to you and your colleagues Peter. Swansea's rewarded you for sticking to your guns and not being knocked off course by the bluster and buffing.
Peter I'm really surprised that you thought that Coity was a shock. Jackie Radford isn't from the village and she only won by 7 votes in 2004. The front page story in yesterday's Gazette was really the kiss of death. Ella Dodd the independent councillor is a genuinely lovely person and I know that she was shocked to find two policemen at her front door. People have been amazed at the whole story and it has generated genuine anger. Parliamentary Acts which are designed to punish genuine abuses of the elctoral process are now sadly been used for the most petty reasons by politicians of all politcal parties to try to embarrass their opponents. In this case Jackie Radford scored a spectacular own goal and was punished at the ballot box as a result.
Cllr Vaughan is claiming a secure overall majority in NPT. I understand that Labour has gained Blaengwrach (from Plaid, no doubt because of the Cabin controversy), Margam from the Ratepayers and at least one seat from an Independent. Plaid have not made as much progress as they had hoped.

I demur from your kind description of me. You have been in the party longer than I have, and I have not been as instrumental in our gains as Des & Annette Sparkes and Richie Northcote have, not forgetting those true stalwarts Ron McConville and Marilyn Harris. (I hope you will forgive me for pinching some of your comment space for making that acknowledgment.)
Frank H Little
Why was there little choice in Neath Port Talbot?

Thus Voters returned Labour candidates who have good track records and have delivered over the past 4 years.
I have now seen the Glamorgan Gazette Jeff.

Frank is absolutely right about those individuals who have given so much to the Welsh Liberal Democrats in Neath Port Talbot and I would certainly join him in acknowledging their contribution.
Swansea Labour Group Councillor Leaders (Losers) spent the post election hours phoning up several Non Labour Councillor Members desperately begging them to join the Labour Group to give them the power the electorate refused to trust them with. The sharp answer was - second word "off". Yet they are still talking to the Tories!! Having spent £5,000 on just two local newspaper adverts begging for votes, it would have been wiser to have advertised for better candidates earlier in the campaign!
The Tories won back Oystermouth with Anthony Colbourne a larger than life character. Tony is well known in Mumbles area - some say he is the "mouth" in Oystermouth. What is interesting is to hear from many sources that he said before the nominations went in that if he did not get the Conservative nomination then he would stand as an Independent. So he is not going to be a little poodle to the whims of Rene Kinzett like Tony Lloyd was who lost. It's obvious the long Tory knives will be out for Rene Kinzett very soon.
The thing people should bare in mind now is the fact that the NPT Ratepayers are disarray; defections and losses mean that they are a broken organisations, the Aberafan & Neath Lib Dems should take advantage of this to recruit new members and put up as many people as possible in former Ratepayer held wards.

G Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems
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