Baroness Anita Gale is a Labour Whip and speaks from the frontbench on Wales matters in the House of Lords
Welsh Labour launched its Local Election campaign today (16th April) in the positive knowledge that we saw an increase in the vote of 9%, gaining four seats, and winning 30 of the 60 seats at the Welsh Assembly elections in 2011.
And now people in Wales get to have their say again on the 3rd of May, with 21 out of the 22 councils up for election.
To get an overall picture of what’s going on in Welsh local elections is difficult, with the contrasts of the rural areas of Wales having a strong independent tradition; Powys and Pembrokeshire are both good examples. Candidates with political labels don’t usually get much of a look in but with our strong local candidates leading the field we are looking to establish a foot-hold in these areas.
Labour’s heartland in the Valleys of South Wales is so different, but in 2008 we emerged with overall control in just two councils, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Neath/Port Talbot. Whilst in Caerphilly, Plaid Cymru controls the Council with the help of a few Independent councillors.
Blaenau Gwent is an interesting case where the “ People’s Voice” made gains in 2008, but since then we have regained the Parliamentary seat in 2010 with Nick Smith, and regained the Welsh Assembly seat with Alun Davies last year. After a few turbulent years, things are now looking much better for us.
Newport Council is Lib-Dem controlled, but last year’s Assembly elections saw John Griffiths AM increase the Labour vote. These councils were Labour controlled for many years although we lost support at the local level, with our strong showing in the Assembly elections the outlook for Labour in the Valleys is now much more positive.
Cardiff, as the capital city of Wales, is naturally a very important council. It is the biggest in Wales and controlled by the Lib-Dems with the support of Plaid Cymru. First Minister Carwyn Jones launched the Cardiff Labour manifesto last week, and he believes we can gain enough seats to take control, although it will require a lot of hard work. He praised the Labour candidates for their dedication and enthusiasm. We are fighting every seat and have high hopes of taking control. At last year’s Assembly elections we gained two of the four seats, Cardiff North from the Conservatives and Cardiff Central from the Lib-Dems - a seat they had held since the first elections in 1999, and there is also a big student vote here, so we will offer young people in Wales hope and a positive reason to vote Labour at these elections.
Looking forward in Cardiff, we have an excellent programme to implement on gaining control, which demonstrates that Labour can deliver fairness and opportunity in these tough times.
Our pledge to the people of Cardiff is to –
• Freeze council tax in 2013 and keep annual increases to fewer than 2%.
• Act urgently to reduce youth unemployment and bolster Cardiff’s economy, working with the Labour Assembly to bring new jobs to the city.
• Tackle Cardiff’s housing crisis creating decent affordable homes.
• Raise standards in Cardiff schools so every child has a “Capital Education”.
• Reform social services to provide first class support for the most vulnerable.
• Protect Cardiff’s great green spaces - creating a sustainable city in terms of transport, planning and community safety.
Our candidates and their teams are campaigning every day together with the Assembly members and MPs working closely with them, taking nothing for granted right up to polling day.