Sunday, 6 May 2012

Thoughts on North Ward County Council election

Congratulations to Plaid’s Mark Strong on becoming the new county councillor for Aber’s North Ward. Likewise, commiserations go to outgoing member, Carl Williams, who has served the people of North Ward at both county and community council level for many years. Thanks as always go to Ceredigion elections department and the Police for their work in ensuring that we enjoyed a free and fair election. I am grateful to all those who voted for me and also to wonderful friends who helped me with my campaign, especially to Richard Meirion Griffiths, the best campaign manager in the world! Out of approx. 2200 people, only 512 bothered to vote in North Ward - a low turn-out compared to previous local government contests. Whilst more students than usual voted, it’s fair to say that many votes cast were a protest directed at the UK Government and indeed Plaid's last leaflet to be targetted at the student community demanded: 'Do you want to send a message to the Government?' North Ward consists of roughly 1200 students living in both private sector and University accommodation (seafront halls)and the remainder are other residents who consist of a number of sole occupants, families and a large swathe of older retired people - many of whom also live alone. There are a number of small business operators in the ward in the form of shops, hotels, guest houses, etc., but probably fewer than twenty. The ‘doorstep’ and local government issues raised with me by the non student community were about the relocation of the Senior Citizens' Day Centre, the threat to services at Bronglais and budget cuts affecting social care more generally. At the time of writing, it’s too early to know whether or not the new Council Cabinet will be able to reverse the decision on the Day Centre or if it will be their intention to do so? Students are concerned about the standard of private rented sector accommodation, much of which is over-priced, ill-equipped and poorly maintained. There’s a problem with absentee landlords – those who live more than an hour’s drive from Aber who don’t employ a property manager. Local residents living nearby are justifiably frustrated by this and the amount of rubbish and detritus that’s often left to collect in front gardens making parts of the ward look really unattractive. Apparently, regular meetings do take place between landlords and Councillors, but more needs to be done. Perhaps the new Landlord Accreditation Scheme will help to address some of these issues? Finally, I would also question the wisdom of bringing 23 houses at Pentre Jane Morgan into the ward. There is a local opinion that the student village ‘geographically’ properly belongs to Waun Fawr!