Council elections – Gazette Column – May 2012

Carwyn Jones AM with Deputy Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council, Cllr Dai Sage
Carwyn Jones AM with Deputy Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council, Cllr Dai Sage

With the dust having now settled after the recent council elections across Wales, I believe it is important to reflect on the positive message being sent to us by the electorate.

The voters have returned to Labour, with Bridgend County Borough Council seeing the election of 39 Labour Councillors, reflecting the wider success across Wales.

The Labour Party has regained the confidence of the voters but we must never allow complacency. We need to maintain that confidence and engage more people over the next few years to keep Labour values strong in our communities.

In my time as an Assembly Member I have been impressed by the way people have stepped up for local causes; fighting for safer, cleaner streets, setting up local groups and sports clubs, and continuing to invest in other important community activities that benefit all involved. The challenge now is to continue to create opportunities for communities to flourish, with local Councillors working alongside local people to create positive social change.

Engaging people and developing active and supportive local communities is paramount to building a strong relationship between our local Councillors and the people they are elected to represent. Labour people are at the heart of community life across Bridgend. People have seen Labour community activists working hard throughout our communities, leading campaigns, community tidy-ups and improving local community facilities. Those elected to represent you on the Council have a unique role in understanding local issues and the impact of council policies on people in their day to day lives. Our Councillors are ready for the challenge of supporting their communities in times of austerity. We can do this together by harnessing community spirit and the potential amongst us to be innovative, socially responsible and caring.

A Councillor’s duties include setting the budget for the year ahead, an especially important task when faced by the harsh cuts imposed by the Conservative-led UK Government. People understand that under these cuts, there is not going to be much money for local Government in the next few years and it is especially important that our Council protect those who most need support. People want to see Bridgend Council continue to prioritise those things that are important to them. Bridgend council has frozen council tax to support local families and businesses across the Borough, in recognition of the increased costs faced by people on a day to day basis. Bridgend is the only authority in Wales that offers a special pensions discount on council tax, which has already proved popular. Supporting local businesses, strengthening the town centre and creating job opportunities for local people remains a priority. The build of the new Penyfai School will shortly commence and the biggest ever investment into the Bridgend Recreation Centre will see local leisure facilities rejuvenated.

I started my political career as a local Councillor in Bridgend and know the challenges and responsibilities of seeking to improve local services and community facilities in a way that meets the needs and aspirations of a wide range of people.

I offer my congratulations to Cllr Marlene Thomas, the new Mayor of Bridgend, to Cllr Mel Nott and team, leading the Labour Group; and all those elected to represent their constituents on the Borough, Town and Community Councils alike.