It’s always a mix of elation and exhaustion following an election; and 2017 was no different! Thankfully, I was able to resume my daily routine of answering residents’ queries, & holding surgeries, alongside dealing with the usual local issues – such as potholes, waste collections, planning applications and parking issues – quickly.
I think it’s fair to say that the past year has been dominated by several key issues for residents in Heath Ward:
The planned closure of Wedal Road HWRC;
the development of the Aldi store on Caerphilly Road;
the development of the Highfields site in Allensbank Road; and
the lack of a Park & Ride facility in Cardiff North.
The continuing lack of infrastructure and an integrated transport system in Cardiff is keenly felt in Heath & Birchgrove. Congestion which affects air quality; parking pressures from UHW; and managing traffic at the school gates all remain challenging. But it was good to see a 20mph scheme introduced in Birchgrove Road, after much campaigning, albeit that it is not of the standard we’d have liked.
Planning applications continued to be controversial, as was seen by both the Aldi development on Caerphilly Road, and at the former Highfields site. However, it has been good to see the Council investing in affordable housing across the city, and I welcome the inclusion of Council owned units at Highfields.
This year I have been concentrating on several wider concerns:
The role of councillors as corporate parents;
Food poverty in Cardiff;
The health risks around rubber crumb pitches; and
How to overcome the barriers that are preventing more diversity within Council chambers.
Councillors are corporate parents for those young people who are in care. Making the decision to exempt those young people who are leaving care from Council Tax until the age of 25 was unanimous in 2017. But there is still a great deal to do to ensure that these young people get the support that they need whilst in care; and when they leave. I shall continue to campaign for young people in LA residential care to be given the same choice as those in foster care: to be able to stay beyond 18 years old.
The Council’s partnership with UNICEF highlighted to me the obligations that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child place on councillors. I have been asking questions about how we ensure that children’s rights are placed at the heart of Council policy. I believe that we must encourage more consultation with young people, including those under 16, and listen to their experiences and aspirations before making significant policy and spending decisions that affect their future.
Food poverty during school holidays hit the headlines last year both nationally and locally. While looking for ways in which our local communities could come together to help to alleviate the problems, I visited projects like the Pentrebane Zone to find out more about communities providing for themselves.
This is just a snapshot of my year. Happy to answer any questions!
Last May, I was honoured to have been re-elected to represent Llanishen and Thornhill on the City Council. Llanishen is one of the largest wards in Cardiff – represented by four Councillors – and its also where I grew up and have lived for most of my life. Yet it’s fair to say the past twelve months have been different to my previous five years on the Council!
For a start, I’ve moved from working in a team of three local Labour Councillors, to a team of just one! Across Cardiff North, the number of Labour Councillors elected in May 2017 also fell from eleven to four, although the number in Cardiff increased from 39 to 40 (out of 75).
As a result, I’ve had to work differently to manage my workload and am also working even closer now with others, including Cardiff North’s Assembly Member and Member of Parliament, Julie Morgan and Anna McMorrin, to ensure the voice of residents is heard within the Council and beyond!
There’s also been a shift in the amount of social media activity by Councillors over the past year or so. It’s now quite common in most of the city to find Facebook or Instagram pages where Councillors are posting local updates and which also help us to find out the views of residents on a whole range of issues. In recent years, my own Facebook page has attracted over 1,000 ‘Followers’ and whilst at times it can feel like you are never far away from it all, these sites are an important tool for communicating locally.
Finally, another noticeable change over recent years has been the growth in local community networks, events and activities. There are now social media networks on ‘Nextdoor’ and ‘Facebook’, including a new page set up by residents living on a new housing estate near Morrisons, helping residents share views and information with one another. One resident has set up a monthly litter pick group, others have set up new charities, whilst the new Community Hub in Llanishen village now hosts free weekly social events. And that’s all in addition to the great work being done by local schools, charities, clubs and businesses to strengthen and improve our community.
Campaigning remains an important part of my role on the Council. As well as the restoration and return of leisure and community facilities to Llanishen reservoir, the other main local campaign issue which has dominated my time on the Council has been trying to secure the future of Llanishen Police Station, which at one point was threatened with closure. After a long campaign with local Assembly Member, Julie Morgan and former Llanishen Councillors, Garry Hunt and Julia Magill, the past year finally saw a new Library and Community Hub open on the ground floor of the police station building.
Llanishen is the first ‘Community Hub’ to be based inside a non-Council owned building and is a great example of Councillors working with a range of partners to find ways to keep services local, despite the squeeze on Council budgets. As well as a new full-time library with a children’s reading area, residents in north Cardiff also have access to a range of advice services and training courses (as well as a popular supply of green and food waste bags!). Our local neighbourhood police team are still based on the first floor and hold regular community meetings and drop-in events. Over 700 people visited the Hub during its launch day alone in November 2017, which also coincided with another highly successful Christmas lights switch-on in Llanishen village. I’m very grateful to everyone who helped make this project happen – and if you haven’t had a chance to pop in yet, it’s well worth a visit!
I’ve also been kept busy with a large and varied mix of casework from residents. Over the past twelve months, this has included lobbying the Health Board after Newborough Avenue Clinic was closed and GP services moved to Gabalfa with little notice (from December 2017). I’ve also tried to help residents unhappy with the disruption and quality of street works undertaken by Virgin Media as part of the roll out of a new superfast broadband network – holding several drop-in events for residents with Virgin Media representatives.
In April, I hosted one of the biggest public meetings in Thornhill in recent years with well over 100 people attending to discuss local bus services. In particular, the re-routing of NAT’s X8 bus service down a residential street in Thornhill – without prior consultation – left a lot of unanswered questions for residents. Whilst NAT decided not to attend the meeting, Cardiff Council and Cardiff Bus did. As a result of local pressure, NAT Group also agreed to carry out a questionnaire with local residents to help decide on a way forward.
However, some of the most frequently raised issues can also be the hardest to solve, and include poor public transport links as well as the condition of local roads and parking problems, alongside a shortage of good quality, affordable homes. In Thornhill, for example, there are just eight Council owned flats in a community of more than 3,140 homes. I’ve therefore tried to use my voice on the Council to lobby for more investment in our city, whether that be in our schools, in more social housing or in our transport system – and not just to benefit my own ward, but all parts of Cardiff.
I’ve also continued to push hard for cultural change within your Council – I firmly believe it must become much more open, transparent and democratic in how it makes decisions which effect all our lives and that the Council needs to get even better at working for, and with, local residents to improve communities across Cardiff.
Over the past six years, it’s fair to say I’ve learnt a great deal about my home city and local Council (both good and bad!) but feel very fortunate to have worked with so many amazing people who continue to work so hard to make our city an even better place to live, work and enjoy. I really couldn’t ask for more than that!
This article is by Rhys Taylor and Ashley Wood, Liberal Democrat Councillors for Gabalfa and Mynachdy.
It’s difficult to believe that it’s been a whole year since we were elected to represent Gabalfa and Mynachdy! We got to work right away after the election and the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind.
We’ve worked hard to balance addressing day to day resident concerns, and being proactive in identifying opportunities to make our area better. It’s fairly easy to report problems like potholes, waste, problem parking (solving them is a whole other story!), but it’s not so easy to recognise opportunities and ways of achieving them.
It’s a privilege to serve as a councillor – to have the support of residents to represent them at City Hall, and the trust to help them with their concerns or issues they’re dealing with.
For most people being a councillor means dealing with bins, potholes and dog mess which is (half) true! Most of the issues we deal with from day to day is the bread and butter of community issues, and those are the issues that we’ve been fighting to address – pothole repairs, fighting for funding to repair Talygarn Street, calling for more regular sweeping of lanes, calling to improve the safety of subways and pavements, and fighting plans for 350 student flats on Mynachdy Road.
Solving these issues is a bit like a revolving door, but we’ll keep at it!
On a more positive note, we secured the expansion of Maitland Park, a consultation on resident parking, recognition of the need to solve parking on Whitchurch Road, resurfacing Parkfield Place and Newfoundland Road, and supporting the creation of a new community group to ensure a future for the Mynachdy Institute.
Beyond local community issues, we have both been elected to serve on the Public Protection and Licensing Committees, in addition Rhys is a member of the Children and Young People Scrutiny and Bilingual Cardiff Committees whilst Ashley serves on the Environmental Scrutiny.
It’s a privilege to serve on these committees, not only to represent our own communities but to look to the needs of the whole city – how we improve the school estate, how to improve recycling rates, or how to tackle the rising number of children in care. These aren’t easy issues to resolve, and these bring councillors from all parties together to tackle the issues facing our city.
It’s been a great year and we’re looking forward to what’s ahead!
By Rhys Taylor and Ashley Wood (Councillors for Gabalfa and Mynachdy)
A year ago I was returned as the County Councillor for Whitchurch and Tongwynlais I was absolutely thrilled to represent both villages once again, especially as I was born in one and spent most of my early years in the other as were generations of my family.
To me the role of County Councillor is to represent every person equally in both villages irrespective of their political leanings. This is a great honour and privilege.
For me personally it’s not about politics it’s about people and doing the very best you can, the politics really does come second (that’s me deselected next time).
It’s been a very busy, rewarding and sometimes frustrating year. I’m what you would call a back bench Councillor, I have no aspirations to either chair or sit on lots of committees, I just want to do the job in hand. I have made many new friends, laughed and cried with them, and occasionally cried with frustration when things did not come together. As a Councillor you are expected to sit on at least one committee so I sit on The Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee. Also as a teacher I shadow the Cabinet Member for Education. Each month we all attend full council in the City Hall.
Within the wards of Whitchurch and Tongwynlais we attend many meetings such as Hectra, ward surgeries and home visits to residents. During this year I have been successful in helping four young families to be re- housed. I was especially thrilled as the available housing stock is very small and the joy on the faces of these families made it all worthwhile.
I have also been involved in a number of planning disputes in which I have had some success. I was involved with residents regarding the new Velindre Hospital and the Trust.
There have been many anti-social behaviour problems dealt with. I have been dealing with families needing disabled facilities such as disabled parking and H bar markings throughout both villages.
I have been involved in many resident issues that to some may seem rather small but to the individual the could be life changing.
I am constantly working with local authority officers to improve roads, pavements etc. In the next few months in Tongwynlais and Whitchurch a number of roads and pavements will be re-surfaced. I have built up a good relationship with these officers and even though they have budget cuts to consider always manage to help (it’s because I continually nag them). I won’t accept no for an answer, but however some things can be solved immediately, and other work takes a little longer.
I also believe it’s important to be involved in voluntary work within the ward. I am the musical director of The Castell Coch Choral Society, Chairman of the Tongwynlais Village Hall, Chairman Whitchurch and Tongwynlais Festival committee, Secretary of Churches Together, member of I Love Ton. I work with the Tongwynlais School Choir and Whitchurch Primary School year 3 and 4 choir, I am also a Sunday school leader.
On a personal note I hope to be allowed to continue fighting for the residents of Whitchurch and Tongwynlais for as long as possible. I believe there is no better place in Wales, our communities are vibrant with a great community spirit. They should be treasured, and by working together we can keep it that way.
By Linda Morgan (Councillor for Whitchurch and Tongwynlais)
Since the Local Elections in May 2017 it has been a busy time I’m sure for all Elected Members, particularly newbies like me. Immediately following the declaration of the election results I was given an envelope with contact details and dates for training sessions. The roller coaster had begun.
The first emotion I recall as an Elected Member was frustration. Like many Elected Members, I find it a privilege to represent my community and the area in which I have lived all my life. Pontprennau and Old St. Mellons is a growing community with nearly 5,000 additional dwellings proposed under the Local Development Plan. Currently, along with Councillor Dianne Rees, my ward colleague, we have around 7,500 electors living in the Ward. There are many complex issues residents ask for our assistance in dealing with and it is frustrating that these requests take time.
As a Councillor there are four key parts to your role.
Firstly you’re elected to represent your community, in my case, Pontprennau and Old St Mellons, to represent the views of those who elected you and those who didn’t elect you. As a Councillor I’m there to represent all stakeholders in my community and that includes those who didn’t vote for me. In terms of representing my community this would include speaking in Full Council debates on issues relevant to Pontprennau and Old St Mellons, such as the need to address anti-social parking and associated congestion, a new primary school for residents in St Edeyrn’s (the new development between Pontprennau and Old St Mellons) and raise individual residents observations and concerns with Council Officers.
Secondly you’re elected to represent our City, Cardiff. This would include city-wide projects such as the recently introduced cycle hire scheme, known as the ‘Boris Bikes’ and speaking on additional funding for Cardiff. Something I raised recently was the fact that Cardiff doesn’t benefit from capital city funding. As a capital city we are the economic power hub of our region, hosting worldwide events such as the Champions League Final and international boxing matches. As a result we should receive, like Edinburgh, capital city funding from Welsh Government.
Thirdly many of us are elected on political party basis and therefore are expected to promote the values and beliefs of our parties. As a County Councillor it is not as prevalent politically as being perhaps an Assembly Member however we have adopted local party policies which we believe serve in the best interests of Cardiff and Cardiff’s communities. An example of this is our opposition to the Council’s mass development plans. Alternatively we want to see positive engagement with stakeholders and developers to improve infrastructure before embarking on mass development, we also believe in developing a regional approach to development so all parts of South Wales can share in future economic prosperity. Recently the Council have published a consultation document regarding transport, something which our group on the Council called for, the document includes the suggestion of a congestion charge and clear air zones. The introduction of a congestion charge in the City risks destroying our local economy, with consumers choosing to shop online as public transport alternatives simply aren’t good enough.
Finally the forth key part of being an Elected Member is your duty as a Councillor to your Local Authority. For example, we are all corporate parents to the children in the care of the Local Authority. We are also expected to sit on committees. I sit on the Standards and Ethics Committee, the Council’s Appeals Committee which sits to determine housing and school transportation appeals and the Licensing Committee which is responsible for granting licenses. All the committees I sit on provide a diverse range of service to stakeholders. It has given me an important insight into how the Council operates and I thoroughly enjoy working with colleagues from across the political spectrum to get the best deal for our City and for my community.
I get real zest from my role as an Elected Member and want to see Cardiff and its communities succeed and reach its full potential. They say a year is a long time in politics, let me let you into a little secret; they’re not wrong!
The first article is by Jennifer Burke Davies, Labour Councillor for Llandaff North.
As I reminisce over my first 12 months as a Councillor, I’m struck by how quickly time moves but Local Government, does not.
Overwhelmingly, my experiences have been positive – I enjoy the wide variety of opportunities that have come my way from being involved in Committees to attending Full Council Meetings but by far, the most rewarding aspect of the role is speaking to local residents. Whether this is in surgeries or when I’m out walking the dog. I’m always happy to stop and have a chat to residents about local matters, particularly if I can be of some help!
The area where I’ve found I’ve experienced the most frustration is how so slow it can be to get a response, up to 10 working days, or how it can feel like walking through treacle to make progress on a project. I’m sure all Councillors, old and new, will share my dismay at Local Government Funding – ultimately, this comes from the UK Government and is disseminated to Councils through the Welsh Assembly Government. We have been living in a period of austerity since 2010 and councils around the UK have felt the full force of this, some facing cutting their budgets to the bone in order to maintain essential frontline services.
I’m pleased to say that our Labour run Council here in Cardiff have protected library services and continued to put record investment into our Schools but that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been hard decisions, when there’s no money in the budget to work on projects that would benefit or improve the lives of Llandaff North Residents. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been working with some local residents to create a Charitable Trust Fund, it would enable the community to bid for funding that would benefit the wider area and Council Officers have said that they’re supportive of working with the community to achieve the aims of their mission statement.
Rather than concentrate on what we haven’t been able to do (yet!) I’d like to come back round to talk about the positive impact I feel I’ve been able to make! We’ve had Sustrans visit Hailey Park to look at improving the Taff Trail for all users, with feedback due in April 2018. One of my particular areas of passion is to support the park area to become safe and enjoyable for everyone who wants to use it – mainly to improve Taff Trail access. I’m beginning work on a Resident’s Association for the Lydstep Area, I hosted a Great Get Together Coffee Morning in the Llandaff Hyb and raised £250 for the Jo Cox Foundation. Cllr. Ali and I are working on bringing forward a consultation to residents to address parking issues in various parts of the ward and I’ve lobbied Cllr. Caro Wild, Cabinet Member for Transport, to bring some of the new NextBikes to Llandaff North, I’m looking forward to seeing them arrive! By the end of the summer holidays, we will also have not one but two brand new school buildings in the ward for Gabalfa Primary & Ysgol Glan Ceubal, with a massive £8 million of investment, this will mean quality education for both English and Welsh Mediums in our area.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my first year as a Councillor but I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and achieving more in the next 4 years!