Political parties in Cardiff are battling to win a by-election next week after a long-standing councillor recently retired.
Voters will elect one councillor to the Heath ward in the north of the city, on Thursday, November 11.
The by-election was prompted following the retirement of Councillor Fenella Bowden, who stepped down for health reasons in September.
Four candidates are vying to replace her, and the result could be seen as a bellwether indicating the possible results of the local elections next May.
The candidates standing are: Gwennol Haf, Plaid Cymru; Peter Hudson, Conservative; Kathryn Lock, Liberal Democrats; and Julie Sangani, Labour.
Propel’s candidate pulled out at the last minute due to a “serious change” in family circumstances. Three councillors usually represent the Heath ward—the other two currently are Conservative Cllr Lyn Hudson and Labour Cllr Graham Hinchey.
Cllr Bowden was first elected to the ward in 2008 as a Liberal Democrat, but left the party to stand as an independent councillor in 2010, after the decision by former party leader Nick Clegg to join the Conservatives in a coalition government in Westminster, and triple tuition fees. She suffered a brain hemorrhage last year followed by pneumonia this year.
She said: “I just had to concentrate on myself and seeing my family again. My family has to have priority now; they have been so supportive over the years of me being a councillor. I need to focus on my health and spend some time recovering, and I really would like to spend more time with my children and grandchildren and my husband.
“Both myself and my husband were involved in the Liberal Democrats for many years, but when Nick Clegg joined the Conservatives in coalition, instead of perhaps being in a confidence and supply basis, that was really difficult for us to come to terms with. To renege on your promises just erodes trust in politicians.
“I have loved being independent, I found it much more comfortable. But it’s harder work, without a party machine behind you. I paid for all of my own literature and a website, and I had residents in the ward who have been a great support to me and helped me get things out.”
She called for potential and current councillors to receive more training, and for a more collaborative and constructive politics, “taking the heat out of the debate and finding what you agree on”. She added: “If we listened more and talked less, a lot more could get done.”
She said the main issues facing the Heath ward, which includes Birchgrove, include the closure of Wedal Road recycling centre and lack of replacement, missed waste collections, new bus lanes on Caerphilly Road and Manor Way, and parking around University Hospital of Wales. “Promises of a bus interchange at the hospital have never materialised,” she said.
Each of the four candidates standing in the by-election gave a short statement about themselves and why they’re running.
Plaid candidate Gwennol Haf said: “I have lived in the ward for a number of years, and I am raising my family here in the Heath. If elected I promise to protect and enhance Heath Park and all public green spaces, and work to provide safer, accessible routes for walkers and cyclists. We all want to see better control of traffic, to clean up the air we breathe in our capital.
“We need to tackle the climate crisis with action, not just words. Working together across parties this new electoral alternative can be the change that Cardiff needs, a fresh political voice for the Heath on Thursday, November 11, and for the whole of Cardiff next May.”
Conservative candidate Peter Hudson said: “Born in Neath, I came to Cardiff in 1971 to open my shop in City Road. After a career change, I did a degree IT course in UWIC and became a Cardiff Bus driver whilst studying. I loved the job as meeting and listening to people has always been a pleasure and reflects my aims, having lived in the Heath for over 40 years.
“As a governor in Birchgrove Primary School, I assisted the recently retired Cllr Fenella Bowden, and worked with her and staff to elevate the school to excellent status. Having helped my wife, Cllr Lyn Hudson, in the Heath ward, I am determined to change things for the better as it has been left neglected, with many facilities lost. I believe together we can.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Kathryn Lock said: “I’m aiming to be a strong advocate for the area who will listen to local people’s concerns and fight for improvements on their behalf. I work as a counsellor at Cardiff University and have a background in mental health and wellbeing.
“My priorities are pressing the council to honour the commitment to deliver a replacement waste tip for the north of Cardiff, pressing for local pavements to be made safer and fighting for improvements to local bus services. I have also launched a petition to persuade the council to re-open the cafe in Heath Park which has remained closed since we came out of lockdown. If elected, I’m pledging to keep in touch through regular community newsletters and by holding regular drop-in advice surgeries.”
Labour candidate Julie Sangani said: “I’m standing for election because I’m a true Heath resident, living on Maes y Coed Rd, who cares passionately about supporting residents in our community. I have a proven track record of working hard for our local community, as seen through my volunteer work with Cardiff foodbank, my engagement with community organisations such as Llwynfedw Gardens and my time as a governor of Ton Yr Ywen Primary School.
“Only with your support can we continue to work with Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour Government and Cardiff council to ensure the continuation of our record investment for schools, protection of our parks and public open spaces and the continuation of road repairs.”