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Swansea Castle ward by-election nine candidates have their say

SWANSEA’S Castle ward covers the city centre, Sandfields to the west, Mount Pleasant and Waun Wen to the north and Swansea Marina to the south.

Its population of nearly 21,000 is served by four councillors, one of whom, Sybil Crouch, passed away in January last year.

Castle has a higher proportion of 16 to 44-year-olds than the Swansea average, more males, and higher proportions of people from non-white ethnic groups and born outside the UK.

The long-term unemployment rate is higher than the city average, the area is popular with students, homeownership is low.

In 2019, two areas within the ward were ranked the fourth and seventh-most deprived in Swansea out of 148.

Here, the nine candidates standing for the vacant seat talk about themselves and what they hope to achieve.

Sam Bennett (Welsh Liberal Democrats)

He is 31 and lives in the Maritime Quarter. He works for Swansea University Medical School in digital communications.

Sam says:

“I think we need a change in Castle ward. We have issues with litter, fly-tipping, graffiti and anti-social behaviour across all of Castle’s communities. I believe these are basics that the council are failing to get right. From the marina, Sandfields to Waun Wen and everywhere in between is crying out for a councillor who with a record of action who will put these communities first.

Having spent a year speaking to residents on the phone, on the doorstep (when allowed) and through surveys it is clear that residents believe our communities want action on litter, fly-tipping and crime in the city centre.

I think my record of action over the last 12 months has shown I have the energy and enthusiasm Castle needs to get the basics right. I will be on hand to speak to residents, engage with a variety of community groups and residents’ associations to put residents’ concerns to the Labour-controlled council.

Above all my focus will be on getting the basics right, and engaging with residents all year round as I already do, not just at election time.”

Gareth Bromhall (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, or TUSC)

He is 28 and has lived in Swansea for six years. Born in Coventry to two psychiatric nurses, he moved to Pembrokeshire and was brought up in Milford Haven. Gareth’s first job was as a support worker in a dementia respite unit. He works supporting young people with autism in Swansea.

Gareth says:

“Over the past five years, Swansea Labour has implemented over £70 million of Tory cuts, affecting every area of council services, from social services, education, street cleaning, leisure. At the same time council tax payments go up at twice the rate of inflation or more every year.

Castle ward is unfortunately referred to as the “city centre rubbish tip” where fly-tipping scars the landscape. Accumulated street filth constantly litters our streets in the Sanfields, Waun Wen, North Hill and Mount Pleasant.

Our young, elderly, and most vulnerable residents are neglected and all of us see our quality of life deteriorate as council venues, sports facilities, and leisure services face price increases, back-door privatisation, or closure.

With another £55 million of cuts projected over the next four years, the excuses from Labour councillors that there is nothing they can do is not acceptable. Even one Socialist, anti-cuts voice on the council could be the catalyst to mobilise residents and the trade unions to fight for the funding needed to end cuts and to restore and expand council services.”

Heather Burdett (Independent)

She is 60, a parent, and lives in Sandfields, A teacher and learning support assistant working as a supply worker in schools in Swansea, Neath and Llanelli.

Heather says:

“I have seen the city centre, Sandfields, Waun Wen, Mount Pleasant and the marina change a great deal. Not all the changes are made in the best interests of the local residents.

If elected I would introduce various measures to keep residents safer, such as installing CCTV along the seafront, introduce mobile safety CCTV in residential streets to stop fly-tipping, and a speed camera would be installed along Oystermouth Road.

I would like to introduce a cycle lane alongside Oystermouth Road and a cycle lane along the road in the marina to allow all residents to use the pavements again in safety.

Many residents have told me they are afraid to go outside at night because of the crime and anti-social behaviour. Many don’t know who is living next door, as the current rental HMO (house of multiple occupation) system sees tenants moving in and out of communities, and some residents just don’t seem to care about the area they live in.

There are problems with fly-tipping and rubbish dumped outside on the pavements, and this stops disabled residents, older residents and all other residents from using the public pavements safely.”

Jacob Derluk (Welsh Conservatives)

Jacob is 25 and has lived in Swansea for over seven years now, at first being attracted here by Swansea University but now growing his roots in Mount Pleasant after completing his degree in medical genetics. He is a carer.

Jacob says:

“I’m standing for election as I want a change from the littered pavements, from the never-ending construction of The Kingsway and to be an effective opposition to the long list of our Labour council’s “vanity” projects. We need to bring businesses back to the city centre, our high street is full of empty shops driven out by Labour’s policies.

We must tackle crime in the Castle Ward by engaging with local residents in high crime areas about what would best deter future incidents, like CCTV and actually securing funding for crime prevention.

If elected I will do everything I can to enlarge the free parking provision in the city centre – local residents should not be treated as cash cows only to grab a few things in our indoor market.

Living in a Labour “safe” ward with four councillors I want the council to finally listen to what the local people want instead of just going on a spending spree with the taxpayers’ money.”

Mike Harcourt (Independents@Swansea)

He was born in London and lived there until retiring in 2018. His career was in education, as a caretaker. Mike now lives in the Marina and has been working at Matthews House for nearly six months.

Mike says:

“I decided to stand as I was annoyed at the way our city, my city, was being allowed to deteriorate before my eyes. Behind the veneer of a “city fit for the 21st Century”, the basic things were being overlooked: the huge increase in litter, the proliferation of dog mess on our streets and pathways, the few street bins we have are overflowing, the mess the dustman leave behind on their rounds, to name a few.

Being an independent councillor allows me to challenge the status quo and to vote on what my community wants and not what my party expects. If I am elected, I’ll not just be a councillor for Castle, I will be a councillor for Swansea.

The key issues in Castle Ward are all of the above, as well as fly-tipping and many of the drains being blocked up. In my view, there is no point spending hundreds of millions of pounds in regenerating the city, when the basic services are failing.

I believe I can make a real difference. Now that I am retired, I can devote all my time to carrying out my role as a councillor. There is far too much to address, and electing another candidate who already has a day job is not what residents need. Importantly, I live in Castle Ward. Residents’ issues are my issues, too.”

Hannah Lawson (Welsh Labour)

She is 43 and was born in Swansea, she lived in Africa for three years as a child, went to Waunarlwydd primary and Gowerton comprehensive, and studied at the University of London and Swansea University. She currently works for the Voluntary Service.

Hannah says:

“I love Castle ward as a diverse, vibrant and creative place. I want to continue the good work done by (the late councillor) Sybil Crouch, particularly in supporting community activities, the arts, and nurturing parks and other green spaces around the ward.

I think a big priority for the ward is tackling litter and waste issues; I am working with Labour councillors and the leader to provide more cleaning. Like many city centres, we also have anti-social behaviour and problems related to substance abuse and poverty which we have to work closely with communities to address.

As a socialist, I think my experience in trade unions will help me to represent residents with individual and community issues, and with a background in public services, I will always strive to protect and improve our fantastic amenities. I am passionate about supporting the city’s culture and creativity, and am a drummer and printmaker when I have spare time.”

Jon Pitans (Wales Green Party)

He is 42 and has lived in Swansea since 2012. He was born and raised in Manchester, Married with two Welsh-speaking children, and now spends his time acting as primary carer for the children while his partner pursues her career. He campaigns for various social and environmental charities.

Jon says:

“I want to give something back to my adopted home town, to serve our community, improve the lives of residents, and to help preserve our wonderful natural landscapes and coastlines for future generations to enjoy.

Key issues in Swansea are many and various but include housing, transport links, access to council services, not to put too fine a point on it all the effects of a decade of Tory under-investment and Labour misrule.

I believe I can be a force for good, helping drive Swansea towards a prosperous and sustainable future by listening to the community and embracing innovation. As a Green I stand for social justice, economic justice and environmental justice and pledge to apply these principles if elected.

The effect of having just one Green in the room can be transformative.”

Harri Roberts (Plaid Cymru)

He was born and grew up in Caernarfon and came to Swansea University aged 18. Has lived in or close to Swansea ever since – nearly 20 years now in Mount Pleasant. He is a self-employed business consultant, advising small local companies to help them develop and improve.

Harri says:

“I believe this Labour administration is as stale as that in the Senedd – Swansea needs innovative and progressive policies to help us recover from this pandemic. I believe I can provide a fresh outlook and just as importantly concentrate on improving people’s everyday lives and environment here in the city.

The whole area suffers from the council’s concentration on key projects at the expense of basic upkeep – potholes, rubbish and run-down buildings left to deteriorate. Even the main road through the marina is a disgrace – problems for locals, and off-putting for visitors.

The city needs to concentrate on tackling poverty – whether it is homeless people or those working for tragically low wages – and the council can do more to help with council tax as well as local costs. Pressing for schools to provide free school meals for the children of all parents on Universal Credit would be a small but vital starter.

If elected, I might be a voice in the wilderness for a year – but I would campaign hard for our local community. I believe in open Government and I would seek to be the voice of the residents in the council, pushing for quicker repairs and a more responsive response to people problems.”

Stan Robinson (UKIP Scrap The Assembly)

He has lived in the centre of Swansea for many years working as a contracts and facilities manager both within the NHS and Ministry of Defence.  He is chairman of Henllys Community Group and the regional Co-Ordinator for No. 13 (South Wales) Group Royal Observer Corps Association.

Stan says:

“Labour has not only controlled the council for many years but returned councillors for Castle ward year after year. The reward for such loyalty – the highest crime area in the country, Swansea dubbed “brown town” due to the amount of heroin available on her streets, aggressive begging, prostitutes and drug dealers plying their trade and the council and South Wales Police believing “education” is the path, not prosecution.

The never-ending roadworks around the whole of Swansea are a joke yet roads remain poor. Swansea needs to get moving again and with herd immunity which we are told we now have should guarantee no more lockdowns.

Traffic wardens scaring people out of shopping in Swansea hits businesses badly; people with Blue Badges should be allowed to park for free for three hours and people popping into shops for one hour; all city-centre businesses waived business rates and market stallholders reduced rents – all paid from by cutting spurious voluntary groups’ funding and projects like the “Taco Bridge” which once completed will burden council taxpayers for years.

Real jobs with trade apprenticeships not row after row of coffee shops, fast food, betting offices and charity shops.

I won’t be taking my constituents for granted. I will be keeping the council’s feet to the fire.”


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