Matthew Evans Election UpdateCity News
Conservative Home Article 2020 “South Wales remains stubbornly Socialist”
Fighting one election in a year is arduous enough, but last year I stood in the Parliamentary By-election in Newport West in May and the General Election last month. In the by-election I managed to keep UKIP a distant third and reduce Labour’s majority to under 2,000, while in the general I received over 18,000 votes - but Labour held on with a majority of just 902. Meanwhile in Newport East, our candidate Mark Brown managed to reduce Labour’s majority to under 2,000, but unlike other parts of the country, Newport remains stubbornly Socialist. This was true across the South Wales cities and valleys with only Bridgend changing hands.
This was my tenth election and it is difficult to put a finger on the reasons. I can’t speak for the other cities but we have had a Labour Government in Wales since 1999, and with the exception of a four year period between 2008-12 where I led a coalition with the Lib Dems, Newport has had a Labour run Council. The Welsh Government is unpopular, and their decision to break their manifesto promise to build an M4 Relief Road has caused enormous anger; while the Council has abandoned the popular two hours free parking we established, and introduced charges to our city parks - increasing resentment.
This year despite getting the biggest settlement in Wales a 5.4% increase, they are consulting on an increase in Council Tax of almost 8% which is outrageous. They sound like double glazing salesmen, just an extra couple of pounds a week!! When I was Leader of the Council we raised it by around inflation only, and disagreed with our national stance of no increase because people expect an increase, but 8% after a 5% increase last year No No No!
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The fact that they delayed the announcement until the day after the General Election makes be even more angry. They pride themselves on “openness and transparency", and yet the decisions they took regarding three major schemes they are investing millions in, a hotel, office block and Market, were taken behind closed doors with not even confidential Part 2 Reports shared and all announced via press releases. They once spent over £50,000’s on a Democracy Conference in Newport, while saving £20,000’s on closing some public toilets. And yet people still vote for them. I can only assume Newport has a very large Public Sector employed at the Patent and Statistics Office, the Council and Welsh Government, and that might have a significant bearing on the final General Election result.
Looking forward, we have full elections in 2022, and we have been working hard building a base of active candidates who meet on a monthly basis. The current composition of the 50 seat Council is, 31 Labour, 12 Conservative, 4 Independent, 2 Lib Dems and 1 Independent Labour, and while much will depend on what happens nationally, things can change rapidly. I remind younger Councillors that before I took a seat from Labour in 1999, we only had one Councillor and nine years later I was Leader of the Council.
Finally, on another positive note, I am absolutely delighted by the General Election result and I am convinced we can make a success of it.
Onwards and upwards!
Matthew Evans - Leader of Newport Conservative Group
Matthew is always available to help residents and the wider community of Newport - so please feel free to get in touch with him via our secure Contact page.