Candidates pitch for votes in Wales’ most Welsh speaking village
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Voters in the Welsh-speaking capital of the world are set to hit the polls later this month in one of the nation’s first elections since the start of the pandemic.
With 87.8% of residents in Llanrug being Welsh speakers – more than any other electoral ward in Wales – a fascinating contest awaits on March 25.
Sparked by the death of long-standing Gwynedd councillor Charles Wyn Jones in November, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat and independent candidates all made their intentions known ahead of last Friday’s deadline.
In what will also be a major test for Gwynedd Council polling staff in holding an election when social distancing measures are almost certain to remain in place, voters in Llanrug and the rest of Wales also face elections on May 6 to choose their representatives in the Senedd as well as the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner.
All four candidates were asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service to provide a summary of why they were standing and what they hoped to achieve if elected as a Gwynedd county councillor.
Beca Brown, Plaid Cymru
Hoping to retain the seat for Plaid will be Beca Brown, a community councillor who’s lived in Llanrug for the past 16 years.
Having been part of the various food schemes established in Llanrug since COVID19 appeared, she has worked in the TV industry and a communications role for Sian Gwenllian MS, now working for SaySomethinginWelsh.
“Charles Jones was an excellent representative for our community and I would relish the opportunity to continue his good work,” she said.
“Giving this community a strong voice at county council level, is certainly one of my main objectives. Social justice is my main driving force. Now more than ever we need resilient, co-operative communities where support is available to anyone who needs it.
“Sixteen years ago, I chose Llanrug as the village where I would raise my children, and both Leisa and Tomi are certainly Llanrug children.
“My close connections with Ysgol Gynradd Llanrug and Ysgol Brynrefail; Llanrug’s village Eisteddfod; Llewod Llanrug junior football club has certainly ensured that I too am embedded within this close-knit community.”
Calum Davies, Liberal Democrat
Calum Davies, who moved to the village in 2019 and stood in Clwyd South during the last General Election, is hoping to become Gwynedd’s second Liberal Democrat councillor.
Raised in Bethesda and a fluent Welsh speaker, he said: “Both my fiancée and I grew up in villages and wanted to ensure that wherever we settled down, we would have everything that we loved when we were growing up.
“One of the issues that I want to address in the village is speeding on Ffordd Llanberis. I know I’m not alone in my concern about speeding cars and motorbikes on the road through our village.
“I would like to see effective traffic calming measures introduced to increase safety.
“I have always wanted to help others and want to give back to the communities that raised me.
“I would simply like the opportunity to represent the people in the area where I live and I hope you’ll consider giving me that chance.”
Richie Green, Independent
A recently retired police Superintendent covering Gwynedd and Anglesey, the 53 year old has lived in the area or over 30 years.
Previously serving as a school governor at both Ysgol Gynradd Llanrug and Ysgol Brynrefail, the father of two says he has the breadth of experience to fully understand the role of a councillor.
“As an independent candidate, I can make decisions for the ward free from political influence or interference,” he added, having previously run the local Llanrug junior football team.
“Having recently retired as a police Superintendent, leading a team of over 20 officers to assist the Met Police during the London riots, I also had force wide responsibilities for the development and the use of the Welsh language within local policing.
“My other duties involved the organisation and implementation of policing large events, and as a trained tactical firearms commander for over a decade, I have managed several firearms incidents, therefore I’m able to make difficult decisions under pressure.”
Martin Bristow, Independent
When approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, independent candidate Martin Bristow noted that that was “not engaging with the press,” later clarifying on his Facebook page that he “did not believe it would be a good use of his time.”
Mr Bristow noted on his campaign Facebook page his intention to stand in Arfon during May’s Senedd Election, but if elected to represent Llanrug would not seek council re-election in 2022, standing instead in his home village of Y Felinheli.
His page went on to state: “I want to get involved in politics and public office as soon as possible. The opportunity to contest this by-election arose, and it was a natural decision to take it.”
His website, meanwhile, notes that his views on local government include the use of Single Transferrable Votes (STV) in local elections and merging wards to being multi-member units, ensuring that no councillors are elected unopposed.
Claiming he would withdraw the right of resident foreign nationals to vote, on the Welsh language he wrote: “I stand for a review, and the implementation of the findings of that review, of how many national languages Wales should have and what those languages should be.”
The by-election is scheduled to take place on March 25.