Conservatives left with one seat in Bridgend as Labour and Independents make gains
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
It was Labour’s day at the local elections in Bridgend as the final results confirmed that the party’s victory with a majority.
Labour and independents saw the biggest gains, with the former securing 27 seats and independent candidates winning 21. The Conservatives saw the biggest loss, going from 11 councillors on Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) after the 2017 local government elections to just one.
Although Labour came out on top, the independents by far saw the biggest increase in seats, with eight more councillors winning this year compared to five years ago.
A total of 40,133 ballots were cast in Bridgend, where 110,171 people were eligible to vote – meaning the voter turnout was 36.25%
Conservatives lose big
As predicted, the Conservatives struggled to hold on to seats in this year’s local government elections in Bridgend – mirroring the national picture for the party.
The only seat won by the Conservatives in Bridgend was Newton as Jonathan Pratt beat independent Mario Jones and Elen Jones to the single seat ward with 424 votes.
Oldcastle completely changed hands from Conservative to independent, with party group leader at BCBC, Matthew Voisey losing his seat. The victors there were Freya Bletsoe and Ian Williams, who both take a seat at county borough level for the first time.
The other unchanged ward from the last elections that the Conservatives lost was Pen-y-fai. Former councillor Altaf Hussain decided not to run for re-election this year.
The Conservative candidate standing in his place, Corey Edwards, lost out to Labour’s Heidi Bennett, who claimed the seat with 434 votes.
Independents took overall control of a number of wards across the county borough, including Bridgend Central and Bryntirion, Laleston and Merthyr Mawr. In Coity Higher – one of the newly formed wards – the independents saw a clean sweep as husband and wife, Amanda and Martin Williams won seats alongside Alan Wathan.
Steven Bletsoe, who won a seat on BCBC for the first time at Bridgend Central – having attempted in the last local elections – said: “I feel like I have taken the last five years proving myself, using my position as a town councillor. I am over the moon that enough people have supported me and put their faith in me.”
On his next steps as a councillor, Mr Bletsoe said: “I want to get my teeth into [the] waste situation [in Bridgend]. For the other parts of the ward, I want to create a better town for [residents].
“The communal waste areas are not fit for purpose. People have had to live with it for five years. They haven’t worked from day one. Something has got to be done. That is what I campaigned on and I have got to deliver.”
Labour are yet to get together to officially form an administration, but it is accepted that Huw David will most likely reinstate his position as leader of BCBC for another five years.
On the party’s plans going forward, Cllr David said: “We are thrilled with the results that we have had today.
“We will deliver on our manifesto pledges. We are committed to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis and one of our first priorities will be, for example, ensuring that we roll out the free school meals for all primary school children as quickly as possible because that will require major investment in many of our school kitchens across the county borough.
“And, of course, rolling out free childcare for two-year-olds. Again, that will help working families across Bridgend County Borough.”
The addition of new wards and the effects of the boundary changes added an element of unpredictability to the elections in Bridgend this year. Cabinet member for Education and Regeneration, Charles Smith, who had been standing as a county borough councillor since 2012 lost his seat on BCBC. He was running for re-election in the newly formed ward, Cefn-glas.
Cllr David added: “Elections are always unpredictable. You can never make a 100 per cent projection about results, but it has been particularly difficult this year because there are so many new wards in Bridgend County Borough. Even incumbent councillors have had to fight [in] different wards and different communities.”
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