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Health, tourism and second homes: Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency guide for the 2021 Senedd election

18 Apr 2021 13 minutes Read
Tourists in Beddgelert. Picture by IIya Kuzhekin (CC BY 3.0)

Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter

A mostly rural constituency and covering the southern portion of Gwynedd, Dwyfor Meirionnydd encompasses much of Snowdonia and has the second-highest proportion of Welsh speakers – 65% at the 2011 census.

Unlike its northerly neighbour of Arfon, however, Dwyfor Meirionnydd forms part of the Mid and West Wales electoral region despite most of Dwyfor certainly considering itself firmly part of the north.

However, Gwynedd’s main settlements of Bangor and Caernarfon can also feel remote for others living in the far south of the constituency, where these communities often have stronger links to medical and commercial services in Aberystwyth and parts of mid-Wales.

The constituency contains several settlements but would be considered mostly rural, despite its largest town of Blaenau Ffestiniog being the north’s second most populous at its 19th-century industrial height.

While the UK’s first inland nuclear power station is situated in nearby Trawsfynydd, it stopped producing electricity in 1991 and well-paid jobs remain scarce here.

Current economic hopes are being pinned on the possibility of a new Small Modular Reactor (SMR) at Trawsfynydd and for the former Llanbedr Airfield to play a major role in the UK’s contribution towards space exploration.

But as things are, average earnings in Dwyfor Meirionnydd are well below both the Welsh and UK averages, with the economy largely reliant on farming and tourism.

Seaside towns such as Pwllheli, Abersoch, Barmouth and Criccieth are all known to attract tourists during summer months, as well as the Ffestiniog railway.

Since the current boundaries were drawn up in 2010, Plaid Cymru has won every Welsh Assembly and Westminster election, also holding the predecessor Meirionnydd Nant Conwy and Caernarfon seats since 1974.

Until now the area has always been represented in Cardiff Bay by Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, who currently sits as independent and part of the Labour-led cabinet after leaving Plaid Cymru in 2016.

While this remains one of Plaid’s safest seats, any challenge is likely to come from the Tories who secured a third of the vote in the 2019 General Election and have fought an energetic campaign while opposing some of the local authority’s interventions in the housing market including a doubling of the second home council tax premium.

Standing for Plaid this time is Mabon ap Gwynfor, a Denbighshire county councillor and Grandson of the party’s first MP, Gwynfor Evans.

He came through a hard-fought internal selection battle which was also contested by Propel’s candidate this time out, Peter Read.

Interestingly, Cllr Read is one of four sitting Gwynedd councillors who are contesting this seat, each looking to capitalise on their respective local support bases.

Labour have struggled to make much of an impact here in recent elections but have chosen a local Welsh independence supporting candidate, who may appeal, with Michelle Murray of the lockdown sceptic Freedom Alliance making up this deep pool of nominees.

Candidates

Mabon ap Gwynfor

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru

Briefly tell us about yourself and why have you chosen to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd?

“My name is Mabon ap Gwynfor and I live with my wife, Nia, and four children on the family farm.

“I’ve been a long-term health campaigner, and established the North Wales Health Alliance in 2013 to oppose the restructuring of health services, including opposing the closure of the cottage hospital at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

“I’m currently leading a campaign to establish a rapid diagnostic centre for cancer patients in Gwynedd.”

What would you wish to achieve as an MS during the five year term, if elected?

“This past year we’ve seen more than ever the need to protect our communities. We need legislation to ensure that we have housing available for our local people.

“We need investment in infrastructure which in turn will lead to more jobs and better wages. We need services closer to our communities. And we need to support our food producers, those farming the land and the seafood industry.

“Wales can also lead the way in tackling the climate crisis. For these challenges we need elected members with an understanding of the issues and a clear vision who are able to work with our respected MP, Liz Saville Roberts.

“This is why I’ve put my name forward as the Plaid Cymru candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd.”

Stephen Churchman, Liberal Democrat prospective Senedd candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd. Handout image.

Stephen Churchman, Welsh Liberal Democrats

Briefly tell us about yourself and why have you chosen to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd?

“I was employed for eighteen years as a railway track design engineer, after being made redundant in 1999.I moved with my family to Gwynedd where we ran a village convenience store and more latterly a sub post office until 2014.

“I have a long history in local government having served as a councillor for nearly thirty years including seventeen as a Gwynedd county councillor.

“I believe in fighting for my community and seek improvements to make life better for the people of the area in which I live and am proud to call my home.”

What would you wish to achieve as an MS during the five year term, if elected?

“Many Gwynedd residents suffer real poverty and are unable to afford to buy homes. The home rental market competes with the holiday let market.

“One way to tackle this problem is to invest in broadband connections in rural areas. Access to superfast broadband is a catalyst that can encourage technical businesses to develop in rural areas where until now this has been impossible.

“My ambition for the next five years of the Senedd is to ensure investment in superfast broadband to generate employment and raise earnings to make the dream of home ownership a reality and break the burden of poverty.”

Glyn Daniels, Llais Gwynedd

Glyn Daniels, Llais Gwynedd

Briefly tell us about yourself and why have you chosen to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd?

“Having been a quarryman in Blaenau Ffestiniog for 25 years and also a postman in the town for some years, I was elected a Llais Gwynedd Councillor on Gwynedd Council elections in 2017.

“I have also acted as chairman of Ffestiniog town council for the last two years. As a native of Meirionydd and with family links in Dwyfor I understand the needs of our local community.

“Dwyfor Meirionydd is one of the most deprived areas in Wales and we need investment in our communities not never-ending cutbacks.”

What would you wish to achieve as an MS during the five year term, if elected?

“If elected I will do my upmost to support small business in the area and press on the Welsh Government to help our young people to buy their own homes in their own communities.

“I promise to do my very best on your behalf leaving no stone unturned in my quest for what’s right and I will give you the voters a voice in the decision process that affects you.

“Too long have we listened to career politicians trying to make a name for themselves promising everything if they are elected and all they come up with is their picture in the local paper on a regular basis instead of action.”

Charlie Evans, Welsh Conservatives

Briefly tell us about yourself and why have you chosen to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd?

“I’m Charlie, I’m 27 years old and I’m engaged to be married to my fiancée Kat. I live in Aberystwyth where I am a retail manager.

“My passions include playing cricket, cheering on the Llanelli Scarlets and Swansea City and I play the keyboard and tuba. I also attend my local church.

“Dwyfor Meirionnydd is a very special constituency and I have family connections to the area as well as having been a frequent and passionate visitor over the many years!

“My experience is testament to the stories of many residents- falling in love with the place when visiting and then seeking to make a home here! ”

What would you wish to achieve as an MS during the five year term, if elected?

“I really want to stop the decline of young people leaving the area because of the lack of opportunities.

“I want to take the lessons of the pandemic and use the tools and resources at our disposal to bounce back strongly, unleashing a new wave of job creation and opportunity.

“That, in turn, will help fund and improve our public services.”

Louise Hughes, the Reform UK candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd. Handout photo.

Louise Hughes, Reform UK

Briefly tell us about yourself and why have you chosen to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd?

“I’m Louise Hughes, I live in Llanegryn with my husband Gwyn who’s a shepherd and our daughter Elys Gwenfair.  I’ve been a county councillor since 2008 and have gained a reputation for being straight-talking and getting things done.

“My view is that I don’t expect people to do anything I’m not prepared to do myself, so I often literally roll my sleeves up and get stuck in.  It probably sounds ‘cheesy’ but I get a real buzz from helping people.

“I’m standing in the election because I feel that Dwyfor Meirionnydd has slipped under the radar and is often overlooked, it sometimes feels that we’re the forgotten corner of Wales; our communities and the people who live in them deserve better than that.

“We live in a beautiful part of Wales, let’s make it the best place to live!”

What would you wish to achieve as an MS during the five year term, if elected?

“The pandemic has put medical providers under unprecedented challenges and despite some initial setbacks with the vaccination roll-out we’re now moving towards a return to something closer to normality

“However, I do feel that Betsi Cadwalladr needs to be held accountable for the level of investment in our medical services.  Being such a vast rural area can mean having to travel long distances for specialist medical treatments and the ‘golden hour’ between falling ill and hospital intervention is a crucial issue.

“Our hospitals are vital and need retaining, improving and upgrading in order to provide the care people deserve, having to travel across the border to access treatment is unacceptable.  The provision of mental health services has been particularly important as people have suffered from social isolation as a result of the restrictions, we have a patchy service at best and this needs addressing urgently. ”

Cian Ireland, Welsh Labour

Briefly tell us about yourself and why have you chosen to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd?

“I’m standing in Dwyfor Meirionnydd as it’s where I’ve grown up and worked in for nearly seven years.

“Living and working here as exposed me to numerous problems in the area such as low wages, poor working conditions, a housing crisis and seeing small community schools such as my own former primary school in Llanaelhaearn being closed by Gwynedd Council.

“Seeing all this has motivated me to stand not only to move Dwyfor Meirionnydd Forward but also to be a champion for our communities in addressing the pressing issues we all face.”

What would you wish to achieve as an MS during the five year term, if elected?

“My priority from day one would be to address the housing crisis in the area. My focus would be working with communities across Dwyfor Meirionnydd bring housing into community ownership.

“Similarly, by working with trade unions and communities I want to improve wages across the constituency. Lastly, as a disabled person I want to stand up for disabled people.

“I’ll work with disabled people to end discrimination both in education and wider society. I want to achieve a collaborative approach to addressing issues in our communities, achieving victories across the area for local people by working with them.”

Michelle Murray, the Freedom Alliance candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd. Handout photo.

Michelle Murray, Freedom Alliance

Briefly tell us about yourself and why have you chosen to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd?

“I have lived in our smallholding and worked on Pen Llŷn now for 10 years. My background has been in administration for law and the hospitality and tourism industry focussing on delivering excellent customer service.

“Previous to moving to the stunning Pen Llŷn I have lived in Northwich, Warrington and was born in Manchester.

“Our present politicians’ response to Covid is a living tragedy almost too great for words.

“This destruction of our lives is actually increasing unnecessary premature death: deaths of loneliness and despair in care homes, suicides, untreated cancers and heart diseases – the list could go on and on.

“It is because of this I wish to stand with Freedom Alliance to ensure we restore balance to our society.”

What would you wish to achieve as an MS during the five year term, if elected?

“With the vaccine passport in discussion I feel our governments are going too far to restrict our freedoms of choice and our basic human rights.

“I feel it only right if i were to become an MS to campaign and work for the right to speak freely without censorship and the absolute right for every man woman and child to make their own free and uncoerced medical choices ultimately without discrimination.”

Peter Read

Peter Read, Propel

Briefly tell us about yourself and why have you chosen to stand in Dwyfor Meirionnydd?

“I have lived in Dwyfor Meirionnydd all my life. I am married with two children. A defining moment in my life was in 1995, when I had a hand gliding accident, which left me a paraplegic.

“I spent 18 months in hospital and as a result, I am very passionate about our NHS. I was first elected to Gwynedd County Council in 2008, when campaigning to save local schools.

“I am Gwynedd’s Disability Champion, Chair of Pwllheli Marina and a former Health Board Member. I love gardening and fishing.”

What would you wish to achieve as an MS during the five year term, if elected?

“At the moment health services are patchy and we have a postcode lottery.

“With an ageing community, this must change. I am also very concerned at a lack of nursing care all through Gwynedd.

“I pledge to do my very best and work as hard as I possibly can. Wales needs champions and I will be a champion for Dwyfor Meirionydd. Propel is a community based political movement and I will always put our communities first.

“My constituents’ problems will be my problems. I will use my experience of living in Dwyfor Meirionnydd all my life to be the best representative possible.”

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