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‘This isn’t a national election’: Welsh Conservative calls on people not to vote to punish UK Government

30 Apr 2022 10 minute read
George Carroll, left. Right, Boris Johnson. Picture by Cancillería Argentina (CC BY 2.0).

Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter

A Welsh Conservative council leader has called on people not to vote to punish the UK Government in next week’s council elections.

The Vale of Glamorgan’s Tory leader said that voters would be choosing who will be running the council, and said that council tax increases and fly-tipping would be stamped down on if they voted Conservative on Thursday, May 5.

Local communities and businesses would have a larger say in council decisions and public consultations would hold more sway than currently, George Carroll added.

“This is not a national election, it can’t change the government, but what it can change is the Vale of Glamorgan council,” he told Bro Radio’s ‘Vale This Week’ programme.

“We’re a group, as Conservatives on the council, who will listen to residents, listen to people who work here, and people who run businesses in the Vale, involve you all in the decision-making process.”

The Conservatives currently have 14 councillors in the Vale of Glamorgan—one more than Labour who run the council with Independent councillors—and ran the council from 2017 until 2019 when a split in the local Tory group ended up with power switching hands.

The main reason the Tory group split in 2019, and ended up losing power of the council, was over disagreements on Llancarfan Primary School, a village school which ended up closing and being replaced by a larger, new school five miles away in Rhoose. The closure was unpopular locally and objected to by several Tory councillors.

The local group then elected to change its leader from John Thomas, who was then council leader, to Vince Bailey. But this led to several Tory councillors leaving the party, becoming independent, and forming a new coalition administration with Labour councillors. Mr Carroll said there were other reasons too for the split, including the council not listening to residents.

“It wasn’t just Llancarfan primary school,” George Carroll said. “There were a range of decisions where we felt the leadership of the council wasn’t listening to local residents. There was a group of us within the Conservative group who wanted to change that and have a council which was more focused on engaging with residents.

“If you hold consultations and people express their views, we try to make that happen, and also involve residents more in the decision-making process of the council. There was a difference in approach, I’m not going to lie about that.

“But it’s regrettable how it happened. I would have liked to have seen the whole group come together, for Vince to take over as leader of the council, and for us to have the opportunity to deliver what was a very ambitious programme. Sadly it wasn’t to be.

“I think the council would be in a better position now had Vince become leader of the authority. But people on Thursday will have the opportunity to decide who they want to run things for the next five years.”

‘Proactive’

Asked if voters could expect another split if the Tories win, Mr Carroll said each candidate was asked to commit to not switching parties during the next council term.

“I’m very pleased with all of the candidates we’ve selected. We’re the only party to have fielded a full slate of 54 candidates and contested every seat that’s up for election on May 5. In every ward we have passionate community champions who all have a plan for the community they’re standing again. I think they would all make excellent councillors.

“All candidates were asked to make a very clear commitment that they will serve their mandate and won’t change depending on what happens. This time there is unity. Everybody is signed up to our plans for a better Vale, which is mainly based on having a council that listens to the needs of the people that the council is meant to serve, rather than the council itself.”

Top priorities for a Tory-led council would include listening more to the views of residents and businesses in the Vale when making decisions. One example of a recent “arbitrary decision” was the plan to remove the outdoor seating outside cafes on the Penarth Esplanade, and replace the seating with car parking spaces. The move has been opposed by thousands who signed a petition to keep the seating in place.

“We think the council needs to listen more,” Mr Carroll said. “There have been a range of examples of issues that have come up, and the council has taken a ‘we know best’ attitude and has imposed things on our communities, without trying to get the community involved and listen to their concerns. Look at the Penarth Esplanade seating, that’s reared its head in recent weeks.

“I think the cafe culture that has developed on the Esplanade brings many benefits. The council is right to highlight the fact that there needs to be parking provision in Penarth, but instead of working with businesses and residents to try and solve both of those problems, they have taken a very arbitrary decision to say on June 30 the seating comes out and the 14 car parking spaces go back in.

“Business owners on the seafront have been proactive and have suggested themselves putting on a minibus that can transport people down to the Esplanade seafront from other parking provision in Penarth. I think that should be explored. But instead of sitting down and engaging with them on that, the current Independent-Labour council has ruled that out. I think that’s a real shame, because it means that opportunities are being lost.”

Vale of Glamorgan Civic offices

‘Oppose it’

One key area where the Conservatives have campaigned on since 2019 is against the high council tax rises each April. This year the Vale group called for council tax to be frozen, rather than the 2.9 per cent increase which came in. A Tory-led council would take money out of the council’s reserves to fund lower increases in future.

“The council actually made a profit, in a sense, of about £4 million last year, which went from the council’s budget into the reserves. So the council fund now stands at £15 million, which is cash in the bank. The £4 million underspend made last year, that’s actually considerably more than a council tax rise would raise. So we said we would take around £2 million out of the reserves, put that into the overall budget, and that way we could have frozen council tax.

“I accept that you have to assess this on a year-by-year basis. It does depend on what the Welsh Government settlement is. I can’t talk about five years’ time because I don’t know what those figures will be. But what I can say is that now and in previous years there was scope in the existing finances to keep council tax lower than it has been. Instead we have a council that has decided to hoard council tax payers’ cash, which I don’t think is the right strategy. The council shouldn’t be having surpluses, they shouldn’t be overspending either, they should set their budget and stick to it.”

On the controversial Model Farm development, Mr Carroll said he would be against the plans to build a giant business park on the working cattle and wildflower farm east of Cardiff Airport, but added it was up to the planning committee to decide. The committee gave permission for the industrial estate summer last year, but that decision was later quashed and will likely go back to the committee for another decision soon.

“I don’t think that development is suitable and I oppose it very strongly. It’s obviously a matter for the planning committee to determine, and the planning committee decided it last year. If you look at the numbers I think all the Labour and Independent councillors on that committee voted to approve it and all the Conservative councillors on that committee voted to reject the application. I should caveat that planning is a quasi-judicial process, which means that instead of taking decisions on political grounds you have to judge the application on its merits according to planning law.

“I don’t think it should be happening. We see other business parks in the region not get the take up they need. Is that a suitable use of that land? We also have a council which has just declared climate and nature emergencies, and then many councillors think that concreting over farmland is a suitable thing to do. From a personal point of view, I’m against that.”

‘Appalling’

One issue facing Mr Carroll is that he lives outside of the Vale of Glamorgan. His registered home address is in Llandaff in Cardiff. Asked how well he could represent people in the Vale, without actually living there himself, he said he had worked in the county for several years and was “passionate” about the area.

“I’ve always been open about that,” he said. “For the duration of my time as a councillor, I have always chosen to publish my home address on the council’s website. I know that other councillors choose not to, that’s their right. I have worked in the Vale for the past eight years, I have been involved with many community groups, campaigns and issues here, I’m passionate about the Vale, and I want to lead the Vale council with our fantastic team because I think we can make a real difference to people who live here, work here and run businesses here.”

Top priorities for a Conservative-led council in the Vale would also include tackling fly-tipping, fixing potholes, investing in children’s play parks, and protecting green spaces from new developments.

“The main priority is to try to deliver value for money for council tax payers, so that’s managing the budgets better and keeping council tax down. We also think the state of the roads in the Vale is appalling and we will prioritise both getting potholes fixed and full-scale road resurfacing.

“We think that the issues of fly-tipping in the Vale are appalling as well. We think more investment needs to go into enforcement on that. We would look to acquire mobile cameras that can be used at known hotspots. And then when people are caught, make sure they’re punished, and then make sure that we publicise that and show that such behaviour won’t be tolerated.

“We also want to protect green spaces in the Vale by opposing excessive developments. We’ll focus on making sure we have good investments into children’s play areas so that all of our young people can have safe spaces to enjoy in our communities.

“Our plan is ambitious, it focuses on the issues that really matter to the people of the Vale of Glamorgan, they’re the issues that matter in our communities, and it would be a very big privilege to have the opportunity to put our plan into action.”


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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago

Thank you Nation Cymru for this masterstroke. Putting a picture of this councillor who is begging the Vale voters not to punish his party at the ballot box next to a picture of the very man who would be directly responsible for delivering that punishment if it comes. Begging him to change would be the appropriate thing to do rather than begging voters to put a cross next to a candidate who is guilty of being associated with him.

Gareth
Gareth
7 months ago

A vote for a Tory councilor will be viewed by the Tory party at large, as a thumbs up to the way the have ruled, and they will not be slow to point this out in the press and media. The only way to get the message through, is to leave them out in the cold, on any and all government positions, local or national. Remember that the Tory party truely is the Party party.

Steve
Steve
7 months ago

They may not think it’s national election now but if they do well they’ll say people support their “national” objectives.
If you want to know the sort of person they are ask them if they think Johnson should resign.
Then ask them if it is right that some Conservatives are deleting the party name off their campaign literature.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

It’s a National election for us, as the YUK is an oppressive regime and currently run by Brit Nats. Any “Independent” is a Tory, but a wormtongue.

Last edited 7 months ago by I.Humphrys
Cathy Hill
Cathy Hill
7 months ago

Voters should always vote in the best interests of their families and communities and should always do so on the best possible evidence. So, before you vote, just have a peek at what the Tories have been up to in England and have a listen to all of the things the Tories in England have said they want to stealthily destroy devolution and then they should have a look at what the Welsh Tories have been saying/doing in response to that and then that should be weighed up against what any Welsh Conservative is telling/promising you now. Yesterday, democracy in… Read more »

Paul
Paul
7 months ago

They are standing as candidates under the party umbrella… They cannot expect there to be no consequences.

Mark Hoffer
Mark Hoffer
7 months ago

These local tories, don’t forget, they’re the ones who voted Johnson as leader.
They’re all the same. Don’t trust any of them…ever.

Bryn
Bryn
7 months ago

” It’s not a national election. ”
True.
A national election would be one for the Senedd.

hdavies15
hdavies15
7 months ago

ARTD, Cairns …. both Vale Tories. Why should Mr Carroll and his party pals be any better ? There again what is the pedigree of the Labour group of candidates ? Most Unionists in that part of Wales, probably all of them give off a bit of an anti Wales odour and are happy to toe the BritNat “we know best” line.

Llinos
Llinos
7 months ago

They would say that wouldn’t they? Of course we should vote to punish Westmobster

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
7 months ago

I’ve seen my first tory placards on the A40 just outside Brecon, why do some people never learn.

Marc
Marc
7 months ago

So basically the Tory councillors are admitting that the Tory Westminster government is toxic

Erisian
Erisian
7 months ago

A politician is a member of a party. They must be judged by the company they keep.
All the more reason for Welsh Labour to separate itself from the English party.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago

Said the hypocritical Welsh Tories who during the recent 2021 Senedd
Cymru election stated how Boris got Brexit done and this the reason why voters should elect Andrew RT Davies as First Minister and Conservatives as Welsh Government.

Last edited 7 months ago by Y Cymro
Gareth Richards
Gareth Richards
7 months ago

George Carroll is my current Conservative councillor. Absolutely none of his re-election campaign materials have the word ‘Conservative’ anywhere on them. If you didn’t know he was a Tory, you’d think he was running for re-election as an Independent councillor.
The VoG Tories literally do not want anyone to know they are Tories.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
7 months ago

If he doesn’t want to be punished as a Conservative then his only option would be to become an independent. The Tory brand is now seriously damaged no amount of pleading is going to stop punishment – the public would be foolish to do otherwise.

Erisian
Erisian
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

There may be occasions where a candidate cannot support their party over a particular issue, or may have the whip removed for discovering a hither to unsuspected backbone, but we must be very careful about candidates who suddenly decide to jump ship, as it is hard to credit that they have changed their opinions about anything other than electability.

(Note to editor: Either “Waiting for approval” or “Awaiting approval” – Awaiting for approval is just wrong)

Last edited 6 months ago by Erisian
Chris Franks
Chris Franks
6 months ago

Yet they are quick enough to blame the senedd for anything that suites

Nobby Tart
Nobby Tart
6 months ago

I remember when there was a Labour Government in Westminster. Local elections came and the Tories urged us to “give Blair a bloody nose!”.
Now they are grovelling at us not to do the same for Johnson.
Oh the irony!

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