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Andrew R T Davies: Wales needs more Conservative councils

Speaking2Andrew RT Davies is Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly for Wales. Follow him on Twitter.

In 21 of Wales’ 22 local authorities, polling cards are starting to drop on door mats. On May 3rd, the people of Wales will be asked to go to the polls once again.

Since May 2010, the electorate have voted to choose their local MP, their constituency Assembly Member and their regional Assembly Members.

They’ve also voted in two referendums – on enhanced legislative powers for the National Assembly for Wales and on the Lib Dems’ unwanted Alternative Vote proposal.

It would be fair for the people of Wales to say they’re suffering with a severe case of election fatigue.

But perhaps the most important Welsh election comes this May, as they choose who will represent them on local councils the length and breadth of Wales.

In the aftermath of the expenses scandal, too often, people feel removed from politics.

Politicians and the power they yield is regarded as something only brought to the voters’ attention at election time. Politicians are accused of being out of touch, inaccessible and opportunistic.

That’s why May 3rd represents such an important choice for the people of Wales.

Welsh Conservatives believe in real devolution – handing power down to local people and local communities.

This election is an opportunity for the people of Wales to wrestle decision-making from the hands of politicians and into their own front rooms; putting power in their own hands.

On Thursday, Welsh Conservatives launched their local government manifesto at Newport Gwent Dragons’ Rodney Parade home.

The stadium has been home to many great battles over the years, including Newport’s famous victory over the All Blacks, and their brand of expansive, explosive rugby, in the 1960s.

Yet it is the Reds, and their brand of out-dated, patronising, discouraging failed dogma, hoping to gain ground across Wales on May 3rd – and its the Welsh Conservatives best placed to stop them in their tracks. 

Our manifesto is a succinct and ambitious document; setting out a blueprint of empowerment which would see grassroots communities given power on issues such as planning, education and council tax.

We are the only political party in Wales who has called for a council tax freeze. Labour has denied the people of Wales the same financial freedom given to the English and the Scots.

Putting money back into the pocket of taxpayers would provide financial empowerment to households across the nation and help get the Welsh economy moving again. Council tax bills have already sky-rocketed 140% in Wales since 1997. Frankly, we feel enough is enough!

We want to abolish business rates for all small businesses in Wales. This will free up business to promote wealth creation and boost employment; helping our flagging high streets to thrive again.

We’ve called on schools to be funded directly, cutting out wasteful bureaucracy and administration. How can Labour say that head teachers, teachers, governors, parents and pupils do not know what is best for our schools – and that bureaucrats somehow do?

On health, we’ve continued to fight against Labour’s disgraceful £534million cuts to our Welsh NHS. On their watch, one in eight people in Wales are on an NHS waiting list. Locally-based services are key. We oppose plans to downgrade hospitals, and believe people should not have to travel further afield for life-saving care.

We’ll also restore pride in our communities, with safer streets, cleaner communities and a no-nonsense approach to environmental crime.

In recent years, Conservative-run Newport has led the way with a hugely popular £21million road rebuilding programme - whilst Tory Monmouthshire has the lowest levels of dog-fouling in Wales.

Transparency and accountability should be central to local government. Conservative-run Councils in Wales have been opening up government and publishing expenditure. Amazingly, Labour has described this task as “onerous”.

On planning, we believe local people and communities should have the power to shape policy. Developments must represent the unique hopes and ambitions of local communities; and be responsible and flexible to localised needs.

Welsh Conservatives have already made history in recent days.

On May 3rd, we’re fielding more candidates than ever before. That’s more than Plaid Cymru and far more than the Liberal Democrats. We’re also contesting every local authority going to the polls for the first time.

Now we want to go further by taking power from politicians and putting it in people’s hands. The decision made by the people of Wales on May 3rd could be their most important decision in years.


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