Labour’s battle to retain control of Bridgend council

STANDFIRST: AS part of our extensive coverage of this year’s battle to win councils across South Wales, CHRIS COUSENS reports on Labour’s fight to retain control in Bridgend.

Labour look likely to retain the balance of power in Bridgend when voters go to the polls on May 3.

The group, which hold exactly half the seats in the chamber this term, are contending in all but one of the borough’s 39 electoral wards – with Liberal Democrat stronghold Rest Bay in Porthcawl the only seat without a Labour candidate.

Despite not having a working majority in the last four years, the 27-strong Labour group have stamped their mark back on Bridgend after being left out in the cold while a rainbow coalition held the reins of power the previous term.

Council Leader Mel Nott, who is standing for Labour in Sarn again this time round, points to the four new schools they have opened since 2008, the Meals on Wheels service they “saved”, their headline grabbing council tax freeze this year and a proposed £7m road improvement programme next term as evidence of Labour’s achievements.


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But it has not been all plain sailing.

With the authority trying to make £17m of savings before 2014, the Labour-led administration have been at loggerheads with the unions over their controversial job evaluation pay and conditions shake up, have got some backs up by outsourcing their leisure services, and have been accused of “inconsistency” over their recent council tax freeze.

There will also be pressure on the next administration to make a success of the stuttering regeneration efforts in the boroughs three main towns – Maesteg, Porthcawl and Bridgend itself.

Liberal Democrat leader Cheryl Green – who led the rainbow coalition between 2004 and 2008 – argues Bridgend needs change.

“The Labour party are hoping for a working majority but that has not been the trend for the last two elections,” she said.

“I believe it will be a hung council.”

And the Laleston representative is not ruling out another alliance between the minority parties this time around.

“As we proved in 2004, you can work with other parties for the good of the borough and produce a manifesto which is agreeable across party divides.”

But another union of the opposition parties looks unlikely after the leader of the 10-councillor Independent Annibynwyr group Jeff Tildesley effectively ruled out an involvement this week.

Coun Tildesley said: “I cannot imagine there will be another alliance.

“Last time the coalition was difficult. They didn’t know where they stood on issues and there were too many voices.”

Labour’s hopes will also be bolstered by the fact five of their candidates – in the Blackmill, Blaengarw, Cefn Cribwr, Llangeinor and Pontycymer wards – will not face a public vote as no opposing councillors are standing against them.

Councillors Donald Buttle, William Teesdale, Don Brett, Beverley Quennell and Megan Inglesant are stepping down in May but current Borough Mayor councillor Christopher Michaelides, who has been battling cancer throughout his mayoral year, is standing again in the Betws ward.

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Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/welsh-politics/welsh-politics-news/2012/04/11/labour-s-battle-to-retain-control-of-bridgend-council-91466-30731017/