For too long the political landscape of Wales has been dominated by Labour. The local council elections next Thursday (5 May) will be an opportunity for change. There are 22 councils in Wales. 80 per cent of their funding comes from the Welsh Government and the rest is raised through council tax. A formula is used to calculate how much money will go to each local authority, yet rural areas appear to be discriminated against. Monmouthshire has been especially badly treated. Every year, we have received less money per head of population than any other local authority in Wales – meaning our council taxes have had to rise exponentially to make up the difference. Conservative councillors in Monmouthshire have never accepted this and will continue to fight for a fairer financial deal for the county. They are keeping council tax as low as possible and oppose plans from the Welsh Government to reset council tax bands, which would disproportionately hit Monmouthshire residents. On the other hand, the Labour-run Abergavenny Town Council has raised the precept by 14 per cent this year.
Tourism is vital to the economy of Monmouthshire. The sector has faced huge challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic but is now recovering. However, recovery is being threatened by another Welsh Government policy - a tourism tax which would be a charge levied on anyone staying in a hotel overnight in Wales. It would be particularly devastating in border areas where visitors could simply choose to book their hotel on the English side. The tax would have to be levied by local councils and Conservative councillors are strongly opposed to what is effectively a tax on Welsh hotels.
Good roads are vital for business and commuters. Conservative councillors oppose Welsh Labour’s ban on roadbuilding, which will prevent schemes such as a new Chepstow cross-border road link from ever going ahead. While I am more than happy to defend the UK Government’s record on national issues, next week’s elections are about local and Welsh issues. Political old-timers say you have just nine seconds to make an impression on an election leaflet; the approximate time taken to pick it up from the letter box to depositing it in the bin. I hope everyone will take slightly longer to look at the leaflets being posted by Conservative council candidates at the moment. Led by Richard John, Monmouthshire Conservatives are fielding candidates in every ward. They have a wide range of ages and backgrounds, are focussing on important issues relating to the needs of the community and are deeply committed to getting a better deal for Monmouthshire.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 27 April 2022 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 28 April 2022*