Happy New Year to one and all.
2016 certainly wasn't the best of years for us as Welsh Liberal Democrats. Following a very disappointing result at the Westminster elections in 2015 the Assembly elections in 2016 saw us lose four out of our five Assembly Members. What is worse is that UKIP gained ground and now we have a core of right wing AMs who care nothing for Wales and who cannot even agree amongst themselves. Their Assembly group leader allegedly represents Mid and West Wales but lives in a mansion in England. People were conned by a grinning man holding a pint making out he was some sort of "man of the people."
The warning signs were there, but still the result of the EU referendum vote in June came as a shock. We make no apologies for thinking that the result was the wrong one - leaving the EU will be a big mistake and Wales will certainly suffer financially as a result. Strangely enough the areas that benefitted most from EU funding were the strongest leave vote areas - a lesson to all of us that messages are just not getting through and many people are far to easily swayed by headlines and, in the case of the leave campaigners, outright lies. That is not to say that many leave voters did not have rational arguments and sound reasons for voting the way they did, but many more were fooled by promises / lies about what we could do with the money if not for the EU. Polls since June show many would now vote differently.
In RCT business rolled on as usual - more cutbacks and school closures, including the ludicrous plans for 3 - 16 schools in the Rhondda and a nice new school in the Tonyrefail ward Vof the Cabinet Member for Education. No favouritism at all there surely.
Of course Council elections are looming in May and so suddenly talk of cutbacks has vanished. Instead the Labour Cabinet are throwing money about here, there and everywhere. They are going to sort out the precinct site in Pontypridd and have put a few millions of pounds into groundwork and fancy plans to show how serious they are this time. Unlike every other time…..
There is a new email newsletter which residents can sign up to which allows them to send their Labour propaganda directly to voters - all the wonderful work they are doing, the highways being repaired, the playgrounds being replaced. The Labour leader has started a blog, which appears through the Council website, paid for by taxpayers money, and for all we know written by Council staff. Why have they waited until now for these innovations?
The Welsh Liberal Democrats, much to the disappointment of some, haven't gone away. We are still hard at work in our communities which is where our priorities have always lain. Councillor Mike Powell still provides strong opposition and scrutiny of the current administration, despite their best efforts to cut him out. We won't give in and disappear for one simple reason - we care, about the regeneration of our communities, our schools, the future for our young people, housing. We care about people.
As a party we have seen a significant increase in membership this year. Across the UK Lib Dems have one more Councils seats in by elections than everyone else put together. Why don't you join us? Be part of the fightback.