Wales politics

Anglesey council election: a week to go to polling day

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Media captionWill the fresh electoral approach lead to a new start for the island's governance?

The sign on the bridge says Mon Mam Cymru, the mother of Wales, but in the past Anglesey's been the naughty child of Welsh local government.

That's why the Welsh government sent in a team of commissioners to sort it out and that's why people there are going to the polls to elect their councillors a year later than everyone else.

There's a clear feeling that, given the fresh electoral approach - the way the island's been divvied up is different and the way people have more than one vote to cast is different - that it has a chance of leading to a fresh start.

'Bed-hopping'

The canvassing is in full swing and, given the turbulent past under independent leadership, the political parties are looking to make their mark.

"The ultimate aim of the Labour Party on Anglesey in this election is to become the ruling group," Labour's Alwyn Rowlands told me.

"And that will be our aim right up until nine o'clock on the day of the election, and in many respects we've had a very good welcome."

Would that welcome translate into loosening the grasp on the independents?

"I think people are seeing that there is a need to change on Anglesey and are accepting that we can't continue with this bed-hopping type politics that's been going on over the years," he said.

Plaid and Labour are clearly visible in this campaign, and need to make their mark in this campaign.

Working in teams they're able to cover the greater ground of the new constituencies. Independents have to go it alone.

"We have rules that we have to adhere to," says Nicola Roberts of Plaid Cymru.

"Many of the independents don't have these rules, so can chop and change as they please, so I think it's very important that we have a structure that we follow.

'Respect'

"Being with Plaid Cymru, of course, we have a programme and I think that's very important.

"I think [people] want to get a bit of respect back in the council, they want to have the voice of the people actually heard for once.

"They want the issues addressed, if possible, within reason. And I think the most thing that they want is just fair play for everyone."

Leaving Ms Roberts to some door knocking, I headed off to meet independent Bryan Owen outside county hall, who comes armed with a report full of praise for the way the council has improved.

"The council is making good progress in delivering improvements and has responded constructively to advice from the commissioners and regulators," he quoted from the report.

"But the momentum of change needs to continue in order to ensure sustainable improvements, and the council is making progress in delivering improvements in most of its priorities," Mr Owen continued.

Posh language, more or less saying things are getting better?

"Yes, whatever language it is, things are getting better," was this independent's firm view.

Change for the better is already under way - that's happened under independent rule as well - and indies are still best bet for those who want to protect the island's interests, he argues.

Delivering good governance, defending the island's independence and cracking the economy are what's needed, according to Liberal Democrat Aled Morris Jones.

"I think we have an opportunity to transform the economy, an opportunity such as we have only comes along once in a lifetime," he says.

'Betting man'

"I think that's what the people of Anglesey care about - it's about jobs.

"And they also care that there's an independent council here, in the sense that Anglesey is a separate political entity looking after its own affairs.

"We've heard from the mainland political leaders calling for one council in north west Wales - we believe that Anglesey should administer its own affairs."

Conservative Eric Roberts assures me he's not a betting man but, even if he were, he wouldn't put money on the outcome of this election.

He does believe things are changing for the better and that the new chapter has started already for people.

"If they vote for the Conservative Party, it does help and we find that we can move things forward," he says.

"There are some authorities which are run by Conservatives and, as you see, some of them have been able to keep their rates, they've managed to do their cutbacks.

"Unemployment in Anglesey is high, it needs to be looked at and so, you've got to move forward."

UKIP are fielding candidates across the island, convinced they're going to break through.

I pass a group of the party's leafleters, on the way to meet their spokesman Nathan Gill.

New start

A man out walking his dog says he's already posted his vote as has his wife - both giving one of their three votes to UKIP.

"People have realised that they have two or three votes in this election, and they are willing to give one of those two or one of those three votes to UKIP," said Mr Gill.

"Up until now we've had two elected councillors in the whole of Wales, and the way that things are going, the way that we've concentrated our efforts on the island, we feel confident that we will get three to five people elected to the Anglesey council."

The votes will be cast in a week's time - and the clear hope is that when counted, they'll bring a new start for the people of Anglesey.

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