Feet on the ground


By Alun Llewelyn, our candidate in Neath.

Unlike sitting Assembly Members, those of us who are Councillors don’t have the luxury of a “dissolution” to fight the campaign! Our Council work (and even the day job) continues even while we are candidates for the National Assembly.

This can be a useful reality-check. While it is quite a juggling-act, my council workload keeps my feet on the ground and is a reminder of the challenges facing families and individuals in our communities, and also provides some very positive echoes of why I got involved in local democracy in the first place.

So on a sunny Easter Sunday afternoon I joined Plaid Councillor Tony Randall (Chair of Ystalyfera Community Counci)  and a group of parents and children at the Penyrallt play area of the Penywern housing estate in Ystalyfera to listen to residents’ ideas of how to improve the park.

In glorious weather, the views from the mountainside housing estate were spectacular –  eastwards to the Darren Wyddon, down the Swansea Valley, and northwards to the Brecon Beacons and the Carmarthenshire Black Mountains.   The buzzard hovering silently overhead would have enjoyed much the same view.

That mountainside location can also lead to isolation, and until Ystalyfera elected a Plaid Cymru County Councillor and a Plaid Community Council some years ago Penywern had suffered almost half a century of Labour’s broken promises to provide even basic facilities such as a play area.

As a Communities First area Ystalyfera and Penywern have plenty of dreary statistics, but also a real record of positive community action. Ten years ago, the Plaid-led Community Council worked with Penywern’s tenant and residents association to create a brand new play area on a barren hillside and since then it has been very well used and well looked-after by the local children.

Now there are new ideas for expansion and improvement. By the end of the afternoon we had a positive plan agreed for costing and funding, and we aim to return shortly with the designs. As we walked down from Penywern, the sound of children playing in their park echoed down the valley.

If I am elected to the National Assembly as AM for Neath next month, it is communities like Ystalyfera and Penywern that will continue to inspire me to work for a better Wales.