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FALSE FIGURES FOR TURNOUT?

May 7, 2022

TURNOUT at Thursday’s Newport City Council elections is reported by the institution itself and, I believe, may be being inaccurately and unreliably managed to present an over optimistic portrait of engagement in local democracy.

https://www.newport.gov.uk/en/Council-Democracy/Elections-and-voting/Election-results/Newport-City-Council-Elections-May-2022.aspx

The reality now – with turnout as low as 26.5 per cent in the Alway ward even if you accept the council’s own optimistic figures which may not take into consideration many thousands of other people living in the area in rented accommodation and multiple occupations like hostels as well as numerous new arrivals – is that engagement in places like Alway is more like 10% in real terms than 26.5% and councillors are elected by their own close political affiliates and compromised employees or supporters with a vested interest in voting.

I had not seen either of my Labour councillors in the Shaftesbury ward actually out and about in the community for many years and neither lived nearby. I am not aware of local meetings or clinics where you can speak to them face-to-face, either. I noted that on the morning of the election Karen French, the manager of Labour MP Ruth Jones’s Westminster office; Michael Bawden, a recently appointed Labour communications officer and a volunteer called Emma Lewis were putting generic Welsh Labour leaflets through doors to appeal for locals to vote.

This may help to explain why Lauren James ousted the traditionally mandatory second Shaftesbury ward Labour councillor to become the first Green Party candidate ever elected onto the council as she had been the only one to actually visit and speak to me in person and is, now, the only person known in the community and accessible to locals. She was elected with just 475 votes, coming a close second to veteran Labour cabinet member Paul Cockeram, on only 503 votes, down from 619 in 2017.

https://www.newport.gov.uk/en/Council-Democracy/Elections-and-voting/Election-results/Newport-City-Council-elections-May-2017.aspx

Overall turnout is lower than in 2017 at just 33 per cent, enabling Welsh Labour to further punish a woefully inadequate and directionless Conservative Party (Joan Watkins lost to three Labour candidates in Caerleon) by adding to their majority with no fewer than 35 elected councillor, up from 31 in 2017.

The Tories dropped from 12 councillors to just eight and independents (who divide into Independent and Newport Independent) increased their share from five in 2017 to seven in 2022 with a sensational result in the Lliswerry area, where Allan Morris’s vote went up from 828 in 2017 to 1,723 joined by three other Independent councillors who have smashed Labour, who lost three councillors, with deputy leader and cabinet member for city services Roger Jeavons kicked out.

My question of the week is: How can councillors who attract such low votes – 503 for Councillor Paul Cockeram – for instance, possibly process into highly paid leadership and cabinet posts and make vital decisions on behalf of the people if they have such low confidence in them?

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