Jacob Williams
Tuesday, 29th March, 2022

Holding back?

There’s a week to go until nominations for Pembrokeshire County Council’s 2022 election close.

One thing most council-watchers seem to agree on is just how few candidates have come out of the woodwork compared to this stage ahead of the last election in 2017.

It’s not obvious why concealing one’s candidature could be deemed a winning electoral strategy, and it’s leading to all sorts of speculation that we could be in for a record year of uncontested seats.

Thirteen of Pembrokeshire’s sixty wards went without a contest in 2017, and it’ll be interesting if the 2022 figures are anywhere close to that.

It might be an interesting exercise to assess the makeup of the new council against the unprecedented interference by the Welsh Government, and various other bodies, to ‘diversify’ local representation this time around.

The distinct lack of election fever in the air makes early analysis of the various races a difficult task – but shy candidates won’t be able to stay in the shadows for too much longer, as the publication of all nominees shortly follows the close of nominations in early April.

Of course there are many incumbents who have said they are standing, and even some, like me, who have already done door-knocking rounds as part of their re-election campaigns.

Among those who have said they’re calling it a day this May are ‘The Voice’ of Johnston, Ken Rowlands.

Longtime Clydau ward member Rod Bowen is also stepping down – ending an almost unbelievable run, having served nearly two decades without ever receiving a single vote.

First elected to Pembrokeshire County Council in 2004 without a contest, the genial Plaid Cymru representative has been unopposed at every election since – 2008, 2012 and 2017!

Saundersfoot’s Phil Baker has honoured his long-time pledge not to run again in 2022 – despite what many would see as a certain victory had he chosen to.

County-wide boundary changes, which have been on the backburner for about a decade, mean Saundersfoot is being split – the southern bulk forming a new electoral division, with the village’s northern portion merging with the present Amroth ward.

This change to the electoral map could make or break the re-election bid of Amroth incumbent Tony Baron, Conservative.

If he stands, Cllr. Baron will be trying to defend 2017’s smallest majority of two votes – gained in a particularly good election year for the Tories.

Meanwhile in Pembroke, the new Monkton and St. Mary South ward will be one to watch.

It’s electing two councillors on May 5th, as the sole ward to emerge from the boundary review as a multi-member electoral division.

Tipsters say the perennial Daphne Bush could be associated with this, or any of the two other wards making up the town which gives the county its name.

Ditto Jonathan Nutting and David Edwards!

It would seem that the narrowly-elected member for the soon-to-be-abolished Pembroke Dock Llanion ward, Joshua Beynon, grudgingly came to the realisation that he’d made himself unelectable, so won’t be risking defeat in a few weeks’ time.

Making a big announcement at the start of the year, Cllr. Beynon said that he needed “some time away from the public eye.”

I can’t have been the only one who thought his explanatory statement was trying too hard to convince us all that he wasn’t someone running scared.

In it he claimed to have privately confided in his nearest and dearest prior to the 2017 election: “that I would only want to stand for one term” because “I wanted to do what was right, even if unpopular, not what was in the best interests of my political career.”

Josh’s unlikely back-story may have had a better chance had he not prefaced his January bombshell with the inconsistent: “I’ve taken the difficult decision to not stand for re-election in May 2022.”

JW understands Narberth incumbent Vic Dennis is another Labour councillor from the 2017 intake who won’t be defending his seat.

Marc Tierney – who has stood several times for the party locally in various Westminster and Cardiff Bay races – is being mentioned as Labour’s potential Narberth runner, but nothing official so far.

The biggest shock to many is that longtime Tenby councillor, Mike Evans, is stepping down.

If I do go on to win another term I can’t deny I’ll miss Mike’s malapropisms.

Some of my favourites include his reference to “the Emperor’s new shoes,” and his ever-enduring mix-up between the names of Wiston councillor David Howlett and legendary All Blacks winger Doug Howlett.

The list of all candidates will be published shortly after the close of nominations on 5th April. I’ll probably have more to say on this election cycle in due course.


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10 Comments...

  • Flashbang

    I don’t think either of the Tenby councillors would be missed. Or for that matter most of PCC.

    I hope the new intake are not like the bunch of seat warmers and do nothings who have infested the place for years.

    With a bit of luck they’ll fire that many rockets up senior officers’ backsides that a dose of honesty and openness might infect the place.

    I’m probably dreaming as it’ll be more of the same.

  • Malcolm Calver

    I would suggest that there is a need for reformed/smaller local government, with the biggest need for reform and possible abolition in community and town councillors.

    Do we really need so many hundreds of town and community councillors in Pembrokeshire, many unelected?

    We have in the last sixty years gone from a society that tried to stand on its own two feet to one depending on a so called “entitlement” society at great cost to our national wellbeing.

  • Steve Potter

    It’s testament to Rod Bowen’s hard work and dedication that no-one in Clydau ward has ever stood against him. He’s going to be a hard act to follow.

  • John Hudson

    What are the chances of the electorate being provided with a consensus of independent candidates’ views on a comprehensive plan of council priorities and spending that they will support, so that elected independent councillors enjoy a democratic mandate for their collective actions.

    We do not even get this from the registered local political parties or the prospective independent group membership.

    Many new candidates will have to rely heavily on officers’ advice when in office. Some candidates will have a strong existing record of challenging officers’ advice rather than meek acquiescence. How are we to sort the wheat from the chaff? Always assuming one gets the chance to vote for a candidate.

  • Mark

    John, as you say, not even a single party gives anything which resembles a manifesto for the whole administration of the authority, so I don’t think it is a reasonable expectation from any independent candidate.

    I don’t think independent candidates can be accused of hiding plans up their sleeves, but I would agree many deserve blame once elected for lacking spines and ideas, and being walked all over by officers with no mandate at all who impose their ideas which get rubber stamped.

    The fact so many independents get elected in Wales shows this is not something that bothers voters.

    I think this would go on just the same if a single party controlled the majority of council seats, the officers would run the show the only difference would be a party steering things in the general direction of the party, possibly from Cardiff or England.

    So what it boils down to is do Pembrokeshire people prefer a disparate bunch of councillors grappling with officers over the tiller, or would they rather it be a single party, or a coalition of parties.

    I think the answer is clearly that they would rather a disparate bunch of independents to do it. Rightly or wrongly. The alternative would possibly be much worse, with a party administration potentially leaving control of the council even further removed from locals and the individuals they elect in their wards.

  • Malcolm Calver

    How about it being compulsory that a hustings meeting to be attended by all prospective candidates must be held in each ward?

  • John Hudson

    Councils are meant to have a system of checks and balances built into their decision making process. Our council has again undertaken to improve matters in the wake of the recent unlawful £95K CEO’s settlement agreement authorisation (with full costs yet to be announced) which was based on advice, and the authorised payment made under officer’s delegated powers.

    Most of the senior officers directly involved in this unlawful process have now left the service, and replacements have yet to be appointed under a strengthened structure overseen by the new CEO.

    It may be appropriate to quiz candidates, seeking our votes, over the confidence they have in the impartially and legality of advice they will receive from officers.

    When making decisions on our behalf, for the council, councillors are obliged to have regard to such advice.

  • John Hudson

    Mark, There would appear to be an alternative option for Corporate Governance as provided in the LGA 2000 as amended by the LG Wales Measure 2011 section 55.

    These permissive powers provide for the council to arrange for the discharge of its legal functions by smaller area committees. These areas are established over one or more electoral division of the authority.

    I have often wondered why this option does not find favour in the corridors of power and can only put this down to the loss of central power/control.

    It strikes me that smaller areas for some service delivery would provide us with a greater sense of ownership and direction, while not detracting from the electorates’ preference for disparate bunches of independent councillors.

    Clearly many are disgruntled with the current long-standing democratic governance arrangements of the council. Perhaps most do not care about how they are governed or by whom.

  • Mayday

    Congratulations on being one of the 19 council candidates to be the sole nominee in a ward and thus elected unopposed.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Whilst I would also wish to congratulate Jacob on being elected albeit unopposed, I am sure he would agree with me that it is a bad day for democracy and Pembrokeshire when 19 prospective councillors are elected to office unopposed.

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