A guide to the 2022 local elections in Flintshire and Wrexham
Voters across Wrexham and Flintshire will be going to the polls tomorrow (Thursday, 5 May) for the 2022 local elections.
A total of 56 councillors are due to be appointed to Wrexham Council across 49 electoral wards, while there are 67 seats up for grabs in Flintshire across 45 wards.
Polling stations will be open between 7am and 10pm to allow people to choose who should represent them for the next five years.
Who’s in charge and who are the contenders?
A coalition of two independent groups and the Conservatives are currently in charge of the local authority in Wrexham, led by council leader Mark Pritchard who oversees a group of 18 independents.
Deputy council leader David A Bithell, leader of the Wrexham Independent Group, currently has eight members, with the Conservatives also having eight councillors.
The numbers could make any significant change to the overall leadership of the council difficult to achieve.
However, Labour forms the main opposition and will be looking to capitalise on national issues such as partygate and the cost-of-living crisis to launch a challenge and boost its numbers from eleven.
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru is aiming to build on two by-elections wins during the last term, which have bolstered its total to five.
In Flintshire, Labour currently has the majority with 34 councillors, but was recently rocked by the last-minute defection of cabinet member Glyn Banks.
Mr Banks withdrew his Labour candidacy just before the deadline for nominations closed last month and chose to stand as an independent instead.
It follows a tumultuous term for the party, which started in 2017 with Connah’s Quay Central pair Aaron Shotton and Bernie Attridge in charge as council leader and deputy respectively.
However, the two had a very public falling out which saw Mr Attridge sacked in March 2019 over an alleged “breach of confidence”.
Mr Shotton stepped down not long after following a backlash against the decision and was replaced by Flint Castle representative Ian Roberts.
Mr Shotton was suspended from the council for three months in 2020 after being found guilty of twice breaching its code of conduct and is not standing on this occasion.
Mr Attridge is now standing as an independent and says he has the backing of enough other independent candidates to become council leader if they are elected in sufficient numbers.
Labour will be hoping its positive performance at last year’s Senedd elections and poll leads at a UK level will help to shore up its vote in Flintshire.
What are the main issues?
National issues such as the UK Government’s response to the war in Ukraine, lockdown breaches in Downing Street and the cost-of-living crisis will no doubt play some part in how people choose to vote.
However, it’s often very local issues such as potholes, dog fouling, planning matters and bin collections which dominate the conversation on the doorstep at local elections.
These are the areas which local authorities hold the most influence over after all.
Both Wrexham and Flintshire councils are currently in the middle of having their local development plans examined by planning inspectors.
The blueprints set out land where thousands of new houses could be built in both areas in the coming years and have proved highlight contentious in some communities.
Wrexham’s latest bid for city status has also split opinion among residents, with some saying they would prefer it to remain as a town.
In Flintshire, a recently introduced 20mph pilot speed limit in Buckley has caused a large amount of heat for the council after being introduced by the Welsh Government.
These are just some of the issues which are likely to shape a wide ranging debate on local services.
A number of changes have been made to ward boundaries in both areas following a review by the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission.
It has seen the number of councillors in Wrexham increase from 52 to 56 and the number of wards from 47 to 49.
However, Flintshire has seen a reduction in councillors from a previous total of 70 to 67, with the amount of wards also cut from 57 to 45.
A total of ten councillors have already been elected unopposed in Wrexham and Flintshire ahead of the local elections.
It means more than 20,000 voters across both areas won’t have the chance to have their say on who represents them due to only one candidate standing in their ward.
In Wrexham, there will be eight councillors returning to their seats without having to canvass for votes, including incumbent independent council leader Mark Pritchard in Esclusham.
Others who have been automatically elected in the county borough include the current Mayor of Wrexham Ronnie Prince (Ind) in Cartrefle and executive board member Terry Evans (Ind) in Chirk South.
Debbie Wallice (Cons) in Borras Park, Trevor Bates (Ind) in Dyffryn Ceiriog, Andy Williams (Ind) in Garden Village and David Bithell (Ind) in Stansty will also not be required to go to the polls.
The two uncontested seats in Flintshire will see Steve Copple (Ind) elected to the county council to represent Caerwys, replacing Liberal Democrat Tudor Jones, while Mike Allport (Ind) will be re-elected unopposed in Higher Kinnerton.
Where do I go to vote?
Details of where you need to go to vote can be found on your polling card or via the local authority’s website.
You can also check on the Electoral Commission website by entering your postcode here: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/voting-person
What do I do when I get to the polling station?
When you get your polling station, you should tell the staff your name, or give them your poll card.
However, you are not required to bring you card with you in order to vote.
Staff will then give you a ballot paper listing the candidates you can vote for.
Take your ballot paper to a polling booth, so that you can cast your vote in secret.
Read the instructions on the ballot paper carefully and complete it using the pencil provided in the polling booth.
Once you’re done, fold your completed ballot paper and put it in the ballot box.
Although the Welsh Government recently confirmed the Covid-19 pandemic is now transitioning to an endemic state, it is highly likely you will still see measures in place to stop the spread of the virus at polling stations.
Indeed, Wrexham’s returning officer Ian Bancroft has confirmed steps will be taken in the area to minimise the risk, with perspex screens, wipes, antibacterial spray and hand sanitiser in place at all locations.
There will be disposable masks available for use, although it will be up to individuals whether to wear a face covering.
Voters are asked to bring their own pen or pencil but there will be a supply of pencils that will be sanitised after every use.
All surfaces will be regularly sanitised, including voting booths.
There will also be posters in place advising voters not to enter the polling station with coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Bancroft said: “Many of us are now going about our normal business as Covid restrictions are lifted but we all still need to be mindful that coronavirus is still circulating and still poses a risk to some individuals.
“Please follow the guidance above in order to ensure that the election takes place with the minimum of risk to everyone attending a polling station.”
Youngsters voting for the first time
In Wales, young people aged 16 and 17 will be able to vote in local elections for the first time on Thursday.
It forms part of the biggest change in the Welsh electoral system for 50 years – when the voting age was lowered to 18 during the 1970s.
Why is it important to vote?
Local authorities provide a range of essential services such as education, social care, bin and recycling collections, highway maintenance, libraries and planning services.
Councillors also set the council tax annually which adds to their annual financial settlement from the Welsh Government to finance these services.
When will we find out the results?
Votes will be counted on Friday starting at 9am in Wrexham and Flintshire.
The Wrexham count will be held at the Glyndwr University sports hall, while Flintshire’s will be at Coleg Cambria’s Deeside Campus in Connah’s Quay.
The exact times when we will know the full set of results for each area have not been confirmed.
However, it is expected both will declare during the afternoon, with Wrexham predicted to be one of the first in Wales.
Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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