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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 21:10 GMT 22:10 UK
City blows, valley joy for Labour
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Labour has had mixed fortunes in the Welsh council elections, losing Swansea, Cardiff and Bridgend, but winning back valleys heartlands.

As Labour was swept out of power in Wales' two biggest cities, it regained both Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) and Caerphilly from Plaid Cymru.

Senior Labour figures blamed several factors, including Iraq and First Minister Rhodri Morgan's absence from D-Day commemorations.

Mr Morgan said he would accept some responsibility if it was shown Labour did worse in Wales than England.

Labour lost 13 councillors in Swansea, where the council had been heavily criticised for closing the city's leisure centre.

In Wrexham the Forward Wales party founded by former Labour AM and MP John Marek won its first seat, but failed to make a bigger breakthrough, although Labour lost control.

With all the council results declared by the end of Friday, there were nine authorities left with no one party in overall control.

The Vale of Glamorgan remained under no overall control, but the Conservatives were still the biggest party, and the Tories won overall control of their one and only Welsh council in Monmouthshire.

The D-Day issue was undoubtedly a question on the doorstep and Rhodri has apologised for that
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain

Despite Labour's problems in Cardiff and Swansea, its performance in RCT may have been one of its best throughout the UK.

Labour had dramatically lost RCT to Plaid in the last elections in 1999, but it has now turned that round to return to power.

Welsh Secretary and Commons leader Peter Hain said Labour had "taken a hit", and accepted that Mr Morgan's D-Day absence was an issue.

Councillor gains and losses
Labour: - 57
Lib Dems: + 48
Plaid Cymru: - 12
Conservatives: + 35
Independents: + 16
People Before Politics: + 9
Forward Wales: + 1
But Mr Hain also blamed other factors: "People are sending us a message on Iraq and a number of other issues," he said.

"The council tax levels being another one and the D-Day issue was undoubtedly a question on the doorstep and Rhodri has apologised for that.

"There's no point in me denying it's been a great night for Labour: it clearly hasn't."

Mr Morgan acknowledged that his D-Day absence had come up on the doorsteps.

Who controls Welsh councils
Labour: 8 (Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Flintshire, Merthyr, Neath-Port Talbot, Newport, RCT, Torfaen)
Independents: 3 (Anglesey, Pembrokeshire, Powys)
Plaid Cymru: 1 (Gwynedd)
Conservatives: 1 (Monmouth)
No overall control: 8 (Bridgend, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Swansea, Vale of Glamorgan, Wrexham, Denbighshire)
"I would be inclined to discount it, but I'm ready to put my hand up and take my share of the blame if the results indicate we have done particularly badly in Wales," said Mr Morgan.

"This is a shock result for Labour," said Chris Lines, chief executive of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, whose party became the largest in Cardiff, and could hold the balance of power in Swansea.

"They have done appallingly badly, and I think they have been hit by the closure of Swansea Leisure Centre," he said.

With figures in from 17 of the 22 councils, turnout was 45%.

In Cardiff, controversial Labour leader Russell Goodway held on to his seat in the Ely ward by just 62 votes. But Labour in the capital was cut from 48 to 27, while the Lib Dems became the biggest group, up from 18 to 33, leaving the council under no overall control.

Mr Goodway partly blamed Mr Morgan and D-Day.

"In the last four days we've lost support because of the failure of the first minister to go to the D-Day celebrations," Mr Goodway said.

'Disillusionment'

If I've been chased down the garden path on any issue it's been the fact that the health service in Wales does not compare favourably with that in England
Cardiff Labour group leader Russell Goodway
"We've had people taking Labour party posters out of their windows as a consequence."

Mr Goodway said: "If I've been chased down the garden path on any issue it's been the fact that the health service in Wales does not compare favourably with that in England and people are aware of that."

Conservative AM Glyn Davies said: "I think that the performance of the government in the assembly has been a real factor in this election.

"There is a disillusionment now with Rhodri Morgan: the greatest mistake he's made has been the decision not to go to Normandy, and I think he is now seen by many in Labour as a liability."

In Ceredigion, Plaid gained three seats, and the result will mean weekend negotiations about possible coalitions to take control of the council.

The Independent group and the Liberal Democrats had run Ceredigion, and the new result follows a turbulent few months which saw campaigners lose their battle for a directly-elected mayor in the county.

The campaign for a directly-elected mayor had followed controversy over plans to build 6,500 new homes.




  Councillors Councils  
PARTY +/- TOT +/- TOT  
LAB
-64
478
0
8
PC
-28
172
-2
1
CON
39
109
1
1
LD
37
148
0
0
After 22 of 22 councils

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SEE ALSO:
Polls see boost in voter turnout
11 Jun 04  |  Politics
Apathy costs Labour dear
11 Jun 04  |  South East Wales


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