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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Close call in 'swing' county
The old Monnow bridge
The bridge replacing the old Monnow crossing cost 2.6m
The Conservatives will be fighting to take Monmouthshire Council from Labour in what could be an extremely close contest.

Labour has run the authority as a minority administration, and in the run-up to the 10 June election it held only a one-seat advantage over the Tories.

Recent history shows the two parties have struggled for dominance in the area.

Monmouthshire was a traditional stronghold of the Tories, but Labour took control in 1995.

In the years in between, the Tories regained their superiority, and have also won the Monmouth Welsh assembly seat for two elections in a row.

At parliamentary level, Monmouth had a Tory MP for decades until Labour won a by-election in 1991. But the Tories won the seat back at the 1992 general election, only to lose it again in 1997, since when it has remained in Labour hands.

At council level, the Conservatives became the largest party, but its lead was subsequently eroded through by-elections.

How the council stood
Labour: 19
Conservative: 18
Independents: 3
Liberal Democrats: 2

Following by-elections in 2002, Labour and the Liberal Democrats increased their total by one each. That meant Labour overtook the Conservatives as the largest single party, and Labour took control of the county, but without an overall majority.

Labour have had support on some issues from the smaller groupings, the Independents and Liberal Democrats.

Prosperous

One electoral issue could be a leaked report into a 1.2m overspend on a bridge in Monmouth over the river Monnow.

Councillors have been prevented from revealing details of the investigation into why the overspend occurred until a final report is drafted.

Monmouthshire is one of the most prosperous areas in Wales, with agriculture and tourism the main industries, and 1.7% unemployment among its 85,000 population.

The county has one of the lowest proportions of Welsh speakers and also delivered the highest proportion of No votes in the devolution referendum.

Many of Monmouthshire's residents work over the border in England.

It is a largely prosperous, rural area which includes the towns of Monmouth, Abergavenny and Usk.

The picturesque Wye and Usk valleys are home to many seeking a countryside idyll in Wales.





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