Election 2011: The melting pot of Cardiff South & Penarth

April 22, 2011 3 Comments »
Election 2011: The melting pot of Cardiff South & Penarth

cardiff south

Middle class, working class, affluent and poor, leafy and inner-city, the divided constituency of Cardiff South and Penarth has been a Labour stronghold for decades.

Yet the party’s stranglehold on the southern swathe of Wales’ capital has come under increasing threat from both the Tories and Liberal Democrats through social and boundary changes.

One of the key factors in deciding whether Labour’s Vaughan Gething can successfully follow his predecessor Lorraine Barrett into the Assembly will be the votes of the area’s large number of public sector workers.

Facing cuts from Westminster, the Assembly and Cardiff council, nurses, bin men, social workers and ambulance drivers may feel like they have become the whipping boys of austerity.

The question on pundits’ lips here is: will those cuts derail the growing threat the Tories have posed to Labour in successive elections?

Bin man, union rep and lifelong labour voter Gary Wainwright, says his 33 years on the job have taught him to expect little, no matter who wins the seat.

“I never miss a vote and I’ll vote Labour as I always do,” he said, as he worked with his three-man team in the leafy streets off Waterloo Road in Penylan.

“The problem isn’t that they refuse to keep their promises once we’ve voted them in.

“The problem is the promises they make are often impossible to keep.”

The 56-year-old from Llandaff North has seen plenty of change since he first started working for the council, dropping off black bin bags at people’s doors, in 1977.

He said: “Health and safety was non-existent in those days and we had one boss and the rest of us were front-line workers.

“Now the admin staff almost outnumber the bin men and we wonder, ‘What do they do with their time?’ It seems to be such a massive waste.”

In the last two years, Gary and his team have seen their pay frozen and are currently in negotiations over their next pay rise, which was due on April 6 but now looks like it will again be frozen.

Gary’s co-workers Paul Murray, 31, and Wayne Bridgman, 54, take a break from lifting bins to express their mutual distaste for politics.

Paul, who has worked as a bin man from the age of 16, has no plans to vote this year, while Wayne said he was too disenchanted to make the effort.

He said: “I used to vote and then they all had pay rises and we didn’t have nothing so I thought to myself, ‘That’s it.’ We all work together, so how can they award themselves pay rises and refuse to give us anything?”

The pair’s refusal to vote stands at odds with the determination of their teammate Gary, who regularly tells them, “If you don’t vote, you can’t have an opinion.”

Asked what issue he would like to see at the top of a new Assembly Government’s to-do list his answer was, perhaps surprisingly, local government waste. And if they need some tips on how to go about it, who better to go to than a bin man?

“Come and see me; I’ll give you some opinions on it,” said Gary, as he climbed back into his cab.

“I’d save the council tens of thousands of pounds, just come and ask me.”

You can view all the candidates standing for Cardiff South & Penarth on our Assembly Election 2011 section, and also let us know who you’ve seen out and about campaigning in Cardiff South & Penarth with the Welsh Watch crowdmap campaign.

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  1. Gareth April 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    This articial is meant to be about Cardiff South and Penarth, yet you've found a lifelong Labour voter and union rep who lives in Llandaff North (Cardiff North) who was working in Penylan (Cardiff Central)

    Exactly how is this constructive to what the issues are in Cardiff South & Penarth and who is best to represent the area?

  2. Gethin April 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    I live in Splott, which is actually in Cardiff South unlike Llandaf North, and the tories have made no inroads here – I've not has a single leaflet. On contrast. the Lib Dems and Labour both have Councillors here so I'll be voting for one of them.

    Incidentally, Cardiff North has a higher percentage of workers in the public sector than Cardiff South and Penarth, perhaps your article should be focusing on that seat instead?

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