Plaid Cymru are launching their local election campaign today (11 April) with a focus on preserving local services and jobs in the face of cuts from central government.
The party are hoping that their new leader, Leanne Wood, will appeal to voters who associate other parties with cuts, austerity and decisions made in London.
Their manifesto commitments include paid apprenticeship, skills and training schemes to support young people. They are promising to providing grants and loans to fund business start-ups. They say they will invest in more affordable homes and bring empty properties back into use.
They are also committed to campaigning to save local services under threat of closure. And they want to introduce schemes to allow local communities to benefit from the ownership and control of natural resources.
Plaid Cymru, whose name means “Party of Wales” in Welsh, are a socialist party committed to an independent Wales within the European Union. A leadership election last month led to success for Leanne Wood, who is seen as being on the left of the party. Wood is keen to ensure that voters link Plaid both with the anti-cuts movement and with a strong pro-independence message.
They are launching their campaign today with an event in Carmarthenshire in west Wales. The party said that voters should “defy the path of decline and failure by voting for the only party which is working to build a better Wales”.
Fielding a record number of candidates, they will draw attention to what they describe as “a strong local record in building economic recovery, supporting families and improving local services”.
“Local councils have more power than we think to make a difference to our lives,” said Alun Fred Jones AM, Plaid's local government campaign manager.
He added, “To make Wales stronger economically, councils have to pull their weight and use their powers to change lives for the better: to create work, stimulate business, encourage investment, prioritise education and take care of the environment. As a nation, we can build resilience to future threats by building up a network of Plaid councils run for the people and not the political parties – creating local economies that put people first.”
Plaid’s leader on Caerphilly Council, Allan Pritchard, drew attention to a local scheme that he said has already provided over 160 young people with apprenticeships. He promised that Plaid councillors would implement similar schemes in other councils where they gain power.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Conservative Party are seeking to portray the election of Leanne Wood as a “lurch to the left” on the part of Plaid.
Wood is the first leader of Plaid whose first language is English rather than Welsh. The party hopes this will increase their appeal to English speaking voters, some of whom have traditionally seen Plaid as a party for Welsh speakers. But the Conservatives hope that Wood will put off rural Welsh speakers, who may be more socially conservative than Wood. In response, critics have accused the Tories of stereotyping rural Welsh speakers.
“For the London parties, these elections are yet another opportunity for them to play out their Westminster pantomime, playing politics with people's lives for narrow party gains,” insisted Neil McEvoy, Plaid's Deputy Leader on Cardiff Council.
He added, “For Plaid Cymru, these elections present a chance to implement a programme of action to protect Welsh communities from the assault of the cuts which are too deep and are being implemented too quickly.”