Voters in Wrexham and Flintshire will go to the polls tomorrow (Thursday May 5) for the 2022 local elections.
A total of 56 councilors are up for appointment to Wrexham Council in 49 electoral constituencies, while there are 67 seats up for grabs in Flintshire in 45 constituencies.
Polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. to allow people to choose who will represent them for the next five years.
Who is in charge and who are the contenders?
A coalition of two independent groups and the Conservatives are currently in charge of Wrexham Local Authority, led by council leader Mark Pritchard who oversees a group of 18 independents.
Deputy leader of the council David A Bithell, head of the Wrexham Independent Group, currently has eight members, with the Tories also having eight councillors.
The numbers could make any significant change to the general direction of the board difficult to achieve.
However, Labor forms the main opposition and will seek to capitalize on national issues such as partygate and the cost of living crisis to issue a challenge and increase its membership from eleven.
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru is aiming to build on two by-election victories in the last term, which took its tally to five.
In Flintshire, Labor currently holds a majority with 34 councillors, but was recently rocked by the last-minute defection of cabinet member Glyn Banks.
Mr Banks withdrew his Labor candidacy just before nominations closed last month and opted to stand as an independent instead.
This follows a tumultuous tenure for the party, which began in 2017 with Connah’s Quay Central couple Aaron Shotton and Bernie Attridge serving as council leader and deputy respectively.
However, the pair had a very public argument and saw Mr Attridge sacked in March 2019 over an alleged ‘breach of trust’.
Mr Shotton resigned shortly after a backlash against the decision and was replaced by Flint Castle representative Ian Roberts.
Mr Shotton was suspended from the board for three months in 2020 after being found guilty of twice breaching his code of conduct and failing to appear on that occasion.
Mr Attridge is now running as an independent and says he has the support of enough other independent candidates to become head of the council if they are elected in sufficient numbers.
Labor hopes their positive performance in last year’s Senedd election and poll results at UK level will help boost their 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 a part in how people choose to vote.
However, it is often very local issues such as potholes, dog soiling, planning issues and trash pick-ups that dominate the conversation on the doorstep during local elections.
These are the areas over which local authorities have the most influence after all.
Wrexham and Flintshire councils are currently in the process of having their local development plans reviewed by planning inspectors.
The plans called for land where thousands of new homes could be built in the two areas in the coming years and have proven contentious in some communities.
Wrexham’s latest bid for town status has also divided local opinion, with some saying they would prefer it to remain a town.
In Flintshire, a recently introduced 20mph driver speed limit at Buckley has caused a great deal of heat for the council after it was introduced by the Welsh government.
These are just some of the questions that are likely to shape a broad debate about local services.
A number of changes were made to ward boundaries in both areas following a review by the Local Democracy and Boundaries Commission.
He saw the number of councilors in Wrexham rise from 52 to 56 and the number of wards from 47 to 49.
However, Flintshire saw a reduction in the number of councilors from a previous total of 70 to 67, with the number of wards also reduced from 57 to 45.
A total of ten councilors have already been elected unopposed in Wrexham and Flintshire ahead of local elections.
This means that more than 20,000 voters in the two regions will not have a chance to have a say in who represents them due to a single candidate in their neighborhood.
In Wrexham there will be eight councilors who will return to their seats without having to solicit votes, including outgoing independent council leader Mark Pritchard in Esclusham.
Others automatically elected to the County Borough include current Wrexham Mayor Ronnie Prince (Ind) in Cartrefle and Executive Council Member Terry Evans (Ind) in Chirk South.
Debbie Wallice (Cons) at Borras Park, Trevor Bates (Ind) at Dyffryn Ceiriog, Andy Williams (Ind) at Garden Village and David Bithell (Ind) at Stansty will also not be required to go to the polls.
The two uncontested seats in Flintshire will see Steve Copple (Ind) elected to County Council to represent Caerwys, replacing Liberal Democrat Tudor Jones, while Mike Allport (Ind) will be re-elected unopposed in Higher Kinnerton.
Where am I going to vote?
Details of where you need to go to vote can be found on your voters 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 should I do when I arrive at the polling station?
When you get to your polling place, you must tell the staff your name or give them your voter card.
However, you are not required to bring your card with you to vote.
Staff will then give you a ballot listing the candidates you can vote for.
Bring your ballot to a voting booth, so you can vote in secret.
Carefully read the instructions on the ballot paper and complete it using the pencil provided in the voting booth.
Once you are done, fold your completed ballot and place it in the ballot box.
Although the Welsh Government has recently confirmed that the Covid-19 pandemic is transitioning to an endemic state, it is highly likely that you will still see measures in place to stop the spread of the virus at polling stations.
Indeed, Wrexham returning officer Ian Bancroft confirmed that measures will be taken in the area to minimize risk, with perspex screens, wipes, antibacterial spray and hand sanitiser in place at all places.
Disposable masks will be available, but it will be up to individuals to wear a face covering.
Voters are asked to bring their own pen or pencil, but there will be a supply of pencils which will be sanitized after each use.
All surfaces will be regularly disinfected, including the voting booths.
There will also be signs in place advising voters not to enter the polling station with symptoms of coronavirus.
Mr Bancroft said: “Many of us are now going about our normal activities as the Covid restrictions are lifted, but we all need to keep in mind that the coronavirus is still circulating and still poses a risk to some people.
“Please follow the advice above to ensure that the election is conducted with the minimum of risk to everyone present at a polling station.”
Young people vote for the first time
In Wales, young people aged 16 and 17 will be able to vote for the first time in local elections on Thursday.
It’s part of the biggest change to the Welsh electoral system for 50 years – when the voting age was lowered to 18 in the 1970s.
Why is it important to vote?
Local authorities provide a range of essential services such as education, social care, rubbish and recycling collection, road maintenance, libraries and planning services.
Councilors also set Council Tax each year, which is added to their annual Welsh Government Financial Settlement to fund these services.
When will we know the results?
Votes will be counted on Friday from 9am in Wrexham and Flintshire.
Wrexham’s count will take place at Glyndwr University’s sports hall, while Flintshire’s will take place at Coleg Cambria’s. deeside Campus at Connah’s Quay.
The exact times when we will know the full results for each area have not been confirmed.
However, the two are expected to declare themselves in the afternoon, with Wrexham set to be one of the frontrunners in Wales.
Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).