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Small Welsh town that feels forgotten by politics

The Town Of Maesteg where residents say footfall has fallen in recent years (Pic: Lewis Smith LDR)

RESIDENTS in a small Welsh town say they feel as though their area has been forgotten about in the build up to the General Election, despite the recent reshuffle of local constituencies.

Residents in the valley town of Maesteg will no longer be voting for the Bridgend parliamentary seat, after a review into the size and boundaries of constituencies that was undertaken by the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales.

The move, which came ahead of the 2024 election, will instead see residents vote for the new-look constituency of Aberafon and Maesteg for the first time, with communities such as Aberavon, Briton Ferry, and Port Talbot merging with others that were formerly a part of Bridgend, such as Pyle, Caerau and Maesteg.

In the last election in 2019, the former Aberavon seat was taken by Labour candidate Stephen Kinnock with a comfortable 53% of the vote, while the Bridgend seat was won by former Conservative MP Jamie Wallis.

However, for many residents and business owners based on the high street in Maesteg, an area known for its industrial history and location in the picturesque Llynfi Valley, it seems as though there is a sense of political disillusion from many, with fears their town could be overlooked no matter what area they vote within.

Michael Newth has run a jewellers for around 50 years and says as far as he is concerned, the town has been forgotten about with dwindling footfall on the high street and a desperate need for politicians to engage with residents.

He said: “In terms of the new boundaries I don’t believe it will make any difference to us here in Maesteg at all, as I think we are a forgotten town in the sense that they’ve allowed it to deteriorate to a point where I don’t think it will ever come back properly.

“I’ve been here for 50 years and seen the deterioration in terms of the footfall and a regeneration programme of making the pavements wider and the streets narrower.

“To be honest people here are disillusioned as well and I haven’t seen a politician in the town for years. You just don’t see them, and now we’re joining up with Aberavon which is miles away I don’t expect very much will change.”

Michael Newth Of Maesteg Maesteg election story (Pic: Lewis Smith LDR)

Anne Arthur is the owner of Louchi’s Tea Room and said she was also unsure about how the new electoral ward would impact people in the area.

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She said: “I love Maesteg as it’s where I was born and brought up. We’re valleys people here with strong principles and we all stick by each other.

“There’s a lot of big characters in the town with really strong political beliefs but when it comes to politics we have been let down in the past. Whether or not it will differ in terms of the new Aberafan Maesteg election ward I don’t know.

“While I haven’t seen many of the candidates up here I’ve never missed a vote in my life and I’d like to think that it does make a difference.

“For me personally I would want to vote for someone who will make sure there will be a focus on the NHS, as it is currently in crisis and we need to look after our doctors, nurses, and carers as they are the ones who look after us.

“As a business owner I’d also want to see things like energy prices coming down. We are quite lucky here in the tea room because we’ve got a good reputation and a lot of our customers do actually come up from both the Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend areas already, which is great, but as we know a lot of shops are closing at the moment so it is tough for businesses.”

Anne Arthur Of Maesteg Maesteg election story (Pic: Lewis Smith LDR)

Sara Rees runs a popular children’s play centre in the town and said she was clear about what she wanted from the next UK Government, with protection for the NHS and managing a cost-of-living crisis deemed top priorities.

She said: “I think in Maesteg we are quite similar and on the same wavelength as a lot of people in places like Aberavon and Port Talbot but what that means for the next elections I’m not really sure.

“For me when it comes to the vote, I would like to see more done for the local community with more funding given to local councils for the development of the town, as well as something being done to tackle the current cost-of-living crisis as there are a lot of people struggling with rising costs at the moment.”

Sara Rees Of Maesteg Maesteg election story (Pic: Lewis Smith LDR)

For Robert Williams of Maesteg, one of the main priorities for him was in creating more jobs for valleys communities right across the country.

He said: “Since the mining industry closed nothing has been put back in to the smaller villages of Wales and we need to see something being created here for younger people, so they can get better jobs and apprenticeships, instead of just false promises.”

Florist Carys Williams added: “For me I’d like to see more things coming in to the town, as it is looking a bit sad with a lot of empty shops, and it would be good to get people shopping on the local high street again.

“I think Bridgend is similar to Maesteg, but areas like Port Talbot are also much of a muchness with a number of empty shops on the high street.”

Carys Williams Of Maesteg Maesteg election story (Pic: Lewis Smith LDR)

The national vote is set to take place on July 4 and will see 32 MPs voted in to represent Wales with candidates for the Aberafon and Maesteg electoral ward now having been confirmed as:

  • Captain Beany (Independent)
  • Colin Deere (Plaid Cymru)
  • Justin Griffiths (Lib Dem)
  • Mark Griffiths (Reform UK)
  • Nigel Hill (Green Party)
  • Stephen Kinnock (Labour)
  • Abigail Mainon (Conservatives)
  • Rhiannon Morrissey (Heritage Party)