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Calling all new voters: Now is the perfect time to use your voice to shape the Wales you want

Yn galw ar bob etholwr newydd: Nawr yw'r amser perffaith i ddefnyddio'ch llais i greu’r Gymru rydych chi ei heisiau

A new Welsh Government campaign, launched on Monday 15th February, is encouraging new groups of people resident in Wales to make their voices heard in upcoming elections.

The Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act received Royal Assent in January 2020. It extended the vote in Senedd elections to 16 and 17 year olds and qualifying foreign nationals living in Wales. The first election for these newly enfranchised groups will be the Senedd elections planned for May 2021.

The Welsh Government is encouraging everybody from all walks of Welsh life to use their voices to bring about democratic change by voting.

The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James, said:

“True democracy means everyone getting involved and having a say. Using your vote is one of the ways you can make your voice heard.

“The upcoming Senedd elections represent an exciting opportunity for new 16 and 17 year old voters and qualifying foreign nationals to use their vote for the first time to shape public services in Wales, and to create a Wales which fits the needs of future generations.

“It’s also the perfect chance for those who don’t usually use their vote to have their say and shape genuine democratic renewal in Wales. By taking part in these and future elections, your voice and opinions will help shape growth and positive change in Wales.

“Our Welsh Government ambition of building a more equal Wales, representing the needs of all citizens and all communities in Wales, depends on the voices of all ages, all community groups and all regions of Welsh society being heard. By getting involved, you can influence decisions affecting your local area and Wales as a whole.

“I look forward to hearing your views and your voices in the landmark forthcoming elections.”

Notes to editors

Case study

CARDIFF COUNCILLOR JOINS CALLS FOR PEOPLE IN WALES TO ENGAGE WITH POLITICS

Councillor Dan De’Ath can count a number of impressive achievements during his time in office – including becoming Cardiff’s first Black Lord Mayor. But it’s the local changes he’s been able to implement as Councillor for Cardiff’s Plasnewydd ward that he’s proudest of.

Councillor De’Ath is joining Welsh Government in calling for more people across Wales to put their opinions to good use and engage in democracy to help make a difference to the lives of people across Wales.

Councillor De’Ath grew up in the West Midlands where his County Councillor grandfather sparked an interest in politics and current affairs. He said: “I grew up in a mining town near Coventry. It was very disadvantaged, but Royal Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon were just down the road, so I was always very aware of the gap between rich and poor. It spurred me on to want to make a difference.  

“I fell in love with Cardiff when I came to visit a friend in my late 20s and moved to Roath. It’s my favourite part of the city – vibrant, multicultural and with a great community spirit. Over the past few years Cardiff’s population has started growing hugely. That growth was putting a lot of pressure on areas like Roath, leading to issues with affordable housing and waste collections.

“I found myself thinking “surely the Council could be doing more to tackle these issues”. After several years of living in Roath and grumbling to my friends and neighbours about the problems I was seeing, I decided to do something about it and run for office. I loved campaigning, going door-to-door, and speaking to my community about the things they care about. It gave me even more drive to work hard for them and make a difference. I was lucky enough to be successful and was elected to represent Plasnewydd in 2012.”

During his eight years in office, Councillor De’Ath and his colleagues have been able to address many of the local issues that motivated him to run for office, including improvements to waste collections and cleaning up Roath’s streets.

He continued: “When I was elected, Cardiff officially had the dirtiest streets in Wales. Anyone who lived in Roath or Cathays during that time will remember how bad it was. There were split bags everywhere, food would fall out and be left on the pavement for days after bin collections, it was awful. I could see it was having a negative impact on the community – it was affecting me as a resident too – so it was great to be able to improve things and toughen up enforcement. There’s still more work to do but it’s much better than it was.

“Roath is a really popular part of Cardiff for students and young professionals, and that helps to make it an exciting and vibrant part of the city. But the high number of houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) in the ward was having a visible impact. I was really proud to help limit the numbers of HMOs in the area by working with Welsh Government to put in place regulations. We also worked with them to effectively ban the ‘to let’ signs that used to cover most streets. It’s made a huge difference to the look and feel of the area.

“I’ve also worked closely with the Made in Roath community arts group to help them temporarily take over disused local buildings for art exhibitions and performances. More recently, we’ve worked with the Council to redevelop the historic Roath Park House, which had fallen into despair, back to life and open a café and cooking school on the site.”

Growing up during the 1980s and 90s, there were few Black politicians to act as role models. There is still little representation today, with just 65 MPs from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic sitting in the UK parliament. Councillor De’Ath is calling for more people from different backgrounds to run for office and help make politics more representative.

He continued: “Yes we absolutely need more Black and more south Asian Councillors in Wales, but it isn’t just about race. Politics is overwhelmingly dominated by middle aged men. We need more young people, more women, more people from working class backgrounds who are often overlooked. We need more young parents. I’d love to see politics across Wales become more representative of the communities it serves.

“I would encourage anyone who feels passionately about local change to seriously consider running for office. If I’d continued to grumble about the state of Cardiff’s streets instead of running to become a Cardiff Councillor, I wouldn’t have been able to help make the positive changes we’ve seen in our community over the past eight years.”

We all want to see positive change in Wales. And while it’s pointless muttering at the dog about the litter in your street – and moaning into your laptop isn’t going to increase local job opportunities – there are plenty of positive things that you can do to make a difference. 

From voting in the Senedd elections to contacting your local representative and signing or starting a petition, there are lots of ways you can get involved in democracy. You could even stand for election to represent your community.

For more information on how you can get involved, head to:

English - https://gov.wales/useyourviews

Welsh - https://llyw.cymru/dweuddyddweud