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Gwynedd Council (Welsh: Cyngor Gwynedd) is the governing body for the principal area of Gwynedd, one of the subdivisions of Wales within the United Kingdom. It is the only UK council where the administrative work is not conducted in English, the entirety of its internal work is conducted through the medium of Welsh.
Creation of the Authority
The present local government area of Gwynedd is made up of the ancient counties of Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire. These counties alongside Anglesey were merged in 1974 to create a much larger local government area called "Gwynedd" after the medieval kingdom of the same name. The governing body of this area was called Gwynedd County Council.
The present governing body was formed following the local government reorganisation in Wales in 1996 which recommended the separation of Anglesey, the abolition of Gwynedd and the creation of the new "County of Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire". This proposal was clearly unpopular because one of the first acts of this new authority was to rename itself Gwynedd Council. The first elections were held in 1995
Second home controversy
Controversy erupted in mid-winter 2001 when Seimon Glyn, Gwynedd Council's housing committee chairman and Plaid Cymru member, voiced frustration over "English immigrants" moving into traditionally Welsh speaking communities. Glyn was commenting on a report underscoring the dilemma of rocketing house prices outstripping what locals could pay, with the report warning that '...traditional Welsh communities could die out..." as a consequence.
Much of the rural Welsh real estate market was driven by buyers looking for second homes for use as holiday homes, or for retirement. Many buyers were drawn to Wales from England because of relatively low house prices in Wales as compared to house prices in England. The rise in home prices outpaced the average earnings in Wales and meant that many local people could not afford to purchase their first home.
In 2001 nearly a third of all purchases of properties in Gwynedd were by buyers from out of the county, with some communities reporting as many as a third of local homes used as holiday homes. Holiday home owners typically spend less than six months of the year in the local community.
The issue of locals being priced out of the local housing market is common to many rural communities throughout Britain, but in Wales the added dimension of language further complicates the issue, as many new residents do not learn the Welsh language.
Concerned for the Welsh language under these pressures, Glyn said "Once you have more than 50% of anybody living in a community that speaks a foreign language, then you lose your indigenous tongue almost immediately".
Plaid Cymru had long advocated controls on second homes, and a 2001 task force headed by Dafydd Wigley recommended that land should be allocated for affordable local housing, called for grants for locals to buy houses, and recommended that council tax on holiday homes should double, following similar measures in the Scottish Highlands.
However the Welsh Labour-Liberal Democrat Assembly coalition rebuffed these proposals, with Assembly housing spokesman Peter Black stating that "we [can not] frame our planning laws around the Welsh language", adding "Nor can we take punitive measures against second home owners in the way that they propose as these will have an impact on the value of the homes of local people".
By autumn 2001 the Exmoor National Park authority in England began to consider limiting second home ownership there, which was also driving up local housing prices by as much as 31%. Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru's Parliamentary Group Leader, said that the issues in Exmoor National Park were the same as in Wales, however in Wales there is the added dimension of language and culture.
Reflecting on the controversy Glyn's comments caused earlier in the year, Llwyd observed "What is interesting is of course it is fine for Exmoor to defend their community but in Wales when you try to say these things it is called racist..."
Llwyd called on other parties to join in a debate to bring the Exmoor experience to Wales when he said "... I really do ask them and I plead with them to come around the table and talk about the Exmoor suggestion and see if we can now bring it into Wales".
By spring 2002 both the Snowdonia National Park (Welsh: Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri) and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (Welsh: Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro) authorities began limiting second home ownership within the parks, following the example set by Exmoor. According to planners in Snowdonia and Pembroke applicants for new homes must demonstrate a proven local need or the applicant must have strong links with the area.
Emergence of Llais Gwynedd
In 2008 a previously unheard of regionalist pressure group won several seats on Gwynedd Council. Llais Gwynedd, or Voice of Gwynedd demands an end to cutbacks in rural areas threatening schools, a relaxation of planning controls, action to provide rural employment and calls for more to be done to protect Gwynedd's "unique cultural, linguistic and social fabric".
As of July 2011 Gwynedd county council was governed by a Plaid Cymru administration. Plaid lost their overall control of the council in the 2008 UK Local Elections, forming a minority administration thereafter. Plaid currently have the largest grouping of councillors within the council followed by independents, Llais Gwynedd, the Labour Party, and the Liberal Democrats.
Full council elections take place every four years.
Elections held on 3 May 2012:
A by-election for Diffwys and Maenofferen was held in July 2010 and Llais Gwynedd narrowly held the seat. Further by-elections in the Bowydd a Rhiw, held in September 2010, and Seiont, held in October 2010, led to a Plaid Cymru gain from Llais Gwynedd and a Llais Gwynedd gain from Independent respectively.
A by-election for the vacant Arllechwedd ward was held in June 2011, resulting in a Plaid Cymru gain from the Liberal Democrats. The Glyder ward was also vacant at the same time, after the death of the Plaid Cymru councillor. Plaid Cymru held the seat in the by-election held in July 2011, allowing the party to gain full control of the council with 38 seats, one seat being vacant at the time.
By-elections held for the Diffwys a Maenofferen and Penrhyndeudraeth wards in September 2011 resulted in a gain for Plaid Cymru over Llais Gwynedd and a Plaid Cymru hold respectively. This ensured Plaid Cymru's control of the council, with no seat vacancies.
|Year||Plaid Cymru||Independents||Llais Gwynedd||Liberal Democrats||Labour|
Electoral divisions, areas and committees
The council operates a decentralised system of administration, with three area committees:
The county borough is divided into 71 electoral wards returning 74 councillors. There are a number of elected community councils in the region. The following table lists council wards, communities and associated geographical areas. Communities with a community council are indicated with a '* ':
|Ward||Communities (Parishes)||Other geographic areas|
|Bethel||Llanddeiniolen* (Bethel ward)|
Consisting of two wards, that of Castellmai (Bontnewydd Village and Rhos Bach), and the other being the village/parish of Llanfaglan
|Cadnant||Caernarfon (town)* (Dwyrain ward)|
|Cwm y Glo||Llanrug* (Ceunant and Cwm y Glo wards)|
|Deiniol||Bangor (city)* (Deiniol ward)|
|Deiniolen||Llanddeiniolen* (Clwt y Bont, Deiniolen and Dinorwic wards)|
|Dewi||Bangor (city)* (Dewi ward)|
|Y Felinheli||Y Felinheli*|
|Garth||Bangor (city)* (Garth Ward)|
|Gerlan||Bethesda (town)* (Gerlan and Rachub wards)|
|Glyder||Bangor (city)* (Glyder ward)|
|Groeslon||Llandwrog* (Dinas Dinlle and Groeslon wards)|
|Hendre||Bangor (city)* (Hendre ward)|
|Hirael||Bangor (city)* (Hirael ward)|
|Llanllyfni||Llanllyfni* (Llanllyfni, Nantlle and Nebo wards)|
|Llanrug||Llanrug* (Llanrug ward)|
|Marchog||Bangor (city)* (Marchog ward)|
|Menai (Bangor)||Bangor (city)* (Menai ward )|
|Menai (Caernarfon)||Caernarfon (town)* (Menai ward)|
|Ogwen||Bethesda* (Ogwen ward)|
|Peblig||Caernarfon (town)* (Deheuol ward)|
|Penisarwaun||Llanddeiniolen* (Brynrefail, Penisarwaun and Rhiwlas wards)|
|Penygroes||Llanllyfni* (Penygroes ward)|
|Seiont||Caernarfon (town)* (Gorllewin ward)|
|Tregarth and Mynydd Llandygai||Llandygai* (St Ann's and Tregarth wards)|
|Ward||Communities (Parishes)||Other geographic areas|
|Abererch||Llannor* (Abererch and Y Ffôr wards)|
|Abersoch||Llanengan* (Abersoch ward)|
|Dolbenmaen||Dolbenmaen* (Bryncir, Garn, Golan, Penmorfa and Treflys wards)|
|Llanengan||Llanengan* (Llanengan and Llangian wards)|
|Morfa Nefyn||Nefyn (town)* (Edern and Morfa Nefyn wards)|
|Nefyn||Nefyn (town)* (Nefyn ward)|
|Porthmadog - Tremadog|
|Porthmadog (East)||Porthmadog (town)* (East and Ynys Galch wards)|
|Porthmadog (West)||Porthmadog (town)* (Gest, Morfa Bychan and West wards)|
|Pwllheli (South)||Pwllheli (town)* (South ward)|
|Pwllheli (North)||Pwllheli (town)* (North ward)|
|Ward||Communities (Parishes)||Other geographic areas|
|Bowydd and Rhiw||Ffestiniog* (Bowydd and Rhiw and Tanygrisiau wards)|
|Brithdir and Llanfachreth/Y Ganllwyd/Llanelltyd|
|Diffwys and Maenofferen||Ffestiniog* (Diffwys and Maenofferen ward)|
|Dolgellau (North)||Dolgellau (town)* (Northern and Rural wards)|
|Dolgellau (South)||Dolgellau (town)* (Southern ward)|
|Dyffryn Ardudwy||Dyffryn Ardudwy*|
|Harlech and Talsarnau|
|Bryncrug / Llanfihangel|
|Teigl||Ffestiniog* (Conglywal and Cynfal and Teigl wards)|
- Plaid bids to defuse 'racism' row, BBC Wales, 21 February 2001
- 'Racist' remarks lost Plaid votes, BBC Wales, 3 September 2001
- Property prices in England and Wales Wednesday, 8 August 2001, extracted 24 Jan 2008
- House prices outpacing incomes Monday, 3 December 2001, extracted 24 Jan 2008
- Apology over 'insults' to English, BBC Wales, 3 September 2001
- UK: Wales Plaid calls for second home controls, BBC Wales, November 17, 1999
- Double tax for holiday home owners Thursday, 16 December 1999, extracted 24 Jan 2008
- Controls on second homes reviewed Wednesday, 5 September 2001 extracted 24 Jan 2008
- Gwynedd considers holiday home curb Tuesday, 9 April 2002, extracted 24 Jan 2008
- Plaid plan 'protects' rural areas, BBC Wales, 19 June 2001
- Park to ban new holiday homes Wednesday, 6 March 2002 extracted 24 Jan 2008
- Gwynedd County Council: 3 May 2012 Election Results
- "Arllechwedd By-election: 16 June 2011". Gwynedd Council. Retrieved 14 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- "Plaid candidate in narrow Glyder by-election victory". Bangor and Anglesey Mail. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Bodden, Tom (1 October 2011). "By-election wins hand Plaid Cymru overall control in Gwynedd". Daily Post. Retrieved 14 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>