Plaid Cymru is celebrating gaining its first council seat in Grangetown, with Tariq Awan winning the by-election by 114 votes.
As expected it turned out to be a closely fought contest with Labour’s Maliika Kaaba for the seat vacated by the death of Councillor Chris Lomax in September.
Secretary of the Muslim Cultural Centre in Grangetown Tariq Awan campaigned hard on local issues including waste and litter and anti-social behaviour, while the party promoted him as the “local candidate”. Only two of the five candidates standing live in Grangetown.
Tariq Awan, Plaid Cymru 1,163 (42%)
Maliika Kaaba, Labour 1,049 (38%)
Michael Ryan, Conservatives 287 (10.4%)
Richard Lewis, UKIP 141 (5%, +5%)
Asghar Ali, Lib Dems 127 (4.6%)
Turnout: 21.8%, Majority: 114.
Asghar Ali, who was a Grangetown councillor for the Lib Dems before the last local elections, barely registered in the campaign and was pushed into a poor last place by the Conservatives and UKIP. (NB: The incorrect figures for UKIP and the Lib Dems were given out at the count, which have since been corrected)
But it was always a two-horse race between Plaid and Labour. The contest was characterised by an often bitter war of words, which started early with a Plaid leaflet claiming that Channel View Leisure Centre was “under threat of closure.” This was vehemently denied by the two local Labour councillors and the cabinet member in charge of leisure, who said the centre was staying open and was in line for more water-based activities.
Plaid countered that it was an issue of trust and brought up the closure of the City Farm 15 years ago in Leckwith and the fate of local bowls greens in more recent years.
Whatever the tone of the debate at times, it did little to appeal to the Grangetown electorate, with nearly 80% not bothering to vote at all.
Cricket-loving Mr Awan, a former Fitzalan High School pupil, has lived in Grangetown since the age of 13. An active member of the Muslim community and secretary of the Cultural Centre in Clydach Street, he works as a part-time community banker and for the Welsh Government’s industry department.
Mr Awan will now have six months in the role before he and all councillors face the full local elections in May 2017. Labour recently selected Ashley Lister, who works in a community role for local AM Vaughan Gething, as its candidate to replace Ashley Govier, who is stepping down.