An Introduction to Local Democracy in Cardiff

County hall: The offices and chambers of councillors. Source: M J Richardson via geography

By Aliraza Manji

With so many political developments happening on a national level, including an upcoming general election, you would be forgiven for seeing politics as exclusive to Westminster or the respective devolved bodies.

With all that in mind, here is an introduction to Local Democracy in Cardiff:


Like AMs, MEPs, and MPs, Councillors are elected by the constituents of a particular ward, which they then represent via telephone calls, regular surgeries and council meetings.  However, unlike their elected counterparts in Westminster or the Welsh Assembly, there can be more than one Councillor elected to a particular ward, for example, Cathays is represented by Cllr Ali Ahmed, Cllr Norma Mackie, Cllr Sarah Merry and Cllr Chris Weaver.

These elections take place every 5 years when all residents of Wales take to the polls to elect their local council representatives. The last election took place in May 2017, with the next scheduled to happen in May 2022.

Cardiff Council currently has a total of 75 Councillors and the Council has been Labour-led since 2012. Following the re-election of a Labour-led council, the current composition stands at 39 Labour, 19 Conservatives, 11 Liberal Democrats, 3 Plaid Cymru, and 2 Independents, with one seat empty awaiting a by-election of a new councillor for the ward of Llanishen which will be contested on Thursday, November 21, 2019.

Who and what do my Councillors do?

Following their election, all councillors represent their wards much like MPs represent their constituencies. They strive to advocate on behalf of their communities and make changes that will positively assist the residents of their locality.

Some councillors, however, are chosen by the leader of the Council, currently Councillor Huw Thomas, who is often the leader of the party with the most seats to join the Cabinet, they become the main decision-making body for the council and are responsible for passing budgets and policy frameworks. They keep a watchful eye on the services being provided and advocate any policy changes.

Other councillors, specifically other parties, then go on to form an opposition, the current opposition leader is Cardiff Conservative leader Cllr Adrian Robson.

One councillor chooses to forego party affiliation and is elected the position of Lord Mayor of Cardiff, a role which is largely ceremonial and acts as a chairperson to Cardiff Council meetings. The current Lord Mayor of Cardiff is Daniel De’Ath, Gair Rhydd spoke to him about his experiences as a councillor and the first black Mayor of Cardiff which you can read on our website.

How can you get involved?

Now you know what your councillors do! If you want to speak to them about issues you’re facing or ideas for improvement in Cardiff, you can find their details on the Cardiff Council website. Residents of Cardiff are welcome to sit in on most meetings, and you can stay tuned to Gair Rhydd for coverage throughout the year, which will be documenting proceedings and developments in the sector of local democracy in Cardiff. 

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