Small constituency with big problems

TORFAEN is one of the smallest constituencies in Wales at 48 square miles with a population of around 92,000.

The Assembly constituency - which will see Lynne Neagle defending a majority of almost 7,000 from the 2003 election - differs in area from Torfaen county borough council, in that it does not include Croesyceiliog or Llanyravon, which are part of the Monmouth constituency.

Torfaen contains some of the country's most deprived areas, with Trevethin, along with Penygarn St Cadocs in Pontypool, ranked 27th in Wales' deprivation index of 100 wards.

They are the focus for a Community First regeneration project, along with Thornhill in Cwmbran, which also has significant deprivation levels.

At the same time, house prices in Pontypool rocketed by 20 per cent over last year to an average of £159,000, making it one of the fastest growing property markets in Wales.

In terms of council housing, tenants voted last month in favour of a stock transfer to a not-for-proft social landlord, Bron Afon. Some 68 per cent voted, with 59 per cent in favour. They hope they will now get a raft of improvements to their homes, something the council said it could not afford.

Over the last two years, Torfaen has suffered a total of around 740 job losses at Technicolor in Llantarnam, and Trico and TRW in Pontypool. Unemployment is currently running at 5.4 per cent.

The council is currently engaged in a schools reorganisation programme.

One primary school has already closed, Pentwyn, while two others in Cwmbran are earmarked for closure. Brookfield and Hollybush are due to be replaced by a new £7 million school.

In Pontypool, Trevethin community school - a comprehensive - closes this year, an issue which has caused huge controversy.

Cwmbran is the site of a major £15 million multi-screen cinema and leisure development, currently under construction and part of a £100 million blueprint for the town?s regeneration, while council chiefs also want to bring £30 million in private investment to regenerate Pontypool.

Blaenavon in the north of Torfaen became a World Heritage Site in 2000.

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STATISTICS

Voters: 62,480
Average Band D council tax: £833.13 (not including police precept) Proportion of population who are Welsh speaking: 9,780 (11.1 percent) Pensioner households: 17,613 (19.4 percent) Unemployed: 5.4 percent Main Towns: * Cwmbran - population 37,958 * Pontypool - population 28,267 * Blaenavon - population 4,545

Candidates
Rhys ab Elis - Plaid Cymru Patrick Legge - Liberal Democrat Lynne Neagle - Labour Graham Smith - Conservative Ian Williams - Independent People's Voice

2003 Assembly election - Name / Party / Votes / %
Lynne Neagle Labour 10,152 51.9 Nicholas Ramsay Conservative 3,188 16.3 Michael German Liberal Democrat 2,746 14.0 Aneurin Preece Plaid Cymru 2,092 10.7 David Rowlands UKIP 1,377 7.0

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