Jobs in short supply

South Wales Argus: GEM: Bedwellty House is one of Blaenau Gwent's treasures GEM: Bedwellty House is one of Blaenau Gwent's treasures

BLAENAU Gwent has a proud industrial and political history.

As the former core of the South Wales steel and mining industries, the borough was shaped around these physically demanding jobs.

Famous Labour political leaders such as the founder of the National Health Service Aneurin Bevan and former Labour leader Michael Foot helped put the area on the map.

But in more recent years the area has been crippled by job losses and deprivation.

Ranked as one of the most deprived areas in Wales, the closure of Ebbw Vale steel works in December 2002 crippled an industry that was key to Blaenau Gwent.

Since devolution in 1999, money has come in from the Assembly to try to help revitalise the borough.

Projects include the Cwm by-pass, the planned £5 million regeneration of Abertillery town centre, including the new foundry bridge and Metropole Theatre, the regeneration of Llanhilleth and the institute revamp, the steelworks regeneration project in Ebbw Vale which will include a new hospital for the area, the regeneration of Bedwellty House and Park, the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff rail link.

But despite all this, job cuts have plagued the area.

In May last year, car component firm Continental Teves announced its closure after 31 years in the town, with a loss of 420 jobs and more recently Abergavenny-based Cranberry Foods announced 400 job cuts, with 80 per cent of the work force coming for Blaenau Gwent.

In education Brynhyfryd and Ty'r Graig primary schools merged and a new St Illtyds Primary was built in Llanhilleth.

A new Willowtown Community School also opened its doors this year and plans are also underway to merge Glanhowy and Sirhowy Schools in Tredegar to provide one centre for primary education.

The constituency also has 11 Communities First areas: Nantyglo, Tredegar Central and West, St Illtyds, Sirhowy, Rassau. Cwmtillery, Blaina, Abertillery, Garnlydan, Six Bells and North and South Ebbw Vale and Cwm.

According to the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2005, 26 per cent of Blaenau Gwent's areas (16 in total) fall in the 10 per cent most deprived areas in Wales

FACT BOX

Constitiency statistics
Size: 109 square kilometres
Population: 70,064
Electorate: 52,900
Unemployed: 8 per cent
Welsh speakers: 13 per cent
Major towns: Abertillery, Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale and Tredegar

2006 Assembly by-election
Trish Law Independent 13,785 50.3%
John Hopkins Labour 9,321 34%
Steve Bard Liberal Democrat 2,054 7.5%
John Price Plaid 1,109 4%
John Burns Conservative 816 3%
John Matthews Green 302 1.1%
Majority - 4,400 - 16.3%
Turnout - 27,387 - 49.6%
Candidates:
Natasha Asghar, Plaid Cymru
Keren Bender, Labour
Bob Hayward, Conservative
Trish Law, Independent People's Voice
Gareth Lewis, Liberal Democrat

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