NEWPORT'S independent councillors believe they were a hit with voters because they steered clear of party political squabbles in Westminster and focused on local issues.

Non-aligned candidates performed well in last week's council election, winning clean sweeps in the Bettws and Lliswerry wards.

Rows over political scandals such as 'Partygate' have dominated headlines for months, but rather than joining in with the sound and the fury over Westminster, city councillor Kevin Whitehead - who leads the Newport Independents Party group - said he and his colleagues had stuck to grassroots issues.

"I think we’re not councillors among the community – we’re go-to people," he told the Argus. "That’s our secret, where people say ‘I’ve got an issue, I’m going to see Kevin’. They don’t call me councillor."

He and his colleagues Janet Cleverly and Jason Jordan all held their seats in Bettws, and Cllr Whitehead said residents were more concerned about the rising cost of living than the latest political scandal.

South Wales Argus: Newport Independents Party Cllrs Janet Cleverly, Kevin Whitehead and Jason Jordan.Newport Independents Party Cllrs Janet Cleverly, Kevin Whitehead and Jason Jordan.

"A lot of people now are so disaffected," he said. "I just think people have got more important issues to worry about, and that’s whether they’re heating or eating. Utility bills are rocketing, now we’re going to have these interest climbs.

"I just think that’s far more important. The Boris stuff, Keir – that’s trivial. [People have] got a harsh reality whether they can feed their kids, whether they can clothe them to go to school, how they’re going to pay their rent."


He said he and his colleagues had worked "in the background" to identify people who were financially vulnerable and "do what we can for them".

"We’ve done it all through the pandemic and I think the vote reflected that - we were always there as go-to people."

South Wales Argus: Independent councillors for Lliswerry ward (L-R) James Peterson, Allan Morris, Mark Howells & Andrew Sterry.Independent councillors for Lliswerry ward (L-R) James Peterson, Allan Morris, Mark Howells & Andrew Sterry.

Allan Morris retained his seat in the Lliswerry ward, where he and fellow independents took all four seats with huge majorities.

Like the Bettws trio, he said a focus on local matters had paid off.

"We have worked tirelessly in the ward for the last five years - each one of the candidates has established themselves as a community champion," Cllr Morris told the Argus. "Most importantly we’ve communicated with people.

"We’ve been seen, we’ve got a high profile, and we’ve done our homework – the people responded by supporting us."

The four independent Lliswerry candidates would be "grasroots councillors", concentrating on bringing more services to the area, he added.

"We’re going to concentrate on things for our youngsters to do, improving our area, improving the cleanliness of the area," Cllr Morris said. "We think for the size of the ward there are very few facilities there – we’re going to be looking to improve that."