Neath is a seat that sits in the far west of the South Wales Coalfield, and like its eastern neighbours industry has been a feature of the area since the 16th century. The main settlements in the constituency are the town of Neath itself, along with Glynneath, Ponterdawe and Ystalyfera. The seat borders the big rural seats of Carmarthenshire and Powys, and as such marks the beginning of the end of the South Wales coalfield region.
The seat is another safe seat for the Labour Party. At Westminster the seat has been held by Labour since 1922, and since the death of the then MP Donald Coleman in 1991, by Peter Hain MP who won the resultant By-election. Peter Hain has recently announced that he will not be standing for re-election in the 2015 General election. Hain’s majority in the 2010 election was 9,775, although like many Welsh Labour seats the days of 20,000 plus majorities are a distant memory. Since the 1997 high point of 26,741, the Labour majority has declined at every General Election. Plaid Cymru usually post a respectable second place with a share of the vote that reaches the high teens of percent, not unsurprising considering that about 26% of the constituency speak Welsh.
At the Welsh Assembly level the story is a similar one. Labour has won the seat at every Assembly election since 1999 when the Assembly was born and Gwenda Thomas has been the AM since 1999 as well. At the 2011 election she won with a healthy 6,390 majority, and again Plaid Cymru has been her nearest competition. As at Westminster elections the positions of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have been vanishingly distant third and fourth, although at the 2011 election the Liberal Democrats were beaten into fifth place by the BNP.
The seat has many places of historical and scenic attractions. The north eastern part of the seat borders the beautiful “Waterfall Country” of the Ystradfellte area, and within the seat lies the spectacular waterfall of Sgwd Melincwrt. The seat also contains the Aberddulais Copper smelting site, which is owned by the National Trust and preserves a key location of industrial interest in Wales. Copper smelting was common in the Neath area, and first began in the 16th century. Aberddulais also contains one of the few working waterwheels in the country which generates electricity that powers the site. The seat also covers Neath Abbey which was founded in 1129 and was once called the “fairest Abbey in Wales”. On a sadder note, in September 2011 four men died in Gleision drift colliery in the upper Neath Valley when an underground reservoir collapsed in on them. This tragedy was a reminder of the dangerous nature of coal mining, and the enormous price in miner’s lives that South Wales has paid over the years to extract the black gold.
2015 General election results
|Thomson, Daniel||Plaid Cymru||6,722||18.1|
|Bentley, Clare||Liberal Democrat||1,173||3.16|
Labour Majority 9,548 (25.71%) 0.31% swing Labour to Plaid Cymru
Electorate 56,099 Turnout: 37,135 (66.2%)
2011 Assembly election result
|Llewelyn, Alun||Plaid Cymru||6,346||26.61%|
|McCarthy, Mathew||Liberal Democrat||983||4.12%|
Turnout: 23,849 (41.45%)
|Labour hold||6,390 majority|
2010 General election results
|Llewelyn, Alun||Plaid Cymru||7,397||19.9|
|Little, Frank||Liberal Democrat||5,535||14.9|
Electorate 57,186 Turnout: 37,122 (64.91%)
Gwenda Thomas (Labour) was elected to the Assembly in 1999. She is a Deputy Minister for Social Services. During her career as an Assembly Member, she has served as Chair of the Housing Committee, Chair of the Assembly’s Equality of Opportunity Committee, chaired a review into Safeguarding Vulnerable Children in Wales. Gwenda Thomas was born in Neath and educated at Pontardawe Grammar School. She is a former community and county councillor.Gwenda was previously a civil servant, having served in the County Courts branch of the then Lord Chancellor’s Department as an Executive Officer, and then at the Benefits Agency.
She represented her home village of Gwaun Cae Gurwen as both a community and county councillor for many years. She was appointed Chair of the Social Services Committees of West Glamorgan County Council and, following local government reorganisation, Neath Port Talbot. Until her ministerial appointment in 2007, Gwenda was Chair of the Governing Body of Ysgol Gynradd Gwaun Cae Gurwen Primary School.
Her interests include health, social services, children’s issues, local government and the voluntary sector.
Member of Parliament
Christina Rees (Labour) was first elected in 2015.