Wales politics

Welsh Tories give local decision-making election pledge

Welsh Conservative campaign launch
Image caption Andrew RT Davies and Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns join forces for the campaign launch

Welsh Conservative councils would offer fairer council tax bills, promote better recycling and revitalise high streets, the party has pledged.

Launching their local election campaign, Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said he wanted "decisions taken as close as possible" to communities.

The Conservatives currently run Monmouthshire with Lib Dem support.

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said the row over a UKIP AM joining the Tory group was not being raised by voters.

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Media captionAndrew RT Davies says Tory councils will "listen and deliver"

The campaign launch took place on Thursday in Dinas Powys, in the key Conservative target of the Vale of Glamorgan, currently run by Labour as the largest party.

The Tories hope to benefit from consistently high opinion poll ratings for Prime Minister Theresa May.

But Mr Davies has been at the centre of a furious row, after announcing the defection of AM Mark Reckless from UKIP to the Conservative assembly group despite Mr Reckless not being a Tory party member.

Mr Reckless's previous defection as an MP from the Tories overshadowed the UK party's last conference before the 2015 general election.

Senior party figures agree there is little to no prospect of him becoming a Conservative Party member anytime soon.

Image caption Andrew RT Davies welcomed Mark Reckless to the Conservative group

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said the row over Mr Reckless was not being raised by voters on the doorstep.

"Potholes are more important than personalities," he told BBC Wales.

Mr Cairns added that the relationship between the UK Government and Mr Davies was "positive and professional", despite reports that senior figures disagreed with his welcoming of the former UKIP AM.

At the campaign launch, Mr Davies said councils should be more open to the people they served.

"Time and time again, whether it be the planning system, whether it be exorbitant council tax increases that people have had to face, they believe that Labour-run councils - along with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats - haven't been listening to them," he told BBC Wales.

"Welsh Conservatives promise to listen, promise to deliver, and above all will make sure that we're held to account when we get into county halls across the length and breadth of Wales."

Earlier, he told the BBC's Good Morning Wales programme that high pay in local government "drove people around the bend", and questioned why some officials in county halls were paid more than the prime minister.

The party's local government spokeswoman Janet Finch-Saunders said Labour and Plaid Cymru-led councils "continue to hold back our communities with a complacency that has seen our high streets deteriorate, picturesque green spaces diminish, and council tax bills spiralling out of control".

The Conservatives currently have 104 council seats in Wales, behind Labour and Plaid.

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