As you know, Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and it’s the 11th biggest city in the UK, with a population of more than 350,00 — roughly 10% of the population of Wales.*
So how does politics work in the city?
Apart from national governments, the UK has a layer of “local government” — councils (sometimes called “local authorities”). There are twenty two of these councils across Wales. Local government is frequently being reorganised, with new names for councils and new council boundaries etc. Councils are responsible for things like running schools, providing social care for elderly people, social housing, bin collection and recycling, sport and leisure facilities, libraries etc.
Which means Cardiff has its own council?
Yes. Like every other big city in the UK, Cardiff has its own council. When you write about it in stories, you should refer to it as “Cardiff council.”
How big is it?
Cardiff council is one of the biggest employers in South Wales, with around 13,000 employees, from teachers to bin collectors. It has 75 councillors, who represent a total of 29 electoral wards. These are the politicians you are most likely to interview during the course. Some of them are very friendly towards student journalists; others less so.
Work out which ward you live in and find out who your local councillor is. Find and follow them on Twitter.
Who’s in charge?
The Labour Party is currently in control of Cardiff council. The next election will be in 2022. The leader of the council is Huw Thomas. When he took charge, he was aged just 31: the youngest major council leader in the UK.
How does it all work?
The council is run by a cabinet of councillors, each one taking responsibility for one part of the council’s business. There are regular meetings of various committees and of the full council. The councillors are helped out by a number of officials — a kind of local civil service. Generally councillors don’t get paid, but receive allowances based on things like the number of meetings they attend. Many councillors have full-time jobs doing other things.
Who pays for it all?
Cardiff council gets money from Welsh government and also from a local tax, which every household in the city pays. (I pay around £1,500 a year, in case you’re interested.) The council also collects a tax called business rates from local businesses (who hate paying it) and charges for things like car parking (and fines).
Can I interview councillors?
It depends. Many, though not all, councillors will talk to you. Councillors who are cabinet members tend to be busier than normal councillors. If you want to ask a cabinet member for an interview, please let me know.
What are the pictures?
The council has two main buildings. City Hall (top picture) used to be the council’s HQ but is now mostly used for conferences and events. The main council building — County Hall — is in Cardiff Bay. You can use shots of either building to illustrate stories about the council. In addition, the council runs some of Cardiff’s big landmarks, like the indoor market, the New Theatre, St David’s Hall and the Central library.
How can I find news stories about Cardiff council?
Try this page on the BBC News website, linking to all stories about Cardiff council.
Should I know about any other councils?
Penarth and Barry are covered by the Vale of Glamorgan council. A good place to look for Vale of Glamorgan stories is here.
* A Chinese student once said to me “I love Cardiff. I’ve never lived in a village before.”