IT’S been an extraordinary 14 years, that’s how Alun Cairns, who has served as the area's MP in that time, described it and although we might not always agree with politicians, it’s fair to say this rings true.

From 2010, when David Cameron swooped into Downing Street wrestling control of the UK Government back off Labour, we’ve had Brexit, Covid, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, (and Johnson…)

It wasn’t so much an obituary of Alun Cairns’ reign as the UK elected official for the Vale of Glamorgan when we sat down and met him at the Academy Expresso Bar in Barry, in fact, he says he’s only getting started and wants to see ‘his plan through’.

That includes the fabled marina project, which became less of a fable when Cairns impressively won £20m UK Government funding to build a new marina and water sports project round Barry Docks.

Cairns has achieved a lot nationally – including in his time as Secretary of State in 2016 where he ‘renegotiated’ a financial settlement for Wales that would see the country get £20 more than England out of the national pot (£120 to £100 according to the sometimes derided Barnett formula).

However, Cairns is surprised by the strength of local issues that are dominating the agenda at this year’s election – marina projects, town centre regeneration, train services being eroded.

Barry and District has reported many a high shop being forced to close its doors due to sky high rates – something Cairns jumps on explaining: “energy rates are high because of the war in Ukraine, that is why in England, business rates are being reduced by 75 per cent, however the Labour run Welsh Government are only reducing business rates by 40 per cent.”

The Welsh Government have previously told the B&D: “We are providing a package of rates support worth £134 million on top of our permanent relief schemes, which are worth £250 million a year.”

Wales’ national government also tells the B&D frequently that issues with Welsh funding are down to what Wales receives from the UK government in the devolution settlement.

Cairns quickly dismisses this turning back to his work as Sec of State and the Barnett formula.

One thing Cairns can’t dismiss is his leader’s recent decision making.

It was a bombshell moment for Barry when Rishi Sunak chose to begin his campaign in the VOG Brewery on Atlantic Trading Estate.

Cairns was there along with, current Wales Secretary of State David TC Davies, Wales Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies and a room of shell-shocked people from Barry wondering what was going on. That was when the PM decided to break the ice and talk about the Euros football tournament, something Wales is not in…  

“That was misinterpreted by the media,” explained Cairns. “We were talking about the impact sport has on trade and I asked the question what about football and the answer was rugby has a bigger impact for the publicans. The PM said, well there are the Euros coming up and I said not many in Wales will be supporting England.”

Sunak kicked off his election campaign in Barry at the VOG BrewerySunak kicked off his election campaign in Barry at the VOG Brewery (Image: PA)

  • Next week we speak to Labour candidate for the Vale Kanishka Narayan, paper edition out Thursday 20th.

Cairns saves face, and he also stands by his leader’s claims Labour will raise taxes by £2,000 - despite widespread opinion there is no fact in this.

And what about that D-Day decision? The PM left the commemoration in Normandy early, supposedly for a TV interview.

“It was a misjudgement to leave early,” admitted Cairns, “but the PM clearly spent most of the day there paying his respects.”

“Rishi is in the hardest position where he is being pulled in hundreds of directions, and let’s not forget government still continues during an election.”

Sunak left the D Day commemoration early, reportedly for a TV interviewSunak left the D Day commemoration early, reportedly for a TV interview (Image: PA)

Moving back to Barry, Cairns mentioned he was surprised by the strength of opinion on local issues in this year’s GE, one of them being the old Colcot Sports Centre development saga – the Labour led Vale Council want to knock it down and build a new state of the art sports centre in the Buttrills.

“The way the Vale Council has taken the community for granted is disgraceful,” said Cairns. “The Colcot Centre, Eagelswell, cutting buses – that is the most damaging policy for the most vulnerable in society.”

Local issues have dominated the agenda at this year's election, such as the Colcot Centre's futureLocal issues have dominated the agenda at this year's election, such as the Colcot Centre's future (Image: Newsquest)

Returning to business rates and the cost of living, with the Welsh Government having control of the business rates levers, and the cost-of-living crisis down to the aftermath of Covid and global energy price hikes – what can Cairns do for the people of the Vale despite not being directly in national government?

Cairns explained: “I can continue with my regeneration plans. When I first came to Barry people were allowed to drink on the beach. We turned the beach into an alcohol-free zone and reclaimed it for families.

“The continued development of Goodsheds and the surrounding area. The marina project, which for me is about delivering a Cardiff Bay style regeneration which will make the land round Ffordd Y Mileniwm one of the most attractive in Wales.

Cairns pushed for a marina in Barry, which is on the cardsCairns pushed for a marina in Barry, which is on the cards (Image: Supplied)

“We are 27 years of a Labour Government in Wales. This election is about making a stand against Labour’s dominance in this country.

“I want to present a positive campaign and continue my plans for Barry.”

It seems Cairns is a man still very much on a mission.

The General Election takes place on July 4. To see the list of candidates standing in the Vale, click here. The B&D is offering the same interview opportunity to the Labour candidate.