Not many people can say they instigated their community and facilitated the purchase of a large town building overnight, but for one new councillor from Pwllheli, that is exactly her achievement since being elected county councillor a year ago.
Councillor Elin Hywel from Pwllheli has grown amongst action and activity. Her mother is a great inspiration, as a woman who works hard and seizes every opportunity to reach her potential, making the most every situation and her career as a successful accountant. Whilst her father, is the Member of Parliament for Arfon.
“Dad has always taken the time to listen and hear people tell their story. As a child, it was impossible for us, if we were in a hurry to reach anywhere; but that is his nature and has been a special inspiration for me.”
She has childhood memories of campaigning and raising voices to fight against language injustice and for community fairness and those influences on her has been great.
“Taking action has always been a part of me,” explains Councillor Elin Hywel. “I believe that working politically is a core part of this and it is a great privilege now to be able to do this as a County Councillor for my community. But we must remember to start at our feet and that working within our communities for the sake of our communities is vitally important."
And that is exactly what Elin, 41, does on a daily basis now that she is a County Councillor for Plaid Cymru since May 2022 representing the residents of North Pwllheli on Gwynedd Council.
Bringing people together to work in partnership is important to her and with concerns about anti-social behaviour in the town, she has recently been instrumental in bringing together different departments from within the county council, the police and politicians, in order to put plans in place to tackle the challenges facing north Wales seaside towns, such as Pwllheli.
Facilitating the purchase of a building for sale on the high street of Pwllheli 'Y Tŵr' is another of the Councillor's major tasks since being elected. When the building came up for sale, there was considerable concern that it would be bought and turned into another building that would not be suitable for the community and Pwllheli’s High Street. A small group got together, started sharing the news about the building and overnight, they managed to raise £60,000 from the community to buy the building before it was lost to private hands.
“This is a fundamental community project, with over 60 people part of the group on social media, 20 on the committee and 5 or 6 will soon become directors of this new company to begin implementing the project.
“There was a desire to act and although the idea was something we thought was out of our reach at the beginning, I am amazed that we managed to protect the building by raising the money in 24 hours! We are immensely grateful to everyone who worked together. This is just the beginning, but it is a positive start for the town and the community.”
Elin's experience of working as an accountant with small businesses across Gwynedd, and then developing her expertise to work with community initiatives and charities, whilst continuing to operate within the political sphere, has given her the skills to undertake her role as a Councillor. She has campaigned with groups such as Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Undod, The Housing Justice Charter and others over the years.
She lives with her husband and three children, in the centre of Pwllheli town.
“Working flexibly certainly helps us to be able to meet everyone's needs - whether it's a meeting for me or James, or the children's sports clubs. Digital meetings have also been beneficial to the job. Being part of the community here in Pwllheli and trying to make a difference to people's lives is very important to us, as a family.”
For a town like Pwllheli, with parts of it built on a floodplain, building houses will never be easy to solve. But, like many other communities in Gwynedd, housing and the lack of affordable housing for local people is a problem.
“It's heart-breaking to talk to residents, some my age, who work hard in good jobs and raise children, who can't continue to live here in their community. Some are facing homelessness. And the reality of that is extremely difficult. We need to change the culture, we need to change policies at national level, ensure intervention in the housing market nationally and we need real investment in the sector. This is not a problem that is going to be solved overnight, unfortunately.
“The £6 million to deal with homelessness throughout the county is something we have discussed in-depth within the county council. There is a very challenging period ahead of us. Focus must change to emphasise community needs first whilst at the same time ensuring that support services are in place to help these individuals who find themselves in this dire situation of being homeless. I am determined to do everything I can, to alleviate the effects of this crisis, wherever we have the ability, as a Council, to do so.”
One subject that gives Elin real hope is the response of young people living in Pwllheli town and the surrounding area. Last December, the young people of the town presented a letter to Elin asking for her help to draw the Town Council's attention to the lack of facilities for them within their community. In their letter they talk about their desire to contribute positively and to be active within their community
“Talking to young people who want to make a difference is a very powerful force. They are full of praise for their youth worker, Andrew Owen, who won a national award for his work last year. But of course, with financial cuts, there is an impact on what Gwynedd centrally can offer. Hopefully I can work with them to move things forward within the town led and guided by the Town Council.”
Raised during her early years in Rhos Lan before moving to Pwllheli at the age of 16, the town and its people are very close to Elin’s heart. She has lived in London and Liverpool and has travelled and gained valuable educational and work experiences all over the world.
“For me, developing a local economy that operates within the community, bringing people, companies and organisations together to work as one is an important lesson I've learned over the years. I have and continue to work with a wide range of charities, community groups and community enterprises and I have developed a deep understanding of how to use my business and creative skills within communities to create prosperity.
“This is the way we build prosperous and independent communities. In my opinion, this is the best way to build a truly independent and successful country, a country that does the best for its residents.”