Ten years on from being elected County Councillor for Glyder Ward in Bangor, Dr Elin Walker Jones is celebrating the fact that more women are now part of the team she steers as Chair of nearly 40 Plaid Cymru Councillors representing Gwynedd communities.
“When I was first elected county councillor ten years ago, I was shocked to see how male dominated the county council was,” explains the clinical psychologist who works for Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board on a part-time basis.
“Thankfully, things have improved, but we are still trying to attract diverse candidates from different backgrounds to join Plaid Cymru. We have set up a working group in Gwynedd to give a better focus on encouraging and attracting more young people, women and people from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds to put their names forward for the 2022 election list. Succession is vital to us, and we have a mentoring system to hold the hand of potential candidates interested in standing as county councillors.”
As a young girl bought up in Carmarthenshire, one of the first political influences on Elin was Dr Gwynfor Evans, Plaid Cymru's first Member of Parliament.
"It was exciting to be supporting Gwynfor's campaigns, especially as a member of a young party, and there was always an infectious buzz in Carmarthen at election time!"
His work inspired Elin to pursue a political path. An example of her principles as a county councillor was her recent success in ensuring the support of Gwynedd Council to call for a pilot scheme in the county surrounding the Universal Basic Income (UBI) system.
“UBI is a government funded financial support system that secures basic income for everyone helping to create a more equal society. Scotland is exploring the possibilities in detail. Wales should do the same, in my opinion!”
The rights of Welsh speakers within the health service are an important aspect of Elin's work within the health service. “I am proud of the fact that I can offer a service through the medium of Welsh to families when life is challenging, and I’m proud to contribute to ensuring equal rights for Welsh speakers at Health Board and Welsh Government levels. The Welsh Government's More Than Words strategy sets the right standards but there is a lot of work to be done to make the strategy a reality.”
Elin specialised in therapeutic work with autistic children, working with the education authority in Gwynedd for a time during her early career years. She also lectured in this field at Bangor University, presenting work through the medium of Welsh at international conferences.
“It was a great privilege to talk about our work with autistic children through the medium of Welsh to audiences in the United States and Poland, and we celebrated the fact that we put Wales firmly on the map.”
Alongside her professional role, Elin ventured into politics, following the sudden death of the late Councillor Dai Rees Jones, Bangor. A phone call came from the former Mayor of Bangor City, Councillor John Wynn Jones encouraging her to stand.
After winning the seat, people soon saw that Elin is not one for complacency. She has been active in her local area distributing food packages to vulnerable individuals within her Ward since COVID-19 hit Wales. She also supports Councillor Steve Collings with the Bangor Free Food scheme and she also collaborated to attract the Parkrun, the weekly community running event to Bangor. Elin was the councillor who pushed for investment in a new school for the children of Garnedd, one of the first projects she took on once elected to Gwynedd Council.
“Seeing the new Ysgol y Garnedd open in November 2020 was one of the highlights of my work as a Councillor. It was a dream come true following the vision I, and Gwynedd Council had to invest in Welsh language education in this city. Opening the doors on that first day last year was an important milestone and one I am very, very proud to have been part of.”
With Mother's Day looming, the mum-of-four is looking forward to some pampering over the weekend. Cooking is one of her many interests and helps her relax and forget about the hustle and bustle of life. She is a keen jogger, and has just started walking mountains, quite a challenge as she is afraid of heights!
“Everyone mucks in with the chores, in our house, cooking, sorting the laundry, although no-one is very interested in cleaning! Emyr, my husband, is extremely active and has supported me throughout my journey as a county councillor. As a family, we will be very contented to relax over Sunday lunch on Mothering Sunday.”
Elin was proud to be elected Chair of Plaid Cymru’s Gwynedd Councillors Group nearly three years ago: “It's a privilege to steer the group, and we are very fortunate to have a talented team leading Gwynedd communities. I am grateful for the opportunity and proud to put my own stamp on the task. I would encourage anyone who is interested to stand as a Plaid Cymru candidate in the 2022 Election, to contact me or one of the team for a chat.”
Elin has recently been announced as Plaid Cymru's candidate for Clwyd West in the Welsh Senedd Elections 2021 in May.