By the mid-Eighteenth century, Wales had the second highest level of immigration after the USA (Touchstone Heritage Management Consultants 2011, p. 7) with many moving to Llanelli to work in the booming tinplate, steel, and coal mining industries. Areas within and around Llanelli (a town often referred to as Tinopolis) were renowned for their tin production and up to the 1880s, 90% of world’s tinplate was produced in Wales (Touchstone Heritage Management Consultants 2011, pp. 5-6).
Llanelli is a post-industrial coastal town with a population of approximately 48,000 people and is situated in the South Eastern corner of Carmarthenshire County in South West Wales. Traditionally it has been a centre for heavy industry and manufacturing, however the town remains a key centre of administration and employment within the county (Carmarthenshire County Council 2018c, p. 22).
Areas within Llanelli are some of the most deprived areas in Wales (Carmarthenshire County Council 2018b, p. 7) – a high proportion of people in Carmarthenshire have no qualifications with literacy and numeracy rates below the national average (Carmarthenshire County Council 2018b, p. 33). As with many high streets across the UK, Llanelli town centre has struggled to compete with the growth of out of town and online shopping and as a result, retail frontage vacancy rates in the town is significantly high at 20% (Carmarthenshire County Council 2018b, p. 10).
Rugby is a central part of Llanelli’s cultural life and, as such, is one of the most famous rugby towns in the world. Llanelli’s first rugby team was formed in 1872 and have since produced legendary figures in the game. Llanelli-based Y Scarlets is a highly successful rugby union team with a 15k capacity stadium located in Llanelli that also regularly hosts large-sale concerts and events.
The governance structure of Wales within Europe and the UK
Wales is a region in itself within the European Union and has four elected MEP that sit in in the European Parliament. A total of 650 elected Members of Parliament (MP) from Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland represent their constituencies in the UK parliament in Westminster. There are 40 geographic constituencies within Wales and Llanelli town is represented within the constituency of Llanelli and its current sitting MP is Nia Griffith (Labour Party).
The devolved governance structure of Wales
Since the first Assembly elections in 1999, following a referendum on Welsh Devolution in 1997, Wales has had its own devolved government. Devolved powers include agriculture, environment, education, health, housing, transport, energy and economic development. It has primary law-making powers over devolved areas and newly acquired, albeit limited, tax raising powers on areas including Land Transaction Tax and Landfill Disposal Tax. The Central Government in Westminster retains powers over defence, foreign policy, immigration and tax policy.
The devolved Welsh Assembly is led by a Labour government (in coalition with a Liberal Democrat and an Independent AM) and has 60 elected Assembly Ministers (AM). 20 AMs represent the 5 electoral regions and Llanelli Town is represented within the region of Mid and West Wales. 40 AMs represent geographic constituencies, which have the same electoral boundaries as the UK Parliament, and Llanelli town is represented within the constituency of Llanelli. The current sitting AM is Lee Waters (Labour Party).
Wales has 22 Unitary Authorities and Llanelli town is represented within the Local Authority of Carmarthenshire County Council. The council is led by a Plaid Cymru in coalition with Independent representatives. Carmarthenshire County Council has 58 Wards. Llanelli Town is spread across 14 wards and at a community level, these wards are represented by two community councils: Llanelli Town Council and Llanelli Rural Council.
Due to its industrial past, Llanelli is connected to South East Wales and London via heavy rail and is strategically located close to the M4 transport corridor (Carmarthenshire County Council 2018c, p. 22).
Coleg Sir Gâr, home of the UK’s oldest art school, is a college located slightly west of Llanelli and there are two universities nearby in the city of Swansea.
In the post-industrial era, Llanelli, much like many other towns, continues to struggle and adapt to new forms of employment (Touchstone Heritage Management Consultants 2011, p. 22). There are, however, strengths in Llanelli’s local economy. It is a town that hosts national and international expertise in manufacturing, construction, transport & logistics, and sport – and despite the decline in the UK’s manufacturing sector, has managed to retain a strong residual base of companies (Waters 2019, p. 3).
Employment levels in Llanelli are low – within the Swansea Bay area, 30,000 jobs were lost between 1999 & 2010. A factory supplying automotive parts is due to close at the end of 2019 with a loss of over 220 jobs and another manufacturing company is cutting 95 jobs blaming ‘market instability’ which some suggest is compounded by Brexit uncertainty and the lack of a UK-wide manufacturing strategy (Unite the Union 2019).
The natural population growth rate in the county is negative with a large net outflow of young people and an inflow of older age groups contributing to the ageing population (Carmarthenshire County Council 2018c, p. 4).
Future investment is focussed on the Swansea Bay City Deal which involves a £1.3 billion investment in 11 major projects over 15 years. The proposed Wellness and Life Sciences Village at Delta Lakes is one of these projects and would include a new leisure centre and health centre as well as a potential new university campus. The certainty of this project is yet to be confirmed however, it has been suggested that it would be worth £200 million to the local economy.
Carmarthenshire County Council plan to regenerate Llanelli Town Centre with a £4.5million investment, as part of the successful Welsh Government supported Opportunity Street project, to buy and renovate underutilised properties from the private sector (Carmarthenshire County Council 2018a).