Last month the Liberal Democrats won a spectacular victory just across the border in North Shropshire, overturning a majority of 23,000, writes Jane Dodds MS.

There are many reasons for this victory, but one thing on the doorstep stood out in particular – the feeling among voters that rural areas are being taken advantage of by the Conservative Government.

Time and time again on the doorstep we heard the sheer anger of voters, many of whom had voted Conservative for decades, that the Government simply doesn’t care about rural areas.

In contrast to the Government’s ‘levelling up’ mantra, many of these communities feel they are being levelled down.

This feeling was particularly strong among North Shropshire’s farming community and their concerns echo that I’ve heard across Powys.

Whether it’s on their failure to engage with the industry over concerns over the Australian and New Zealand trade deals, a failure to solve problems on the UK-EU veterinary agreement or a failure to help address labour shortages, the Conservatives are repeatedly failing to address the problems faced by our farmers.

Many feel as if they have been sold down the river for quick trade deals designed to benefit big bankers in the City with little regard for rural communities. Even in Powys Council we can see this disregard for rural communities playing out with school closures that have now caused two Conservative councillors to quit the group on Powys Council.

It is not surprising therefore to hear many farmers and those living in rural communities are returning to support the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Our roots are embedded in standing up for our small local businesses, farms, towns and villages whereas the Conservatives and Labour continuously prioritise big business and cities.

A poll out in December by Farmers Weekly supports what I have found on the ground, that the Liberal Democrats have almost doubled their support among farmers from 9 per cent in 2020 to 17 per cent. By contrast support for the Conservatives among farmers has fallen from 72 per cent to 56 per cent in the same period.

This May, Powys will have a real opportunity to send a strong message to this Conservative Government and the Independent-Conservative Council by electing more hard-working Welsh Liberal Democrat councillors who will fight for communities across Powys.