He was educated at Afon Taf High School and became an engineering apprentice at Hoover, Merthyr Tydfil, then worked at the Valuation Office Agency.
He took a degree in politics and history at Swansea University and went on to work for the PCS trade union until being elected Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council. he became a Labour Euro MP in 2009 and was formerly a member of Neath Town Council and council mayor.
In 2005 he became leader of the Welsh Local Government Association. He played for many years in the Welsh Football League and the South Wales Cricket Association.