Wefan Gymraeg

Lib Dems Overtake Conservatives to Become Largest Political Party in Powys


Powys Liberal Democrats have accused the Powys Conservative council group of descending into chaos over its school closure programme. The accusation comes after the Conservative group lost both cabinet member and councillor Iain McIntosh; Cllr Mark Barnes, Cllr (also MS) James Evans in shock resignations over the Administrations school closures, tax rises and other issues. The events have left the Conservative group on 12 councillors, meaning the Welsh Liberal Democrats are now the largest political party (and second largest group) in the council with 14 councillors.

 

Powys Council as of January 10, 2022 (The ruling administration is an Independent-Conservative Coalition)

The Powys Conservative Group has now lost four members in the last year, with Cllr Gwilym Williams and Cllr Les Skilton defecting over the council tax rise supported by the party earlier this year. The group also lost Cllr Claire Mills in May 2020 when she defected to the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party and lost a by-election in North Llandrindod to the Liberal Democrats in 2019.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader & Leader of the Opposition Cllr James Gibson-Watt

Commenting on the latest developments Liberal Democrat Group Leader & Leader of the Opposition Cllr James Gibson-Watt said:

“The recent developments within Powys Conservatives shows what a divided party they are. Their rural school closures are threatening the hearts of our communities at a time they are urgently trying to rebuild following the pandemic.

“We are in the extraordinary situation where Brecon & Radnorshire Conservatives are now rapidly trying to distance themselves from decisions they have contributed towards while simultaneously the Leader of Powys Conservatives is writing to local papers praising the apparent success of their policies.

“Meanwhile, despite attempts by Cllr McIntosh and James Evans to distance themselves from the poor decision making of the Cabinet and ruling group, their resignations only open up more questions. If they were that unhappy over the direction of the education programme why has it taken them this long to say and why was the same anger not expressed over the closure of Castle Caereinion? Cllr McIntosh's suggestion the Cabinet was mislead over the ability of small schools to deliver the curriculum also raises serious questions.

“With Powys County Council Cabinet recently ‘pulling’ a proposal to merge three primary schools that might have severely embarrassed Conservative Group Leader Aled Davies in his own ward, it is clear that the Conservative portfolio holder for education Phyl Davies has lost the trust of his own political group and it appears Conservative Group Leader Aled Davies may be in the same position. 

“Compared to the early days of Powys County Council’s schools transformation process and the promise of multi-site cluster schools it is clear we have now gone back to a position of just closing small schools, rather than producing a diverse, environmentally sustainable education network, which would underpin rural communities for the next several generations.

“Making matters worse, at a time when clarity is needed the proposals before us are in disarray.

“While the local Conservative Party and Independent Group tear themselves apart over this failed schools closure programme and their 26 per cent council tax rise, the Welsh Liberal Democrat group stand united as the largest opposition group holding this administration to account and sticking up for our communities who are taken for granted by the Conservatives and Independent Group.”

ENDS

Notes:

  • The Independent & Conservative Administration has raised council tax in Powys by 26 per cent since 2017. This was after all Conservative councillors stood on an election commitment in 2017 not to raise council tax at all during the term 2017-2022.
  •         Conservative candidates also stood on a commitment not to close rural schools.
  • The make-up of Powys Council is now: The Independent Group 23; the Welsh Liberal Democrats 14; the Conservative Party 13; Welsh Labour 8; Action for Powys 6; Non-aligned 2; Plaid Cymru 3; New Powys 2; AWAP 1; Vacant 1.

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