Lib Dems overtake Conservatives in Powys as Tories descend into chaos

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; and Cllr (also MS) James Evans in shock resignations over the Administration’s rural school closures. The events have left the Conservative group on 13 councillors, meaning the Welsh Liberal Democrats are now the largest political party in the council with 14 councillors.

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 Llandrindod North to the Liberal Democrats in 2019.

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 so and why was the same anger not expressed over the closure of Castle Caereinion?

Cllr McIntosh’s suggestion the Cabinet was misled 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 now be in the same position.

Compared to the early days of Powys County Council’s school 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 time and time again.

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.

* James is the Liberal Democrat Group Leader & Leader of the Opposition on Powys Council.

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3 Comments

  • John Marriott 5th Jan '22 - 9:37am

    So, who is running the council? Is it the Tories and ‘Independents’, most of whom, from my experience, are probably Condependents?

  • Richard Church 5th Jan '22 - 1:22pm

    Powys is currently run by a Tory Independent coalition, but in addition to the Tory losses, there Independent group has split. Five of them have joined one former Tory to form the ‘Action for Powys’ Group, and there are two ‘independent’ independents who are defined as non-aligned.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Jan '22 - 9:02am

    BBC is reporting a 3rd resignation:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-59944077

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