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30  May

Tories say Powys is a 'Coalition of Chaos'

15/05/2024 @ 03:25

The Conservative group at Powys County Council has slammed the record of the Liberal Democrat/Labour council administration over the last couple of years and have dubbed it the “coalition of chaos.”

Ahead of the council’s annual meeting on tomorrow, (Thursday – May 16), Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies has been scathing in his “reflections” on two years of the Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition which came into power after the local election results of May 2022.

Powys Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders have defended their record and say that Cllr Davies’ comments are: “deeply hypocritical.”

Cllr Davies said: ‘’As we approach the annual meeting, it is clear that the Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition has failed to deliver on their promises since taking control.”

Cllr Davies points out that the administration has decided to close four primary schools “with more to come” and in doing this claims they broke a pre-election commitment to protect Powys schools.

He said that school funding has been “slashed” meaning high schools are struggling and predicts the loss of teaching jobs and less choice for pupils.

Cllr Davies also said that the “ambitious” school building programme worth £300million that the cabinet signed off on earlier this month has in reality, been cut by over £200 million from the previous plan agreed by the Independent/Conservative administration in 2020 worth over £500 million.

Cllr Davies said: “Where once there were plans for new schools, we now have a make do and mend approach, which will now fail to deal with the substantial maintenance backlog in schools and leisure centres.

“This lack of focus on education is failing our current and future generations of children.”

Cllr Davies also moves on to attack the Council Tax rises.

Cllr Davies said: “The coalition’s handling of Council Tax has been equally dismal, with a nearly 13 per cent increase over the past two years and more hikes are expected.”

“Although they championed a motion for a carbon net-zero target by 2030 while in opposition, they have admitted last week to being significantly off-target.”

Another fault line in Powys politics is the state of the roads and he continues to attack a decision made as part of this year’s budget to allow some unclassified roads to: “return to stone.”

Cllr Davies said: “The decision underscores the ineptitude of this Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition of chaos, reflecting their lack of ambition rather than progressing forward for the benefit of residents and businesses.”

“The failures are directly impacting the quality and availability of essential services, leaving taxpayers to shoulder the burden without seeing any benefits. Powys residents deserve far better than this.’’

Council leader, Liberal Democrat Cllr James Gibson-Watt, and deputy leader Labour’s Cllr Matthew Dorrance have defended their record.

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “Cllr Davies’s claims on school closures and Council Tax are deeply hypocritical.

“He is urging us to close more schools more quickly; and during the previous council when he was deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance, he imposed Council Tax rises of over 26 per cent over a five year period, at a time when the public finances were under much less strain.”

Cllr Gibson-Watt pointed out that Cllr Davies failed to propose any Council Tax reductions by putting forward alternative budgets in either of the 2023/2024 or 2024/2025 budget rounds when he had “ample opportunity” to do so.

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “Despite the severe restrictions on central government  funding, rampant inflation and a doubling in the cost of borrowing, this administration has managed to set balanced budgets that have included significant increases in funding to social care and education, while taking a prudent approach to borrowing to fund capital projects, in order to reduce the cost to the Council Tax payer of servicing that borrowing.”

Cllr Dorrance said: “The Tories crashed the economy; they starved public services of the funding they need, and they’ve cut the Welsh budget in real terms.

“With an ambitious new council house building programme underway, a plan to improve opportunities for learners and the first ever child poverty taskforce working to tackle poverty and inequality, we are focusing on the issues that matter to our communities.”







By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service