A new coalition is set to lead Neath Port Talbot Council after representatives from the Independent, Plaid Cymru and Dyffryn Independent groups made an agreement to share power.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats and Green Party members will support the coalition via a confidence and supply agreement.
The nominated Leader of Council is Councillor Steve Hunt and the nominated Deputy Leader is Councillor Alun Llewelyn.
The coalition and supporting groups will hold 33 seats out of a total of 60.
The announcement comes after more than two weeks of talks between the parties and brings an end to 26 years of Labour administration in the county borough, the first time since the council was formed in the Local Government Re-organisation of 1996.
Stephen Hunt, Leader of the Independent group said: “People in Neath Port Talbot have clearly voted for change. We have been given a unique opportunity and this administration will do its very best, working hard and working together to bring fresh ideas, to keep talking to our communities so that we do not lose sight of what matters to them, and to deliver with and for people in our county borough.”
Alun Llewelyn, Leader of the Plaid Cymru group said: “This will be a new administration with new priorities for Neath Port Talbot. We have had productive discussions over the past two weeks and anticipate a lot of common ground on many issues. I look forward to working together to build trust and confidence in our council by engaging in a respectful collaboration, that puts our communities’ needs first.
Cllr. Martyn Peters, Leader of the Dyffryn Independent group said: “Talks have been productive and we are committed to being part of an administration that will work for people in Neath Port Talbot and aim to tackle the issues that are important to them. I look forward to working in partnership to deliver the services that people deserve from their council.”
Cllr. Helen Ceri Clarke, Leader of the Coedffranc Liberal and Green Group group said: “Public opinion is fundamental to democracy and people in Neath Port Talbot have obviously voted for change. By entering into a confidence and supply agreement, we can help facilitate this change, whilst retaining our independent voice on the council and representing the best interests of residents.”
With a commitment to working with people to strengthen the county borough’s communities, economy and environment, the programme for coalition administration sets out a vision for the future with a strong focus on partnership and collaboration. Having contributed significantly to shaping ‘Recover, Reset, Renew’, the council’s corporate plan, the new administration intends to build on and enhance this.
The new council say their priorities will include improving the physical environment in the county borough; improving education outcomes for all, including working with officers and communities to consider the decision taken to create a super-school in the Swansea Valley area; and exploring options to generate revenue, boost investment and help ease cost of living crisis locally.
They will also look towards developing and delivering a strategy to enable the valleys and villages to reach their full potential, which looks at investment, infrastructure and connectivity; bringing new life to the town centres; and improving the economy of Neath Port Talbot.
The programme also outlines the intention to learn from the pandemic to improve health and social care through effective working across all sectors to reduce isolation and make services and support more accessible for users and families. This is complimented by a focus on providing a range of housing across the county borough, including affordable housing, and an aim to ensure that local people benefit from housing construction and supply chains.
Environment, Leisure, Culture and Heritage issues will also be key, with plans to develop an environmental strategy with the involvement of communities and voluntary groups, a culture strategy to promote economic, leisure, social and wellbeing benefits, and a firm commitment to grow and build on the existing Celtic Leisure assets.
The council’s next administration will be formally appointed at a Council meeting in mid-June.
(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)
New leader of Carmarthenshire Council formally welcomed as part of Plaid-Independent coalition
Carmarthenshire County Council has formally welcomed its new leader as part of a Plaid-Independent alliance.
Cllr Darren Price has been named as the Leader of the Council and Chair of the Cabinet after Plaid Cymru secured the majority of votes with 38 seats out of 75 at the Local Government Elections earlier this month.
Cllr Price is a member of the Plaid Cymru group and has served Carmarthenshire County Council as a councillor for the Gorslas Ward since 2012.
He replaces former leader Cllr Emlyn Dole who failed to retain his Pontyberem seat at the May council elections.
At the council’s Annual General Meeting today, Cllr Price’s appointment was confirmed along with his new Cabinet team which is made up of 10 council members including the Leader of the Council.
Cabinet is responsible for the overall business of the council and meet every two weeks to make decisions and recommendations to Full Council. It can also make decisions individually on certain matters.
Five members of the previous administration have retained their seat with five new members announced today:
- Deputy and Cabinet Member for Homes – Cllr Linda Evans (Plaid Cymru)
- Cabinet Member for Workforce – Cllr Philip Hughes (Independent)
- Cabinet Member for Resources – Cllr Alun Lenny (Plaid Cymru)
- Cabinet Member for Rural Affairs and Planning Policy – Cllr Ann Davies (Plaid Cymru)
- Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability – Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen (Plaid Cymru)
- Cabinet Member for Transport, Waste and Infrastructure Services – Cllr Edward Thomas (Independent)
- Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism – Cllr Gareth John (Plaid Cymru)
- Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language – Cllr Glynog Davies (Plaid Cymru)
- Cabinet Member for Health and Social Services – Cllr Jane Tremlett (Independent)
Carmarthenshire County Council Leader, Cllr Darren Price said: “Over the next few years I am really keen to engage with members from across the chamber, on a regular basis, to discuss their ideas and concerns and to work together for the common good.
“As an Administration we want to tackle Climate change, the cost of living crisis, regenerate our county’s economy and town centres, provide quality housing, raise educational standards, ensure social care support to our most vulnerable, improve public transport, see cleaner streets and deliver quality and effective council services.
“The council has already been doing a tremendous amount of work in these areas and our task now is to build on those firm foundations and realise our ambitions for Carmarthenshire.”
Neath Port Talbot Council also recently announced a new Plaid-Independent coalition after the incumbent Labour party failed to win a majority.
(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)
Labour and Plaid Cymru announce next steps in introducing tourist tax
The Welsh Government has confirmed a consultation on proposals for a local visitor levy will launch in autumn 2022.
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said a levy would enable destinations in Wales to be enjoyed for generations to come. The Welsh Conservatives have opposed the tax saying it would be “devastating for businesses and the economy”.
Tourism provides a substantial economic contribution to Wales with tourism-related expenditure reaching more than £5bn annually in 2019. The Welsh Government argue that a tourism tax would raise revenue for local authorities enabling them to manage services and infrastructure which makes tourism a success.
The Labour party’s Welsh Government’s Programme for Government, and the Cooperation Agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru, both contain commitments to introduce a tourism tax.
Rebecca Evans, Labour’s Welsh Government Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Visitor levies are a common feature in tourist destinations internationally. They are an opportunity for visitors to make an investment in local infrastructure and services, which in turn make tourism a success. Without such a levy, local communities face an undue burden to fund local services and provisions on which tourists rely. From keeping the beaches and pavements clean, through to maintaining local parks, toilets and footpaths – the critical infrastructure that supports tourism should be supported by all those that rely on it.
“The introduction and subsequent use of such a levy would enable destinations in Wales to be enjoyed for generations to come and encourage a more sustainable approach to tourism.
“The levy would be proportionate by design, and powers to raise the levy would be discretionary for local authorities. This would enable decisions to be taken locally, according to the needs of our communities. The levy will apply to those paying to stay overnight within a local authority area. Opportunities for wider contributions on the cost impact of other types of visitor activities on local infrastructure will be offered as part of the consultation on the levy.”
Plaid Cymru Designated Member Cefin Campbell MS said: “Giving local people the power to introduce a tourism levy will make a difference to communities across the country, many of which attract a significant number of tourists. It will give local people and their representatives more power and resources to invest and deliver in their areas.
“Councils will be able to ask tourists to contribute in a small way to the areas they are visiting and the local services they use.
“This measure will help support a sustainable rather than an extractive tourism sector, which will help bring the greatest benefit to communities and the local economy.
“Such levies – often known as tourism taxes – are commonplace in countries across Europe and beyond. This is about mutual respect between our communities and the visitors they welcome. It is a new policy which is the fruit of a Welsh co-operative spirit.”
The Welsh Conservatives meanwhile have reiterated their opposition for the scheme, pointing out that the levy was proposed in the last Senedd but due to widespread anger in the industry and Welsh Conservative opposition, the proposals were dropped.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Tom Giffard MS, said: “Our economy is in a very fragile state at the moment and instead of working to get it fired up again, Labour and their nationalist friends in Plaid Cymru are actively seeking to damage it.
“A tourism tax poses grave dangers for Wales. Not only would it be devastating for businesses and our economy, but it would also leave jobs hanging in the balance.
“Labour and Plaid’s priorities are completely skewed. They should be focusing their energy on delivering a strong economic recovery after the pandemic rather than penalising businesses at this critical time.
“It is imperative Labour ministers drop this barmy plan before people’s livelihoods are hit.”
Formal consultation on draft legislative proposals for a visitor levy will launch in the autumn.
‘What century is this?’ MS calls for ‘archaic’ fax machines to be retired from Welsh NHS
Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has called for fax machines to be phased out from NHS Wales with immediate effect.
The call follows the revelation in a Senedd Committee that a fax machine had to be bought recently for a new Welsh hospital, with a top doctor pleading “No more fax machines!”
Following the meeting, Mr ap Iorwerth expressed his shock that these machines were still used as part of modern medical practice in Wales, tweeting “Pa ganrif ydi hon?” (What century is this?)
Dr Karl Davies speaking at the Health and Social Care Committee said that when “GPs fax referrals into the emergency unit, I never see it. Why is that not emailed to me? Because I can’t deal with the emergency information if that emergency information doesn’t get to me.”
The NHS in England has not been allowed to buy fax machines since January 2019.
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said, “It’s ridiculous, in this day and age that a new Welsh hospital has had to buy a fax machine so that it can follow outdated processes still used in parts of the NHS.
“It says a lot about the need to drag the NHS in Wales into the 21st Century.
“This must change. Welsh Government’s hope that usage would decline naturally over time has not been borne out, and so they must now put steps in place to ensure this technology – and all the costs that go with maintaining these old machines – are phased out, starting now.
“If a news outlet wants to run this story, they may need to include an explainer on what a fax machine is – that’s how archaic the technology is! Our hospitals should not be relying on this form of communication and certainly not in the case of emergencies.”
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