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Labour’s plan to set out priorities for Monmouthshire defeated in narrow vote

Monmouthshire County Council

A PLAN setting out Labour’s priorities for Monmouthshire has been defeated by the combined opposition at County Hall. 

Labour took power from the Conservatives at last May’s local elections, but are one short of a majority and run the council as a minority administration. 

At this week’s full council meeting it brought a revised Community and Corporate Plan, which sets out its its priorities for the council through to 2027 and the ambition of being a “zero-carbon county, supporting well-being, health and dignity for everyone at every stage of life”. 

But the plan was defeated by 23 votes to 21 due to a united opposition. The Conservatives and the Independent Group, which includes Green Party Councillor Ian Chandler, voted against approving the plan and adopting its six goals. 

Last October the casting vote of council chairwoman Laura Wright was required to avoid the Labour administration being forced to produce a revised plan by December 2022.

Instead a compromise was accepted that the plan, which at that stage was just six pages and which the opposition said lacked detail or measures by which the administration could be held to account, would be brought back in January. 

At this week’s meeting a 45 page document was presented, with columns showing how actions would be measured, and which cabinet member is responsible, and additional detail included. Councillors were also told performance measurements would be updated in the first quarter of the new financial year, after the council’s budget has been approved. 

But opposition councillors said they still required more detail. 

Conservative group leader Richard John said it was “certainly a significant improvement on the previous draft” but that he couldn’t support it.  

Cllr Richard John

He said it didn’t explain how ambitions such as “improving the bus and rail network” would be achieved and didn’t mention projects such as proposed “walk way” train station in Magor, with a number of other councillors also raising issues or proposals they felt had been omitted.

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Cllr Chandler questioned why an ambition of “reducing the number of home educated children” had been included. He said: “There is no explanation of why that should be the case. We should be supporting them to achieve better outcomes.” 

Council deputy leader Paul Griffiths said the plan provided a “clear direction of travel” and said councillors were asking for it to be overloaded with details which were contained in other council documents. 

Cllr Paul Griffiths

Following the meeting council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby hit out at the opposition and blamed the Conservatives for its defeat. 

She said: “The plan includes rolling out free school meals to all primary schools,  increased mental health support, reducing the number of people who are homeless, reducing fuel poverty and many other important measures that could help our communities get through this difficult time right now. Residents will rightly feel extremely let down by the Tories’ behaviour.” 

Though the plan has been rejected its purpose is to set out the ruling group’s ambitions and the cabinet is still able to bring forward proposals which are subject to individual decisions. Some of the commitments in the plan, such as a new three to 19 school in Abergavenny, have already been approved and others such as free school meals are funded by the Welsh Government and can still be implemented.