A PLAN setting out Monmouthshire County Council’s priorities for the next five years has been passed at the third time of asking.
The Labour group, which took power at County Hall following the local government elections in May last year, had originally put the plan forward for approval by the full council in October.
But opposition councillors threatened to vote it down which led to the Labour cabinet agreeing to bring a revised plan with greater detail back to the council.
When that came before the council in January it was defeated by the combined Conservative, Independent and Green opposition who outnumber the Labour group.
Though the council didn’t have the Community and Corporate Plan 2022-28 in place the Labour cabinet has been able to bring forward policies and make decisions and the defeat of the plan in January was seen as a warning shot ahead of the March budget.
The council is required to have a budget in place by law and the Labour cabinet had to amend its spending plans, and cuts programme, for its budget to be approved after it was also defeated when it was first brought to the full council.
At April’s full council meeting the plan which sets out target to being a zero carbon county and aims to tackle inequality by boosting the numbers of people employed from minority ethnic backgrounds, support the LGBTQ community and increasing the number of Welsh speaking employees to 500, was approved following a vote of all councillors.
The 28 page document also aims to invest more in education and social care, tackle homelessness and support public transport, including support for a ‘walkway’ rail station at Magor, partner with businesses and halve the waiting time for an allotment. An A4 size copy of the plan is due to be produced.
Council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby said Conservative group leader Richard John, Independent group leader Frances Taylor as well as Conservative Alistair Neale and Green Ian Chandler had provided “positive feedback” which had been incorporated into the plan.
Cllr John said the document is the fifth version produced as two further drafts had been shared with the opposition privately and said “some of the woolly, left-wing ideological content” had been dropped but “sold Conservative values” he accused Labour of “cutting and pasting” from his previous administration’s plan had been retained.
Deputy leader Paul Griffiths defended the Labour administration. He said: “I stand again, for a third time, accused of lacking ambition. I think, for a new administration, over the past 10, 11 months we’ve shown remarkable ambition.”
He cited the draft Local Development Plan, which is committed that half of all new housing in Monmouthshire is affordable, and that the houses will be zero carbon and within 15 minutes walking distance of established communities as well as its plans to attract investment and work with communities to revitalise town centres.
He challenged the councillors to reflect on “has it been a purposeful journey to take three meetings to get to this point? I don’t think the citizens of Monmouthshire will think so.”
He said the council’s split between Labour, with 22 members, and the combined 24 votes of the opposition meant his party has the “responsibility” while the others hold the “power”.
The Chepstow councillor said: “We haven’t found the situation of how you can match power with responsibility in this chamber. I won’t repeat it but some of you will remember Stanley Baldwin’s comment on when you have power but without responsibility. That’s where we are, the non-Labour politicians have the power, we have the responsibility we’ve got to find ways of matching that responsibility with the power and we have not done so yet.”