The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Steve Hunt, says he is ‘humbled’ to have been appointed to lead the authority’s ruling Rainbow Coalition for another year at the council’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday, May 24th, 2023.
He said that almost a year after the coalition was formed the council had made great strides, having won the contest – with partners Pembrokeshire Council, Associated British Ports and the Port of Milford Haven – to secure one of Wales’s two new Freeports with the prospect of creating 16,000 high quality, green jobs for south west Wales.
The council’s cabinet has already approved the next stages of the Freeport project which include creating a company to run the Freeport and putting in place decision making arrangements for investing public funds – the Freeport is expected to generate billions of pounds in new investment.
Cllr Hunt added that two other exciting, multi-million pound job creating projects – the GCRE rail testing centre at Onllwyn and the Afan Valley Wildfox adventure resort – were also progressing.
The council has also been successful in attracting a multi-million pound Levelling Up Fund allocation to turn the Vale of Neath into a major tourist and heritage attraction.
And at the AGM, the council’s Liberal Democrat and Green Group, led by Coeddfranc West member Cllr Helen Ceri Clarke, became full members of the Rainbow Coalition having previously supported it on a confidence and supply basis.
Cllr Hunt said after the AGM: “I am humbled to have been given the leadership of the council for 2023/24 and our Rainbow Coalition welcomes the Liberal Democrat and Green Group as full members.
“We’ve had a tremendously busy first year and while there have been many successes this has been achieved against a backdrop of unprecedented challenges including the cost of living crisis and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ll continue to support our most vulnerable residents as we continue, together, to meet the financial and other challenges all councils are facing.
“We outlined a number of priorities at the outset including ‘cleaning up and greening up’ our towns, valleys and villages and £4.25m has been set aside to make that happen. Work is ongoing.
“When it comes to helping the most vulnerable I’m glad to hear the council’s hardship relief scheme being carried out with partners Warm Wales has now helped 586 households right across the county borough.
“Support has included payment of fuel debt directly to energy providers, the provision of white goods, support with water debt and the provision of small items such as electric blankets.
“Money used to help residents from the scheme has now totalled £188,000 and the £2m set aside for the scheme will allow it to continue for up to 24 months.
“Finally, I’m pleased to say that during the AGM I wore with pride a tie given to me by the Neath Schools Under-11 rugby side who won the prestigious DC Thomas Bowl at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff – that really meant a lot to me.”
At the AGM, at which Cllr Alun Llewelyn was re-appointed Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Hunt also gave his congratulations to incoming Mayor of Neath Port Talbot Cllr Chris Williams and Deputy Mayor Cllr Matthew Crowley. Cllr Hunt also gave his thanks to the work done during his civic year by outgoing Mayor, Cllr Robert Wood.
At the meeting, Cllr Martyn Peters explained he was stepping down from his role as Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration due to increasing family commitments and workload, saying:” I have been proud to play a major part in the rainbow coalition manifesto and policy forming.”
He remains a councillor and remains committed to the coalition as leader of the Dyffryn Independents group.
Cllr Cen Phillips takes over in the Cabinet from Cllr Peters with a new title of Cabinet Member for Nature, Tourism and Wellbeing while existing Cabinet Member Cllr Jeremy Hurley adopts the new title of Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Economic Growth.
Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Alun Llewelyn said: “I’d also like to thank members of council for re-electing me as Deputy Leader.
“I appreciate the confidence shown in us as Leader and Deputy Leader of Clymblaid yr Enfys, the Rainbow coalition, as we prepare to work for a further year on behalf of the citizens and communities of Neath Port Talbot. We have faced many challenges during the past year in extremely difficult financial and economic circumstances, but have worked to maintain and improve our services and to support our workforce.
“Thank you to the officers and staff for your hard and conscientious work, to Cabinet colleagues, and to all Council members for your diligence in scrutinising the work of the local authority.”