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 last 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 last 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 (Mitchel Troy) said it was “certainly a significant improvement on the previous draft” but that he couldn’t support it.
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.
Cllr John added: “This is supposed to be a heavyweight document to guide MCC’s 3,500 staff and an annual budget of some £300 million for the next four years.
“Yet what the Labour administration has produced is embarrassingly lightweight, riddled with mistakes and has entire sections cut and pasted word for word from previous documents.
“The plan makes no reference to major communities in the county like Monmouth, Chepstow, Usk or Caldicot and fails to mention entire council services like leisure centres, nurseries and childcare or improving school buildings beyond existing projects.
“The plan makes vague and woolly statements such as a commitment to improve bus and rail services in Monmouthshire, but no explanation as to how, what specific actions will be taken or how success can be meaningfully measured.
“This is a plan for the next four years and we care too much about this county to let a rubbish plan proceed.
“Conservative and Independent councillors have offered to sit down with the administration and help get this document into a more acceptable shape, so I hope they will agree to our constructive offer.”
Cllr Chandler (Llantillio Crosseny) 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 (Chepstow Castle/Larkfield) said the plan provied a “clear direction of travel” and councillors were asking for it to be overloaded with details which were contained in other council documents.
Following the meeting council leader Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby (Llanelly Hill) 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.”
Cllr John later responded: “I’m disappointed to see this really childish quote from the administration, making out that this is about party-political games rather than about how we get a robust plan for our county.
“This plan was rejected by Conservative, Independent and Green councillors and on the first vote not even all Labour councillors supported it. As a minority administration, Labour councillors should be working across party political divides to try to find consensus rather than peddling untruths to the media to score political points.”