Coalition with Greens strengthens Labour control in Monmouthshire
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
A new coalition has been formed on Monmouthshire council which Labour has struggled to run since coming to power as a minority administration a year ago.
Monmouthshire had been the only Conservative majority council in Wales until last year’s local government elections, when it was ousted by Labour. However, with 22 councillors, the party has been one seat short of an effective majority on the 46 member council.
At the annual general meeting council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby confirmed Labour had formed a coalition with Green Party councillor Ian Chandler, with the news having been shared shortly before the meeting at County Hall in Usk got under way this afternoon.
As a result Cllr Chandler is joining the Labour administration as the cabinet member for social care.
Earlier in the week Cllr Chandler, who represents Llantilio Crossenny, and independent councillor for Llanbadoc and Usk, Meirion Howell, announced they were both leaving the Independent Group to form a Green Independent group.
Cllr Brocklesby, who represents Llanelly Hill, said she was “delighted to announce” Labour has the “formal support of the Green Party as a coalition partner” for what is being called a “red and green coalition”.
She said: “Red and green two colours that work really well together for Wales and will work really well for Monmouthshire.”
Cllr Brocklesby also confirmed two changes to her cabinet, with Cllr Catherine Fookes, who had held the equalities brief on a job share basis, leaving the executive along with Tudor Thomas who had been the cabinet member for social care.
Cllr Chandler is the only new face on the cabinet, replacing Cllr Thomas, and Angela Sandles will now have full responsibility for the equalities role.
Cllr Thomas, who represents the Abergavenny Park ward, had faced criticism over the proposed closure of the Tudor Day Centre for adults with learning disabilities in the town, with Cllr Chandler having also been critical of the decision in the council chamber. He will now have responsibility for how the service responds to a review into the future of the service.
Cllr Fookes was last year selected as Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for the Monmouth constituency.
Conservative group leader Richard John criticised both Cllrs Chandler and Howells for “propping up a Labour adminstration” and said there wasn’t support for the party from the ballot boxes in their wards at last year’s election.
He also raised comments previously aimed at Cllr Chandler by members of the Labour group who accused him of “voting with the Conservatives” when the combined opposition defeated the budget earlier this year.
The Mitchell Troy and Trellech member said: “The cat is out of the bag and you’ve done a deal with the red independents.
“It has taken you over a year but you’ve found that elusive 23rd member. You tried at the Devauden by-election, but were unsuccessful, and you even tried by being quite rude to your new partner at one point, or several points, and that didn’t work.”
Magor councillor Francis Taylor, who leads the reduced Independent Group, welcomed the coalition. She said: “The deal will bring clarity that is really important to this chamber but critically for officers and residents.”
All other members of the cabinet retained their positions and titles with Paul Griffiths remaining as deputy leader, Rachel Garrick in charge of resources including finance, Catrin Maby environment and transport, Martyn Groucutt responsible for education and Sara Burch having the communities brief.
At the meeting Cllr Howells was elected unopposed as the council chairman for the forthcoming year, he was nominated by Cllr Chandler and seconded by Cllr Brocklesby and Labour member for Croesonen Sue McConnell was elected as the deputy chair.
They succeed Abergavenny Grofield councillor Laura Wright, who chaired the council in her first year as a member, and her deputy St Arvans member Ann Webb, the longest serving female councillor who was first elected in 2004, to the positions that involve chairing full council meeting and representing the council at civic and community events.
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