Defeated leader says boundary changes were a factor in setbacks for Powys independent candidates
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
Powys residents voted for change at the 2022 local government elections as the Liberal Democrats emerged as the strongest political group and party in the county.
But, Friday’s election county held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd saw results which paint different pictures in the old shires of Brecon and Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire.
The early announcements saw the Liberal Democrats take an early lead in the results table as they totted up win after win.
Scalps including that Rosemarie Harris, Powys council leader for the previous five years.
As counting continued into the afternoon, the results in Montgomeryshire saw the Conservatives recover and make their own gains.
The pattern of results, saw a distinct move away from independent candidates as their numbers fell from the 30 elected in 2017 to 17 in 2022.
Former council leader, Rosemarie Harris believed that this was down to changes to the boundary, which now see eight multi-member wards electing two councillors in many of the Powys towns, and also wards being merged to create much larger ones.
Mrs Harris said: “There are a number of strong characters in there, they will elect a good leader, I’m more concerned that there won’t be a group strong enough to take the lead, so there will have to be some sort of coalition, I just hope they choose wisely.”
When asked if the boundary changes had affected the independent candidates, Mrs Harris agreed and said: “That’s true, it’s not just the boundaries, the political parties have such a party machine behind them.
“I had many people in my ward most days, and it’s difficult for one individual to compete with that.
“That’s the challenge of being independent, and I still believe being independent is best at this level of politics.”
Several other cabinet members also lost their wards includinge Myfanwy Alexander who held the Adult Social Care, Welsh language and previously Education portfolios during the last administration whose previous Banwy wards had become part of a larger area came in last in her election.
Conservative Phyl Davies -the former education portfolio holder who has spearheaded the Schools Transformation Strategy that has seen decision made to close a number of wards, saw His ward of Llangurig disappear in the boundary shake up – and he failed to grab one of the two seats on offer in newly-created Llanidloes multi-member ward.
The same fate befell Rachel Powell – the former Children’s Services portfolio holder who had represented Beguildy and stood as a candidate in the newly created Ithon Valley ward.
Environment portfolio holder Heulwen Hulme held on to her seat in Rhiwcynon by just eight votes, with only former corporate services portfolio holder, Beverley Baynham enjoying a substantial win in Presteigne.
With the loss of Mrs Harris, the 17 independent councillors, which include elements from both the previous big Independent group and the smaller Action for Powys, will need to decide whether to form one group, or several as well as choose a new leader.
While the Liberal Democrats added another 11 wards to the 13 they won in 2017, and the number of Conservatives on the council fell from 20 to 14, both Labour and Plaid Cymru can claim moderate successes.
Labour gained two extra councillors from 2017 – to take them up to a total of nine councillors, while Plaid Cymru won an extra seat to go up to three.
The Green Party who had one councillor elected in 2017, also returned one this year.
Now that the results are known, no group or party reached the magic 35 of 68 councillors needed to form an administration.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service, understands that discussions to form a coalition to run Powys County Council started on Sunday, May 8.
The results are:
Liberal Democrat – 24
Independent – 17
Conservative – 14
Labour – 9
Plaid Cymru – 3
Green Party – 1
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