Powys cabinet slammed for withdrawing report that would have stopped closure of three schools
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
Powys County Council’s Cabinet have been slammed by a senior councillor for pulling a report that would have stopped the closure process for three small schools in the northernmost tip of the county,
The proposal to reorganise the Llanfyllin catchment area had been withdrawn from the meeting of December 14 and reappeared with minor changes in front of the cabinet at their meeting on Tuesday, December 21.
Education officers have until March 2022 to come up with proposals for Ysgol Bro Cynllaith, Llangedwyn Church in Wales and Llanfechain Church in Wales primary schools. Discussions with locals are due to start in January.
The closure process was dependent on an extension being built at Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain Church in Wales primary school which would allow them to take pupils from both Llangedwyn and Llanfechain.
Cllr Gwynfor Thomas who represents Llansantffraid which also includes Llanfechain had his comments read out at the meeting.
“I’m surprised to see this revised paper before cabinet as it’s been drawn up with no consultation,” he said. “Last week we saw a report withdrawn that had been fully consulted upon.
“Cabinet has shown a complete lack of respect and empathy with the school to withdraw that report. This decision gave no thought to the wellbeing and mental health of staff, parents and children in the affected schools.
“They have been placed in limbo and realistically officers will not be able to provide solutions to this area by March. Cabinet has taken a backward step by disregarding local comments from those who best understand the logistics of a complicated border area.”
Bro Cynllaith and Llangedwyn primary schools are in the ward of Finance portfolio holder, Cllr Davies.
Cllr Davies said: “I too feel disappointed by the very short notice of the withdrawal. We have to work with schools to deliver this transformation and no doubt there will be difficult decisions down the track.”
He believed that “as no additional capacity” can be created at Llansantffraid looking again at the catchment area would “clearly have an impact” on more schools.
Council leader Cllr Rosemarie Harris explained that she had withdrawn the report because she’d received messages from cabinet members.
Councillors said they didn’t feel the report was strong or included enough detail to approve, especially when on the same agenda last week, there was a proposal to reorganise schools around Brecon which would mean closing the 95 pupil Cradoc primary school.
Cllr Iain McIntosh sensationally quit both the cabinet and the council’s Conservative group following the vote to close Cradoc.
“There was concern about fairness and equity throughout the county,” said Cllr Harris.
Portfolio holder for corporate governance and regulatory services, Cllr Bev Baynham said: “I fully support the leader in her actions last week.
“In the circumstances, I couldn’t justify voting to close Cradoc school and then in the next item taking a vote to keep these three schools open without a firmer proposal, which I believe we now have.”
The recommendations were then approved by a majority vote of five cabinet members, with Cllr Aled Davies not voting on the proposal.