Two councillors quit following decision to shut rural school
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
The ruling Liberal Democrat group on Powys Council has lost two councillors following the cabinet decision to close Llanbedr Church in Wales primary school near Crickhowell later this year.
Both councillors Matt and Sarah-Jane Beecham have confirmed they resigned from the group on Wednesday night (January 18).
The couple will continue to serve the Crickhowell with Cwmdu and Tretower ward, which includes Llanbedr in the Vale of Grwyney as non-aligned councillors.
At the cabinet meeting last Tuesday, January 17, Cllr Matt Beecham had argued against the closure of Llanbedr.
He supported a proposal by the Brecon and Swansea diocese to explore whether a multiple site all through school from three to 18 years old of religious nature could be set up in the Crickhowell catchment area.
Llanbedr would have been one of the sites for this proposal.
Delaying the closure could have been extended to investigate the idea.
However, the Lib Dem/Labour cabinet voted unanimously to continue the closure process, but with two members, Jackie Charlton and Sian Cox who supported a delay, barred from voting as they represent ward which include schools in the catchment area.
Cllr Matt Beecham said: “Sarah-Jane and I have formally resigned the Lib Dem whip.
“We will continue to serve our ward as unaligned independent councillors.
“We fought so hard for Llanbedr to bring an alternative and exciting proposal to the table to help retain provision within the community and have been let down by the majority of senior cabinet members.
“All we wanted was additional time to be able to put flesh to the bones of the proposal and to work with the other schools in the catchment.
“There was no barrier to cabinet granting this and for that we cannot forgive them. ”
This means that the Liberal Democrat group now falls to 21 councillors who are in a formal coalition with nine Labour councillors, which is 30 out of 68 Powys councillors.
However, Green parry councillor Jeremy Brignell-Thorp who represent Montgomery and Forden is now part of the coalition and is now a “cabinet assistant – which takes the numbers up to 31.
This means that if all the opposition and non-aligned councillors could vote down decisions such as the draft budget when they come to full council meetings.
The makeup of the council is currently.
Liberal Democrats – 21
Labour – 9
Green Party – 1
Conservatives – 14
Plaid Cymru – 3
Independent group – 7
Independents for Powys – 6
Non-affiliated councillors – 7
Total = 68
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