Tory group leader pledges constructive opposition on Powys County Council

Powys County Council's Conservative group leader has said that he will provide a constructive opposition to the new coalition running the authority.

Councillor Aled Davies
Councillor Aled Davies

At the council’s annual general meeting on Thursday a Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition was installed, with Councillor James Gibson-Watt confirmed as council leader.

Councillor Gibson-Watt was congratulated by Conservative group leader Councillor Aled Davies, who had been deputy leader and finance portfolio holder in the previous administration.

Councillor Davies said: “Congratulations and I look forward to working with you. We will be a positive opposition; we will support you where we can and where we agree with you.

“Of course, we will challenge you to reconsider where we disagree with you.

“But for the sake of our residents we will not disagree with you for the sake of disagreeing.”

Councillor Davies also paid tribute to former council leader Rosemarie Harris and other cabinet members who had lost their seats at the local election earlier this month.

He said: “Rosemarie worked 24/7, really really hard over the past five years. Rachel Powell really transformed and turned children’s services around.”

Following a disastrous report from education watchdog Estyn in 2019, he paid tribute to fellow Tory, Phyl Davies, who took over the brief from Myfanwy Alexander and turned the department around, culminating in a follow-up Estyn report which saw Powys taken off the list of authorities “causing concern”.

Councillor Davies said: “Regulators were all over us when we formed a coalition five years ago in education, children’s and adult social services and I think we have turned those around.

“There’s always more work to do and that will fall to you.”

Plaid Cymru group leader Councillor Elwyn Vaughan said: “I welcome the partnership and it shows a direction and aspiration of the council.

“I believe there is a way of reinforcing and strengthening the Welsh language and the challenge it faces in this county and I’m more than happy to help and support that.”

Councillor Vaughan then recalled the “hot potato” from 2022/23 budget and council tax-setting meetings from earlier this year.

Plaid Cymru votes had helped push through a 3.39 per cent council tax raise endorsed by the Independent/Conservative administration, against an opposition proposal to freeze it due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Councillor Vaughan said he will be “challenging” and “reminding you” of the commitment to freezing the council tax that were made by Liberal Democrats at the time.

“Until then I will go forward in a spirit of cooperation, he said.

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