JANE Tremlett has two decades of experience as a town and county councillor and leads Carmarthenshire’s third largest elected group, which may have surprised her younger self.
The Independent group leader grew up and lived in Richmond, London, married and worked as a journalist before the pull of West Wales became too strong.
She comes across in council meetings and debates as reserved but thoughtful, and it has taken a couple of promptings to arrange a face-to-face interview.
Her father grew up in Tumble, in the Gwendraeth Valley, and was the youngest of four brothers. His own father died three months before he was born, which placed huge responsibilities on the oldest brother, Jack.
“He (Jack) was 12, went down the mine and looked after the family,” said Mrs Tremlett.
She spent holidays in Carmarthenshire as a child and recalled a day trip to Laugharne in 1977, which eventually led to a permanent move there in 1982.
At that point she was married with two sons – a third was to be born in Laugharne – with her husband George focusing on a new career direction writing biographies.
“We had both been journalists in London,” said Mrs Tremlett. “We had our own news agency, specialising in entertainment and music.”
The couple started a bookshop in Laugharne, Corran Books, and Mr Tremlett went on to write 28 books including biographies on Dylan Thomas – who lived in the town in his latter years – and his wife Caitlin.
Mrs Tremlett became more and more involved in community life – first with a playing field group, then the town hall committee, and then as a co-opted Laugharne Township community councillor.
She was elected onto Carmarthenshire Council as an Independent in 2004. Asked how that came about, she said: “The incumbent was retiring, he made a couple of overtures, and couple of other people thought it was a good idea for me to stand. Having mulled it over, it seemed like the next progression.”
The Independents were the largest group following that election and she, along with Cllr Mair Stephens, were “the new girls”. Mrs Tremlett said: “It was in at the deep end.”
Her interest was social care and health, and she became chairwoman of the scrutiny committee which examined this area, and then executive board member for adult care in 2012. She is the current cabinet member for social care and health.
Mrs Tremlett also chairs an arm’s length care organisation called Delta Wellbeing, has regional work in her in-tray, and also ward issues.
She said Laugharne covered a large patch, encompassing four community councils. “All have different needs,” she said.
A lack of parking and the rise in second home ownership were live issues for Laugharne, she said, while a lack of broadband affected Red Roses, a village in the ward.
Mrs Tremlett, who is a prospective Laugharne councillor again in the May 5 council elections, said she enjoyed her role on the Plaid Cymru-Independent cabinet.
“We work really well as a team, and we try to do what we think is right for the county,” she said. “We all feel passionate about our areas of responsibility.”
Asked what the difficult bits were, she replied: “I suppose it’s sometimes the pace that things can happen.”
She went on to say that delays to projects had inevitably occurred due to the Covid pandemic, but that the day-to-day work of council staff had never been as “life-changing” as during this period.
Carers have been one group in society that has really come to the fore since the coronavirus hit, and Mrs Tremlett said she was keen to make caring a recognised career with better pay.
Was she sometimes too consensual in her approach, I asked? “Up to a point!” she said. “If I feel passionate about something which went against the direction of travel, I would say it. I’m not a pushover.”
Mrs Tremlett lost her husband and also her oldest son, Ben, late last year. Then, in January, her long-time Independent colleague and friend, Cllr Stephens, died.
“It’s always a shock,” said Mrs Tremlett, referring to the then deputy council leader’s death. “But it was not entirely unexpected. She had been unwell, but working right up until the end. I miss her terribly. She was a very caring person.”
Mrs Tremlett took over her colleague’s position as leader of the Independents.
So what does a vote for the Independents mean, I asked?
“It’s about representing the needs of the people,” she replied. “We don’t have a party whip at all. If one of us feels strongly about the line the group is taking on something, they have the right to oppose it or abstain.”
With the war in Ukraine into its fifth day and the cost of living crisis starting to become apparent, our conversation ended with happier recollections from Mrs Tremlett about her friendship back in south-west London with Dylan and Caitlin Thomas’s daughter, Aeronwy.
“We got up to all sorts of mischief together,” she said.
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