AN attempt by the Labour group on Carmarthenshire County Council to delay the statutory consultation process into school reorganisation was soundly defeated at a virtual council meeting today, Wednesday, (Feb 10).
In a heated debate, Plaid Cymru members accused Labour of spreading misinformation for political gain, thereby causing unnecessary alarm, fear and anxiety amongst parents and children.
Cllr Glynog Davies, the Executive Board Member for Education, said that the council was complying fully with Labour Welsh Government guidelines. Indeed, he said, the government had complimented the council for arranging virtual drop-in sessions and engaging in telephone inquiries. Pointing to the success of the consultation channels, he stated that there had been 40,000 responses to council consultations of all kinds since the pandemic started, compared to just 11,000 the previous year. Cllr Davies urged parents and others to make full use of these channels of communication during the remaining fortnight of the schools consultation period.
Cllr Dorian Williams, who has 35 years experience in education, 21 of them as a Headteacher, said that children’s welfare should always come first, and that schools should be monitored to ensure their ability to deliver the new Welsh Curriculum. He reminded members that the council’s cross-party Education Scrutiny Committee – which includes Labour members – had recently agreed that the consultation process relating to specific schools should go ahead.
Cllr Alun Lenny attacked Labour for delaying the £270m Modernising Education Programme, funded in partnership between the council and the Welsh Government. He accused Labour group leader Cllr Rob James of ‘crying crocodile tears’ on the issue of small schools, since 33 such schools had been closed during the 11 years Labour were part of the administration in County Hall, while seven new area schools were opened. Cllr Lenny accused the opposition group of causing confusion, pain and anxiety to parents and children alike by creating unnecessary alarm.
Cllr Liam Bowen added that despite Labour’s misinformation the public should understand that no decision had been made about any school. The consultation period is still open. He urged members to look beyond such cynical politics and engage with every constituent in consultations which might impact on them or their families.
Welcoming the resounding defeat of a Labour motion to defer consultations, Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “The consultations already undertaken during this awful pandemic have been based on the Welsh Government’s relaxation of regulations to enable Local Authorities throughout Wales to carry on delivering the services our residents need and expect. That will continue.”