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Leader reveals county’s priorities

 
Created on 21/06/2022 @ 10:30

 

Powys County Council is set to “change direction, culture and values” according to its newly elected Leader.

Writing his first column since May’s shock election results that saw a number of high-profile cabinet members lose their seats, Cllr James Gibson-Watt (pictured) said that it showed the desire from the electorate that they weren’t happy with the direction that the council was heading.

Cllr Gibson-Watt is leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group who have formed a new coalition leadership with the Labour councillors, ousting the previous administration run by the Conservatives/Independents.

Here we carry his column in full:

“The elections in May 2022 have seen a huge change to the composition of Powys County Council. 

Progressive parties all gained seats, demonstrating a desire from the electorate for Powys County Council to change direction, culture and values.

Progressive political parties in Powys all fought the election on their own distinctive policies, and we will each seek to implement those policies over the coming five years. While there are differences, we find that there is much on which we agree that gives us a firm foundation for a shared administration that builds a stronger, fairer and greener future for our county.

Our progressive partnership for Powys builds on what we have in common to offer a shared programme for a new administration of Powys Council.

Our 7 key priorities are: 

• Tackling the cost-of-living crisis, poverty and the housing emergency

• Tackling the climate and biodiversity emergency

• Securing the best start in life for young people

• Developing prosperous towns and villages 

• Supporting vulnerable people 

• Connected Communities 

• Running an Open & Democratic Council

The challenges ahead

The Council faces huge financial pressures. Despite the best efforts of the Welsh Government to shield Local Government funding, settlements from Westminster have a big impact on Powys council’s services.

Rising energy costs, rising interest rates, and increased demand on our services due to the cost-of-living crisis that will place huge pressures on the new administration’s ambitions for the council. 

These add to the ongoing need to thoroughly review the high level of capital borrowing, which places significant debt on future generations, most importantly the commitments made in the council’s forward capital programme.

The Council does not operate in isolation. Decisions by the Welsh and the UK governments have a big impact on the council’s services. The new administration will seek to avoid increasing the burden of council tax on household finances, as the Liberal Democrat and Labour groups did in the final budget debate of the old administration.

We must balance the need for well-funded services with the need to avoid adding to the burden of hard-pressed council taxpayers faced with the cost-of-living crisis. We will always be open about this and we will always engage with councillors, residents and communities on our budget proposals. We will review the assumption of the Medium-Term Financial Strategy of the last administration, that embeds a 5% increase year on year for the next four years.

The costs of living, housing, care and climate crises cannot be solved by Powys Council alone, but also their local impact cannot be tackled without a council that understands these challenges and is willing to take them on.

A council that can better collaborate and co-produce solutions- one that can openly and willingly form partnerships with its communities - is a council that can maximise the inward investment of both public and private funds and do more with the limited funds available. There is a great deal we can achieve in partnership with others.

This programme is dependent on effective co-operation between progressive political parties and individuals. Our programme will require wider co-operation with those responsible for the whole range of public services throughout Powys and beyond our borders in Wales and England. We look forward to working with you to deliver and develop our ambitious Progressive Programme for Powys.”

Cllr James Gibson-Watt

Leader, Powys County Council 

 

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