The new leader of Vale of Glamorgan Council says he will refuse to “kowtow to those who shout the loudest” and will not be rushed into deciding on controversial proposals such as parking charges.
Cllr Neil Moore is weeks into leading a new Labour-led administration on the council and says it is likely key decisions on the proposed parking charges and the ‘closure’ of Llancarfan Primary School will not be made until later this year.
The new council leader has also cast doubt on the future of the proposed Dinas Powys Bypass, and say he believes the controversial Barry Incinerator will be required to draw up an environmental impact assessment – which campaigners have been calling for.
Cllr Moore and the council’s new deputy leader Lis Burnett have spoken to the Local Democracy Reporting Service about their priorities after gaining control of the authority in May.
They include balancing the budget and preserving vital services for the most vulnerable in the face of £14million of savings over the next two years, regeneration and building more homes, and improving school buildings.
Cllr Moore said: “We’re going to be open and transparent and be prepared to work with people. If there are issues we will try to work through those issues.
“Sometimes we will have to make decisions that not everyone is going to be happy with.
“We have to be honest with people. We have to say these are the facts and whether we like it or not we will have to do some things differently or not at all.”
He added: “We don’t want to impose things on people. If we can work in partnership and still provide services people require but through alternative means that’s a way of doing it.”
“We’ve got ambition in buckets full,” Cllr Burnett added. “But we have to be honest about the levels of pressure on local government.
“Our priority has to be services to the most vulnerable.”
The Labour-led coalition includes the former Conservative cabinet, which quit the party when former leader John Thomas was desposed as leader of the Vale Tories. The coaltion also includes Llantwit First Independents.
This is where the new leadership of the council stands on the key issues facing the Vale.
Cllr Moore said new parking charges proposed by the previous administration, which included town centre car parks, coastal resorts and country parks, will be reviewed.
He said new parking charges are likely in the Vale of Glamorgan but they will be “realistic”. Further proposals are not likely before September.
Cllr Moore said: “We have to be sensible. Some of the things put forward previously were off the wall, they went too far.
“It will be a full revamp of everything. Whatever we do we’re not going to fleece the residents of the Vale.
“We may have to make some changes. It does cost money to provide car parking. There are things we will have to start charging for. It will be realistic and fair for everybody. We will have conversations with people.”
Cllr Burnett said: “You have to work towards cost neutrality. We have to look at ways to charge visitors who make no other contribution to the council.”
The new cabinet says delivering on major new school buildings, under the Welsh Government-led 21st Century Schools Programme, is a priority for the new administration.
Developments in the pipeline include new builds for Pencoedtre and Whitmore High Schools, and expansion and refurbishment of Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Morgannwg
Ageing schools in the Vale of Glamorgan are set to get a £1.6million cash boost for repairs in one of the first acts of the Labour-led coalition which is now leading the council.
The funding will be available to schools not included in the 21st Century Schools programme and will be used for minor works such as roof or boiler repairs.
Llancarfan Primary School
Llancarfan Primary School was set to be ‘closed’ in the village and moved to a new £4million facility in Rhoose, where it would also have served the hundreds of new homes being planned in the area.
The previous cabinet had approved the plans despite protests from parents and campaigners.
Cllr Moore said Llancarfan School move was “premature” but did not commit the scrapping the plans.
“If it’s justifiable it’s justifiable. If it’s not, we will look at alternatives,” he said.
“It’s not an easy decision to take. It’s something we have to take some time about.
“What I’m not going to do is jump or kowtow to people who shout the loudest. We will do something for the benefit of everyone, not just the few.”
Cllr Burnett has previously tweeted the closure of Llancarfan “wouldn’t be happening” if Labour were running the council. She said a proposal from a scrutiny committee to close Llancarfan school were rejected by a Labour cabinet in 2012.
She added: “We will do what’s best for the children not only of Llancarfan but the whole of the Vale.”
Work continues on outline business cases for two major new roads being proposed – the A48 to M4 link around Pendoylan and Dinas Powys Bypass between Barry and Cardiff – but no decision has been made whether either will actually go ahead.
The future of both roads rests on whether Welsh Government and the council deem them viable, and whether ministers cough up the cash to fund them.
But Cllr Moore said he doesn’t think Welsh Government will find the money required for the Dinas Powys Bypass.
“It’s out of our hands. We can only go so far and can’t go any further without the funding and the agreement to go forward,” he said.
Cllr Moore said he believes Welsh Government will order the Barry Biomass incinerator to carry out an environmental impact assessment.
It follows a recent statement by Julie James AM, which Cllr Moore said was “confusing to say the least”.
Cllr Moore, who has previously attacked what he termed “scaremongering and lies” around the biomass plant, said he did not want the facility in Barry Docks.
He said: “We opposed it vehemently. Both as a council and as a party and personally.
“It shouldn’t be there. But now it’s there it has to operate within legal parameters. If it does, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
The council refused the original planning permission for the facility but a planning inspector allowed it in 2010 following an appeal.
Cllr Moore added: “If I could re-write history then the Welsh Government’s independent inspector wouldn’t have allowed it. But he did. We have to work within the parameters with which we can work.”
Matt Discombe covers Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan as part of the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporter project, which is aimed at enhancing reporting from local authorities across the UK.