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10th September 2019

Labour will not reverse school 'closure' decision despite criticising plans in opposition

BY: Matt Discombe Local Democracy Reporter

Labour-led Vale of Glamorgan Council will not reverse a controversial move to “close” a primary school – despite the party previously speaking out against the plans.

Llancarfan Primary School is set to move to a new £4m, 210-place building in Rhoose, in what campaigners have described as a “closure”.

Council leader Neil  Moore told a council meeting he has carried out an “informal review” of the decision, which was taken under the previous Conservative administration, but he is not planning any changes.

That’s despite deputy leader Lis Burnett tweeting in January the Llancarfan move “wouldn’t be happening if Labour were running the council”.

A Labour council candidate for the Llancarfan area also previously said the move would “rip the heart out of the village”.

Cllr Moore told the full council meeting on September 9: “I mentioned at the last council meeting that I would personally carry out my own informal review of the Llancarfan School decision made by the previous administration.

“I have concluded I will not be bringing any report to a future cabinet.”

More than 1,000 people have opposed the Llancarfan School plans over two consultations.

A spokesman for the Save Llancarfan School campaign group said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Labour-led council will not be reversing the decision to close the school, despite the strong arguments against closure and Labour’s past support for the save the school campaign.

“Cllr Moore and other Labour members, including cabinet member for education Lis Burnett, were, while in opposition, publicly supportive of our campaign and opposed to the closure.

“Cllr Burnett went as far as to say that the closure ‘wouldn’t be happening’ if Labour were running the council. Now that they are, it is lamentable that they have not stayed true to their word.”

Labour’s candidate for a by-election in the Rhoose ward in February, John Hartland, had campaigned for Llancarfan to save their village school.

The by-election, called after Conservative councillor Matthew Lloyd quit in protest against the Llancarfan School plans, was won by AM Andrew RT Davies, the former Tory leader in the Senedd.

Mr Davies said: “This is a disgraceful decision by the Labour administration in the Vale after numerous promises to the contrary to the Llancarfan community.

“Regrettably, successive political leaderships at the Vale council have now failed to stand up to officers and these crazy proposals, which show a staggering disregard for rural community life.

“In the Rhoose by-election, all candidates and parties standing were unambiguous in their support for Llancarfan School, and the campaign to save it – but Labour’s leader now inexplicably states that people shouldn’t believe everything they read on election leaflets.

“The council leader’s’informal review’ is nothing short of laughable and Labour, with the thanks of some independent councillors who should know better, have turned their back on Llancarfan and the rural Vale.”

The Llancarfan School proposals were finalised under former Conservative leader John Thomas and was among the reasons which led the Tories elected a new leader – Councillor Vincent Bailey – in April.

Cllr Thomas was among eight councillors to then quit the Conservatives following Cllr Bailey’s election to form a new Vale Independents Group to support Labour in leading the council.

Cllr Burnett has said the Llancarfan school move “was not a priority” for the previous Labour administration in 2017, nor was it a manifesto pledge.

But she said that since a decision had been made, the new administration needed to give it “due consideration”.

The closure is still subject to approval from the Welsh Government, once the council has presented a business case for it.

A Save Llancarfan School campaign spokesman added: “We hope and trust that the Government will give due weight to the arguments made against closure by the campaign and its many supporters—including, until recently, those now running the Vale of Glamorgan Council—before making a decision.”

Cllr Moore said: “I promised that I would carry out my own personal review including points raised by local residents. Having done that I have concluded that I will not be bringing a report to cabinet to revisit previous decisions.”

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