Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Council elections - Llandovery

Councillor Ivor Jackson's last words as he ended the March meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council were that he had survived his first year as Chair unscathed.

Whether he survives the May council elections unscathed is something we shall soon see, as the contest in Llandovery will be one of the most interesting in the county.

Four candidates are known to be standing. They include Ivor Jackson himself (Independent), Pat Racher (Plaid Cymru), Gill Wright (independent, as opposed to capital 'I' Independent), and Andrew Morgan (Conservative).

One of the biggest local issues is the future of the town's secondary school, Ysgol Pantycelyn. The council's plan is to merge it with Ysgol Tregib in Llandeilo and build a new school at Ffairfach just outside Llandeilo.

The proposals have understandably been bitterly opposed in the town, which faces a future without a state secondary school. Children from Llandovery and the surrounding area face long journey times to school, and without a secondary school the town will find it hard to keep and attract younger people and families to live and work there.

Cllr Jackson's pronouncements on the schools question have been few and often impossible to understand. Here he is talking to the Carmarthen Journal in May 2011 to mark his election to chair:

Although something like the fight to save Ysgol Pantycelyn, or anything else which goes all the way to the Welsh Assembly, it is never going to be about one person, I would like to think I could make a difference with many local issues.

A prize to the first person who can make out what that means. In a separate article in the same edition of the Journal the Executive Board member for Education, Gwynne Wooldridge, thanked Cllr Jackson and neighbouring councillors including Tom Theophilus for supporting the proposals in the face of such strong local opposition.

In March 2012 the Journal spoke to him again. "It's not for me to comment at this stage", he said, before adding that he thought the site chosen for the new merged school at Ffairfach outside Llandeilo was wrong.

Make of this what you will, but facing in all directions at once seems to sum it up.

The young Tory candidate for Llandovery is Andrew Morgan, originally from Llanelli. There can't be many Tories in Llanelli, although one or two sit as "Independent" councillors in County Hall.

Andrew Morgan has campaigned against the school plans, but he is fighting against a strong head-wind, and will not have been helped by the efforts of David Cameron and George Osborne to alienate Welsh voters once and for all.

An interesting question for voters to ask would be whether he will commit to not joining the Independent group if elected, because local people could forget any hope of a change in the schools plan if he did.

Gill Wright lives locally and is very active in promoting the Heart of Wales Railway. She is a member of the Town Council and is also active in Calon Cymru, the venture which seeks to revitalise mid-Wales.

Finally, Pat Racher is standing for Plaid. Of the four candidates she almost certainly has the most varied and interesting background. In a long career she has been an editor with “British Farmer and Stockbreeder”, a feature writer for “Farmers Weekly” and a tourism promotion consultant for Dinefwr Borough Council, as well as a lay inspector of schools for Estyn in Wales and Ofsted in England.

Pat's interests include the environment and energy use as well as safeguarding and developing use of the Welsh language.

People in Llandovery will not be spoiled for choice, and Pat's experience, energy and ideas would certainly mark a dramatic change for the better from the way the town has been served in recent years. As part of a Plaid-run council, she would also be in the strongest position to ensure that a better solution is found to the schools question than the one currently on offer.


Anonymous said...

I suspect Andrew Morgan will fail to mention that he is (or certainly was until recently) an investment banker in London!

I'm confused as to where Mr. Morgan's loyalties are... one minute it's in Llanelli (2007), then it's Carmarthen East & Dinefwr (2010) and then Llanelli again (2011).

Anyone smell a career politician?

Anonymous said...

Patricia Dodd Racher certainly seems the strongest candidate out of this bunch

Anonymous said...

Plaid Cymru has lost my vote, for abusing the Welsh language. PC’s election leaflet for Llandovery is strewn with errors, and some of it doesn’t make sense. If Dr Rachar has learned Welsh and is responsible for the Welsh text, I congratulate her, but Plaid Cymru should have ensured that it was correct. This is no way to protect ‘the Welsh language and identity’. Rhag eich cywilydd, Plaid Cymru. Mae’n amlwg nad ydych chi’n gweithredu yn ôl yr hyn a ddywedwch. Rydych chi’n gwneud mwy o ddrwg nag o les i’r iaith Gymraeg.

Cneifiwr said...

Diolch am eich sylwadau, Anhysbys, ond y gwir yw wrth gwrs mai Plaid Cymru yw'r unig blaid yn yr etholiadau hyn sydd am gryfhau sefyllfa'r iaith yn y sir. Mae polisi'r Annibynnwyr a Llafur yn gwbl ddi-ystyr - dim ond geiriau ar bapur yw e.