At the Annual Meeting of Council last week, I was given the honour and privilege of being re-elected as Council Leader for the third year running.
I very much appreciate the trust that my fellow councillors have placed in me and I will continue to work hard to ensure that – together – we do our very best for all of our communities.
Councillors also agreed to the re-appointment of the Council’s Cabinet who I am sure will also strive to deliver on the key priorities that the Council has set out previously in its Corporate Plan:
Cllr. Anthony Taylor (Taibach) - Deputy Leader
Cllr. Carol Clement-Williams (Baglan) - Finance
Cllr. Doreen Jones (Aberdulais) - Corporate Services & Equalities
Cllr. Leanne Jones (Tonna) - Community Safety & Public Protection
Cllr. Peter Richards (Baglan) - Adult Social Services & Health
Cllr. Alan Lockyer (Neath North) - Children’s Social Services
Cllr. Peter Rees (Neath South) - Education, Skills & Culture
Cllr. Ted Latham (Sandfields East) - Streetscene & Engineering
Cllr. Annette Wingrave (Cadoxton) - Regeneration & Sustainable Development
In my acceptance speech at that meeting, I focussed on 3 main issues – the council’s workforce, strengthening democracy and collaboration.
The people who work for and represent the Council are our most precious asset.
It never ceases to amaze me how our frontline staff step up to the plate, day in and day out, to run our services, turn out at times of emergency and continue to adapt and change despite decreasing budgets and increasing expectations. The Council will maintain its approach of empowering our staff whilst at the same time, removing any unnecessary restrictions that might hinder their ability to think and react according to the circumstances that they face.
The Council will, also over the next year, be taking a closer look at how we can increase the participation of the wider public in all parts of our decision making process. I have asked our Democratic Services Committee to assess how the Council can integrate new advances in digital communication so that residents can actively play a part in how the Council is run and have their say on how services are provided. This may include webcasting of Council meetings, online petitions and much else besides. I look forward to receiving a full options report on the matter later this year.
Finally, I addressed councillors on recent developments with regard to how the Council must approach partnership working and collaboration on a local, regional and national basis in the next twelve months.
Neath Port Talbot Council has a strong tradition of working with other organisations to achieve the best outcomes we can for our own residents and those of our neighbours. Our position remains that we intend to make a constructive contribution to regional working involving our nearby Councils, the Welsh Government and others and whilst, sometimes, difficult decisions have to be made and robust conversations have to had, this Council will do so in a measured, transparent and helpful way.
We are as keen as anyone else to see regional working deliver the sorts of benefits that it has the potential to and are confident that on matters such as the Swansea Bay City Deal and ERW, progress can be made in the coming year.
To that end, I have asked the Council’s Scrutiny Committees to participate in a review of existing collaborations to ensure that they are all on a strong footing and are productive. Part of that review will also look at how arrangements can be improved and how clearer democratic oversight, for both elected representatives and the wider public can be developed.
We will also be looking at areas where new collaborative partnerships can be formed and where value is added, we will not hesitate to take advantage of that. Recent confirmation of the work between ourselves, Powys County Council and the Welsh Government on the Rail Centre of Excellence planned for Onllwyn is proof of exactly that.
All of this will run alongside the normal day to day council work and we will continue to deliver the everyday services that local people rely on despite the massive cuts coming down the line from central government.
The next twelve months will not be easy but I am looking forward to meeting each and every one of the challenges along the way.
Cllr Rob Jones