The Cabinet Member for Schools and Children Glynog Davies was quizzed over the future of school modernisation in Carmarthenshire today, Wednesday (Jan 19).
Cllr Rob James asked a number of questions much to the visible frustration of one member of the council who shook her head when Cllr James spoke or applauded when Cllr Davies answered.
Cllr James began by asking if CllrDavies could confirm if all schools proposed in the last budget would be progressed as originally planned.
Cll Davies said that three new schools had opened recently. He said that Covid had a significant impact on everything the council was doing and that the council had had two challenging years. “Prices have gone through the roof and the Welsh Government had increased the grant allocation,” he said.
Cllr Davies said: “Until the review has completed I cannot confirm if all the schools and all the proposals in last years budget will progress as planned. We will have to look at sustainable development and net zero carbon and we have to reprice everything we do.”
Cllr James then asked about 15 planned new schools. He asked: “Do you accept that with your review and lack of submission tot he Welsh Government that these projects will not progress next year?”
Cllr Davies said: “I do not accept that. I must have the responses of the review before I take any further decisions.”
Cllr James asked whether Cllr Davies could provide an update on the proposed new schools for Ammanford.
Cllr Davies said that the current site of the town centre schools was unsuitable and that there was a challenge to find suitable land. He said “Reorganisation primary education in Ammanford is a priority for myself, it isa priority for the administration and it is within the current MEP. The plans such as Heol Goffa, Bryngwyn, Dewi Sant Ammanford and Llandeilo will continue at pace. We are developing the projects now.”
Cllr James asked how £500,000 had been spent last year as they were no closer to having news schools in Ammanford.
Cllr Davies said: “It is happening now. Developing any project costs money. This work is definitely continuing whatever you want to say to the opposite to this. We live in this area and we know we are serious about new school for Ammanford Town.”
Cllr James then asked about whether land has been purchased for the new Ammanford School.
Cllr Davies said: “The answer is simply yes, land has been purchased.” No details of the cost of the land were divulged although Cllr Kevin Madge has claimed that is was around one million pounds.
Cllr James pointed out that there was no public information published and asked when the council would consult on land off Pontamman Road.
Cllr Davies replied: “Land has been purchased and indeed it is in Heol Pontamman but no decision has been taken yet on which school goes there but that land is with us ready for development.”
Cllr James asked a question about the new school for Ysgol Dewi Sant.
Cllr Davies said that the school was opened on 1st March 1947. He said: “This school will be 75 years old celebrating 75 years of Welsh Medium Education in Carmarthenshire. This was the first Welsh language School to be opened by any local authority here in Wales. The Labour party has opposed at every opportunity our plans as an administration to give a new home to this school. A site which was chosen not by ourselves as councillors but by experts. The children and the teachers would have now been in a new school if this administration had had its way and they would have been able to celebrate this birthday in style. Instead of that they are in an old school which is unsuitable for requirements of the 21st century. The work is continuing and we are working hard on this. This work has to be done thoroughly and this is what is happening at the moment.”
Cllr James said that it had been two years since the council had withdrawn its plans and that the school and the community is still in the dark. He asked when the consultation would begin.
Cllr Davies said: :It is so unfair on the children and staff that they were still in that building and once again I point a finger at you Rob James. He said he was waiting for stage one of the work to be completed very soon.”
Cllr James then turned to capital expenditure for schools which have had a reprieve from closure including Ysgol Mynyddyaggreg and Ysgol Blaenau.
He said both schools would benefit from immediate investment and asked if Cllr Davies would be including capital investment this year to improve the buildings and look at making the schools 3 to 11 years.
Cllr Davies said that it was unanimously resolved not to publish a statutory notice to discontinue Ysgol Gynrad Mynyddygarreg. He said he wanted to continue with plans to open a new school in the Kidwelly area.
Cllr Davies said: “The decision was delayed on Mynyddygarreg and Blaenau. I called for a full review, a comprehensive review of the MEP and this will give consideration to the age ranges of the school. Until that review is completed capital investment for repair and maintenance will be allocated to schools on a prioritised basis. There is an allocation provided in the school budget for such matters. The two schools named will receive seven thousand pounds each in addition it isa repair grant and maintenance grant which was received from the Welsh Government to spend in the schools.”