Council Leader Losing Authority

The authority of Ceredigion Council Leader Keith Evans was severely dented today when several members of his own ruling Independent/Lib Dem group failed to support him in a whole series of votes.

The first of the votes in today’s Full Council meeting was to overturn the Council Cabinet’s attempt to close Syr John Rhys school in Ponterwyd. With 30 applauding demonstrators in the public gallery, the Council voted against the Independent Leader’s wishes and for a stay of execution for the school in order to review the situation in a year when the effect on the school population of possible new houses in Ponterwyd can be assessed.

There was then a narrow victory for the ruling coalition on exploring partnerships with the private sector to provide future council engineering services. But this was only because members of the group who had spoken against the idea mistakenly abstained when it came to the vote.

Next was a series of votes on the new Council building in Aberystwyth. Councillors voted unanimously that the name of the road leading to the building should be Rhodfa Padarn, in Welsh only, despite the Leader's insistence in Cabinet two weeks ago that it should be a bilingual Rhodfa Rheidol/Rheidol Avenue.

Lastly, more trivially but most symbolically of all, the Council voted against the Leader opening the new building and in favour of the Chair, Ivor Williams, doing it instead. Not even a plea from the Chair himself that Keith Evans should be allowed to conduct the opening could persuade councillors to vote for their Leader.

The sight of both Lib Dems and Independents on Ceredigion Council voting with the opposition Plaid Cymru group against their own Council Leader is highly unusual and marks a dramatic change in attitude amongst several members of the ruling group. It's clear that there's disatisfaction in the ranks with the leadership. With the ruling group and opposition already tightly balanced, it looks as if the days of votes on Ceredigion Council being a foregone conclusion are over.