Monmouthshire County Council’s Community and Corporate Plan which aims to foster equality, tackle homelessness, and support education and social care, among other initiatives was met with a frosty response from council opposition.

Councillor Mary Ann Brocklesby told the council (April 20th) how the plan has been developed through extensive collaboration with residents, community groups, businesses, public sector organisations, and councillors across the political spectrum.

Councillor Brocklesby thanked the leaders from opposition groups, including Councillors John, Taylor, Neill, and Chandler, for putting aside political differences and providing invaluable feedback throughout the development process. “Passing this plan today will not be a victory for our Labour administration,” Councillor Brocklesby said. “It’s a victory for the whole Council and for common sense. Our residents expect nothing less than for us to pull together and turn this plan into action.”

Key actions outlined in the plan include increasing diversity within the council, championing equality inside and outside the organisation, increasing the number of Welsh speakers, and employing more people from different ethnic minorities and with specific needs.

The plan also focuses on improving access to services for young and old residents, providing increased support for older citizens through leisure centres, community hubs, and green spaces.

The plan includes significant actions in the fields of education, housing, and homelessness, with aims to provide free school meals for 6,250 children, increase attendance rates for vulnerable secondary school pupils, and reduce the number of homeless families in the county.

Additionally, the council plans to enhance public transport, develop local businesses and tourism, and invest in environmental initiatives, such as reducing carbon emissions, increasing recycling rates, and promoting locally sourced food.

Cllr Brocklesby emphasised the importance of collaboration and cooperation across all levels of government and with local communities to make these ambitious plans a reality.

Despite delays in passing both the budget and the plan, Cllr Brocklesby assured that the council has not been idle, citing numerous achievements in the last 10 months. She also stressed that the people of Monmouthshire want action and that the plan sets out ambitious, measurable targets.

Opposition leader Councillor Richard John expressed disappointment and frustration with the current version of the plan. He likened the multiple revisions of the plan to the movie Groundhog Day, acknowledging that while there have been improvements and welcomed collaboration among the three political groups, he still found the plan lacking.

Councillor John supported several aspects of the plan, such as addressing poverty, striving for net zero, upgrading school buildings, and enhancing recycling targets. However, he criticised the document for excluding certain projects initiated by the previous administration. He also called for more kindness towards fellow councillors, citing Councillor Chandler’s recent experience as an example.

As the opposition leader, Councillor John emphasised their role in providing constructive criticism and respecting the confidentiality of privately shared document versions. 

He expressed concerns about the plan’s ownership, accountability framework, and timeline, questioning the administration’s assumptions of regaining power in the 2027 elections. He also noted errors and omissions in the plan, arguing for greater clarity, ambition, and innovation.

Despite these criticisms, Councillor John declared that the opposition would not obstruct the plan but would abstain from supporting it. He stressed that the plan was the responsibility of the administration, and they would be held accountable for delivering on its promises. He urged for a more exciting and inspirational document that would truly meet the ambitions of Monmouthshire residents.