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RCT Labour Councillor accuses his own Cabinet of being undemocratic despots


Residents gathered in the public gallery for a special meeting of the Education Scrutiny Committee were witness to a remarkably frank speech from Labour backbencher Councillor Ken Privett.
The meeting was instigated by Cllr Privett and two other Councillors - one Labour and one Independent - under the Council's "call-in" procedure to decide whether a recent decision on changes to Y Pant school catchment area should be referred back to the Cabinet.
Cllr Privett, who represents Penygraig, said that it was "regrettable I find the need to put my name to the call in procedure but I took the decision in interests of natural justice for all stakeholders."
He then went on to criticise the members of the Cabinet who made the original decision saying they did not "consult or canvass views of the councillors in RCT."
His unexpected outburst accused his colleagues of being part of an "autocracy" seeking "unlimited and outright control" and instigating "despotic, domineering policy." He said the Cabinet should have made a recommendation not a decision to allow Councillors and "all stakeholders" the right to express an opinion. That such a move would be "essential to public accountability and transparency" and that "information and ideas help inform the political debate."
Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell who was present at the meeting said it was refreshing to hear a Labour member attacking his own party's decision making process.
"There are many residents who have been waking up to some of the less than democratic decision making processes in RCT lately. Parents against the nursery education cuts have been forced into looking at a judicial review, and residents opposed to the Rhydyfelin library closure are talking about doing the same. To add to that those who oppose the changes to the catchment are for Y Pant and Bryncelynnog may now find themselves going down the same route once other avenues are explored.
"However it is rare indeed for a member of the ruling group to speak up in public in such a forthright way, and he is to be congratulated for having the courage to do so. Cllr Privett's views were presumably fully shared by his Labour colleague Glyn Holmes who also signed the call in notice. Maybe it will be just the start of a new era, perhaps some of the almost constant public criticism of the last few months is at last getting through.
"We can only hope that this spirit of enlightenment will spread a little further and who knows Cllr Privett and others may even start voting against the occasional Labour whip and even in favour of an opposition idea or two."
The views of the rebel Councillors seemed to be justified as none of the Labour members of the scrutiny committee spoke during the debate and all but one voted not to refer the matter back to cabinet. Rumour also has it that the two were asked by the Labour whip to remove their backing for the call in but both refused.
Councillor Powell requested permission to speak at the meeting as he is not a member of the scrutiny committee. His request was turned down - another example of RCT Council democracy in action.

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