A COUNCILLOR has left Powys County Council’s ruling group over the decision to close a thriving county primary school, firing a parting shot labelling the decision “despicable”.

Hywel Lewis confirmed he has left the council’s Independent group following a cabinet decision on Tuesday (February 8) to rubber stamp the closure of Llanfihangel Rhydithon Community Primary School in Dolau.

Councillor Lewis said it was “incredulous” that cabinet – made up of an Independent/Conservative coalition – pressed ahead with the closure despite a letter from Welsh education minister Jeremy Miles stating that the curriculum for Wales was suitable for all settings, including small schools. It has been suggested that one of the main reasons behind the closure of small, rural schools is that the new curriculum can’t be implemented in them.

Cllr Lewis said he believed Dolau was in the top 10 per cent of best performing primary schools in Powys and revealed he told school governors he would leave the Independent group if the axe fell. School supporters have since said the fight to save it is “far from lost” as they prepare a legal battle.

“I can’t support the council decimating rural communities,” said Cllr Lewis, who will now sit as an unaligned councillor for the duration of the administration – county council elections are approaching in May.

“Once the school’s gone, that’s it, the young people will be gone. It will just be a holiday chalet village full of retired people,” added Cllr Lewis.

“What’s more incredulous, we had a letter of confirmation from the Welsh Government’s education department on behalf of Mr Miles confirming the curriculum for Wales is suitable for all settings – including small schools.

“It’s despicable. I picked (education portfolio holder) Phyl Davies up on it during the meeting but to no avail.

“The community has worked so hard over this campaign and they don’t deserve it. There are over 150 kids between Dolau and Llanelwedd (Llanelwedd Church in Wales Primary School where Dolau head Adam Shearman jointly presides).

“Adam had 41 pupils at Llanelwedd when he first arrived there, now there are 117.”


Llanfihangel Rhydithon has 36 pupils, with its closure, set to go ahead in August, said to be saving the council £76,000.

“It’s such a happy school. It’s as good a performing school as any in the county – in the top 10 per cent in Powys I would say,” added Cllr Lewis, who has been an Independent member for 10 years.

Due to step down in May as he now lives outside his ward, in Beulah, he believes councillors should live in the communities they represent, and he added: “I said to one councillor at the last election count ‘never forget who put you there’ and I think a few of these councillors have.”

Cllr Lewis’ departure follows on from the resignation of three Conservative members inside a one-month period earlier this year.

Cllr Mark Barnes announced he was leaving in January, which came after former finance portfolio holder Iain McIntosh resigned live online in December, just seconds after fellow councillors voted to push forward with a decision to close a school in his ward. Brecon and Radnorshire MS James Evans also departed the group over the Christmas period to focus on his Senedd work.

It means that of the 20 Conservatives elected to the council at the last election, just 12 remain within the group. Cllr Lewis’ departure now leaves the coalition with 34 members, during the final few months of its administration, meaning there are now 38 opposition group and non-aligned councillors (Powys currently has 72 county councillors with Mr Evans’ Gwernyfed ward vacant until May).

Meanwhile, a campaign group set up to save Dolau, says the “non-support” for the school throughout the consultation period has not gone unnoticed.

“Throughout the consultation process both Powys education officers and cabinet, led by Rosemarie Harris and education portfolio holder Phyl Davies, have pushed a predetermined agenda of closure, underwritten by inaccurate manipulated figures, and complete untruths,” said the Dolau Action Group in a statement on its Facebook page.

“With all channels of communication with the council now closed, people of Dolau and the wider community have little option but to fight this shameful decision through the courts.

“A protracted and expensive process, with ultimately the final bill paid by the council tax payers of Powys.

“The fight to keep a thriving, flourishing school open is far from lost; Powys County Council are in for a long, long fight, and one they can’t and won’t win.”

Cabinet voted unanimously in favour of closure – despite receiving more than 700 objections.

From September 1, current pupils will have to attend an alternative school.

Portfolio holder Cllr Davies said: “After carefully considering the objections, cabinet has approved the proposal to close Llanfihangel Rhydithon CP School.

“This decision has not been reached lightly. Not only has it been robustly challenged by senior leaders within the council at every step, but it has been developed with the best interest of the learners, who have been at the forefront of our discussions and decision-making.”

In other news, campaigners are holding a gathering at the school this Sunday, February 13, at 11am. A poster advertising the event said: “If you object to cabinet’s decision please come along and show your support for our school.

“We’d like as many people as possible to show PCC that we do not agree with their decision and will continue to fight for our school’s future. This is just the start, we will not let Dolau school close.”