Signs of ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’; remember Dryweryn can be seen all across Wales. Dryweryn was a small village in North Wales. The village was flooded following a decision by the Liverpool City Council to create the Llyn Celyn reservoir in the valley. A decision which went ahead following backing from English MPs, despite rejection from Welsh MPs.

A community destroyed, homes underwater. 60 years later, the decision is used by pro-independent campaigners as a reminder. Essentially, this village was destroyed by outsiders. The Welsh habitants there were second-class citizens. The Welsh democratically elected members voted against it, but it was decided in England to push ahead. There was no democratic way that Wales could prevent it.

Pontardawe faces a 2021 equivalent.

 Neath Port Talbot Council have proposed the closure of 3 schools in the Swansea Valley. Residents have overwhelmingly opposed. Parents, pupils and Governors have opposed. The local Town and Community councils have opposed. The mayor and former mayors of Pontardawe have opposed. All elected Councillors from within the Swansea Valley have opposed.

However, 15 Labour councillors from outside of the Swansea Valley have voted to close Alltwen, Llangiwg and Godre’r’graig primary school. Despite none of these people having any links to the area. Despite there being no democratic way that the people of the Swansea Valley can reject these councillors.

‘Pontardawe is politically pointless’ a former cabinet councillor tells me. Neath Port Talbot is a Labour council and the Swansea Valley have increasingly rejected Labour over recent elections.

Saving Money

The council, need to save money. A super school does that. There is a strong sense within the valley that this area was chosen because it is the area which effects Labour voters the least. 

The Pontardawe Labour Party has lost its Chair and vice- chair over the proposal, as well as other members. The anger is rife. “The party has no care for Pontardawe at all.” Alun Krem-Szczesniak

 (ex Vice-chair) tells me. 

“The majority of councillors who voted have never even been inside any of our schools. None have any children who attend them. None would vote for the same within their own community. It is bullying. The Labour party is supposed to be the party which stands up to bullying. In Neath Port Talbot it is the Labour party which bullies. It has looked around to find which community they can bully and Pontardawe stood out.”

Seeing ex-Labour activists turning on the party in such a vocal way shows the level of anger here. 

Anger and Apathy

“The valley is split between those who are absolutely fuming and those who have come to expect it. The latter is tragic. I would say that the vast majority of residents believed there was no point in fighting it. They thought the Labour council had already made up their mind. This is why only 40% of people vote. They think ‘what is the point?’. You see Brexit and the rise in populous politics and it is inevitable when the likes of Rob Jones and Andrew Thomas lie and force things like this on a community.”  

“Labour and the council don’t care in the slightest about here. They don’t need Pontardawe. They can remain in power forever by keeping Neath and Port Talbot happy. If you look at an electoral map then the Swansea, Dulais, Neath and Afan valleys have all rejected Labour. These are the areas that the council make controversial decisions in. What have they got to lose?”

The council are currently under investigation about the relationship between officers and councillors. This began after a tape emerged where Rob Jones stated his desire for a super school in the valley. “don’t hold your breath for the truth” Alun says about that.

NPT Labour Party

“Look, Labour have been in power forever. Anyone who is an officer with any power in the council is there because the leaders in the Labour party want them there. The CEO is an ex-copper alongside Rob Jones. Andrew Thomas was promoted to head of education after writing a report which stated exactly what Rob Jones had already asked for”.

“The investigation into Rob Jones and the council dealings will find nothing because the council want to keep its reputation. I was at that meeting, (where Rob Jones was recorded) there were 20 odd others there too. As far as I know, the only person that the investigation has spoken to is Rob Jones. If they genuinely wanted to find out what happened in that meeting, then you would think that they would have spoken to everyone present.”

Asked whether he felt that the council were corrupt “it is difficult to say they aren’t. I don’t know of any direct backhanders but I wouldn’t be surprised either. There is no doubt ‘jobs for the boys’ and ‘you scratch my back’ goes on. The Cabinet will vote to keep their jobs as against to keep their integrity. Labour here has lost its way. It needs to refresh and be honest about it.” 

Failure in Democracy

As with Dryweryn, there is a failure with democracy when a decision is made to a community that cannot democratically stop it. Pontardawe are left with the dilemma of what can they do.

“refuse to pay council tax” has been one suggestion. Although this is a legal requirement. The court route is another option which we understand is being taken. 

“We have to keep fighting” Alun says. “We are in this mess because over the years, too many people have let too many things go. You have to stand up to a bully. This council have bullied for thirty years and residents have let them. Each time you give in, they bully more. They are lying to us, they are treating us like fools, they are essentially saying that ‘they will do whatever they want with us in the Swansea Valley as there is nothing we can do.  If we roll over now then what is next?”

“The Dryweryn comparison is a fair one. I don’t want to wait 60 years before we start shouting for justice in Pontardawe though.”


  • June 22, 2021 at 2:32 pm

    I am not too comfortable with the analogy, but if you are going to reference it, please make sure you check your references – it is Tryweryn, not Dryweryn. And the village was called Capel Celyn. I have included the wikipedia article for reference:

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