A new extract of a recording with former Neath Port Talbot council leader Rob Jones shows “blatant and completely inappropriate use of public funds” according to Neath Senedd candidate Sioned Williams.
During the unreleased tape, Rob Jones is heard telling Labour party members:- “Once you have got your candidates set out for 2022. (The) candidates put a newsletter out (saying) ‘I’m canvassing the council to get allotments, I’m canvassing the council to do up the industrial site. What you do, is that you send me a list, I can then incorporate that into our forward programme. You say that you are canvasing, I say to officers, I want the industrial site changed, I want the allotments looked at, I want this, that and the other. (Your saying) ‘I’m canvassing to regenerate the industrial site, ‘I’m canvassing to get new industrial units’ ‘I’m canvassing to get allotments’.”
“18 months down the line ‘I have succeeded, where Plaid have failed’.”
“Because you drive your mission statement and set-out what you want based on what we as a Labour party can achieve. But unless I know where you want to drive these things, I may be putting resources into an area that you don’t want. It is not so much as going out to the community and asking them what they want, it is what we as a Labour party can deliver on the promises.”
The recording is from a Labour party meeting which Rob Jones attended in Pontardawe in October 2019. The meeting was set-up by the Pontardawe Labour branch to allow Rob Jones to discuss the proposed Primary school changes in the Swansea Valley. The school proposal is currently suspended due to comments made by the former leader during that meeting.
The suspension does not go far enough for some parents who feel that the whole process has been predetermined by Rob Jones and his colleagues from word go. The process has seen the resignation of both the Pontardawe Labour ward chair and vice chair, both claiming lies and inaccuracies within council records.
The former Vice-Chair Alun Kremszczesniak said “We naively thought that we could have a conversation with the leader and discuss the best way forward for our schools in the Valley. It was obvious from early on that Rob Jones had no interest in listening and the council had already made their mind up (about the schools). He lied throughout the meeting and it was all about him (Rob Jones) convincing the Labour members in Pontardawe. He seemed to want to choose the council candidates that fitted his agenda and would tow his party line. It was a wake-up call to a lot of us, I know of a few members who have left the party specifically because of that meeting; but sadly, Labours issues in Neath Port Talbot go far deeper than Rob Jones. How he got to power in the first place is depressing and why more Councillors haven’t spoken against him is tragic”.
“Corruption and lies”
It is questions over the predetermined outcome of the schools which have caused fresh calls for a public enquiry into the closure of Godre’r’graig Primary school. With parent Ben Holdsworth saying “Corruption and lies. The foundation of every Rob Jones decision. The only way to the whole truth surrounding Godre’r’graig, that everyone should demand is a public enquiry. If he and the heads of Neath Port Talbot Council can wrongly force the closure of this school, then they can do the same to any other school in the borough and it is important everyone sees this.”
There have long been concerns with Parents and residents about the way that Godre’r’graig Primary school was closed. Rob Jones compared a report on the hillside behind the school to the Aberfan disaster despite numerous experts stating it is a false comparison. It is understood that the former leader persuaded cabinet, head teacher and chair of governors to close the school. Within the community questions remain as to his motives, with many parents wanting an independent enquiry as to whether the decisions made by the council were impartial or with an eye to forcing the merger of schools in the valley.
Chair of Governors
The Chair of Governors for Godre’r’graig Primary School has also called for a full enquiry and told us that she is “very concerned that the consultation documents regarding the new 3-11 school in Pontardawe have provided misleading information to the public regarding the Godre’rgraig School site. Simply stating that is not possible to return to the school site is incorrect. In the very unlikely event spoil heap movement, by implementing appropriate remedial measures, the site would remain safe. We find it hard to believe these measures would cost as much as an unwanted new super school.”
“As a governing board we don’t believe that decisions the council are making are based on the interests and needs of pupils and parents at Godre’rgraig School. We don’t believe that the governing body are being informed of decisions made in a timely manner, nor are we being given full information about the reasoning, costings or motivation behind these decisions. We have always felt the hidden agenda has been to find a way to close the school. I have never understood why. Godre’rgraig was a thriving, friendly, caring and welcoming school in a lovely community.”
The lease for the temporary school at Cwmtawe comes up for renewal over the summer holidays. The residents living either side of Godre’r’graig Primary School have recently been told that there are no concerns with a landslip to their houses and so it is hoped that pupils will be able to return to the school in September.
These latest comments from the former Leader of NPT council come a month after his resignation as leader. The comments will again question whether Labour backed projects have been favoured to non-Labour projects by Rob Jones and the borough council.
There was strong condemnation from Sioned Williams, Plaid Cymru Senedd Election Candidate for Neath. “These shocking comments appear to reinforce the allegation of blatant and completely inappropriate use of public funds for political purposes by Labour run Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council. This further underlines the need for an investigation by the Auditor General into this matter, which was called for by Plaid Cymru when the recording of Cllr Rob Jones first came to light, but disappointingly and puzzlingly rejected by the Labour First Minister, Mark Drakeford.”
“It is vital, as we approach the Senedd election, that the residents of Neath Port Talbot have complete faith in their elected politicians and that public spending is allocated according to need, rather than apparently serving the party political tactics of the Labour Party. I think the constituents of Neath deserve to know what their Labour representatives, Jeremy Miles MS and Christina Rees MP, have to say about this matter.”