Stand up for the pupils of North Wales: Shadow Ministers urge Welsh Government to do more ahead of Anglesey school closures

Opposition Shadow Ministers are today presenting a two-sided attack on the Welsh Government over the closure of rural Anglesey schools.

Suzy Davies AM and Mark Isherwood AM have spoken of their displeasure that the Welsh Government isn’t doing more to support the people of Anglesey and to prevent the closure of Ysgol Gymuned Bodffordd.

Campaigners are fighting desperately to keep the village school open after it was earmarked for closure last year along with nearby Ysgol Corn Hir, just weeks before the Welsh Government’s School Organisation Code came into place which claims to list and protect rural schools.

But little has been done by the Welsh Government to ease the concerns of parents and pupils over the past year, with only a slight indication that it’s being looked at coming from the Welsh Minister for Education at the eleventh hour.

Commenting, Shadow Minister for Education, Suzy Davies AM, said:

“I spoke out more than five months ago welcoming the School Organisation Code, which despite coming on the back of two decades of rural school closures, seemed to be set to protect more from falling to the same fate.

“But despite that code, this sad news proves that rural schools aren’t safe under this Welsh Labour-led Government after all.

“Residents of North Wales have regularly been neglected by the Welsh Government since the country devolved twenty years ago, and closures like this will have a lasting impact on the region’s heritage.

“While the Welsh Government claims to want to see one million Welsh speakers in this country by 2050, the closure of a school in which 89% of pupils speak Welsh is yet another setback for the Welsh Government’s increasingly unreachable target.”

Anglesey fell foul at the end of last year of Welsh Government budget cuts, making it one of the worst-off areas in the country.

As a result, the region underwent one of the greatest council tax hikes in subsequent March changes. The statistics last month showed that one of the highest council tax rises for the upcoming financial year came in Anglesey at a 9.1% jump.

Given that the local government funding formula is heavily influenced by deprivation indicators, confusion surrounds the locations of the largest increases in Wales. Prosperity levels per head (GVA) in Anglesey are just under half those in of Cardiff, yet the Welsh Government’s Final Local Government Settlement for 2019-20 gave Cardiff a 0.9% increase, whilst the councils with the largest cuts of -0.3% include Anglesey - which is now facing one of the highest hikes in council tax.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Local Government Minister and regional Assembly Member for North Wales, Mark Isherwood AM, added:

“It’s time the Welsh Government stood up for the people of North Wales, and ended this cycle of repeated deprivation of funding for certain areas.

“Councils are being forced to find savings where they can, and unfortunately education is repeatedly bearing the brunt of these measures.

“Not only this, but we read that the cost of repairing worn roads in Wrexham could amount to £50million. If cash-strapped councils are forced to continue like this, North Wales could soon face a funding crisis with serious consequences.

“Currently, for every £1 per head spent by the UK Conservative Government in England on matters devolved to Wales, £1.20 is given to the Welsh Government, and it is the Welsh Government which then decides how it 'slices the cake'.

“Nine out of 22 Welsh local authorities receive an increase under the Welsh Government’s settlement for 2019-20. However, with the exception of Denbighshire, which receives a flat settlement, all North Wales councils are to receive a cut, with the largest cuts in Anglesey, Conwy and Flintshire, alongside Monmouthshire and Powys in South and Mid Wales.

"The Welsh Government must therefore address the impact of its disproportionate budget cuts across parts of the country caused by its obsolete local government funding formula.”