Big challenges and opportunities before new Merther Council leader Geraint Thomas

Improving public transport, housing the homeless, tackling poverty and providing leisure and tourism development are some of the tasks the council wants to do at Merther Tydfil over the next five years. Recently elected council leader Geraint Thomas has set out how the local authority will deal with the challenges it faces and take advantage of its opportunities over the next few years.

The independent, Clare Thomas, was elected after a split vote at the annual general meeting with the independent mayor casting the vote in his favour. This was followed by a council election in May in which 15 independent councilors and 15 Labor councilors were elected.

Clare Thomas took over from independent councilor Lisa Mitten, who served as leader prior to the election and was re-elected as a councillor, but chose to stand.

Read more: Taxi drivers in Merthyr Tydfil seek a significant increase in fares

Merther Roots

Born in 1971, Clerk Thomas was educated at Ysgol Saintes Tydfil, Cyfarthfa Primary School, Cyfarthfa High School and Merther College. He began work at the age of 16, supporting his father, Eddie, with the family’s coal mining and boxing interests.

He worked for British Coal on the East Merther Reclamation Scheme and the CWMBargoed Coal Processing Plant, and for 20 years he has worked installing children’s play surfaces. She played rugby for Merther RFC from the age of six, and coached the club for 12 years, as well as coaching their women’s team, the Iron Maidens.

He played for and captained teams at Penidarine Country XI, Hoover, Hills Plymouth and Merthyr Cricket Clubs. He first stood for the council in 2017 four years after the death of his wife. He said he needed a new challenge and believed he had the skills to make a difference in people’s lives.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service spoke to Clerk Thomas on topics such as local bus services, education, social services, leisure services, tourism and homelessness in the local area.

key priorities

Speaking about the administration’s priorities over the next five years, Clerk Thomas said: “With 15 independents now coming together, we all have different manifesto pledges. So next month and during the August holiday, we will sit together and prepare our vision statement and manifesto for the next five years.

He said there are already many parallels, including the poverty agenda, which he said has been under the microscope over the past year because of the fuel crisis and the cost of living crisis, which he said has “exploded”. Clar Thomas said some of the gas and electricity prices that people have to pay through prepayment meters in their homes are so expensive they can’t afford it, adding that the council is trying to support them as much as they can. tries to

Turning to some local challenges, Clerk Thomas said: “In the last term we laid the foundation stone for the town centre. The masterplan that The Urbanists has created for us has opened up a whole new world, albeit with challenges.

“As you know we have bought St. Tydfil Shopping Center and we have knocked down the old bus station site to try and develop the two areas together. But there is a small setback that we currently have to deal with the floodplains and The TAN is met with 15 rules on flood prevention and the old bus station sits in that area.”

He said it was not because of the Taff River but because of Moralis Brook, so he said he challenged his officials to speak with Natural Resources Meczyki (NRW) to see what mitigation measures were in place. can be visited so that people can live there, work there and have their leisure activities in the center of the city. He added that once they get the response from the authorities and the NRW, they can go ahead and develop the site.

local bus services

Asked about the status of bus services at Merther Tydfil, Clerk Thomas said: “Our aspirations are for the entrance to that lower end of town, Merther. We have got the brand new building of the year bus station, but We also want to bring in a new train station that sits alongside it, so there is interchange by train, bus, car, bicycle, whatever runs at the entrance to Merthier.Tydfil.

“We have a problem with the current level of bus drivers. We have spoken to Stagecoach which is the main bus company in the region and we are going to try to help them recruit additional bus drivers going forward. He also said the Welsh government is preparing a white paper that should go to the Senate this year on bus reform, adding that it will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

Homeless

On the issue of homelessness at Merther Tydfil, Clerk Thomas said he has been a cabinet member for housing for the past five years and has been engaged in tackling the issue, including working at night shelters. He said that as a result of the Covid Welsh government brought legislation that would require them to render anyone as homeless.

He said that while at the beginning of 2020 he had about 30 people in temporary accommodation, in a matter of months it increased to 80 or 90 and he currently has more than 190 people in temporary accommodation, who have lived in all B&Bs and most Hotels are full, so they are using B&Bs outside Merthyr Tydfil. He added: “The costs are going up. It is now over £2m to keep these individuals. But we plan that we need to build more purposeful housing, one-bedroom facilities, which we don’t currently have a lot of.

“We are looking to create purpose-built properties that can house people with complex and chaotic lifestyles. As the townspeople will see when they come to the city center, some days it is not a pleasant place.

“We are working closely with our partners police and health board on this, so we can try and take some service provision which is currently located in the city center on the outskirts of the city. But the cost is going to be huge and we will need further support from the Welsh Government to provide these social housing schemes.

social service

Turning to social services, Clerk Thomas said: “We are currently in a good place in Merther.” He said that he has found a new team in children’s social services and their leader is doing a great job there.

He said: “To be fair, Lisa Curtis Jones, the director (of social services) has got it all very well under control”, “I’m happy to say that we have officers who really do face can do”. He said that one of the tests post-Covid is going to be the care of the elderly and if the elderly people want to go to home facilities for care.

Klar Thomas said: “We saw issues during the pandemic where family members could not see them for months or in some cases years. So I think a lot of our planning going forward will be to take care of people at home rather than in care facilities and that may help us to get the health board to free up beds for some of the issues with the bed at the moment. Blocking in hospitals where step down facility is not available.

education

On education, Clerk Thomas said he had built the new 3-16 Faith School and had just opened what would become the third Welsh medium primary school in Merthyr. He said he hopes to see a Welsh medium secondary school in the borough as currently 450 to 500 children leave the county every day to go to school in the Sinon Valley.

holiday services

In terms of leisure services, Clerk Thomas said he has had issues with the swimming pool in Rhydycar, but that work has now begun there and he has plans for a new state-of-the-art skate park at the leisure centre, which should open by the end of the year. End. He said he thinks there is still room for what they can do in Sifarthafa Park and some of their outlying areas.

He said: “The Taff Trail is a fantastic ambassador for Merther Tydfil. It brings people from everywhere to walk there and with our heritage sites. It’s a beautiful place.”

sightseeing

Klar Thomas said all tourism providers are battling the pandemic but they have all survived and are doing well after coming out of it. He specifically mentioned Bike Parks Meczyki, Rock UK and Parkwood, and said that visitors would be coming.

He said the plan on Redeecar West hasn’t gone through yet, but as soon as people can see the full plan and how exciting it is before the planning committee will make a decision on it. Klar Thomas said: “I hope that with these developments, we will also find the right kind of hotels.

“We have small little hotels and we have some boutique hotels coming up like Howfields Inn in the lower part of Merthyr city and Joles.” But he said something like the Village Hotel in Cardiff North that has four-star amenities would be well accepted by the people and visitors of Merthyr.

He added: “The Cypherthfa project is exciting and in the next month or so you will see further developments coming.” He said the funding is out there and that they will need to tap into some leveling up funding and other sources to bring the CypherFa project to life.

Cler Thomas said: “It’s a big plan that’s got 20 years to fully develop, but I think when it will happen and what’s planned for it, it’s not only for Merther but Will be good for Mahan too. For the region and for Meczyki as a whole.”

constitution of new council

When asked about the formation of the new council and how Labor and independents could work together, Clerk Thomas said that both himself and former leader Clerk Mitten had a real meeting with Leader of the Opposition, Darren Roberts, and Deputy Leader of Labor. I have good working relationship. Councilor Clive Jones. He said: “We met regularly. Darren and I agree that this will continue. I have offered the Labor Group a 50-50 split on all champion roles, external bodies, committees, etc.

“So they are going to be completely immersed in the work of Merther Tydfil County Borough Council. 50% of the councilors are Labor councilors and you have to respect the vote cast by the public. So a lot of their manifesto promises will be priorities going forward. And they were just like us.”

These include sports fields, leisure trusts and public transport, adding that “all these things we will work together to ensure that the people of Merthir can get the best of services”, he said. When asked about the previous controversial comments made by him on social media, he said that it was in the past and before that he was a councillor.

He continued: “I love my city and have seen a decline in frontline services through austerity/cuts at the moment and wanted to see if I could do something about it. I would love to hear from your local community.” I am impressed by the support you get from us and the honest feedback you get when you do something wrong.

“We are a wonderful city with so much history and heritage, I am always proud to represent us.”

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