A number of Penarth councillors are stepping down this month  and are not seeking re-election to the new five-year Penarth Town Council  – which will be elected on May 4th.

The closing of nominations for the Vale of Glamorgan and the Penarth Town Council elections are also – it appears – closing the curtains on the careers of some members  who this month are withdrawing from the council chamber for the last time.

Amongst those departing are the following:-

Labour councillor Janice Birch represented the Stanwell Ward on both the Vale and Penarth Councils

Cllr Janice Birch (Labour Stanwell Ward)  – now aged 82 –  has had a remarkably long and successful career in local government both on the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Penarth Town Council and consistently attracted a strong vote and a large and loyal personal following in Stanwell Ward over many years.

Cllr Birch – a teacher by profession – was Mayor of Penarth in 1981/82.

In her early years she was known as a powerful  advocate for CND and has also campaigned strongly for gender equality and women’s rights. She demanded that South Wales Police produce accurate statistics on incidents of domestic violence in Penarth and also chaired the Town Twinning Committee on Penarth Town Council.

Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell)

Deputy Mayor of Penarth, Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell Ward) : Cllr Alexander was elected to Penarth Town Council with 802 votes in May 2012 . She had also stood unsuccessfully for election to the Vale of Glamorgan Council in the Plymouth Ward that same year .

In May 2016 Cllr Alexander resigned  as a member of the executive committee of the Penarth Civic Society and unveiled the idea of setting up a Penarth Town Trust – a charitable body which could become eligible for various grants and – it was envisaged – would undertake major developments and initiatives in the town . She offered the Penarth Civic Society the opportunity to join the embryo Penarth Town Trust – but the overture was firmly refused.

In September last year so-called “Big Lunch” was supposed to have been held in Windsor gardens to “build up a database of fundraisers” for future projects – but it was abruptly cancelled at the last-minute due to “unforeseen delays” in establishing the Penarth Town Trust. Later the Town Trust idea appeared to have run into the sand.

Cllr Alexander served as Deputy Town Mayor for the 2016/17 municipal year Cllr Alexander was elected by councillors as Deputy Mayor of Penarth.

Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines). Cllr Rapier squeezed in with 708 votes as the last of 4 Labour members to be elected for St Augustine’s Ward in May 2012 on Penarth Town Council.

An actor by profession, Cllr Rapier found himself immediately thrust into the role of Town Mayor under what was then the new Labour administration in Penarth. It was a role he relished and performed with aplomb.

Cllr Rapier, however, also showed himself to be a rather more free-thinking Labour councillor than most in his party.

Cllr Philip Rapier stood with the Railway Path protestors against the policy of the Labour-controlled Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) set up a public meeting at The Pilot on an “apolitical” basis to rescue Penarth Pavilion Cinema.

Cllr Rapier had no compunction about joining local residents in Plymouth Ward when they protested against the Labour-controlled Vale Council’s contentious plans to strip natural habitat from the Railway Path and pour tarmac onto it.

He also pushed for the Turner House Gallery to come under the control of Penarth Town Council . Without any public debate, his initiative was then taken up by the controlling Labour group which adopted the idea –  elbowing Cllr Rapier out of the picture in the process .

Last month Cllr Rapier led the initiative to take over the closed Pier Pavilion Cinema and run it as a community cinema whilst the Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council stood back and did nothing – despite the fact that council’s Labour Leader Cllr Mike Cuddy is a member of the board of the struggling charity and is there – ostensibly – as the “representative” of the townspeople.

The Labour Party has prevented Cllr Rapier  standing for re-election by ruling that –  from now on –  Labour councillors have to live in their wards – and Cllr Rapier lives just a few feet beyond the border of St Augustine’s.

Cllr Amber Courtney (Labour Stanwell) : Cllr Courtney –  a Unison trade union employee –  came third in the 2012 poll for Penarth Town Council Stanwell Ward with 599 votes. However, during her 5 years as a councillor she amassed one of the worst attendance records on Penarth Town Council. By November 2014 she had failed to show up  at 99 council and committee meetings.

Cllr Amber Courtney (Labour Stanwell) is employed the trade union Unison,.

In May 2015  she was replaced as a governor of  Victoria Primary School, and removed from the Penarth Youth Project Management Committee and Penarth Youth Action.

Cllr Courtney missed so many meetings that in September 2015 the Council was required to trigger an Extraordinary Meeting of Penarth Town Council to consider a formal report by the Town Clerk entitled  “Vacation of Office by Failure to Attend Meetings “. [The law states any councillor who doesn’t turn up at meetings over a period of 6 months shall cease to be a member of the council]. Cllr Courtney however did turn up at that meeting and therefore was spared the ignominy of being thrown off Penarth Town Council under the terms of section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 .

The Mayor of Penarth Cllr Rosemary Cook cuts the red ribbon and cut and Penarth’s newest retailer – Glass By Design is officially opened to the delight of business partners Angelina Hall and Cathy O’Doherty

Cllr Rosemary Cook (Labour St Augustines) : Cllr Rosemary Cook was elected in May 2012 to Penarth Town Council as the third of 5 councillors representing St Augustine’s Ward  and was elected with  793 votes.- outperforming the Leader of the Council – Cllr Mike Cuddy.

There was controversy in her settling-in period  when she appeared to express doubts about naming a new Penarth Heights street “Gibson Way” [after the Dambusters hero Wing Cdr Guy Gibson who lived briefly in Penarth and married a local girl] and when her Facebook entry proclaimed that she lived in Italy [an entry later withdrawn]. 

However when she was elected Mayor of Penarth, Cllr Cook’s open manner and ebullient personality undoubtedly made her one of the most popular Town Mayors Penarth has ever had.

As Mayor Cllr Cook – a music teacher by profession – not only organised a highly successful charity concert in the Paget Rooms which raised over £1,000 – but provided the piano accompaniment for the participating artistes. Few Penarth Mayors have ever pulled out so many stops .

  One of Cllr Cook’s nominated charities as Mayor was the “Forget Me Not Chorus”  which aims to support people with the condition and their carers through weekly singing sessions.

As Mayor Cllr Cook conscientiously attended every one of dozens of official functions during her term of office and it was sheer bad luck that the weather wiped out the 2015 Christmas Festival at which she was to have officiated. It might have been a memorable occasion.

Cllr Maureen Kelly-Owen (Conservative Plymouth Ward) questioning Cllr Lis Burnett about the Vale Council’s lack-lustre performance in protecting buildings in the Conservation Area

Cllr Maureen Kelly-Owen (Conservative  Plymouth Ward)  Bowing out from the Vale of Glamorgan Council is Cllr Maureen Kelly-Owen who is stepping down because of ill-health.

She has also served on Penarth Town Council in previous administrations,  was Mayor of Penarth in the municipal year 2008-2009 and was to have been Vale Mayor for 2010/2011 but withdrew her name because of a pending hip operation.

In the 2012 elections Cllr Kelly Owen was joint top of the poll with her Conservative colleague Cllr Clive Williams in Plymouth Ward for the Vale of Glamorgan Council – with both candidates receiving 939 votes. She served on the Vale of Glamorgan ‘s committees on Early Retirement/Redundancy  Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny and  Equalities Consultative Forum and also sat on a number of school governing bodies

On the  Vale of Glamorgan planning committee she was one of the few members to be a  qualified architect in her own right and in her council roles has been a strong defender of the Penarth Conservation Area. She warned the Labour administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council this year that the Conservation Area was at “serious and imminent risk of being utterly devalued and lost to present and future generations” .

The Vale of Glamorgan Council relished demolishing the multi-storey car park built by Penarth Urban District Council . If they had left it alone there would have been no parking problem on the sea front.

Sometimes however, she found her views were out of kilter with prevailing opinion.  She opposed the “driftwood” sign for the Shore shop on Penarth Esplanade, but – its understood – did not oppose the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s unwarranted demolition of the Penarth Esplanade multi-storey car park in the 1990s – an edifice which would now be of considerable benefit to the sea front.




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  1. Sarah says:

    All those women had enough of the boys’ club?
    It’s never going to be broken up at this rate.

    • Sarah JBW says:

      Perhaps it is time for many of them to enjoy other aspects of their lives. Janice Birch has served for a very long time. She was chair of Victoria Governors for a long time and never missed any meetings. I thought she was very committed. When there were terrible proposals about the twinkling weather station, I found Coun Birch very open and approachable as the person who had some initial involvement with it. This was in great contrast to the input from others.

      I’ve never met Councillor Rapier, but he seems to be a person again who has put principles first and I have to admire that. Neighbours report that he responds to emails and fights for things that are important, even when he is on his own. I wish we had other councillors who were prepared to put the people they represent first….

      If any potential councillors for St Augustine’s are interested, I’ve put together a job description for what I’m looking for in someone who is elected to represent me. People who want to put their own political ambitions first, put council officers first, or put political party first need not apply.

      (I normally sign as Sarah, but I’m putting my other initials so that our comments are not attributed to each other)

  2. Philip Rapier says:

    “-Cowards flinch and traitors sneer we’ll, keep the Red Flag flying here”
    My son Ben Rapier has been elected a Labour Councillor in Pontypool unopposed. Please forgive me for being incredibly proud of him. Both of us proud to be Trade Unionists son Ben who was the key figure in saving the Newport Passport Office from closure is now a Labour Councillor and and the youngest ever Hon. Life Member of the PCS Union — we marched together down Commercial Street– so fear not the legend will live on and the work on the Residents Pier and Cinema Campaign will continue to a successful conclusion.

    Trust me I never- ever -give up on such matters.

    Enough of my vanity and I hope self deprecating humour.
    . Unlike some in the Vale I have always seen that my first duty and loyalty is to the First Minister Carwyn Jones the Wales Labour Party Leader in the Assembly. That remains the same.
    There are some who regard Community Councils as a nuisance and a mere ” answering service” for the Vale but not me.
    Why am I not a candidate for St Augustines as I desperately wished to continue be of service to the Residents?
    This “spurious” residential-“made up”-unconstitutional rule was not applied to Labour Vale Council Candidates. I have no time for a Rule Book challenge as I am far too busy with the Pier as a priority
    As for the Pier Cinema-thank you to the team of Legal, Accountancy, Business and Local Arts experts who have come forward to form a Shadow Board of Trustees in Waiting of the proposed Community Cinema. I am confident the future of the Pier will soon be in the hands of the People of Penarth.
    A sincere thank you PDN for all the coverage. -Whatever your editorial policy.-
    As my literary hero the great left wing 20TH cent. Welsh Author Caradoc Evans said to the -Western Mail in 1936 ” I admire and share your passion for free speech and the truth, however much I may disagree with you ”
    PDN Contributors- please keep up the flak coming my way. I can take it and will not “flinch”

  3. says:

    I have known and worked with Cllr Janice Birch for over 30 years on both Town and Vale councils.
    Janice and I both served on Social services committees which were often very stressful and we shared our concerns and values on many Issues. Proving there should be no politics at this level., and that there is respect and friendship within and outside the council. I thank Janice personally for all her support in the past and I know our friendship will continue in the future. . Enjoy your well earned rest from the council and be assured you are respected cross party by all who know you. I am there for you and your family at all times

  4. Arthur King says:

    So the Labour party held a special meeting to ‘save ‘ Cllr Courtney. What an abuse of the system to save someone who didn’t attend meetings.

  5. AK says:

    Phillip Rapier ‘

    “Unlike some in the Vale I have always seen that my first duty and loyalty is to the First Minister Carwyn Jones the Wales Labour Party Leader in the Assembly. That remains the same”

    There is your first mistake. Your first duty and loyalty should be to your constituents, irrespective of their party support. I want clean streets, smooth roads, nice parks, an end to traffic jams and my bins emptied on time – I couldn’t care if you are the Monster Raving Loony party if you can deliver those.

  6. Reblogged this on Page1world and commented:
    Why can’t we rebuild the car park in the same location to solve the parking problem. Design concepts are available or we could put it into the professional arena and run a competition for national architectural practises to submit concepts sympathetic to the environment and seafront and talk to private operators for management ?

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