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:-
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.
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 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.
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 .
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.
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) 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” .
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.