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Home / Latest News / Is Cardiff council’s cabinet reshuffle an ‘olive branch’ that will heal division, or will it bring new cracks?

Is Cardiff council’s cabinet reshuffle an ‘olive branch’ that will heal division, or will it bring new cracks?

There are always winners and losers in a cabinet reshuffle.

And on the face of it, there were three winners and one loser at County Hall on Monday night when the leader of Cardiff council announced her new-look cabinet.

In came Siobhan Corria, Ramesh Patel and Graham Hinchey and out went Richard Cook, who lost his job after 14 months in charge of children’s services. 

The three newcomers now have a seat at the top table, which brings with it power and an increased profile, not to mention a pay rise.

But the reality of politics, especially within the Labour party in Cardiff, is that the ramifications of Coun Joyce’s selections spread far and wide.

WalesOnline readers will be aware of the deep divide between the 46 councillors that make up the Labour group which runs the council.

Until this week, they were pretty much split into two factions, one backing Coun Joyce’s leadership and the other growing ever-more disillusioned – particularly at a lack of involvement in decision-making.

This most political of reshuffles has blurred the lines along which that split ran – but may have caused cracks to appear elsewhere in the group.

Two months ago, Coun Joyce survived a leadership challenge when she held on to her £52,000 job by just a single vote, following heavy lobbying by her backers.

A few weeks later, the resignation of Splott councillor Luke Holland from his post as cabinet member for adult services presented Coun Joyce and her close allies an opportunity to make changes.

The question was whether they would seek to heal the rift by bringing in those Labour councillors who just weeks earlier had plotted against her – or reward their loyal supporters?

In what would on the face of it appear a shrewd political move, she has handed cabinet posts to two of her administration’s strongest critics – councillors Corria and Patel.

As the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

The other cabinet newcomer, Coun Hinchey, described the reshuffle as an “olive branch” from the leader which had been accepted by the group.

But it hasn’t been accepted by everyone – the anger among those councillors considered “rebels” has simply shifted to others who now feel betrayed.

Coun Corria takes over children’s services from Canton’s Richard Cook, who came under pressure from parents and trade unions over his handling of the council’s Child Health and Disability team.

As a former children’s services worker, Coun Corria will be expected to hit the ground running in her new role, while Coun Patel has the unenviable task of running leisure services that are at the front of the line for budget cuts.

Coun Cook, for his part, says he was the casualty of Coun Joyce caving in to pressure from Cardiff’s Labour Assembly Members to unify the group.

That might be so, but it does not explain the one change to the cabinet that has left many baffled – Coun Joyce’s decision to shift her deputy, Ralph Cook, sideways.

Coun Cook has spent the past year driving forward the creation of Cardiff’s Local Development Plan (LDP), a blueprint for the city’s growth up to 2026.

As cabinet member for strategic planning and transport, he was responsible for mapping out where Cardiff’s houses would be built in the future and planning how we would all get around.

While there are many in the city’s north and west who weren’t happy with the prospect of housing estates rising up on greenfields, there was no doubting he was on top of his brief.

And now, just weeks before the LDP deposit plan is presented to the council, he has been pulled off it and replaced by Huw Thomas, who was elected for the first time last year.

Coun Cook has instead been given a newly created role which doesn’t yet have a title, but includes “exploring new methods of service delivery”, human resources and trade union relations.

There’s no doubting that the biggest challenge facing the council is trying to protect public services in the face of Government cuts. But Coun Cook appears to have been asked to tackle this challenge without any real powers.

Instead, the most important portfolio of all, cabinet member for finance, the person responsible for balancing the books, remains with the most experienced figure in Welsh local government politics, Russell Goodway.

Which begs the question, who was the real winner in all of this?

 

 

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