Pembrokeshire’s new Cabinet, under new council leader Jon Harvey, is a “kick in the face” for Welsh speakers, and is now independent “in name only,” opposition members have said.

At the May 10 annual meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, Pembroke St Mary North member Cllr Harvey beat fellow leadership hopeful Conservative group leader Di Clements by 30 votes to 27, following former leader David Simpson announcing he was to step down after seven years in the top job.

Cllr Harvey yesterday, May 14, announced his new Cabinet, with two councillors Joshua Beynon and Jacob Williams joining the Cabinet for the first time, the former replacing Cllr Alec Cormack, who has stepped down as Cabinet member for Corporate Finance.

Welsh Conservative group members responded to the new cabinet.

St Florence councillor Rhys Jordan said: “Jon Harvey promised change when he became leader, yet here we are with the same council tax-raising Cabinet as we saw previously.”

“Increasing the number of Labour Cabinet members shows already that the Leader was not serious about working cross-party and is more interested in keeping the Deputy Leader [Cllr Paul Miller] happy.”

Cllr Aled Thomas, the group's business manager and one of the authority’s member champions for the Welsh language described the Cabinet as “yet another kick in the face for Welsh speakers across the county as well as a lack of representation for residents in the north of the county”.

“Cllr Jon Harvey is showing his utter contempt for the Welsh Language by not appointing any Welsh-speaking Cabinet Members, just as the previous leader Cllr David Simpson failed to do.”

New Independent Group leader, Cllr Huw Murphy said the new Cabinet was “now more South Pembrokeshire-centric than of his predecessor, with no Welsh speakers and only two Cabinet members north of East Williamston”.

“It's regrettable that prior to forming his Cabinet the newly-elected Leader did not reach out to the largest political group, but entirely expected. Cllr Harvey failed to gain the support of the majority of members on May 10 which is an inauspicious start, and he will have severe challenges passing policies at full council if genuine collaboration is not made. Cllr Harvey needs to understand that collaboration is not a one-way street, and his new Cabinet continues the divide of his predecessor.”

He described Cllr Jacob Williams’ appointment as “probably the worst kept secret in County Hall,” warning the blogger and unaffiliated councillor may face “some difficulties now that his new Cabinet post carries with it collective responsibility and the acceptance of taking instruction from a Labour Deputy Leader and no doubt on occasions having to accept Cabinet decisions made by other Labour Cllrs as well as Cllr Sinnett from Plaid Cymru”.

He paid tribute to Cllr Cormack’s departure from Cabinet, saying: “The departure of Cllr Cormack was unexpected, and it has to be the consequence of the 2023/24 budget when Cllr Miller was forced to present an amendment to fend off a rebellion from ruling group Cllrs to avoid inevitable defeat with regards to a Cabinet recommended rise of 16 per cent.

“Cllr Cormack is viewed as a thoroughly decent person across the Chamber and his calm and measured conduct will be missed and he appears to be the victim of the previous administration's failure to pass the budget they themselves recommended.”

He said Cllr Beynon, as Cllr Cormack’s replacement “will face huge pressures in dealing with the financial crisis Pembrokeshire finds itself in and in time presenting a budget to full council next March in the knowledge that the diplomacy of his predecessor failed to garner sufficient support to approve a 16 per cent council tax rise this year”.

He added: “The Independent Group is now the only group of councillors within PCC that are independent and free of political party influence. The stark reality is that unaffiliated councillors have allowed a Cabinet to be formed comprised of many Labour and Plaid councillors, who represent 12 out of 60 wards in Pembrokeshire with only five unaffiliated/independent councillors in Cabinet from 35 elected independent county councillors. Therefore, the claim by unaffiliated councillors of being truly independent is a myth.”

Referring to a statement he made upon recently becoming leader of his group, Cllr Murphy said: “The Independent Group as made clear [we] will be a critical friend of the new administration and are already doing do by highlighting an increasingly strong Labour influence over an administration which now appears to be independent in name only.”

Responding, Leader Cllr Jon Harvey said: “I have already invited the leaders of the Independent Political Group and Conservative Group to meet with me prior to these statements coming out and look forward to working constructively with all councillors."