NO byelection will be held following Senedd member James Evans' decision to step down from his role as a county councillor.

The Conservative MS announced his resignation as a member of Powys County Council at the end of December.

Mr Evans became a Member of the Senedd for Brecon and Radnorshire last May and says that since assuming his new role he has found it difficult to balance it with his role as the councillor for the Gwernyfed ward, between Brecon and Hay-on-Wye.

Ordinarily, a councillor’s resignation would ignite a political frenzy to replace them, but the local authority has announced Mr Evans will not be replaced until the next county council elections coming up in May.

His decision to stand down, and the resignation from the Conservative group of another councillor over the future of small schools, means the Liberal Democrats are now the largest political party on the council with 14 members.

The Conservatives, due to defections and resignations, have 13 but remain in joint control of the council in a coalition with the largest independent group.

READ MORE: James Evans quits Powys council to concentrate on Senedd

Councillors neighbouring the Gwernyfed ward will be asked to assist with any matters emanating from the ward over the next four months.

A council spokesman said the 1972 Local Government Act says a byelection won't be held if a vacany is within six months of the scheduled council elections.

Following the last round of council elections in 2017, this year’s elections are set to take place on May 5.

“The seat will therefore remain vacant until the election in May and neighbouring councillors will be asked to assist with any ward work until the election,” added the spokesman.

Mr Evans had cited the local authority’s pursuit of closing small rural schools in the county as a major factor in his resignation – he had been Gwernyfed councillor since 2017.

Previously a Liberal Democrat stronghold, Mr Evans won the Brecon and Radnorshire Senedd seat long held by Kirsty Williams with a majority of 3,820 votes over Lib Dem opponent William Powell.

Ms Williams, who announced she would be stepping down ahead of last year’s Senedd elections having first obtained the seat in 1999, had retained her seat at the previous election by 8,170 votes, with the Welsh Conservatives winning the Brecon and Radnorshire seat for the first time.

Mr Evans, previously a council cabinet member, relinquished that role in October 2020, and soon after it was announced he would be running for the Senedd.

But since beating Mr Powell, he says he has found it difficult balancing both roles. His increasing presence in Cardiff Bay has led to falling attendance at council meetings in Powys, while he says he does not support the council’s continued closure of primary schools – even though the council’s cabinet is governed by a coalition of Mr Evans’ own Conservative party and independent councillors.

He, and the constituency's Conservative MP Fay Jones, had publicly backed Cllr Iain McIntosh who quit the cabinet and, the Conservative group, claiming he didn't recognise the closure of a school in his ward as a "Conservative party or group decision". 

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Cllr James Gibson-Watt leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Powys council questioned why Conservatives are now questioning the schools programme agreed in cabinet with the independents. 

He said: “Despite attempts by Cllr McIntosh and James Evans to distance themselves from the poor decision making of the cabinet and ruling group, their resignations only open up more questions. If they were that unhappy over the direction of the education programme why has it taken them this long to say so?” 

Mr announced his resignation as Gwernyfed’s representative in a letter sent out to his constituents over the Christmas period.

“Since the election, I have found it to be a difficult balancing act between attending meetings in Cardiff and in Powys, causing my attendance at Powys meetings to fall,” he said.

“The current direction of the council in closing small rural schools is something I personally cannot support.

“In light of the above I have decided to take one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make and tender my resignation as county councillor for the Gwernyfed Ward from Powys County Council.”

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