I should begin by declaring that I have never believed the county of Powys to be a sustainable creature. It is too geographically large to deliver services and has too small of a population to deliver strategic vision. This is not a criticism of those who try to make 'Powys' work, but repetition of a long held view that the job can't be done. We've already seen areas of health care being hived off from Powys to other regions. Today has demonstrated the reality in spades with changes to delivery of further education..
Powys College and Neath Port Talbot College have announced today that they are to 'merge' next year. This is a very big deal, which will not be much of a 'Welsh' story - because its mid Wales. We only make the news if its a quirky story or its destruction by wind farms. Today's announcement is being portrayed as a 'merger' and I accept it may well be being approached in this spirit. But when one partner in a 'merger' is dominant in terms of size, it usually works out as more of a 'takeover'.
Should make clear that I'm not criticising what's happening. Since Powys Council decided to retain it's sixth forms (correctly) the writing was on the wall for Coleg Powys. Falling rolls means that its not sustainable to deliver further education on a discrete Powys basis. Had no idea what sort of arrangement would emerge, but knew something would have to happen. This is it. And no reason to think there's a better deal on the table anywhere else.
Of course it will be sold as much greater capacity to deliver range of courses and greater investment. But I've been around too long to take things as they might seem. OK, Brecon marches well with Neath Port Talbot - but Montgomeryshire....... We have more in common with North Wales. And I fully expect to see more students heading over the border to Shropshire. And why not I ask myself! After all, what matters is the student experience. I wish the 'merger' well, and hope it delivers. But Powys Council's Education Cabinet Member will have to keep a very close eye on things.