Joint Committee

The Joint Committee is made up of the six Local Authority leaders and is advised by the Executive Board of Directors, external school improvement experts, Headteacher representatives and the Managing Director.

Cllr Alun Thomas OBE

Leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council

Cllr Alun Thomas OBE

Leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council since May 2009.

He was born and brought up in Onllwyn where he lived and worked for most of his life.  A former miner and involved in voluntary work since he was 14 years of age, serving as a junior committee member at the local YMCA.  He served as a committee member of both Pantyffordd Village Hall and Onllwyn Miners Welfare Hall, where he was General Secretary for 18 years, standing down in December 1992 after serving for over 30 years, and was a founder member of Onllwyn Male Voice Choir and is now a life member.  He became a member of Onllwyn Community Council in 1985 and is now their internal auditor and projects advisor.  He also chaired this Council on several occasions.  In 1993 he won a West Glamorgan County Council seat in a by-election representing the Dulais Valley.

He became the Vice Chairman of the National Anti-Poverty Forum and Chair of the Policy Committee at its inaugural meeting.  When Local Government reorganisation took place in 1996 he held various positions before becoming Chair of the Planning Committee and in 2004 Deputy Leader of the Council.

He is Chairman of the Onllwyn Labour Party Ward, a position he has held since 1985, and has formerly held the office of President of the Neath Constituency Labour Party. He is also a former whip and chair of the Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council Labour Group and is well known throughout the National Labour movement in Britain.  He has, for many years, also represented Neath Port Talbot Council on the LGA, WLGA, currently Deputy Leader and Spokesperson for Education, Coalfield Communities Campaign (now the Alliance), and is a committed supporter of all cultural and sporting organisations in the communities he represents.

His outside interests include Rugby, Football (the Swans, of course!), music and entertainment, and voluntary work, including the Dulais Valley Community Transport Scheme.

In 2012 he was awarded Local Politician of the Year 2011 at a ceremony in Cardiff. In 2014 he was awarded the OBE for Services to Local Government in Wales and in January 2015 received an Honorary Doctorate from Swansea University.

Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn

Leader of Ceredigion County Council

Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn is the first woman to lead Ceredigion County Council and has been Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group on the Council since 2006.

Born in Scotland and brought up in Borth-y-gest near Porthmadog, Ellen ap Gwynn has been a County Councillor for the Ceulanamaesmawr ward in the north of the County and a Community Councillor for 14 years. She holds the WLGA Equalities and Ageing Well portfolio, is Chairman of the Local Service Board and past Chairman of the Aberystwyth Strategic Regeneration Board.

A past National Chair of Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales, she stood for parliament in the Montgomeryshire constituency in 2005.

She is a past Chairman of the Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin and Wales Association of the Performing Arts.

She worked professionally in arts management and is a founder of Cwmni Theatr Arad Goch.  She also served as Director of CYD and General Manager of Radio Ceredigion.

A past member of the Arts Council of Wales, she had a leadership role in establishing the National Theatre of Wales and was Chair of Arts Training Wales. She is a past member of the boards of eco-dyfi, Tai Ceredigion and the Council of Aberystwyth University, from where she graduated and gained a postgraduate certificate in education. 

Councillor ap Gwynn was recently appointed Vice-Chair of ERW (Education through Regional Working) - the Regional Board for Education Improvement.

She has also served as a Governor of Coleg Ceredigion and still serves on both the Talybont Community Primary School and Llangynfelyn Community Primary School Boards of Governors.  She is also a member of the Ceredigion 14-19 Strategic Education Board.

Cllr Barry Thomas

Leader of Powys County Council

Cllr Barry Thomas

Cllr Thomas represents the ward of Llangyniew near Welshpool and is the Leader of the Non-Political Group.

He was elected Leader of Powys County Council in January 2014.

A member of the shadow Powys County Council unitary authority from 1995, Cllr Thomas attended the first ever meeting of the county council following local government reorganisation in 1996 and has been a member ever since.

During his time on the county council he has held a number of senior positions including being Board Member for Highways and Waste Management for two years, he was also Chairman of Powys County Council in 2011/12.  Cllr Thomas was also Chairman of Montgomeryshire and also the Chairman of the Highways Committee for seven years and the Chairman of the Rights of Way Committee at the time Foot and Mouth hit the county.


Cllr Jamie Adams

Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council

Cllr Jamie Adams

The Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Councillor Jamie Adams, is an organic dairy farmer at Keeston, near Haverfordwest.

He was elected to the County Council to represent Camrose in 2004 and was appointed a Deputy Cabinet Member with a portfolio for Sport, Leisure, Tourism and Culture.

He was appointed a full Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation in 2007 becoming Deputy Leader of the Authority the following year when his brief became Highways and Planning.

Pembrokeshire-born, Councillor Adams was a prominent member of the Young Farmers’ Clubs organisation and won several national public speaking events,

He was also Chairman of the Wales YFC Rural Committee and represented the YFCs of England and Wales at a European level.



Cllr Emlyn Dole

Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council

Cllr Emlyn Dole

Emlyn became Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council in May 2015.  He was first elected on to the Council in 2008 and represents the Llannon Ward. He was elected Leader of the Plaid Cymru Group in  2014.  He is chair of the Council’s Executive Board and sits on a range of key strategic groups in Carmarthenshire and  is a member of the Swansea Bay City Region Board.


Emlyn has a Bachelor’s degree in Divinity and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Trinity St. David’s University.  He lives in the Gwendraeth Valley,  is married to the popular Welsh singer, Gwenda and has three sons.

He is a talented musician and part time minister to three chapels.  His interests include sport, writing,  reading and travel.  He is a fluent Welsh speaker.

Cllr Rob Stewart

Leader of Swansea City Council

Cllr Rob Stewart

Rob has lived in Swansea all his life and was educated at Morriston Comprehensive before going on to study at Tycoch College and Swansea University. 

Rob is currently a Labour Councillor representing Morriston Ward, a ward he has represented since 2003. 

Following the local elections in 2012, Rob was appointed as Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources in the new Labour administration, before becoming Leader of the Council in September 2014.

Rob has significant experience working in national and regional government, primarily in the last 10 years as a Programme and Project Manager for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency where he led the redesign of the new UK Driving Licence.

Rob is a keen rugby supporter and season ticket holder at the Liberty Stadium where he avidly supports the Ospreys rugby team.  Rob is also a keen musician and plays a number of instruments including piano, keyboard and organ.


Cllr Jennifer Raynor

Cabinet Member for Education

Cllr Jennifer Raynor

Jennifer Raynor was elected as Labour Party member for Dunvant Ward, Swansea in 2012. 

Councillor Raynor has served as Convenor of the Schools Performance Scrutiny Panel, member of Children’s and Family Services Scrutiny Panel, member of the Wellbeing Performance Panel and member of the Looked After Children Inquiry Panel. 

Councillor Raynor has also been a member of the Audit Committee and Chair of the Rights of Way and Commons Sub-Committee.

Councillor Raynor has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and post-graduate teaching qualification.  She has taught in tertiary and secondary schools and worked as a youth worker. 

Councillor Raynor has also been employed on numerous research projects from teaching maths to social care and youth justice.

Councillor Raynor was appointed Cabinet Member for Education in September 2014.

Mark James

ERW Lead Chief Executive

Mark James

Mark James was born in Merthyr Tydfil.  He has over 35 years experience in Local Government and has worked at the heart of Government in Westminster, when he represented the 33 London Boroughs to Government.  He also worked for the City of Westminster and the London Borough of Barnet before moving to Boston in Lincolnshire where he became Chief Executive.

Mark has a reputation of turning round large organisations and delivering highly successful regeneration schemes.  These have included two sports stadia, athletic tracks, swimming pools, shopping centres, office developments, multiplex cinemas, theatres and conference centres to name a few.

Mark has an honours degree and masters degree in law, together with a postgraduate diploma in public administration.  He is a keen sportsman and still trains regularly and even competes occasionally.

In 2007, Mark won the accolade of “Welsh Public Sector Leader of the Year”.  Under his direction, Carmarthenshire has become one of the best performing and most highly regarded Councils in Wales.

With 9,500 staff, an annual turnover of £570M a year and a huge capital programme of nearly £100M a year the Council is very big business.  The £330M schools investment programme has seen many new schools built in Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford. 

The £240M housing programme has seen hundreds of local people employed to bring the Council’s  9,000 houses up to modern standards and the 5 year regeneration and leisure programme has seen huge investment in business, sports and leisure across the County of Carmarthenshire.  

Mark is involved in a number of National Boards, including the 21st Century Schools Board.  He is the National Lead on Education in Wales for Solace and is also Regional Lead Chief Executive for School Improvement in the South West and Mid Wales, advising the Regional Consortia Joint Committee.  Mark is also a non-executive Director of the Welsh Government.

In 2012 New Year’s Honours, Mark was awarded the CBE by Her Majesty, the Queen, in recognition of his services to local government.


Aled Evans

ERW Lead Director

Aled Evans

Aled was appointed Director of Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning at Neath Port Talbot local authority in May 2013. He was previously an Assistant Director with responsibility for school improvement, lifelong learning and inclusion. Aled is a fluent Welsh speaker. 

He has worked in Neath Port Talbot since 2000 having previously been a head teacher of two primary schools in West Wales. He has worked for Estyn as a registered inspector within the primary sector and as a peer inspector within the local authority sector. 

In 2011, he was seconded to work on a part time basis with Welsh Government to support the development of the School Standards Unit. During this period the national school banding model was established. He also supported improvement in education services at Blaenau Gwent Borough Council, assuming the Director of Recovery role for six months. 

He is currently a member of Welsh Government’s Welsh 2nd Language Advisory Group. 

Betsan O'Connor

ERW Managing Director

Betsan O'Connor

Betsan was appointed as the first Managing Director of ERW in May 2014. Betsan has come to the ERW region from Estyn via a secondment with the Welsh Government.

As HMI for 9 years Betsan worked primarily in the field of Local Authority inspections but has also worked across the range of Estyn’s responsibilities in inspecting FE, WBL, secure estate, careers and Youth support services.

In 2010-11, Betsan was successfully appointed on secondment as the first Strategic Manager for the Joint Inspectorate Programme – a partnership between Estyn, The Wales Audit Office, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales and Health Inspectorate Wales.

As Manager of Local Authority Intervention and Support in Welsh Government, Betsan’s role focussed on providing support and building capacity in local authorities and regional consortia. Specifically, Betsan was responsible for developing an approach to supporting local authorities in need of external intervention.

Key responsibilities and professional interests include strategic planning; improvement strategies; and programme management. In her new role as Managing Director Betsan will be instrumental in driving the regional strategy forward.



Local Authorites Swansea-Abertawe Neath Port Talbot - Castell Nedd Port-Talbot Ceredigion Carmarthenshire - Sir Gaerfyrddin Pembrokeshire-Sir Benfro Powys

ERW is an alliance of 6 local authorities governed by a legally constituted joint committee. Its aim is to implement the agreed regional strategy and business plan to support school improvement.