Plans for a new ‘all-through’ 3-16 school in the Pontardawe area sparked a furious war of words between the leader of Neath Port Talbot Council and one of the local ward councillors on Wednesday.

The proposals which involve Cwmtawe Comprehensive and four existing primary schools – Alltwen, Llangiwg, Rhydyfro and Godre’rgraig – form part of a school modernisation programme.

Business cases, drawn up by officers at the council, have been agreed in principle by the Welsh Government.

It involves a £67m programme of new builds.

If approved and it would see some schools being closed and merged into one.

At Wednesday’s cabinet scrutiny committee meeting the Plaid Cymru leader Councillor Alun Llewellyn asked whether there would be a meaningful consultation before any financial decisions were made.

The Labour council leader Rob Jones said: “I have got a funny feeling the nationalists are gearing up to oppose the programme. It’s a business case that was put forward and has been accepted in principle by Welsh Government.

“It will be the same process as the previous scheme where £123 million has been invested in new schools in the county.

“A proper consultation process will take place at the relevant milestones.

“Whether Plaid Cymru oppose that because it’s in their own backyard or not, the full consultation process will take place.”

Pontardawe ward councillor Linet Purcell (Plaid Cymru) asked: “Did the leader just say the nationalists are gearing up to oppose the scheme? What a ridiculous, inflammatory comment. How on earth can you say that as leader of the council when we haven’t even begun the consultation yet.

“You have no idea what each individual councillor is thinking – this is supposed to be a democracy where we discuss, debate and decide.

“If the leader is making those comments we may as well give up now.”

She asked Councillor Jones to withdraw the comment but he refused.

He said:  “When the schools were announced at a cabinet meeting, the lady failed to declare a personal interest as she volunteers in one of the schools, and said the community would fight to keep that school open.

“You publicly declared that – don’t tell me now you’ve changed your mind.”