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Controversy as Council chairman re-elected

 
Created on 13/05/2021 @ 15:21

 

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillor Gwynfor Thomas will continue as Powys County Council’s chairman for the next year, despite an opposition name being put forward. 

This will mean that Cllr Thomas (Llansantffraid – Conservative), who was first appointed to the role in November 2020, will serve 18 months, which is the same as his predecessor Cllr Beverley Baynham (Presteigne – Independent) due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At today's annual meeting, what should have been a straightforward rubber-stamping of the chairman, vice-chairman and assistant vice-chairman all chosen in November to continue for the next year, fell into chaos and recriminations.

Cllr Thomas had already been nominated to stay in the role when Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe, the vice-chairman, was nominated to move on up and become the chairman.

Cllr Phyl Davies (Blaen Hafren – Conservative) was “horrified” at the move and said: “I can’t actually quite believe what I’m hearing. I’m horrified. The civic role of chair is something that’s held in high esteem, an honour to hold, for many years it’s been shared between the shires.

“Cllr Gwynfor has done a sterling job over the last six months and due to the pandemic has not held a civic reception. This is about decency.”

He wanted the nomination of Cllr Ratcliffe turned down and believed that those involved should be “ashamed of themselves”.

Cllr David Meredith (Brecon St David Within – Labour) brought up a point of order, which concerned how Cllr Thomas had been appointed to the role last November for an “ensuing” civic year.

As that decision had not been changed, he wondered if the standing orders needed to be suspended to allow the process to continue?

Head of Legal and Democratic Services, Clive Pinney, explained that a meeting of the group leaders on November 17 had discussed and agreed the process for the chairman’s role.

This would allow a handover from Cllrs Baynham to Thomas to be made at the annual meeting which was held in November due to Covid-19.

Cllr Meredith said: “It should have been recorded properly in the minutes, that is not the case, we need to suspend the standing orders if Cllr Gwynfor’s name comes forward.”

Cllr James Gibson-Watt (Glasbury), leader of the Liberal Democrat and Green group, said: “The expectation was to allow Cllr Gwynfor to continue in the role for a further 12 months or that it should pass to the vice-chair as would normally be the case.

“This is normally a straightforward process, but we are in unusual circumstances, we all agreed it was right to give the councillors a choice on which direction to go in.

“This is not about politics, it’s about procedure and getting back to the normal way of working.”

Cllr Ratcliffe (Hay – Liberal Democrat) felt he was being made a “political pawn” and had been put in an “awkward position” given the constitutional issue.

He said: “There is a moral issue here, I have been approached to not allow my name to go forward, which is undemocratic. The constitution is here for a reason and we must uphold it, our public look at us to follow the rules.”

A vote to suspend the standing orders took place and it was agreed by 43 votes to 23 with two abstentions to suspend them.

This then allowed a vote to take place between Cllrs Thomas and Ratcliffe.

Cllr Thomas received 40 votes and Cllr Ratcliffe 27, with one abstention and said: “Thank you for your support and re-electing me.”

 

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