Posted: Tue 14th May 2024

Five Flintshire Labour councillors defect over misleading claims

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales


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Five Labour councillors in Flintshire have left the party after a cabinet member was accused of misleading backbenchers.

The shock move was announced by Penyffordd councillor Alasdair Ibbotson [pictured above] at today’s AGM of Flintshire Council at County Hall in Mold.

The chair of the local authority’s climate change committee was joined by Cllrs Sam Swash, Dan Rose, Gillian Brockley and Carolyn Preece in crossing the floor to form a new independent group.

It came after Cllr Ibbotson accused an unnamed senior figure in the Labour administration of misleading members of a committee.

He said the male cabinet member had failed to correct the record on the issue and dismissed calls to resign from his role.

He also claimed Labour backbenchers had been ignored after raising concerns on several controversial matters, including the council’s Local Development Plan and the future running of leisure services in Flintshire.

Speaking as councillors were preparing to elect a leader for the next 12 months, he said: “One can get away with quite a lot in politics, but it’s a hard and fast rule, whether in Parliament, the Senedd or council chamber that one does not lie to or mislead the chamber and one does not lie to or mislead a committee.

“Where such a thing occurs, there is a strong principle and convention in this country that where a cabinet member or minister does the same, they must resign from that position.

“These are issues of fundamental honour. Unfortunately, earlier this year, a cabinet member, and it could be accidentally or inadvertently, misled a committee. He has chosen not to correct the record and not to stand down.

“The reason this convention exists is that councillors can only have faith in what they’re told by those in leadership positions when there are consequences where wrong information is provided.”

He added: “That leaves me in a very difficult position between doing what my conscience tells me what is right and standing by my party, a party which I have a great many friends in.

“It is a great personal dilemma for me, and I have come to the only conclusion I can that I cannot vote in such a way as to allow that cabinet member to continue in post.”
The split leaves Labour with 27 councillors, compared to 32 previously, on the 67-member council.

While it weakens the party’s hold on the local authority, incumbent Labour council leader Ian Roberts saw off a challenge from three other nominees later in the meeting.
It came after he received the backing of another small independent group of councillors and two Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Ibbotson said he was aware he would face “personal consequences” for his decision to cross the floor and it had “weighed heavily” on him.

He expressed his respect for Cllr Roberts, but said he and his four colleagues were unhappy at not being listened to.

He said: “For too long, Labour members have felt on the receiving end of an attitude that they are there to be seen and not heard.

“Constructive engagement on a number of issues, including the Local Development Plan, the budget, the Aura contract and fleet contract, have been brushed aside.

“It is my firm belief that this cannot continue and when the views of backbenchers are ignored and the views of residents are also ignored, there must be a better way to work.”
The new group of former Labour members later put Cllr Preece forward to contest the leadership against Cllr Roberts.

Cllr Richard Jones, the leader of Flintshire’s largest independent group, and Liberal Democrat leader Andrew Parkhurst were also nominated.

Cllr Roberts won the most votes with 33, followed by Cllr Jones (25), Cllr Preece (5) and Cllr Parkhurst (2).

As well as Labour councillors, Cllr Roberts’s nomination was supported by members of the Eagle independent group and Liberal Democrats Mared Eastwood and Hilary McGuill.

Cllr Eastwood is the current cabinet member for education on the administration.

Speaking after being re-elected, Cllr Roberts thanked both those who supported him and those who stood against him.

He said: “We know the council faces extremely challenging times and we have to deal with unexpected events that come along.

“I would thank everyone who has supported me, and I would also thank those who have taken part in the democratic process.

“This shouldn’t be an anointment and a coronation – it should be a political debate.”

The holders of most cabinet roles in Flintshire will remain the same following the AGM.

The only change saw Cllr Billy Mullin step down as cabinet member for governance and corporate services, to be replaced by Cllr Linda Thomas.

Buckley councillor Dennis Hutchinson (Ind) was elected as chair of the council earlier in the meeting , replacing Labour’s Gladys Healey, while Cllr Mel Buckley (Lab) became vice-chair.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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