Rival politicians trade blows in last meeting ahead of local election
Rival politicians in Flintshire have traded blows during their last meeting before May’s local election.
A row broke out at a Flintshire Council planning meeting after an independent candidate claimed a controversial application wouldn’t have been discussed during a politically sensitive period had it been in a Labour-controlled area.
The comments were made by Bernie Attridge in a debate on proposals to turn an industrial unit in Northop Country Park into an office and warehouse.
The scheme attracted 31 objections from a local residents association in a ward which has been represented by independent councillor Marion Bateman.
Mr Attridge quit Labour in 2019 after he was sacked as deputy council leader by former ally Aaron Shotton and is now spearheading a campaign to get as many independent community leaders elected as possible in the county.
His remarks sparked an angry reaction from his ex-colleagues in Labour, who have led the local authority since 2012, with one describing them as “outrageous”.
Mr Attridge later withdrew his comments, but speaking earlier in Wednesday’s (March 30, 2022) meeting, he said: “I know for a fact if a planning application was coming to planning committee a month before an election in a Labour ward, it wouldn’t see the light of day.
“I’ve been there and been a cabinet member so let’s have some fair play here for all people.
“Just on those grounds I believe this application shouldn’t be before us, because it wouldn’t be before us if the local member was a Labour councillor.”
The claims were immediately rebuffed and slammed as “total nonsense” by Chris Bithell, who has served on the ruling administration as cabinet member for planning.
He said: “Those comments should be withdrawn by Cllr Attridge.
“It’s outrageous and most of the applications on this agenda today are in ward represented by Labour councillors and they’ve been dealt with in the normal manner.
“It’s a total nonsense really, and is just a reflection of his new particular standpoint.”
Mike Peers, leader of the Independent Alliance group, highlighted that a consultation on the council’s local development plan was recently delayed due to the impending election.
He said the decision had “set a precedent” and suggested the application should have been treated the same.
Labour’s Richard Lloyd, who was chairing the committee, said he was concerned the meeting had got out of hand.
Meanwhile, his colleague Gladys Healey said she felt Labour members were being “ridiculed”.
She said: “I’m just sitting here, and I’m appalled that politics is coming into a planning committee.
“I’m ashamed of it and there’s some comments which I found pretty offensive when Labour councillors who are sitting on planning are being ridiculed more or less.”
Mr Attridge initially rejected a request to withdraw his comments after claiming they were factual.
However, after the proposals were deferred by a majority vote, he later changed his mind.
He said: “After consideration I’d like to withdraw my comments that I made that may have offended any member on the planning committee.”
Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here). Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com