A group of Burry Port Town Councillors who claim they are speaking as ‘concerned individuals’ have accused a local county councillor, long serving member of the town council and former mayor of the town of betraying his local community following an event held at the Burry Port bowls club of which Cllr John James is President. The letter claims;
we do not speak on behalf of the Town Council
but it is signed with the abbreviation Cllr for each contributor.
The letter reads as follows:
Firstly, we need to make it absolutely clear that whilst we are Town Councillors, we do not speak on behalf of the Town Council. This is a statement by us as concerned individuals.
Secondly, we want people to understand that this is not political but about trust, competence and accountability. We say this because the first defence of some politicians when criticised is to blame it on “politics”.
County Councillor John James is Chairman of an important County Council Committee dealing with the environment and public protection. This role requires his commitment to the protection of the public and he has been very vocal about the need to obey the rules, the advice and the guidance concerning the pandemic.
Councillor John James is also the President of Burry Port Bowls Club.
The Bowls club organised an awards and presentation event recently, in the clubhouse at the Memorial park. This gathering was attended by a large number of people in breach of COVID-19 regulations around numbers and social distancing. Additionally, the organisers did not follow the “Track and Trace” requirements. The club have confirmed that the President did not warn them against this event and they have also admitted that they sold alcohol without a licence.
We believe that Councillor James as the Club President did not honour his duties as our champion public protector as he did not warn against this event nor tried to stop it. In fact, he attended it and took a full and active part in it handing out awards, and making a speech.
We are dismayed that this event, which breached so many regulations, was overseen by a County Councillor who also Chairs the Public Protection Committee. The COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have devastating effects. Everyone has their part to play in safeguarding lives and the health and safety of the people in our community and working to ensure that we are not subject to a local lockdown.
We consider councillor James’ actions to be a betrayal to his community, to his Party and the office he holds, and a breach of the Welsh Government’s Code of Conduct which applies to all Councillors. We consider that it may be difficult for the community to trust him as a holder of any office again. We call on him to resign from his position as County Councillor immediately. We also hope that the severity of his actions is recognised and dealt with in the appropriate manner by the Labour party.
Cllr. Peter Freeman Cllr. Les George Cllr. Robert John Cllr. John Hedley Jones, Cllr. David Owens Cllr. Mike Theodoulou Cllr. Karen Trimble.
Cllr James has this evening responded to the accusations as follows:
I was invited as President of the Burry Port Bowls Club to their Presentation event on the afternoon of 5th September. I was aware that the club, under the ownership the Town Council, had re-opened, so I put my trust in the hands of Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council that the premises were safe to use in accordance with Welsh Government Guidelines.
A couple of days before the Presentation I spoke to an Official of the Club about the organisation of the event as regards to the health and safety of all those attending, and I was satisfied that the Club was doing everything expected of them.
The presentation took place on the bowling green with Social Distancing being observed and the trophies not being handed over to the recipients but being picked up by them. After this I stayed outside, as did many others who had tables and chairs set out for them.
I eventually went into the Clubhouse and noticed straight away that hand sanitiser was available. I then counted how many were there, which was 26. I did not make a speech and I did not shake anyone’s hand. I left the Clubhouse after about 20 minutes satisfied everything was being carried out in accordance with Coronavirus Regulations.
On the following Tuesday I was made aware that the Town Council had given the go ahead for a meeting of the local Historical Group. Cllr. Amanda Fox and I were concerned at this because it was classed as a meeting, which were not allowed by the County Council.
So, we contacted Carmarthenshire County Council who confirmed that the meeting should not take place and stopped it. Thankfully, the Historical Group’s Officials were able to contact everyone before the meeting was to start.
On the 11th September a Notice of Closure on the Bowls Club was served on Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council because the facilities are theirs and they are responsible for how they are run.
Subsequently, Carmarthenshire County Council are in the process of writing to all Town Clerks and Town Councillors urging them to play their part in helping to stop the spread of Covid-19, in particular, to ensure that users of Town Council premises are properly advised by the Town Council concerning reopening their premises and on organising an event in their venues.
The Bowls Club should be applauded for the way they organised and ran the function in such a diligent and attentive manner. Also, it should be recorded that three weeks after the event no one present on the day of the presentation has shown any symptoms of the virus.
I have acted unwaveringly and responsibly regarding all issues concerning the Coronavirus Regulations and have passed on official advice and guidance to assist, and for the sake of others. In fact, Cllr. Amanda Fox and I, by alerting the Local Authority of the proposed Historical Society meeting, not only stopped residents from our community breaking these regulations and needlessly exposing themselves to the virus, but also saved the Town Council from even more embarrassment.
The group who say they are calling for my resignation have not approached me at all, everyone else seems to know about it but me.
I haven’t any intention of resigning because I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s a privilege and an honour to have been elected to serve as a County Councillor for Burry Port and I will continue to represent this Community and keep serving it the way I pledged to them I would when I was first elected.
I WILL NOT LET ANY BULLYING OR HARASSMENT WIN WHETHER IT’S BY LETTER OR BY FACEBOOK, WHETHER ITS AGAINST ME OR AGAINST THE GOOD PEOPLE WHO STAND BY ME,
There have been numerous outpourings of support for Cllr James on social media as well as criticism in support of the named councillors.
The Burry Port Town council has a history of in house squabbling stemming back a number of years, which has been well documented in the local press even leading to the local MS and MP to chip in and try to get the council to work together for local people.
Some community groups have also had their run ins with the council.
Cllr James has also been named in disagreements with the council. In 2017 the then Mayor David Owens hit back at claims of bullying within the council. At one stage police had to attend a council meeting and the press and public were issued with guidance on ‘how to behave’.
Burry Port has had many positive lights shone on the town including awards for floral displays and they have hosted wonderful carnivals every year. This latest episode in the workings of the town council and political factions may not be a welcome aside for local residents, who have worked so hard to keep the town out of local restrictions.