CLAIMS have been made that the former leader of Blaenau Gwent council left the Labour Party months before it was announced he had done so.
Earlier this month, Cllr Hedley McCarthy revealed he had left the Labour Party and wouldn’t be standing at the forthcoming local elections in May.
But, according Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council chairwoman Cllr Julie Holt, Cllr McCarthy actually left the party in November 2021 – four months ago.
Cllr McCarthy has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he did tell the Labour group leader, Cllr Steve Thomas in November that he was going to leave the party soon.
Cllr Holt said:
“Cllr Hedley McCarthy left the Labour Party in November 2021, taking a principled stance against the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn.
“Neither Cllr McCarthy nor any of his colleagues have announced at any point on any platform that he has left the Labour Party.”
Cllr Holt pointed out that Cllr McCarthy sat on three council scrutiny committees.
These are organised for political balance, allowing for nine independent group members, five Labour and one minority independent member to sit on them.
Cllr Holt said that, by allowing Cllr McCarthy to continue to take part in these meetings, a “paid-up member” of Labour had been denied that opportunity.
Cllr Holt added:
“As a matter of principle I believe that the people of Blaenau Gwent, members of the Labour Party, and opposition councillors should be calling for the resignation of Cllr Steve Thomas who has been fully aware of the situation since November 2021.”
Cllr McCarthy said:
“I informed Steve (Cllr Thomas) of my intention to leave the Labour Party in November, when the party reminded me that my membership fees were due in January, I did not renew my membership for my disapproval of (Keir) Starmer’s leadership.”
Cllr Thomas said:
“When Cllr McCarthy said he was going, we were already in the last throes of this council’s scrutiny meetings, and there was no point in putting another member in place as the committees were coming to an end ahead of the elections.
“There were only one or two of his scrutiny meetings left.
“The critical point, of course, is around the overall proportionality of the council, was not changed at all because we have 40 per cent of all councillors through our working arrangement with the Minority Independent group; the numbers remained exactly the same; the council has confirmed this in a letter.”
Cllr Thomas added that his group’s “focus” was on the budget and also ensuring public access to the Silent Valley report by Audit Wales.
Cllr Thomas added:
“These are real concerns for our constituents, far more important than nit-picking around scrutiny numbers at the fag end of an administration.”
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