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Caerphilly councillors ‘being gagged,’ claim

22 Sep 2022 3 minute read
Ynysddu councillors say they are being gagged. Picture: Jan Jones. Right: Blackwood councillor Kevin Etheridge also says he is being gagged. Picture: Kevin Etheridge.

Rhiannon James, Local Democracy Reporter

Independent councillors in Caerphilly County Borough have said they feel “gagged” and kept in the dark by the current Labour-led council.

Councillors from both Ynysddu and Blackwood have expressed frustrations over what they say is a lack of engagement and co-operation between Labour and Independent elected members.

Concerns have been raised by both Ynysddu councillors about pollution at Ty Llwyd Quarry, which runs past houses at Caerllwyn Terrace and Pontgam Terrace on its way to the Sirhowy river.

The Independent councillors have asked the leader of the council to reinstate the Ty Llwyd Quarry committee and to involve them in a site meeting at the quarry.

Cllr Janine Reed said that “residents’ health and safety should transcend politics”.

Leader Sean Morgan said he would be attending the upcoming site meeting with officers and cabinet members, and will engage with the councillors following this.

He added: “We take their concerns seriously and they should give us the credit of looking into those concerns on their behalf.”

‘Treated as mushrooms’

Cllr Jan Jones said: “The council and leader [are] treating the democratically-elected councillors as mushrooms and ‘gagging’ them from representing their community on the toxic quarries in their ward.”

Cllr Morgan said he was looking into whether a liaison committee for the Ty Llwyd Quarry is warranted. He added a decision on the introduction of this, will be made following engagement with the Ynysddu councillors.

Blackwood councillor Kevin Etheridge also said he felt “gagged” by the Labour group, which makes up the cabinet.

Cllr Etheridge requested to speak at cabinet on Monday, September 26, but this was “respectfully denied” by the leader of the council.

Cllr Morgan said: “He had spoken at the scrutiny committee meeting, then he asked to speak at cabinet and I asked if he had anything new to bring to the table and for him to send that over to me, but he didn’t.

“He wasn’t being gagged, he just wants to be able to speak wherever he asks – meetings aren’t run like this.”

In July, a joint scrutiny committee meeting backed plans to reintroduce car parking charges, but at a cheaper rate. From January 2023, one hour of parking could cost residents 40p – if the plans are approved by cabinet.

Cllr Etheridge wants parking in council-owned car parks to remain free, and he wanted to convey this at the cabinet meeting next week.

He said: “Scrutiny is not the group that makes the decisions, all they can do is make recommendations. I think this is the first time an elected member has been stopped from speaking at cabinet – it raises questions of transparency.

“I don’t think I’m causing trouble, it’s an elected member’s right to put the residents’ view point to cabinet.”

‘Very concerning’

Fellow Independent councillor for Blackwood, Nigel Dix said: “I find it very concerning that Independent councillors are being prevented from representing their communities, and carrying out their democratic duties in holding the Labour cabinet to account.

“If we are to have a council that truly represents all communities we need a council that doesn’t hide away from scrutiny, and has an open mind.

“The current administration is doing all they can to shut-down debate. It appears the Labour administration has contempt for anyone who questions their actions.

“This is a very concerning trend.”

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