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Call for Senedd candidates pledge not to employ family members – it turns out they’re not allowed to anyway

09 Apr 2021 3 minute read
Left, Janet Finch-Saunders. Picture by the National Assembly (CC BY 2.0) Left, Aaron Wynne. Picture by Plaid Cymru.

Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter

A Senedd hopeful has called on all candidates to pledge not to employ family members using public cash – but it turns out they’re not allowed to anyway.

Plaid Cymru’s Aberconwy Senedd candidate Aaron Wynne, a Conwy county councillor for Llanrwst, aimed the barb at Conservative rival Janet Finch-Saunders who is defending a slim majority of 754 votes.

He claimed her latest register of interests statement to the Senedd showed her claiming for her husband as temporary office manager.

It did, but his stint lasted for a period of six months – from July 20, 2018, until January 20, 2019 – and was within the rules in place at the time.

Labour’s Aberconwy candidate Dawn McGuinness backed Cllr Wynne’s pledge but pointed out new guidance, released in June 2020, forbids the use of allowances to fund new posts for MS family members after April 1, 2019.

However family employed before that date using public cash have a “transition period”, which means they could stay in post until the end of this coming Senedd in 2026.

Cllr Wynne said: “There is just no way politicians should be using public money to employ their spouse or other family members.There is a genuine conflict of interest and voters would be rightfully concerned.

“I can make this pledge, I will not employ family members if elected and I call on other candidates to make the same pledge.

“Plaid has been ahead of the game on this because we stopped this years ago.”

Mrs Finch-Saunders said: “I do not currently employ any family members and will not be doing so in the future.

“I have proudly represented the people of Aberconwy since 2011 and will continue to stand up for the best interests of our community.

“Local residents know my record of delivery for Aberconwy and that my number one priority will be our community’s recovery after the pandemic, rather than seeking to inflict constitutional and economic chaos with reckless calls for an independence referendum.”

Labour’s candidate Dawn McGuinness, who is fighting to overturn a 1,607 vote deficit from the 2016 election, said she “strongly agreed” with the principle of not employing family members but it wasn’t allowed anyway.

She said: “I would agree with that pledge and I feel very strongly about (not employing family members) because we have seen it going on in Westminster.

“But I think it’s important to make the point that it’s not something available to us anyway.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Rhys Jones said he would “fully support” such a pledge.

He said: “I think it’s unscrupulous to employ family members but there is a loophole where if you engage a company which employs a family member that’s not covered – you’re technically employing them via a third party.

“I will make every effort to ensure no one from my family is employed using public money.”

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