‘Embarrassing mess’: Opposition politicians react after Labour councillor quits politics just a week after being re-elected
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
Opposition members from Bridgend Council say they have been disappointed this week after a councillor stepped down just days after the local council election in order to take a job within the council.
Labour’s Bridgend Central member Stuart Baldwin cited the ‘”increasingly toxic” nature of local politics for his departure this week, where he claims he was subject to repeated harassment over his views and sexuality.
He had also accepted a new job within the council that would prohibit him from continuing his role as an elected member.
The move will now trigger a by-election for the vacant seat in the Bridgend Central ward over the coming months, though many councillors from opposition parties say deeper investigations could be conducted in to what is described as an ’embarrassing mess’ for the Labour Party.
Cllr Jonathan Pratt of Newton, Bridgend, said: “I am saddened to hear that Mr. Baldwin has stepped down as a councillor. I am concerned about the statement he made in regards to bullying and homophobic attacks during his time as a councillor and I hope this is addressed at all levels of politics.
“I am also concerned about the way Mr. Baldwin has resigned his seat to take a role within Bridgend County Borough Council and questions will rightly be raised about this, and it is important the council is transparent as possible in answering them.
“The up-coming by-election will be a cost to the taxpayer and also candidates having to re-fight an election campaign that only concluded a week ago. This whole scenario will be deeply frustrating for the local residents of Bridgend Central and I hope that residents will think twice before backing another Labour candidate in the area.”
Cllr Ross Thomas, who is an independent member in the Maesteg West ward, said, “The situation is unprecedented in my time in local government. Public perception on this isn’t great at all, not least with the need to call a by-election in the coming months. Just a few days ago the Labour group was celebrating regaining control in Bridgend but now the council finds itself embroiled in this hugely embarrassing mess.”
Cllr Amanda Williams is the returning member from Coity and said while any kind of harassment was unacceptable, the timing of the departure was still disappointing to hear.
She said: “It’s disappointing to learn that a fellow councillor has been subject to such treatment, and it is completely unacceptable. It is also disappointing however to hear the timing of this resignation so soon after the election, when the money it will cost to run the by-election would have been much better spent else-where.
Cllr Malcolm James, of Plaid Cymru, added that the issue was one that had simply left him lost for words. He said: “We knew absolutely nothing about this until a message was sent out earlier in the week and to be honest I was lost for words. You have to ask, if he already knew he was applying for another position on the council then why did he stand for re-election at all. I think it is unacceptable.”
Council leader Huw David, who is the returning leader of Bridgend Council, said: “While I have tried my level best to get Stuart to change his mind, I understand what has driven him to this decision, and irrespective of what my personal opinions may be, it is ultimately a choice that he alone must make.
“There are clear rules in place that prevent someone from being both an elected member and a paid employee of the same council. Unavoidably, this also creates a difficult situation as it means a by-election will now need to be held despite the fact that local government elections have only recently concluded.
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