Independents continue to lead Merthyr Tydfil Council after mayor makes casting vote
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
The independents will continue to lead Merthyr Tydfil Council for the next five years after the mayor made the casting vote following a tie among councillors.
At the council’s annual general meeting which was held on Wednesday, May 25, Councillor Geraint Thomas was elected the new leader of the council after the new mayor used his deciding vote in his favour.
Cllr Thomas is the leader of the independent group after the previous council leader Councillor Lisa Mytton decided to stand down and ruled herself out of any potential cabinet role.
The election on May 5 saw independent and Labour candidates tied with 15 seats each.
The new mayor is Councillor Declan Sammon and the new deputy mayor is Councillor Malcolm Colbran, despite Labour nominating Councillor Scott Thomas for both.
The nominations of Cllr Thomas for both roles were defeated by the casting vote of the mayor following tied votes as well.
Councillor Darren Roberts, leader of the Labour group, expressed concern for the future of council services.
He said it was a concern that “these services will be undermined by the actions being taken by so-called independent councillors here today.”
He said independent councillors joining to form a group after promising not to do so was a “snub to the majority of the electorate who actually voted for you on the basis that you are a true independent”.
“This is a stain on your reputations at the very start of this new council term,” he added.
He said the electorate would not forget and if they don’t vote together and don’t turn up, their leader will lose votes and they will not deliver on what they promised at the election.
Cllr Roberts said: “I have reached out to the independent group leaders and councillors – to explore if a more stable administration could be formed. An administration that could have been unified and jointly work together to address the serious challenges that we will face over the coming years. Unfortunately my approach was dismissed.”
He later added: “I would normally say ‘good luck’ but on this occasion I just can’t. This is undoubtedly the wrong decision and will destabilise the local authority. This is not what I or the Labour group want for our county borough.”
He said it is a “truly sad moment” in Merthyr’s political history but that the 15 Labour members will act as a group in the best interests of the services the council delivers.
Councillor Brent Carter, Labour, said it is a “sad night” and that it was “quite embarrassing.
He said the independents forming a group “seems to be a contradiction in terms” adding that certain independent members had their own agenda and they should be rising above it.
He said: “The only way this could’ve worked is by working together.”
He mentioned how Labour had helped “prop up” the previous administration and if they hadn’t then the assurance board would still be with them.
He said: “Merthyr Tydfil is a mighty town and people have long memories.”
Councillor Gareth Lewis, Labour, said doing what is right can’t be achieved when the political make up is a 15/15 split between two distinct political groups and that division and instability are the “antithesis” of what is needed.
Councillor Clive Jones, Labour, said the assurance board had only just left and said he thinks they will be looking at this situation with a “great deal of interest”.
He said the council has a “mountain to climb” in terms of education and that he can’t see how 15 independents who are independent of each other are going to be a complete functional group.
Concerns were also raised by Councillor Jamie Scriven, Labour, that the autonomy of the independents is based on the casting vote of the mayor and that the role of mayor could be put into a political position.
Councillor Kevin Gibbs, Labour, said settlements from Welsh Government have been positive and compared them to the negative settlements the Labour administration received.
Councillor Andrew Barry, independent, said they had turned the council’s reserves into the highest level ever seen and the council’s finances are in the best position they have been for decades.
Cllr Barry said they are “diligent” and have the “best people for the job”. He said they have every intention of working with Labour but it seems Labour are “a country mile” from where they need to be, adding that the independents will carry on with what they’ve been doing.
Cllr Mytton, independent, said the mayor doesn’t have to be non political and that Labour would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot.
She said the assurance board said they should work together and she agrees they should.
She asked Labour not to tell her what she is saying, she is an independent councillor, the longest-serving female councillor and that she knows how to be professional and represent her ward.
She said she hopes people do what’s right by the people of Merthyr Tydfil and continue to work together.
The voter turnout was 39% which meant that 15,379 votes were cast from an electorate of 45,875.
The independents won both seats in Bedlinog and Trelewis, all three seats in Cyfarthfa, all three seats in Dowlais and Pant, two seats in Gurnos, three seats in the Town ward and both seats in Vaynor ward.
Labour won one seat in Gurnos, both Merthyr Vale seats, both seats in the Park ward, all three seats in Penydarren, all three seats in Plymouth ward, one seat in the Town ward and all three seats in Treharris.
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