Labour councillor leaves party over ‘toxic and bullying environment’
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
A Labour councillor in the has left the party to be an independent because of a “toxic and bullying environment”.
Vale of Glamorgan councillor, Owen Griffiths, of the Buttrills ward in Barry, said he left due to disagreements over Black Lives Matter protests and the attitude of Vale Labour group leaders.
He quit the Labour party this month and will not stand again in the local council elections in May next year.
Cllr Griffiths, who was first elected to the council in 2017, is one of the youngest councillors in the Vale.
He said: “I feel that the attitude of some senior members was disrespectful and disparaging of newly elected members. I felt there was a failure to develop those elected recently and a sense of an old boys’ network.
“I feel many have been elected for too long and never challenged. Those not in favour are quickly sidelined and made to feel not welcome.”
During internal debates around Black Lives Matter, which saw huge protests and demonstrations worldwide last summer for racial equality, Cllr Griffiths claimed some Labour councillors used “inappropriate language” and were “hostile to opposing views”.
Problems then escalated in March when the Vale council voted through the budget for the current financial year, including raising council tax. Cllr Griffiths abstained from voting, and was reprimanded by the group for doing so. Usually councillors vote together with their party.
In a letter of resignation, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he said: “As with any working environment, you should not have to tolerate bullying, nor should you be made to feel unwelcome.
“Unfortunately, since 2019, I have not felt welcome nor have I felt able to actively contribute my views within this group. I feel it is no longer an option or appropriate for me to remain in a hostile, damaging and toxic environment.”
A spokesperson for the Vale Labour party said: “We thank Cllr Griffiths for his service as a Labour councillor and we wish him well for the future.”
His departure leaves the Labour party with just 13 councillors left in the Vale of Glamorgan, despite Labour running the council. The administration is a coalition, backed up by several independent councillors who were previously Conservative until a dramatic row in 2019.