Merthyr council leader to appeal suspension for breaches of code of conduct

Councillor Kevin O’Neill. Image Merthyr Tydfil CBC

Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter

The leader of Merthyr Tydfil Council has said he wants to appeal the decision to suspend him for seven months for breaches of code of conduct.

The Adjudication Panel for Wales unanimously decided on the suspension of Councillor Kevin O’Neill following a tribunal in December which found he had breached the council’s code of conduct on six occasions.

The breaches relate to Cllr O’Neill’s personal interest in a property at Luther Lane and his conduct towards the former chief executive of the council.

Councillor Lisa Mytton, the deputy leader, will take up the leader’s role in his absence.

‘Shocked’

Cllr O’Neill said: “I was shocked by the tribunal’s decision and surprised it has been picked up by the press before I have been given the reasons for it.

“My motivations during my time in office have been (and will always be) doing right by the people of Merthyr Tydfil.

“I don’t believe that commitment has ever been questioned during this process.

“I will be scrutinising the reasons closely with my legal team as soon as they’re received.

“My firm wish is to appeal so I can return to public service as soon as possible.

“If and when the time is right, I will give my full explanation on the matters which were the subject of the complaint against me.

“The decision has now led to a situation which has stopped me in leading my local authority in working tirelessly to support the community at a time of an unprecedented health crisis.”

Statement

Local Member of Parliament Gerald Jones and Member of the Senedd Dawn Bowden released a joint statement following the decision.

They said: “The suspension of Councillor Kevin O’Neil ‘from acting as a member of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council for a period of seven months’ by the independent Adjudication Panel for Wales reflects the serious allegations made against him in relation to the code of conduct.

“Now more than ever, residents and businesses in Merthyr Tydfil need a council that is focused on dealing with the myriad issues facing the county borough; not least the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of last year’s flooding.

“As the local MS and MP, we want a functioning local authority that can respond to the needs of residents.

“We are urgently seeking a meeting with the minister for local
government, Julie James, to consider the best way forward for the authority ..

“There have of course been other reports and interventions in Merthyr Tydfil CBC since 2017.

“At all times it remains our overriding priority to see safe and sustainable services maintained for our constituents in this borough.

“We remain available to work with the council in the interests of the people of Merthyr Tydfil.”

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