Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Cardiff councillor Neil McEvoy has been cleared from claims of “misleading” the public with a campaign leaflet on the Plasdŵr development.
Cllr McEvoy, who is also a Senedd member and leader of the Welsh Nation Party, was accused of “bringing Cardiff council into disrepute” in a leaflet about the thousands of homes planned northwest of the city.
The leaflet called for a halt to the construction of the Plasdŵr development, revoking the local development plan (LDP) that paved the way for several acres of green farmland to be turned into houses.
But the claim the LDP could be revoked was questioned by Cllr Michael Michael, cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, who argued this was impossible and therefore the leaflet “misled” the public.
Cllr Michael complained to the council’s chief lawyer, and the case was heard on Wednesday, January 13, by the standards and ethics committee. The hearing—held in private—found Cllr McEvoy did not mislead the public with the campaign leaflet.
In a statement, Cllr McEvoy said: “This was a desperate attempt by the Drakeford camp to keep Cardiff’s LDP out of the election campaign. Any WNP Government will scrap LDPs and put in place emergency legislation to protect green field sites.
“Building on our green fields in Cardiff West is a disaster for the local environment and for our communities. It is also happening all over Wales. We need houses we can afford locally, built in the right places. We also need to fill the thousands of empty houses in Wales.
“In a democratic sense, it is outrageous that any standards and ethics committee get to debate whether or not I have broken the code of conduct by putting forward a policy to scrap LDPs. They do not have the right to potentially censor what a political party can and cannot campaign on.
“The anti-democratic nature of Labour in Wales has gone too far. We need a democratic revolution. Enough is enough.”
The complaints also included separate allegations about claims made on the Fairwater Social and Athletics Club. Cllr McEvoy had publicly said a former secretary of the club left a “shocking mess”.
The hearing found Cllr McEvoy did not have enough information to back up that claim, and said he had brought the council “into disrepute”.
After the hearing, Cllr Michael said it would cost Cardiff council up to £3 billion to compensate the housing developers, if planning permission for Plasdŵr was revoked.
He said: “It’s complete poppycock. He’s promising to do something he can’t deliver. If we do what Neil McEvoy wants, it will bankrupt the city. It’s nonsense. He’s a mini-Trump. You can’t stop the housebuilding, it’s not possible.
“Once again, McEvoy displayed he doesn’t understand how to behave in public.”
Unusually, the council barred reporters and the public from watching the meeting live. Journalists are normally given access to public meetings, to witness decisions like this hearing.
But a council spokesman said emergency coronavirus laws brought in last March mean the council is no longer legally obliged to give reporters and the public the right to witness council meetings live.
Both Cllr McEvoy and Cllr Michael were asked before the hearing if they wanted the public and press barred from the meeting, and both said they wanted the press to be there.
A Cardiff council spokesperson said: “There is no requirement under the current legislation, brought in because of the pandemic, for us to stream meetings.
“It’s current practice in Cardiff council that the first meeting of any particular committee or body is recorded and then subsequently uploaded for public viewing usually within 48 hours. All subsequent meetings of that committee or body are then streamed live.
“This morning’s meeting of a standards committee hearing panel is the first dealt with remotely under the new legislation. Any suggestion that the council is barring access is misguided. Our intention is, and always was, to upload the recording of this meeting.
“One allegation, that a statement made by Cllr McEvoy in a letter to the members of the Fairwater Social Club on July 11, 2019, was inaccurate, was found to have breached the code. The relevant statement was: ‘The mess left by the former secretary was nothing short of shocking.’ The panel has decided to issue a private written warning.”
Last year, Cllr McEvoy was found to have breached the council’s code of conduct for allegations of bullying, and was suspended for several months. He was also currently suspended from the Senedd, for “aggressive behaviour”.