Newly re-elected councillor announces he is quitting politics
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
A recently elected Bridgend council member has announced he won’t be taking up his seat this term, despite being voted in with a total of 1,112 votes at the 2022 local council elections.
Labour councillor Stuart Baldwin, who was one of three successful candidates for the Bridgend Central ward, has announced that he will not be taking up his new role as a councillor, due to what he describes as the ‘increasingly toxic’ nature of local politics.
He will also be taking up a new role in the council where strict rules prevent people from acting as both an employee and an elected representative for the same authority. The move will now trigger a by-election for the area just days after the main election, with Bridgend County Borough Council currently seeking advice on the timing.
Speaking ahead of his resignation, Cllr Baldwin said his reasons for leaving the post were two-fold. He said: “Following the recent local government elections during which I was returned as one of three successful candidates representing the Bridgend Central ward, I have made the difficult decision not to take up the role, and to retire from local politics altogether.
“I realise that this decision may come as a surprise so soon after the election, but the reasons for it are two-fold. Firstly, I have found that local politics has become increasingly toxic, and the last five years have been particularly difficult for my family and I.
“As a councillor, I have been repeatedly harassed about both my views and my sexuality, and have been subject to numerous slurs, both in person and online.
“I have been followed home from late-night meetings, have been physically accosted, falsely reported for breaching Covid rules and more.
“One incident was serious enough to involve South Wales Police. Sadly, police are currently looking into a new, separate incident, and I do not foresee an end to this toxic abuse.
“The hardest aspect of all this has been witnessing the impact that it has had on my family. Anyone who enters into any kind of political life needs to have a thick skin, and while the vast majority of people have been kind and respectful, there is no reason whatsoever for the contemptible behaviour of a hardcore minority.
“In short, I am tired of this, and do not wish to see my family suffer any longer because of me. The second reason why I will not be taking up the role of elected member is that I have successfully interviewed for and have received an offer of employment with Bridgend County Borough Council.
“Rules are in place which quite rightly prevent people from acting as both an employee and an elected representative for the same authority, so I have duly given notice that I do not intend to take up the position of councillor.
“This has, of course, come as a huge disappointment to Huw David and my former Cabinet and councillor colleagues, but I hope that they will appreciate and understand the reasoning behind my decision. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to them for their expertise and professionalism, and to acknowledge the leadership of Huw David during my time with the council.
“I genuinely don’t think that people understand the level of work that Cabinet members undertake, or how they have all worked relentlessly to deliver for Bridgend County Borough. I continue to believe that councils play an essential role in providing vital services for local people, and have every confidence that the authority will always put their best interests first.”
Councillor 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.
“Following Stuart’s decision, the chief executive is currently seeking advice on the timing of a by-election for Bridgend Central, and the council will be issuing further details about this as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would like to thank Stuart for his hard work and service to the council as a member, a former Mayor and as a Cabinet colleague, and wish him well for his future endeavours.”
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