Questions over whether Wrexham mega independent group is ‘marriage of convenience’
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Questions have been raised over whether a merger between two independent groups on Wrexham Council is simply a “marriage of convenience”.
It was announced today that the previously separate groups run by Cllrs Mark Pritchard and David A Bithell would be uniting to form a new one known as “the Independent Group”.
It will see Cllr Pritchard lead the group, while Cllr Bithell will act as his deputy.
The decision has been made in the wake of Friday’s local election results, where both groups incurred losses having run the local authority alongside the Conservatives under the last administration.
It’s understood the new group, which is now the largest on the council with 21 members, will either join with the Conservatives or Labour to form a coalition.
In a joint statement, Cllrs Pritchard and Bithell said: “We are delighted to form a new independent group of 21 which is the largest independent group ever formed on Wrexham County Borough Council.
“There are on-going discussions to form an administration to run the council for the next five years.”
However, Labour group leader Dana Davies has challenged whether the merger is merely an attempt by the pair to stay in power.
It follows a rumoured fall out between Cllrs Pritchard and Bithell before the election.
Cllr Davies confirmed Labour is in discussions with the new independent group, but said they would only work together if their motives are genuine.
She said: “If independent councillors have been able to reconcile their differences to take forward a new and ambitious agenda then it is to be welcomed.
“However, if it’s merely a marriage of convenience, designed just to keep power and positions and with no other purpose, then I’m afraid the public will rightly be disappointed.
“The test will be whether they want to go into another coalition with stale Tories or form a new partnership with the Labour group based on cleaning up Wrexham politics and delivering better services.
“Change takes courage, and we are in discussions with independents to deliver a courageous and ambitious agenda for change.”
Labour improved its position at last week’s polls, gaining 14 seats, while the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru both have nine councillors each.
Plaid Cymru is said to be unwilling to work with the new group, with Cllrs Mike Davies and Ronnie Prince being the only independents who have not joined.
A decision on how the council will be run for the next five years will be made at its AGM later this month.
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