Tory council group leader feels ‘sad’ about councillor’s resignation
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
The leader of Powys County Council’s Conservative group has said that he’s “sad” to lose a member of it.
During the last month, Conservative group leader Cllr Aled Davies, who is also the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and transport, has seen three members of his group leave.
At one point in the administration the Conservative group were 20 strong, but they have now dwindled to 12 and are now second to the Liberal Democrats as an official party group.
Over the weekend it emerged that Cllr Mark Barnes had left the group to sit as an Independent up to the local government election in May.
He claimed that that there has been a “lack of integrity” by the Conservative group which meant he could “no longer recommend them” to his electorate.
Cllr Davies said: “It is always sad to lose a group member.”
“Mark has made a really positive contribution to the group and council and he continues to be a good friend to me.”
At the turn of year, former cabinet member, James Evans resigned from the council due to his workload as Conservative MS for Brecon and Radnorshire.
This follows the online resignation from the group and cabinet of Cllr Iain McIntosh during a meeting of the cabinet on December 14.
This came just moments after Cradoc primary school which is in his ward was condemned to closure as part of a shake up and merger of schools in the Brecon area.
Cllr McIntosh is now an “unaligned” Conservative councillor, and this means that all of the Brecon and Radnorshire Conservatives elected in 2017 have left either the group or council.
While commenting on the departure of Cllr Barnes, Cllr McIntosh has suggested that new leadership of the group is needed.
Cllr McIntosh said: “The Conservative group has achieved a lot, but some decisions that have been made, such as council tax increases and school closures, which go against the party’s manifesto, have resulted in far too many group departures.
“It is clearly time the Conservative group had a change of leadership, with someone with an appetite to reverse some of the school closure decisions, and be prepared to keep council tax rises at, or below, the rate of inflation this year and beyond.”
At the 2017 May local elections 19 Conservatives were elected, and with Cllr McIntosh elected soon afterwards in a by-election for the Yscir ward, their numbers went up to 20.
In the autumn of 2019, former Conservative councillors Neil Morrison (Newtown South) and Sarah Lewis (Brecon St Mary) resigned and left the council.
In by-elections, Newtown South was held for the Conservatives by Les Skilton, while Brecon St Mary was taken by Labour’s Liz Rijnenberg.
A third by-election held for the Llandrindod North Ward saw Liberal Democrat Jake Berriman elected.
Llandrindod North ward had been held by Gary Price who also left the council in the autumn of 2019, at that time he was an un-aligned councillor but he had been elected in 2017 as a Conservative.
In May 2020, Cllr Claire Mills (Llanyre) left the group and joined Abolish the Assembly party, and stood for that party at the 2021 Welsh Senedd elections.
In February 2021, Cllr Les Skilton left the Conservative group to join Action for Powys explaining that he could not support a Council Tax hike.
Later that month, Cllr Gwilym Williams (Disserth and Trecoed)- former chairman of the council’s health and care scrutiny committee and former chairmam of Brecon and Radnorshire Conservative Association also left the group to join Action for Powys also over concerns about Council Tax.