County council denies rallying support for under fire councillor
12:07pm Wednesday 24th October 2012 in News
Pembrokeshire County Council has denied conducting an "orchestrated campaign" of support for a cabinet member facing a notice of no confidence put forward by a Milford councillor.
Full council was due to discuss a notice of motion by Cllr Mike Stoddart on Thursday, October 18th, which stated: "This council has no confidence in the deputy leader and cabinet member for education and the Welsh language, Councillor Huw George."
Following publication of the notice councillors received emails and letters of support for Cllr George from a number of Pembrokeshire headteachers - raising questions about whether the support had been specifically requested.
The emails, seen by the Western Telegraph, refer to "shame and disgust" at the motion; one headteacher was "horrified", another "alarmed" and also "shocked and very disappointed".
Cllr Stoddart said: "It is difficult to see how these headteachers' letters in support of Cllr Huw George comply with the requirement in the code of conduct that council employees should be 'politically neutral'," said Cllr Stoddart.
He added: "I don't dispute the head teachers' right to disagree with me, though whether it is appropriate for them to use school computers or notepaper, to circulate their views to all members of the authority is another matter altogether.
"The constitution allows me to put down notices of motion on any matter which I believe it is in the public interest to debate, and it is not for the county's educational establishment to challenge that right with the use of emotive language.
"With the directors of social services and education both now retired following the exposure of the flaws in the council's child safeguarding procedures, the extent to which the Cabinet member responsible should also be held accountable for these failures is, in my opinion, a legitimate matter for public debate.
"That is how I see my duty as an elected member, and no amount of huffing and puffing from the educational establishment will deflect me from that view."
Pembrokeshire County Council leader Jamie Adams responded strongly saying: "Not content with a personal attack on Cllr Huw George, Cllr Stoddart now wishes to challenge the wider education community in Pembrokeshire by questioning the views voluntarily offered by professional experts.”
Council spokesman Len Mullins added that it was "inevitable that concerned individuals will have discussed the notice of motion but there was no council-orchestrated campaign to elicit support for Cllr George".
The motion had been available for public inspection from October 3rd and was on the council's website, as part of the full council agenda, from October 10th.
"This gave ample time prior to full council on October 18th for the notice of motion to become public knowledge and for individuals to express their opinion on it," said Mr Mullins.
At the meeting on October 18th members voted to refer the notice of motion to cabinet.