Milford Haven councillor denies political motivation behind party defection
3:31pm Monday 19th August 2013 in News
JUMPING SHIP: Cllr Stephen Joseph left Plaid to join the ruling Independent group. PICTURE: Western Telegraph. (887715)
A COUNTY councillor has denied being politically motivated when he left Plaid Cymru in favour of the Independent ruling group.
Milford Haven Councillor Stephen Joseph, who defected to the Independent Plus Group (IPG) a week ago, said that he was wrong to join a political party in the first place.
His decision raised questions from Plaid Cymru leader Cllr Michael Williams, who said that Cllr Joseph unseated one of the "IPPGs leading lights" Anne Hughes, and had now decided to join the very same party.
But Cllr Joseph said he had no political aspirations or plans. He said: "My motivation for becoming a councillor was to try and do something for Milford.
"Although I stood as a member for Plaid, I didn't stand to further my own political agenda or to further Plaid Cymru in Milford Haven, I stood to do my bit for Milford.
"The fact that people voted for me as a Plaid candidate shouldn't make a difference, because they voted for me and I haven't changed in any way. I made a mistake at the start because I shouldn't have joined a political party."
He added: "I think that politics within the local authority just attacks what someone else is doing rather than doing something positive. At the end of the day, it should be 61 councillors working for Pembrokeshire not trying to work against each other."
Cllr Joseph said that he would have preferred to form a small group of councillors “with positive thinking”, but said he would have had to give up his seat on three committees.
He said: "I was thrown to the wolves. I wanted to do it on my own but I got no back up and no one wanted to help. Everything that I have been able to achieve so far and the majority of the help that I received, has come from IPG councillors. And it made me consider the Independent group, which is not as bad as I was led to believe. A lot has changed in the last 18 months.
"I had to decide could I achieve more for Milford as an unaffiliated councillor or as a member of the ruling group, and to be honest it’s as a member of the ruling group.
"It’s not a case of preferential treatment, it was a case of literally being on your own or having more councillors around you to bounce ideas off."
On August 9, the Pembrokeshire Herald reported that Cllr Joseph made the switch following 'lengthy negotiations' with senior members of the IPG and a promise of £20m for his patch.
But Cllr Joseph said that the £19,924,000 Vibrant and Viable Places grant had nothing to do with his decision.
He said: "That bid was made four weeks ago – long before I even considered joining the IPG group.”
A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesman said that the council submitted the bid ahead of the Welsh Government deadline of midnight on July 12.
He said: "Welsh Government (WG) guidance on Vibrant and Viable Places was explicit in only permitting one application from each local authority area and that that application could only cover one settlement area.
"There was no opportunity to submit an application covering a number of settlement areas."
He added: "Council officers analysed the guidance issued by the Welsh Government for Vibrant and Viable Places to identify the 'key success factors' necessary for a winning bid, including practical issues such as deliverability within the timescales.
"Each main town in Pembrokeshire was then scored against these key success factors. This resulted in the bid being based on Milford Haven."
The spokesman added that the application was endorsed by the Pembrokeshire Business Panel/Economic Partnership, which is the standing ‘economy’ themed sub-group of the Pembrokeshire Local Service Board.
Ceri Davies, from the Welsh Government department for housing, regeneration and heritage, added: "While the guidance suggests a September response we hope to inform all who submitted bids as soon as possible. I would hope that this is earlier than the September date suggested."
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