New Pembrokeshire County Council chairman's first meeting hit by walk-out over vote 'farce'
3:04pm Wednesday 14th May 2014 in News
THERE was drama at County Hall again last week, when ten county councillors stormed out of the authority’s annual meeting.
The walk-out was prompted by new chairman Cllr Tom Richard’s ‘refusal to accept a further nomination’ for one of the four deputy chairmen roles on the council’s licensing committee.
Cllr Viv Stoddart – who wanted to nominate Cllr Tony Brinsden to one of the positions – was told by Cllr Richards that she was too late, and the vote had already been taken.
At this, several councillors jumped to Cllr Stoddart’s defence, with Labour leader Paul Miller telling Cllr Richards: “If you intend to refuse that nomination it would be an outrageous start to your term.”
But Cllr Richards refused to back down.
“I did ask for any other nominations and none were received and I then proceeded to take the vote. I’m very sorry, but that is how it stays,” he said.
“This is completely ridiculous,” argued Cllr Miller. “There was a nomination from the floor prior to any vote being recorded.”
Pressed on what the votes in favour and votes against were, Cllr Richards said a “considerable majority” had voted, a statement which was backed up by council chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones.
Cllr Jacob Williams said the votes had not been counted, and Cllr Michael Evans added that the vote “clearly has not been completed” , but both were told by the chairmen that it had.
“I’m very sorry but that is where we stay,” said the chairman.
Not happy being asked to “please be quiet” by the chairman, Cllr Miller said: “This is the most outrageous thing I’ve seen a chairman of this authority ever do, this is a disgrace.”
Cllr Stoddart then walked out of the chamber, followed by several other unaffiliated, Labour and Pembrokeshire Alliance members. As he left the chamber, Cllr Miller shouted again: “Disgrace!”
Council leader Jamie Adams apologised to guests, including the Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, over the walk-out, adding he would be talking to the leader of the opposition ‘about his behaviour’.
“This is not how I wish members would behave and I certainly hope we won’t do so in future,” he added.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Stoddart told the Western Telegraph: “I walked out of the council’s annual meeting on Friday as I could no longer sit through what was the travesty of democracy.”
She said she believed the Independent Plus group (IPG) had “used every tactic to ensure their place, men and women were voted on to positions on the council’s committees, regardless of their ability”.
“This might be acceptable if the IPG acknowledged that: if it votes like a political party, talks like a party, and acts like a party, then the so-called IPG is a political party,” she added.
“The final straw for me was the breath-taking speed with which the final allocation of vice chairmanships was allocated, and Cllr Tom Richards graceless refusal as the new chairman, to accept what was a further nomination.”
Tom takes the chairman's chains
PEMBROKESHIRE County Council welcomed Councillor Tom Richards into his new role as chairman at the authority’s AGM on Friday.
Cllr Richards, who joined the council in its inception in 1996 as the member for the Letterston, takes over from outgoing chairman Councillor Arwyn Williams.
Sixty-year-old Cllr Richards was born in St Ishmaels to a Pembrokeshire farming family which can trace its roots in the county back to the 1700s.
He attended St Ishmaels and Hayscastle primary schools and later Haverfordwest Grammar School for Boys.
Cllr Richards lives with his wife Mel in a former rectory near his family farm. He also owns a farm in Croesgoch.
He has served as a community councillor since his 20s, and is still on Hayscastle Community Council as well as serving as a governor of Ysgol Ger y Llan.
Vice-chairman of the corporate governance, economy overview and scrutiny, and audit committees, he is also a member of several other committees and served as vice chairman of the council during the last year.
A vote of thanks to the outgoing chairman was proposed by the deputy leader of the authority, Councillor Huw George, who said Cllr Williams had represented Pembrokeshire with grace during what he described as “not an easy year”.
In a speech, Cllr Williams thanked councillors for the “honour and privilege” of being chairman, and paid tribute to council staff for keeping the county running while storms and bad weather battered Pembrokeshire earlier this year.
He added meeting so many talented local people, both young and old, over the last 12 months had “reaffirmed his faith in the human race”.
Narberth councillor Wynne Evans and Councillor Phil Baker, of Saundersfoot, were nominated for the role of vice chairman, with Cllr Evans winning the majority of votes .
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