A 'FAILURE to deal with severe criticism of under-fire chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones' has resulted in a Milford Haven councillor walking away from the ruling Independent Plus Group (IPG) on Pembrokeshire County Council.
Councillor Stephen Joseph says he will now “stand with anyone who wants to join me in making right decisions for the people of our wards and the people of Pembrokeshire”, after leaving the IPG.
Disenchanted with what he perceived as a focus on personal politics rather than improving lives in Pembrokeshire, as well as the group's continuing support for Mr Parry-Jones, Cllr Joseph decided the time was right for him to leave.
“I’ve been trying very hard to make the IPG realise that backing Bryn isn’t right, it isn’t what they should be doing. Nearly every ordinary councillor will admit that Bryn shouldn’t be there – but haven’t got the courage to do anything about it.
“The cabinet is like a suit of armour around him now and they won’t even admit there’s a problem,” said Cllr Joseph.
He has written to all councillors to explain his decision, including why he had in the past voted against discussing the controversial pension payments - following advice that employee rights would be affected - but now feels that if he does not take a stand against the current situation he is “by default” contributing to it.
“In private meetings I have spoken out quite loudly against Bryn. Why the group is protecting him I don’t know, but I just cannot be part of this any longer.
“Another employee would be on suspension, but there’s a police investigation and he isn’t suspended,” he added.
But it is not just the support of Mr Parry-Jones which has pushed Cllr Joseph to jump ship. He is also concerned about a focus on politics and not people which he believes is becoming the cultural norm at County Hall.
A focus on politics, he says, is one of the reasons he stepped down from the Plaid Cymru group under which he was elected and why he is loathed to join the separate group the Pembrokeshire Alliance.
Cllr Joseph says that he will represent Pembrokeshire First – people not politics – and if anyone wants to join him they are welcome.
He is also encouraging members of the public to let their councillor know their views on Mr Parry-Jones’ position in the hope it will force other members to take a stand.
In his letter to councillors he states: “The biggest issue is obviously Bryn as captain of the ship. But this is not just about him, it’s about the cabinet system and the culture that currently exists in the council – a culture of control and preserving peoples’ positions of power.
“I want to work for a change of culture. The long term goal is to see 60 councillors having equal say, in all the important issues facing Pembrokeshire.
“The current situation is rotten to the core.”
Council leader Jamie Adams said: “Needless to say, I don’t accept the picture that Steve has sought to create in his letter to all Councillors. Pembrokeshire has good and improving services, the lowest Council Tax in Wales and, compared to others, low charges for many of its services.
“I am thankful that the majority of my colleagues on the council have demonstrated their ability to rise above the petty vendettas pursued by some and maintain a focus on the long-term. I am also grateful to those members who have sought to engage in our attempts to improve personal relationships within the authority. Pembrokeshire’s future must come before any desire to satisfy the headline writers.”