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Council leader vows to resign if he’s found to have intentionally misled over £5m farm sale

Cllr James Gibson-Watt

POWYS County Council’s leader has vowed to resign if he is found to have intentionally misled the council in a row over a £5 million farm sale near Welshpool – but insisted his cabinet has acted appropriately.
At a council meeting on Thursday. October 5, Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies quizzed Cllr Gibson-Watt over the secret cabinet discussions over the sale of a dairy farm in Leighton

Cllr Aled Davies

At Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, September 19, senior members of the Liberal Democrat/Labour administration discussed a report in confidential session on the sale of 218 acres of the council’s farm estate around the village of Leighton near Welshpool.

The potential buyers are believed to be Welshpool based waste and recycling firm, Potters.

It is believed that the confidential report under discussion said the property had been valued at £4.13 million while an offer of £5 million had been received from the firm.

Since then, Andrew Thomas the tenant of farm in question known as Gwyn’s barn, has said that no discussion has taken place between himself and the council over the potential sale.

In response to this a council spokesman said it would “not typically speak with a tenant prior to a decision being made as these matters are confidential by their very nature”.

At the full council meeting Cllr Davies asked an “urgent question” on whether there is more information on the issue and would Cllr Gibson-Watt apologise to those “impacted” by the decision.

Liberal Democrat, Cllr Gibson-Watt said that he wasn’t aware of any further “reliable, relevant or accurate” information on the matter that had become known in recent days.

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “I’m aware of an awful lot of things flying around social media and local media which I have to say is not accurate.
“I’m confident we had all the information and I’m happy the decision was sound.

“I’m satisfied how cabinet and council officers have dealt with it.

“As far as I’m concerned, we took a sound, balanced and correctly made decision.

“I’m perfectly happy to respect those who disagree with it.”

Cllr Davies was allowed to come back with an extra question.

Cllr Davies said: “Thank you for the reassurance that you are absolutely confident that a sound decision was made.

“Can I also welcome the decision of the ERCG (Economy, Residents and Communities) scrutiny committee to call in that cabinet decision.”

He urged the committee to call witnesses from “inside and outside” the council and that the meeting be held in public “if at all possible”.

Cllr Davies said: “If the committee finds that you have misled the council in any way, will you offer your resignation?”

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “The report is in my name if it is found to be intentionally inaccurate or acted incorrectly, I will certainly resign.

“We were advised about the manner in which we had to take it, you were present at that meeting and as far as I understood you agreed that the decision had to be taken in camera (private).”