A LONG-SERVING councillor in Caerphilly has announced he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Three years ago, Blackwood independent councillor Kevin Etheridge underwent an operation to treat his bowel cancer, which he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service has now returned.
Cllr Etheridge said he would “concentrate on his ward work in helping all the residents of Blackwood, having achieved almost 1,900 votes at the last election” in 2022.
But he also announced he was stepping down as the independents’ group leader in a protest over constitutional changes to how council scrutiny committees were staffed.
He said there was “little point” in Caerphilly’s independents working as a party group because recent changes meant “we have been denied two places” on scrutiny committees.
Opposition councillors in Caerphilly staged a walkout in May 2023, after the leadership decided to reduce the number of scrutiny committees and limit the number of questions that could be asked at full council meetings.
Cllr Etheridge was one of those who walked out, saying at the time he felt the council’s move “limits democracy and limits debate”.
Cllr Sean Morgan, the leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council, defended the move at the time, saying the amendments to the constitution were “intended to ensure that the democratic process becomes more efficient, inclusive and productive”.
Cllr Etheridge told the LDRS this week the borough’s independents had only formed a group so they could sit on scrutiny meetings, and the amendments meant “we have been denied two places to scrutiny decisions, so there is little point in being a group anymore”.
“This is the reason I have stepped down as leader, and it was in name only – as unlike other parties we never had pre-meetings and were [not] told how to vote in a whipping system”.
The Blackwood representative said it was for other councillors to decide whether they would “accept” the changes to the constitution.
“If the ruling administration wishes to exclude opposition councillors with their 22-seat majority it’s really up to them, although I appreciate they won the  election with the next local elections not until 2027, and the residents have shown their support for Labour at the ballot box in the recent Penmaen by-election on August 31,” he said.
Cllr Etheridge added he would “continue as the elected member for Blackwood, dealing with residents queries on a day-to-day basis, but [I am] not prepared to be treated this way”.
Caerphilly County Borough Council was contacted for comment.