A GWENT council’s only Green Party member criticised by its ruling Labour group earlier this year for “voting with the Conservatives” is now set to help keep them in power.
Councillor Ian Chandler became the only Green Party member on Monmouthshire County Council at last year’s local government elections where the Conservatives lost their majority and Labour was able to form a minority administration to run the council.
Now 12 months on Cllr Chandler, who had sat as a member of the Independent Group, is splitting from it, along with independent councillor Meirion Howells, they say to “act as a bridge” between Labour and the opposition groups.
As Labour has just 22 of the council’s 46 seats it has at times struggled to get votes passed in the chamber, with the 18-strong Conservative opposition and six-member Independent Group combining to defeat proposals, including a first attempt at passing this year’s budget.
The new two member group should mean there are sufficient votes to ensure Labour chief, and Llanelly Hill councillor, Mary Ann Brocklesby is re-elected as the council’s leader at it annual general meeting on Thursday.
Following the budget defeat in March Labour cabinet member Sara Burch criticised Cllr Chandler for “voting with the Conservatives”, a comment which was later condemned by opposition councillors.
At the time Cllr Chandler said he hadn’t “voted with the Conservatives, but against a budget” he was unhappy with.
Now he says he and Cllr Howells intend to provide “stability” to the council and have split from the Independent Group to sit as a Green Independent Group in a move that will be formalised at the annual meeting at County Hall, in Usk.
The Llantilio Crossenny member said: “The council needs stability to deliver effectively for its residents. We decided to form a new group so we can engage constructively with the minority Labour administration and act as a bridge between them and opposition groups. It’s time to put away tribal loyalties and work together for the benefit of all”.
Cllr Howells, who represents Llanbadoc and Usk, added: “Cllr Chandler and myself share a deep commitment to cleaning up our rivers and protecting our environment. Working together as a separate independent group will reflect more closely how we wish to work with the administration.”