• Secret recording implies cash allocated to boost Labour
  • Leader apologises for misogynistic language
  • Referred to Public Services Ombudsman

THE LEADER of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Rob Jones, has taken a step back from his role after a leaked recording of a Labour Party meeting.

In the recording, made at a Labour Party meeting in Pontardawe in 2019, a voice alleged to be Cllr Jones’ is heard describing Plaid MS Bethan Sayed as ‘a cow’.

The same voice is also heard openly boasting of allocating public funds on a party political basis instead of allocating them impartially.

The recorded voice says: “I wouldn’t do it overtly, but clandestinely – if two Plaid councillors came to me and actually said ‘we want to find the money for this, we want to find the money for that’ and there was a contradictory project that potential Labour Councillors wanted: which one am I going to plough money into?”

The voice alleged to be Mr Jones’ boasts of one occasion on which money was spent for overt party political advantage.

“I did it up in Ystalyfera where there was a cemetery up on the mountain,” the voice says, “I don’t know if you’ve heard this story – Allt y Grug Cemetery – the cemetery was owned by the local church up there and the local vicar…he refused, he didn’t want anything to do with this project. We just did it anyway.

“What I said to the officers was “go and search down behind the backs of the sofa and cost out how much you could do for the whole road. He came back and they said it was something like twenty thousand, twenty-five thousand. So the long and the short – we put the road in. It took three days to put it in. They have now turned to [the] Labour Party.”

Ms Sayed, MS for South Wales West, said:: “I find the choice of words on the recording, and the tone used by Councillor Rob Jones in his criticism of me, other councillors and community members, to be despicable.

“Many comments made in this recording suggest worrying and deeply improper practices at the top of Neath Port Talbot Labour-run council, and I call for a full investigation into this issue, as a matter of urgency.

“It would appear that Cllr Jones is suggesting that some council decisions are not solely based on the merit of a given project or scheme in the borough, which of course should be the case. No decisions should be made based on political preferences. This is deeply worrying, as it could directly impact communities across NPT, undermine democracy, and people’s faith in the council long-term.

“Plaid Cymru will be writing to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales to ask them to investigate these matters fully.”

Cllr Jones issued a statement in which he claims the recording has been edited to show him in the worst possible light.

Cllr Jones claims: “I have been made aware of a recording being circulated on social media, which was made in 2019 at a private meeting of members of the Labour Party in the Pontardawe area.

“During the 2-hour meeting, without my knowledge or consent, an individual made an audio recording of discussions surrounding topics such as schools reorganisation, selection of candidates to fight elections, distribution of Labour Party literature, political tactics and opposition party individuals.

“The final recording has clearly been edited to produce a damning commentary on me.
“The contents of the recording do not reflect the values I hold as an individual or those of the Labour Party, nor do they meet the standards of accountability required of a public representative.

“During the conversation, it can be heard that I made a derogatory remark about a serving MS. I have written to that individual offering an unreserved apology for the statement that I made during this private meeting.

“I have brought the matter to the attention of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer and have made a self-referral to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, the organisation charged with undertaking investigations of this kind and invited him to investigate this matter in an impartial capacity.

“Whilst this investigation is being undertaken I will step back from the role of Leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council in the hope that I will be vindicated, whereupon it will be my intention to once again become the Leader of the Council.

“To this end, I will await the Ombudsman’s outcome and make no further comment at this time.”

A spokesperson for Neath Port Talbot Council said: “We can confirm that Councillor Rob Jones has brought a matter involving himself to the council’s attention and we will be undertaking an investigation into this.

“Councillor Jones has also referred himself to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and, in the interests of facilitating a robust investigation, has for the time being stepped back from his position as Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council.

“The Deputy Leader, Councillor Edwards Latham, will fulfil the role of Leader in the interim.
“In order to avoid prejudicing proceedings, we are unable to offer any further comment at this stage.”