A COUNCILLOR who has quit the Labour Party over plans to reduce bin collections has claimed others in the ruling group share his concerns.
Giles Davies, who had been Torfaen council Labour group’s chief whip – in charge of ensuring councillors follow the party line when voting in the council chamber – announced he had resigned from the party due to plans to only collect rubbish either once a month, or every three weeks, in the borough.
The Abersychan councillor, who will now sit as independent outside of any group, said: “I’ve been listening to residents in my ward, a lot of them Labour supporters who never normally complain, and they are seething.”
The Labour run council has been consulting on the plans to change collections from March next year but a council survey only gives residents a preference of collections once a month or every three weeks with no option to keep fortnightly bin rounds.
The council, which says it needs to reduce collections to meet recycling targets, has also come under fire for a series of problems with refuse collections and a failure to upgrade its recycling centre which it has previously acknowledged is vital to it meeting the 70 per cent recycling target due to come into force in 2025.
The councillor had spoken out against the proposals at the end of March and said the council needed to improve its record on refuse collections before he could consider supporting any reductions. In response council leader Anthony Hunt said alternative proposals would be listened to.
But in a Twitter post, in which he announced he had quit the Labour group, Cllr Davies said he was disappointed that other members of the group hadn’t backed him on the issue.
He wrote: “I have made my views public, but am extremely disappointed that no other Labour member has backed me publicly.
“I have therefore decided to leave the Party to represent YOU as an Independent with the best of my ability with immediate effect.”
Cllr Davies told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that other members of the Labour group share his concerns.
He said: “I’ve had people from the group private message me to say they agree with me but when it came to the crunch they’ve not supported me. Hopefully now I’ve come out they will support their residents, they don’t need to leave the group, but the survey should be stopped and the plan reversed.”
He added: “I explained my feelings and someone accused me of wanting to burn the planet, I thought that’s a bit childish, but it’s not that but we have to get our own house in order before putting something like this forward.”
As a result of leaving the group Cllr Davies will also lose his position as chair of the licensing committee meaning he will miss out on a senior salary of £8,793 paid on top of the £16,800 salary all councillors receive.
He also said he’d had a near life-long asociation with the Labour Party as his late father, Doug, was also a councillor for the party and they became the first father and son to have both held the position of Torfaen mayor.
The councillor, who was elected to the borough council in 2012, said: “I know as a councillor you have to make tough decisions, and I have done like closing schools, but I’ve read the reports and knew that was the right decision but this time I’ve not felt comfortable.
“I’ve given up a chair I was passionate about. I just hope some of my Labour colleagues come out and make a stand to say they feel the same way. I’ve been involved in politics for at least 40 years and was out canvassing from when I was about four years old and have photographs of me canvassing as a teenager.
“It might be the end of my political career at the next election, but that’s politics, nothing is guranteed in life but some Labour supporters have said they will support me at the next election and I think that shows I’m in touch with the people in my ward and probably not just my ward but throughout Torfaen.”
Following his announcement, which was first made on Twitter, Cllr Davies said he has also been criticised for leaving the party which had made a contribution towards his election expenses but he pointed out he had also paid a percentage of his salary, as all Labour councillors are required to do, towards campaigning expenses.
Torfaen Borough Council now has 29 Labour members, with 11 independents, with four sitting in the Independent Group, three in the Torfaen Independent Group and four independents, including Cllr Davies, who aren’t members of any group.