Another Tory quits county council’s coalition
Another councillor has left the coalition of Independent and Conservatives that run Powys County Council (PCC).
Councillor Mark Barnes (Newton and Llanllwchaiarn West) said that he has left the group, but continues as a member of the Conservative party.
He criticised the coalition leadership which he felt forced many in the Conservative group to support positions they do not believe in.
He said: “I’ve just had enough. Since May 2017, I have met some of the best people that I’ve ever met at Powys County Council. Some of the [Conservative] group are amongst the most passionate and dedicated people that I have met.
“So together we should be able to do wonderful things for our communities.”
Councillor Barnes continued: “Sadly, as a collective, we seem to be constrained by others.
“When you put ideas forward, you’re told that you can’t rock the boat for fear that members of the Independent group won’t be happy.”
Councillor Barnes had been amongst the rebels who opposed a council tax increase in March.
And he revealed that he had stood against “good friend“ and Conservative group leader Aled Davies for leader of the Conservative group.
Councillor Barnes added: “I have increasingly challenged the views of the Conservative cabinet members and I don’t support the council leader.
“This has made supporting my group difficult. I want to be a councillor to deliver something tangible and campaign for greater opportunities for Powys residents. I believed that together we are stronger but I find the opposite to be the case.”
Councillor Barnes added that he will be delivering a letter to all his constituents explaining his action.
The coalition cabinet has three Conservatives out of eight, including Conservative group leader Councillor Aled Davies who is both deputy leader of the council and finance portfolio holder.
Councillor Davies (Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant – Llansilin) said: “I do know, [that Councillor Barnes had left] but I have not spoken to Mark recently.”
He had no further comment to add.
Council leader Councillor Rosemarie Harris (Independent – Llangynidr) said: "We are two groups in coalition. We have regular meetings separately.
“And we do have joint meetings as we had during the budget setting process.”
Councillor Harris was asked whether it was time to rotate some of the cabinet positions in order to keep members of the coalition happy.
She said: “The cabinet is hard-working with able and experienced people on it.”
Councillor Barnes is the fourth non-aligned councillor to have left the ruling coalition in recent years. This means that the Conservative Group now numbers 18, while the Independent/Conservative ruling coalition now has 46 out of 73 councillors.
By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter