Thursday, October 09, 2008

Baglan: ex-Ratepayers respond

A recent leaflet issued by the two Labour councillors in Baglan concluded:

We want you to know what really went on.

Opposition parties have been implying that Baglan has been disenfranchised, up until now we haven't put anything in writing about what happened prior to the closing nominations on the 4"" of April 2008.

When we first joined the Ratepayers the focus of the group was, 'People Come First, your local needs and issues. We have never professed to be political animals, we go about the job from day to day because we care and are passionate about our children, environment and community. We have worked extremely hard and attended all meetings in order to gain an all-round knowledge of our duties as councillors and to gain more insight into the function of the council. We have made strong representation on issues affecting the community of Baglan along with issues of concern throughout the County Borough; and will continue to do so but subsequently we suffered lack of support and commitment from the Ratepayers on too many occasions.

After Cllr Paul Evans passed away the Ratepayers changed and after three years of trying to work with the new regime, we couldn't continue to do so because of the constant bullying from within the party which was solely directed at Juliet. Also, a member of the Conservative party attended Ratepayers meetings and dictated a pact between the Ratepayers/Tories/Plaid and Liberal Democrats so they could create safe seats for themselves and deny the voters a right to democracy. If we had stayed with the Ratepayers we would have been unopposed, therefore, you must ask the question, would the opposition parties have then stated in their leaflet that we were unwanted? Surely if the other parties were so worried about Baglan and how it was being represented, why then, didn't they submit candidates in the last election?

Yes, we did change to Labour just before the end of the nominations and it was a massive personal decision to make. But with very little time to make this decision we feel that it would have had greater consequences had it been made after the elections. We are still 100% committed to Baglan, 'our community, regardless of our status, and, as far as we are concerned, the People of Baglan still come first.

Our reply:.

We didn't imply that Baglan was disenfranchised. In our Baglan leaflet we boldly stated it right out.

We have never been dictated to by Conservatives or by any outside body.

If the then-Ratepayers in Baglan were unhappy about the way the party was run, why didn't they move to change it? Clearly it was in need of fresh leadership, something we had pointed out in our comments on council attendance before the election.

Frank Little says: “As leader of a small party, I make no apologies for placing our select group of candidates where they stood most chance of winning. I was entitled to assume that Ratepayers, who had once formed a minority group on the council along with independents and ourselves, had more similar views to Liberal Democrats than to Labour. I was therefore not going to undermine them by running candidates of our own. I have been involved in county council elections in the Neath Port Talbot area since the early 1990s. Every time, I have been fed information from various sources on the council about where opposition candidates would be standing and 2008 was the first year in which the information was genuine. There was no talk of Conservative plots in the years when we turned out to have been deceived."

Yes, we did change to Labour just before the end of the nominations
It would have been more honest to change earlier than 15 minutes before the close.
we feel that it would have had greater consequences had it been made after the elections
After the elections, the Baglan 2 would have formed 40% of the Ratepayer representation on the council and would hardly need to change allegiance. They would surely have been able to influence the way the party was run.


Anonymous said...

As a former member of the Aberafan and Neath Liberal Democrats; I feel that I’ve should have an opportunity to respond to these comments issued by the two ex-ratepayers from Baglan.

They could have stood as independents and still got elected and still represented the people of Baglan; why did they choose to join the Labour Party?

Why the cloak and dagger operation of putting ones nomination papers in just minutes before the close of nominations?

As regards packs between Plaid, Lib Dems, and Conservatives what utter nonsense! I can remember this was tried in the run up to the 1999 Council Elections, and in the words of Cllr Ted Wheatley “…we’ve picked our [Ratepayer]seats that we are going to contest, you can pick what seats you are going to contest from the rest!”

Plaid were missing from that meeting, the three Social democrats turned up, as did some Liberals and some independents. To my knowledge this is the only time in recent history that “pacts” have been talked about. By the way, this was the time of the Labour Lib Dem pact in the Welsh Assembly, the comments the Lib Dems faced from Ratepayers around the table on that occasion was “how do we know you aren’t going to join labour?” which in the circumstances we are discussing is quite ironic.

Regarding the comments on the leaflet: “…We have never professed to be political animals” Cllrs Richards and Hopkins should be now aware that they have now joined a political party whose government is engaged in an illegal war. There is nothing more political than local politics!

The infighting in the Ratepayers was pretty much common knowledge in political circles within the town; and it was certainly common knowledge in the Labour Party.

Alarm bells should have started ringing among the electorate in Port Talbot when the Ratepayers took so long in calling the Baglan by-election. Obviously they had problems choosing the candidate; they had quite a few well known individuals who weren’t councillors who could have stood.

Regarding the comments issued by the two former Ratepayers: “…create safe seats for themselves and deny the voters a right to democracy.” I would just like to point out the following facts:

Our Local Authorities Elections are fundamentally flawed; the party or parties that can make up the most Councillors get to control the Council. Each County is divided up into Wards, the boundaries are based on things like railway lines, rivers & streams, Roman roads. Wards may have a number of councillors in them, some just have one Councillor to represent them, and others have four or five councillors representing them. Councillors are elected on the First Past the Post system, this is perfectly fine when there are just two parties contesting the seats in a given ward, but when you have a menagerie of parties running for just one or two seats, more people vote against the winning Councillors than for them.

Attempts were made back in June 2002 with the publishing of the Sunderland Commission on Local Authority elections in Wales, which proposed amongst other things the introduction of Single Transferable Votes (STV); however our own Welsh Assembly Government chose to ignore these recommendations.

We now have the situation with Bridgend CBC (County Borough Council), where Labour has control of the Council with just 42% of the votes cast. In Neath Port Talbot CBC, Labour has 58% of the seats with just 49% of the votes cast.

Hopefully, the defections by Councillors Hopkins and Richards will highlight to people that it’s pointless voting for the Ratepayers, and that the Ratepayers are a spent force in Port Talbot.

The ratepayers have made some classic gaffs through the years:

The leaflet they put out in Neath; “Did you know that Asylum seekers have more rights to NHS facilities and benefits that British Nationals? Look out for the next wave of bogus asylum seekers being directed to a street near you or even moving in next door…” this is clearly racist, even if the Ratepayers Leader at the time, disagreed.

Another classic gaff came from former Ratepayer councillor David Williams, who was quoted (New villagers should have CRB checks) in the Port Talbot Guardian as saying “I suggest that we introduce a CRB check on all applicants from outside our boundaries….” Perhaps we should put a Star of David symbol on Jews or pink triangles on homosexuals as well?

Finally, I can well understand why Hopkins and Richards chose to leave the Ratepayers, no-one would want to stay in an organisation where bullying is the norm (as suggested by the leaflet).

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems

Richie Northcote said...

Thank you for that response Gary. A good post. I feel that I should also respond. I Still cannot believe that they have accused us of collaborating with the Tories/Plaid/Ratepayers.

It was simple strategy for us as a relatively small local party - stand in a small number of wards where we knew there were problems and issues not being addressed and where we felt we had the best chance of winning, since we would have otherwise run the risk of overstretching ourselves and winning nothing. The strategy paid off and resulted in us unseating two sitting Labour Councillors and doubling our representation on the Council. But you know what? I wouldn't have cared if those two seats had belonged to Plaid or the Ratepayers.

Anyway, time to move on and look forward not back. It is now up to the people of Baglan to decide at the next election.

Anonymous said...

“I still cannot believe that they have accused us of collaborating with the Tories/Plaid/Ratepayers.”

Well obviously Richard, someone has been doing some COLLABORATING, two standing Ratepayer councillors don’t just put their nomination papers in as members of the Labour Party!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was planned well in advance of the 15 minutes to close of nominations back in April.

This blog has probably been sent around the members of the labour party in Port Talbot faster than a speeding bullet. Cllrs Hopkins and Richards are now aware of this but they choose not to respond to the comments; ditto the Ratepayer Councillors Keogh, Tallamy and Tutton.


Just been on the The Electoral Commission website, to find that the Ratepayers have now changed their name to the “Neath Port Talbot Independent Party”, sounds like an Oxymoron to me!

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems

Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats said...

Gary, I'm not getting drawn into the personal issues, save to say that few Neath Port Talbot councillors are as nifty with the keyboard as we are. Therefore no conclusions should be drawn from the absence of other parties here.

As to the dropping of the Ratepayer name, could this have something to do with breaching the national Ratepayer guidelines in standing a candidate in a parliamentary election in 2005?

Frank Little

Anonymous said...

Cllr Little: the next time you see your fellow councillors, who are truely independent, please draw to their attention that the Ratepayers have now changed their name to the “Neath Port Talbot Independent Party”, I would hate for the likes of Cllr Lella James, Cllr Roblin et al., to be tarred with the Ratepayer brush.

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems

Richie Northcote said...

Gary has a good point there Frank!