WREXHAM Council has been thrown into disarray after 10 councillors including the council leader walked away from the Labour party in a shock move.
Labour leader Cllr Neil Rogers, last year’s Wrexham Mayor Cllr I. David Bithell and current Deputy Mayor Cllr Barbara Roxburgh, are among the 10 who said their position in the ruling group had become “untenable”.
Labour members Cllrs Michael Williams, David Griffiths, Bernie McCann, Geoff Lowe, Malcolm Taylor, Steve Wilson and Andy Williams also all turned their backs on their party.
It is understood the councillors leaving Labour will continue in their roles, including Cllr Rogers, until at least the next full council meeting later this month.
Some breaking ties with Labour have been part of the party for more than four decades.
The 10 issued a joint statement yesterday which said: “Today our position in the Labour Group has become untenable.
“Regrettably, it leaves us with no alternative but to leave the Labour Party.
“For many of us, it is a very sad day. However, we cannot continue to be negatively influenced within the Labour Group on issues that affect the lives of the people of Wrexham. We have informed the Labour whip and chair of our decision today.”
The unprecedented move comes less than a week after senior Labour councillor Malcolm King was stripped of his portfolio as lead member for policy, finance, performance and governance by Cllr Rogers following over a row about allegations made about the council’s Child and Family Assessment Team.
It also comes amid rumours that a fierce internal Labour Group row about whether to supoprt the Splash Community Trust’s bid to take over Plas Madoc Leisure Centre was the basis for the split.
Yesterday Cllr Rogers said: “Today is not a very pleasant day for myself or my colleagues. All my adult life I have been a member of the Labour party. If there was a general election in Wrexham tomorrow I know which way I would vote and it’s the same way I have always voted – Labour.”
Plaid Cymru Cllr Arfon Jones said a split in the Labour party had been on the cards.
He said: “The rumours have been going around that there would be a split since
Neil Rogers stripped Malcolm King of his portfolio on the executive board.
“I’m surprised which way the split has gone, I thought it would be the others who would leave Labour. The Labour group was 23-strong but 10 have walked away from it.
“If one of the two groups have walked out of the current administration, they no longer have a majority. It’s going to have a major impact on the running of the council – there is a big, big question mark over the future.
“It doesn’t matter how they try to hide it. It is a disappointment for the people of Wrexham because it will bring instability to the provision of services and the direction the council takes.”
Cllr Jones said the recent row ovber a housing development at Hayward’s Field in Llay may also have had a bearing.
Cllr David A. Bithell, leader of the Wrexham Independent group, said the split was a “historic” decision in Wrexham politics.
He said: “I’ve spoken to Neil this morning and he informed me that 10 members of the Labour group defected to become independent.
“Cllr Rogers was asking for approval to cancel next week’s executive board meeting, which I have no objection to.
“I am quite shocked given some of the Labour members involved that they have taken a decision of this level and magnitude when some of them have been Labour for more than 40 years. It is quite a historic decision in Wrexham.
“Obviously this leaves the council in a difficult position because it means the administration as it stands is no longer and the council will have to form a new administration in some format over the next few weeks in readiness for the full council meeting on September 24.“
Wrexham Council Chief Executive Dr Helen Paterson made no comment yesterday.
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