Labour councils court controversy
Labour swept the board in May’s local elections, winning enough votes to take total control of 10 councils on the night and more after negotiations.
Anyone lucky enough to have been present at one of the long election night counts will have witnessed Labour councillors and activists beaming with joy at their results.
But since getting their feet under the table, governing Labour groups have wasted no time in making hugely controversial decisions.
And Labour’s three Cs - Cardiff, Caerphilly and Carmarthen - have been at the centre of the storm.
Despite all councils being forced to make huge savings by the UK government, it took Cardiff’s new administration just over 3 months to unveil plans for a £1.6 million pay boost for it’s top earners.
This was apparently justified by the fact that the council had started to pay employees a living wage of at least £7.45.
Trade unions immediately threatened strike action and the issue seems to have disappeared for now.
Cabinet members at Labour-led Caerphilly Council aren’t going to let those pesky trade unions scare them off their plans to splash the cash on senior managers.
A behind-closed-doors meeting of just 5 Labour councillors rubber stamped a proposal to pay 20 of the council’s top earners almost 30 per cent extra.
Council employees enduring a three-year pay freeze greeted this week’s new with both anger and amazement.
Furious workers will walk out on Monday afternoon in protest before picketing a meeting of Labour councillors later that evening.
Only today the Labour leader of Carmarthenshire Council was told he should be “ashamed” for wishing council employees a “happy Christmas” just minutes after rejecting a proposal to pay them the living wage.
In addition, Carmarthenshire Council have also turned their hand to crippling local newspapers.
The council has starved the South Wales Guardian newspaper of advertising since the newspaper’s editorial criticised council plans for a Sainsbury’s supermarket to be built in the town.
A local row has developed into a national news story and criticism has rained down on Carmarthenshire Council leaders from journalists across the UK.
So to summarise…
It’s no wonder a Labour councillor got nowhere near winning the prize for Welsh local politician of the year, which was recently awarded to Ellen ap Gwynn, Plaid Cymru’s Ceredigion Council leader.
I can only assume Labour are trying to front-load bad news, making widely unpopular decisions years in advance of the next election.
But almost all of the outraged trade union members in Cardiff, Caerphilly and Carmarthen will be paying to support the Labour party through their union membership.
And if the current circus continues it could wipe the smiles from the faces of Labour councillors at election night next time and even undermine the party’s UK-wide poll progress.