A SENIOR Newport Labour councillor is to tonight make a bid to become deputy leader, publicly turning against senior colleagues who he said didn’t support him in his job.
Tredegar Park ward councillor Trevor Watkins was chief whip for two years, but has now criticised Labour council leader Bob Bright’s administration over public relations and how it treats its backbenchers – saying both issues could be handled better.
He is one of three Labour councillors known to the Argus who have decided to quit senior roles within the Labour group.
Neither Cllr Watkins, Cllr Jane Mudd or Cllr Tom Bond have sought renomination for their roles as chief whip, chairwoman and secretary respectively.
Cllr Watkins, who has served as chief whip for two years, is expected to challenge Cllr Ray Truman for the role of deputy leader at the Newport council Labour group annual general meeting, which takes place in private tonight.
Cllr Watkins, who has been responsible for overseeing discipline in the group in his role as chief whip, said: “I didn’t feel I had the backing and support of senior members of the party.”
He claimed that “recommendations that were put forward were turned down on one occasion”, and that another recent recommendation wasn’t appreciated: “I had the feeling they wanted a more severe penalty.”
Cllr Watkins wouldn’t say which recommendation he was referring to – but the Argus understands it was the decision to give a written warning to Cllr Miqdad Al-Nuaimi.
Asked why he had put his name forward for deputy leader, he said: “I am concerned about a number of things which need to be improved – and over the last two years since this group has been in power or had the majority, things haven’t improved the way I would like them.”
He said public relations “could be far better” and said there should be “more notification to backbenchers” who he said should be taken on board more with cabinet member’s decisions.
He added he would get backbenchers shadowing cabinet members if he became deputy leader.
The handling of the demolition of the mural – which he said he wasn’t opposed to – was a big issue for Cllr Watkins. “I think if backbenchers were informed of what was about to take place they would have been far better prepared for what happened afterwards,” he said.
Cllr Watkins said he would support the group decisions, but when asked if he supported Newport council leader Bob Bright, he wouldn’t comment. Ray Truman, the current deputy leader, said: “It’s an internal Labour group matter. I’m not going to comment.”
Two senior councillors step down
COUNCILLOR Watkins’ challenge to become deputy leader comes as two senior Newport Labour group officers have both decided to step down.
Cllr Tom Bond and Cllr Jane Mudd will not serve as secretary and chairwoman of the Newport council Labour group after tonight’s AGM, both saying they want to concentrate on other areas.
Meanwhile the authority's youngest councillor Emma Garland is likely to become Labour’s chief whip and replace Cllr Watkins’, after she was the only person to put their name forward.
Cllr Mudd, who serves Malpas ward and is currently chairwoman, said: “I can confirm that I haven't submitted a nomination this year.”
She said she wanted others to have the chance to take up the opportunity, and she’d like to concentrate her efforts “on some other areas of council business that I have been involved in” including work on the reform of scrutiny and campaigning.
Cllr Bond, who became secretary in the last year, said he needed “to spend more of my time focusing on my council work.”
As well as working at a web development company Cllr Bond is also studying for a masters in advanced environmental and energy studies.
St Julians councillor Emma Garland was aged 19 when she was elected in May 2012.
Cllr Garland confirmed that she was the only person who has sought nomination for the role of chief whip: “I just like working with all different parts of the group – I’ve been a deputy whip this year and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
A chief whip is responsible for the disciplinary process in the group and can also act as a go-between for leadership and the group’s backbenchers.