Blackwood councillor cleared over housing sale letter row
A BLACKWOOD councillor has been cleared by the Ombudsman after he was alleged to have breached the Code of Conduct for members.
The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales said it found no evidence that councillor Nigel Dix had failed to comply with the code.
Former Caerphilly council leader Allan Pritchard had complained to the Ombudsman in April last year about a letter published in the Argus written by Cllr Dix.
The letter referred to the vote by Caerphilly council housing tenants on whether the housing stock should be transferred to social landlord Castell Mynydd.
The letter said council tenants voting to remain with the council had been a slap in the face for Plaid Cymru and a damning indictment of Mr Pritchard’s leadership.
Cllr Dix said in the letter that Mr Pritchard had invested personal political capital to secure a vote for tenants to be in favour of stock transfer.
Mr Pritchard told the Ombudsman that the contents of the letter were misleading, false and untrue.
He said he had maintained neutrality on the matter and had not expressed favour one way or another.
The Ombudsman said Cllr Dix provided a number of press releases which he said supported his assertions.
This included an article in June last year, which appeared in another newspaper, where Mr Pritchard was quoted as saying that should tenants transfer their homes to Castell Mynydd they would receive an improved housing service with an opportunity to shape and influence the future service Castell Mynydd could provide.
Katrin Shaw, acting director of investigations for the Ombudsman, she said she accepts that Mr Pritchard’s dealings regarding the housing stock transfer had been impartial.
But she said this second article does imply that Mr Pritchard was favourable towards the transfer of the council housing stock.
She said the article gives the impression that his view was that the transfer to Castell Mynydd was the better option and so lends support to Cllr Dix’s assertion that his preferred choice was for the transfer.
The report also refers to a recent High Court ruling which determined that comments made within the political context should be seen as part of “robust political debate.”
She said: “Councillors should develop a ‘thicker skin’ in dealing with and responding to politicallymotivated comments.”