A SENIOR councillor told campaigners over a proposed school merger that they were disrespecting him during a heated private meeting.

Labour’s Cllr Mark Whitcutt, Newport council cabinet member for human resources, was heard on a secret recording telling parents, governors and others angry over a plan to merge Gaer Infants and Junior schools that he “wasn’t on trial”.

He protested at the way councillors were being treated, and on a tape heard by the Argus could be heard to say they “showed a total lack of disrespect”, appearing to mean they were disrespecting him. Others at the meeting told the Argus he had made such a comment.

A protest took place at Newport Civic Centre last Wednesday – with more than 50 parents and children – over a proposed merger of Gaer Junior and Infants schools onto the junior site.

Gaer councillors Debbie Wilcox, Mark Whitcutt and Herbie Thomas then went into a private meeting with campaigners and their children, which the Argus was told it couldn’t attend, but that one individual secretly recorded.

Earlier in the meeting the Cllr Whitcutt said he had been assured there will be a school that’s fit for the 21st century “with a seven-figure sum spent on it”. He said councillors wouldn’t accept constituents being treated as second-class citizens.

Campaigners are concerned that the junior site is too small.

During the meeting Cllr Wilcox, who is also a cabinet member, said they would not accept anything that was not the “absolute best” and said she was in favour of an all-through primary school.

Cllr Whitcutt did not comment when he was contacted by the Argus.

Heated exchange on tape

ON THE tape a woman is heard, amid table bangs, to demand to know whether the councillors support them. Later, one campaigner says: “Are we going to get your support? Yes or no?”

Cllr Whitcutt replies: “I’m not on trial here, let me just tell you.

I’m not going to be forced into a yes or no answer on something which is far too complicated.

A woman interjects, shouting: “You are our ward councillors. You represent us.”

Cllr Whitcutt continues: “We are representatives, we’re not delegates. You need to remember that... I must protest at the way we are being treated by you.

It’s a total lack of disrespect.”