A ROW has broken out over the role of chairing an influential Blaenau Gwent council committee.

Senior Independent Blaenau Gwent councillor, Julie Holt has taken to social media to explain why she turned down the opportunity of chairing the Democratic Services Committee on “principle”

Following the May local election Cllr Holt was offered the role but refused it due to not wanting to work with the councillor selected to be vice-chairman, Cllr Carl Bainton.

The council’s Labour leadership responded that Cllr Holt was “strangely silent” in regards to principles during the previous council administration, when councillors changed allegiances and joined the Independent group that she is part of.

Former council chairwoman, Cllr Holt said: “Initially I accepted this role as I see it as an important position, one that I could use to evaluate the newly implemented scrutiny processes.

“But after receiving a list of committee members and realising who was to be nominated as vice-chair I declined the offer immediately.”

She said she believed the vice chairman would be Cllr Carl Bainton, who was elected to the Ebbw Vale South ward as an independent councillor – but joined the Labour group almost straight after being elected.

Cllr Holt said: “He left many people in the borough angry at his decision.

“People who didn’t want to vote for a Labour candidate voted for him in good faith as an independent alternative and are genuinely upset by his actions.

“It was with a heavy heart that I decided to turn down the position.

“I feel it would go against my principles to work with someone who has betrayed the electorate and mislead people about his intentions.

“There is a great irony that someone who has defied the very rules of the democratic process being nominated to be the vice-chair of the Democratic Services Committee.”

Council and Labour group leader Cllr Steve Thomas said: “In the UK, politicians have frequently changed allegiances without an election; this is something that many have raised previously and something that can only be changed legislatively.

“Cllr Holt informed us that she wouldn’t be taking up the position of for the reasons given, which of course, is her right and one which we respect.

“However, she cannot take the moral high ground because she was strangely silent when there was a move across the floor from Plaid Cymru to her Independent group following the 2017 elections.

“She also remained silent when former Cllr (Mark) Holland left the Independent group in 2020 and they tried to bring him back into the fold without needing an election.

“As there was no public outcry from Cllr Holt in these instances, one can only conclude that her principles must have been on holiday during the last term.”