A NEW leader was named for Blaenau Gwent council yesterday as independent John Mason.

His election cames as and Labour councillors vowed to work together for the future of the authority.

Cllr Mason, former deputy leader of the council, was elected by overwhelming cross-party support, except that is from old adversary and former leader Des Hillman.

Before councillors voted at the Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale yesterday, Cllr Hillman launched a scathing attack on the Nantyglo ward councillor, refusing to vote for him.

For months the Argus has reported the political in-fighting between the independents and during his resignation speech last week, Cllr Hillman made reference to the "skulduggery" within his own group but did not name names.

But yesterday he criticised his former comrade for forging ahead with a deal with Labour councillors which he had tried to do months ago but with no backing and accusing him of not inviting him to a meeting to talk about a new leader.

"This is a small battle won, but not the war. I will not vote for a man I cannot trust," Cllr Hillman said.

It seems the behind closed doors discussions between the two political groups this week have helped bring peace and harmony to the council, with Labour agreeing to work with the independents and in return were offered three executive positions and two scrutiny committee chairmanships.

Members from across the political divide voted for Cllr Mason, except Cllr Hillman, and Abertillery ward councillor John Taylor as the new deputy leader.

Labour Cllr Steve Thomas: "We need to get on to consensus politics. I think the overriding matter of this meeting is the people of Blaenau Gwent.

"Labour leader Cllr Hedley McCarthy added: "The Labour group want to do everything in its power to do bring stability to the council."

As the meeting was brought to a close, Mayor Mike Bartlett said: "Whoever is in charge of it, let up the white smoke, we have a new leader."

  • A special meeting of the council will be held on Thursday (OCT 20) to elect the new members of the executive.

THE NEW leader of Blaenau Gwent council says now is the time for unity as the authority faces what could be its toughest period in recent years.

At the end of the month the Wales Audit Office report into the running of the council is due to be published.

Combined with an education department in special measures and what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult budget settlement from the Welsh Assembly, there could be some trying times ahead.

But Cllr Mason says it is the future that is important and working together is the key to the authority's success: "We are working together for a shared partnership agenda. All elected members and staff share this vision.

"We are determined and will be focusing on areas we must make progress in, areas we must do better and delivering the best possible outcomes.

"When questioned on Cllr Hillman's remarks, Cllr Mason refused to comment on the personal attack and replied: "That is his personal view and he is still a member of the independent group."

"Can I thank the members of the council for the confidence they have shown in me as electing me leader of the council.

"It is a day of getting back to the important things - the people of Blaenau Gwent, the staff and members who serve the community. I know we are all together in facing the challenges ahead."