Conwy council Labour leader secures £8,700 role with coin toss

Conwy council Labour leader secures £8,700 role with coin toss

A virtual coin toss was used to decide who should secure a top role at Conwy council after a tied vote.

Welsh Labour bosses suggested the move to choose between councillor Penny Andow and the council’s Labour leader Chris Hughes for chair of the social care and health scrutiny committee.

As a result Ms Andow, an ex-lecturer in health and social care, lost the £8,700 role she had held for three years.

Two councillors quit the Labour cohort following the decision.

Ms Andow, who represents Llanfairfechan, said she was “in a real state” following the coin-toss casting vote.

It took place in a video meeting between Ms Andow, Mr Hughes, group treasurer Andrew Hinchliff and Labour Party official Alvin Shum.

“I chose even, he generated a number and it was odd. He [Mr Shum] said ‘chair goes to Chris Hughes’,” said Ms Andow.

“I’m sure the Labour voters who voted me in would not think a bingo machine was democracy.”

Ms Andow has called on Mr Hughes to resign as the council’s Labour group leader.

She said added that Mr Hughes had told Labour colleagues that if he did not get the post he “might be forced to use a food bank” himself.

Mr Hughes told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he made “a crass comment about food banks” which he “immediately regretted and for which I apologise – food banks are an important lifeline for many families”.

Mr Hughes has previously said that the extra £8,700 pay for the role played no part in his interest in it.

Councillors collect a member’s basic allowance of £14,218, with scrutiny committee chairs receiving extra, which takes their pay to about £23,000.

Conservative councillor Harry Saville accused Mr Hughes of “awarding himself a pay rise”.

Former Conwy council leader Ronnie Hughes and Mike Priestley, who resigned from Welsh Labour after the vote, now sit as independents on Conwy council.

In a joint statement, they said: “We were at a Zoom meeting where councillor Chris Hughes expressed a wish to go for the position of chair of the social care and health scrutiny committee.

“He talked about his financial situation as one of the reasons for going for the position.”

Another Labour councillor resigned from the social care and health scrutiny committee after the vote.

Mr Hughes said: “I did not ask to be considered for the scrutiny chair role, a group member asked if I was interested, and I responded saying ‘If nominated I would not turn it down’ – and yes I did say ‘I could certainly do with the extra money’.

“The process was overseen by the Welsh Labour Party, who reviewed the process before declaring the result a tie.

“Labour Party staff then proceeded to organise a tie-breaker event, which was carried out on Zoom in the presence of both candidates and the Labour group secretary as a witness.”

A Welsh Labour spokesman said: “We do not comment on the internal workings of Labour groups.”

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