South West Wales

Carmarthenshire leader Meryl Gravell wins no confidence vote

A council leader has survived a no confidence vote which followed remarks she made about staff and some hospital protesters she referred to as "rabble".

Carmarthenshire leader Meryl Gravell's comments were filmed by a member of the Unison union and posted on YouTube.

The motion, accusing her of an "unacceptable slur" on council workers, was beaten by 36 votes to 31.

Mrs Gravell said her remarks related to a minority who turned up at the meeting to heckle Mr Andrews and his staff.

She added that her words were "ill chosen" but she "never meant to criticise council staff".

She later thanked the council for their "vote of confidence".

The motion, submitted by Plaid Cymru councillor Peter Hughes Griffiths, referred to a speech made by Mrs Gravell on 12 January at the Choose Life drug and alcohol intervention centre in Llanelli, run by Alan Andrews.

Among those present were First Minister Carwyn Jones.

The film shows Mrs Gravell, a member of the council's independent group, saying: "We have 9,000 employees in Carmarthen (council) and if all... worked as hard as Alan (Andrews) and were as enthusiastic... my goodness, we would not have a problem at all in the council.

"But there we are. We are where we are."

Mrs Gravell, with reference to a protest against the proposed closure of the A&E unit at the town's Prince Philip Hospital, added: "I get so frustrated and cross with some of the rabble that was outside today."

The no confidence motion stated: "Blaming the authority's 9,000 staff for all the county council's problems, by implying that they are not hardworking and enthusiastic, is an offensive and unacceptable slur on staff and members of Carmarthenshire County Council."

'Contemptuous'

It added: "The leader's remark was totally unjustified and unacceptable. It was an affront to all who attended the rally, and - by association - everyone who opposes the closure of the A&E unit.

"Such unjustified and contemptuous statements by the leader reflect poorly on this authority and shows a deplorable attitude towards county council staff and the people of Carmarthenshire in general."

Speaking before the vote Mark Evans of Unison, said he found Mrs Gravell's comments "extraordinary".

"Our members are extremely disappointed and are struggling, really, to understand it," said Mr Evans, branch secretary of Carmarthenshire county branch.

"To have the council leader come on and say people are not working hard enough, or as enthusiastically as the person running the drugs centre, our members find it very disparaging."

Mr Evans said many council employees had written to Mrs Gravell to tell her how they feel.

"Staff are working late into the evening and on over the weekends and not getting paid for it on occasions," he added.

In a statement issued last week Mrs Gravell added: "I have clarified my remarks regarding staff, in hindsight the words were ill chosen, but were never meant to criticise council staff in any way.

"I was simply defending Alan and the Choose Life staff who had suffered such abuse. I have apologised publicly and to staff directly for any misunderstanding."

Mrs Gravell said she never missed an opportunity to praise council staff and had been touched by the support she had received over the matter.

She described the decision to introduce a motion of no confidence as "very disappointing".

Following the vote which defeated the motion, Mrs Gravell said: "I would like to thank the council for their vote of confidence in me.

"I would particularly like to thank those members who spoke in support of me today for their kind words, and to all those councillors and members of staff who have privately been so supportive."

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