WHY did a decision to clear two county councillors of misconduct by the Ombudsman appeared in the media first?

The question was raised at a meeting of Powys County Council’s (PCC) standards committee on Wednesday (June 5).

The meeting discussed complaints about county, town and community councillors from Powys that the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has received and dealt with in recent months.

Independent member Christine Mulholland had brought a clipping of the article for the committee to see.

Mrs Mulholland said: “I don’t know if anyone saw this report in the local paper?

“They are two Powys cases that have been looked at by the Ombudsman.

“My query is how did that get into the paper before it was reported to the standards committee?”

She said that she wanted to bring that up with the Ombudsman, Nick Bennett.

Deputy monitoring officer, Debby Jones, replied that members are notified directly by the Ombudsman when investigated.

Mrs Mulholland said that she believed the Ombudsman should advise councillors not to comment on a decision, until after the committee had been officially notified of the decision.

Cllr Kath Roberts-Jones *(Independent – Kerry) added: “We are advised that we would be in breach of the Code of Conduct if we discuss anything about it until it’s concluded.

“It happened to me a couple of times and I was not allowed to speak about it.

“You get a letter saying that if you do, you are in breach of the Code of Conduct yourself.

“It’s a very difficult place to be when you’re involved with the Ombudsman.

“It seems to me to be a nonsense that some of these things are happening and they are in the papers way before anyone knows about it.”

The standard committee agreed to take it up with the Ombudsman at the next meeting of the North Wales Standards Committees Forum in Mold where Mr Bennett is expected to attend.

The councillors under discussion were Cllrs Elwyn Vaughan (Plaid Cymru – Glantwymyn) and) and Gwilym Williams (Conservative – Disserth and Trecoed).

They had been cleared of a complaint by former planning committee chairman, Cllr David Price (Independent – Llanafanfawr), that they had been harassing him over issues surrounding his caravan site.

At a planning committee meeting in July 2018, Cllr Price, was given a certificate of lawfulness for 28 caravan pitches for his family business, Noyadd Farm, near Builth Wells.

This follows complaints made by other caravan site owners that Cllr Price who was also Powys High Sheriff in 2018/19, was flouting planning regulations by having more pitches than he should have.

An investigation found he had been running the site for years without the necessary documentation.

Both Cllrs Vaughan and Williams argued that Cllr Price’s application should be decided by another local authority.

They also believed that members of the planning committee should be seen as “whiter than white” so that the public retain their confidence that decision are made for the right reason.

Cllr Price remains under investigation and would not comment on the matter when he was contacted.