COUNCILLOR Gwynfor Thomas will continue as Powys County Council’s chairman for the next year – but only after angry clashes between political groups.

The Llansantffraid Conservative, who was appointed to the role in November 2020, will serve 18 months because of the coronavirus pandemic – the same as his predecessor Cllr Beverley Baynham (Presteigne – Independent).

But the seemingly-straightforward task of rubber-stamping of the chairman, vice-chairman and assistant vice-chairman roles at the council's annual meeting on Thursday, May 13 fell into chaos and recriminations when an alternative candidate was put forward for the top post.

Cllr Thomas had already been nominated to stay in the role when Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe, the Liberal Democrat vice-chairman, was nominated to step up to become chairman.

Blaen Hafren Conservative councillor Cllr Phyl Davies said: “I can’t actually quite believe what I’m hearing, I’m horrified, the civic role of chair is something that’s held in high esteem, an honour to hold, for many years it’s been shared between the shires.

“Cllr Gwynfor has done a sterling job over the last six months and due to the pandemic has not held a civic reception. This is about decency.”

Various problems had arisen leading to the nomination, including agreements at a previous meeting that councillors should have a say over how to resolve the half-year term of the chairman, a need to suspend the council's standing orders to allow for the Covid-hit term, and a failure to inform Cllr Ratcliffe he would not be making the immediate step up.

Cllr Davies called for the nomination of Cllr Ratcliffe to be turned down and believed that those involved should be “ashamed of themselves.”

Head of Legal and Democratic Services, Clive Pinney, explained that a meeting of the group leaders on November 17, had discussed and agreed the process for the chairman’s role.

This would allow a handover from Cllrs Baynham to Thomas to be made at the annual meeting which was held in November due to Covid-19.

Cllr James Gibson-Watt (Glasbury) leader of the Liberal Democrat and Green group said: “The expectation was to allow Cllr Gwynfor to continue in the role for further 12 months or that it should pass to the vice-chair as would normally be the case.

“This is normally a straightforward process, but we are in unusual circumstances, we all agreed it was right to give the councillors a choice on which direction to go in.

“This is not about politics, it’s about procedure and getting back to the normal way of working.”

Cllr Ratcliffe (Hay – Liberal Democrat) felt he was being made a “political pawn” and had been put in an “awkward position” given the constitutional issue.

Cllr Ratcliffe: “There is a moral issue here, I have been approached to not allow my name to go forward, which is undemocratic.

“The constitution is here for a reason and we must uphold it, our public look at us to follow the rules.”

A vote to suspend the standing orders took place and it was agreed by 43 votes to 23 with two abstentions to suspend them.

This then allowed a vote to take place between Cllrs Thomas and Ratcliffe.

Cllr Thomas received 40 votes and Cllr Ratcliffe 27 and there was one abstention.

Cllr Thomas, said: “Thank you for your support and re-electing me.”