Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the wrexham area

Senior Flintshire Councillor set for £800 pay rise vanishes from Twitter after ‘evil’ ‘vile’ ‘trolls’ ask questions about pay rise funding in budget

The Flintshire Council Cabinet Member for Social Services has deleted or deactivated their Twitter account after an evening of deleted tweets and failure to answer questions over the council budget.

In Flintshire the Cabinet is much like the Wrexham Executive Board, with a group of Councillors in effect controlling the day to day political direction of the council.

On Tuesday there was a Flintshire full council meeting that lasted several hours to decide the budget, and much like Wrexham’s meeting yesterday, set the council tax rate.

One person reacting to the news of the council tax rise in Flintshire was called ‘silly’ by Labour’s Cllr Christine Jones, the Flintshire Cabinet Member for Social Services as they had also linked the pay rise due for Councillors.

A recent report to Flintshire Councillors notes “an increase of £800 is proposed for leaders and cabinet members”, such as Cllr Jones.

As we have much-documented here in Wrexham the pay increases are set by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) and their ‘determinations’ are passed to Councils who are obligated to carry them out. As we have written before their reports are often ‘noted’ locally by raising of hands, yet we have never found out what happens if the councillors hands are not raised.

A year ago in Wrexham the Labour Group said “…the Tory / Independent run Council in Wrexham voted for the following: increase your council tax bill, accept a pay rise for themselves” based off the fact the budget approved in Wrexham contained funding to cover the IRPW’s pay rise plan.

An Executive Board member called it a ‘complete fabrication’, and the Wrexham Conservatives called it a ‘complete lie’ – and thus we wrote this fact checker delving further to discover what went on.

Because of our ongoing interest we dipped into the public twitter conversation asked Cllr Jones, “Are councillors over in Flintshire getting the same pay rises as in Wrexham, or have you managed to opt out of the IRPW reccs?”, as Wrexham Council are adamant it is not possible to opt out.

Despite replying to several other people on Twitter, Cllr Jones ignored our question.

Unfortunately due to Cllr Jones deleting or deactivating her account this morning it is not possible to embed her tweets, however we have the contents of what she subsequently posted saved.

Cllr Jones indicated there was no link between Council Tax and the councillor pay rise, “No because he was referring to Council Tax which has no relevance to the proposed renumeration”.

We asked, “What budget does the increase in pay come out of at Flintshire Council?” and “Does it come from FCC general (non-HRA etc) budgets, the one that council tax as well as welsh gov settlement etc funds? If so, surely saying CT rise has ‘no relevance’ is not entirely correct? No pay rise, and less extra cash to find even in a small way?”

The question was ignored, and after further prompting we spotted a replies to the IRPW pay rise references: “It has not come in front of the Council yet so i can’t comment”, and “We haven’t even agreed it yet @FlintshireCC”.

In the meantime Cllr Jones was calling a twitter user ‘condescending’, adding to them, ‘you could be accused of misogyny’ and then apparently blocking them.

Cllr Jones has deleted a tweet pointing us to FOI the source of funding for the pay rise, so we asked a simple question: “Does the budget you have just voted through contain the money to cover the uplift?”

Cllr Jones replied: “Which uplift is that, Education & Social Care? if so the answer is yes.”

We replied: “No, the IRPW pay rise (uplift) determination (not recommendation ) for councillors that will come in from April.”

Wrexham.com was then blocked by Cllr Jones.

Shortly after blocking us Cllr Jones tweeted:

Several people reacted to that tweet and the ongoing discussion – with many claiming and showing they were also then blocked.

One person said they were blocked for just following Cllr Jones, and not even interacting. Due to the nature of twitter you can view tweets that mention the Cllrs username here.

As Cllr Jones had not answered the question, and had blocked us, we went to the Flintshire Council website to try and find out the answers ourselves as we thought her FOI route would be quite long winded.

We shared what we found on twitter, initially a council meeting where the pay increases for councillors in Flintshire were discussed and a £29,500 budget expectation to cover the costs :

We then looked through the documents before Flintshire Councillors at their big budget approval meeting on Tuesday, where a £30k line was mentioned for ‘Member Allowances’.

At that point we thought that was that…

After short while Cllr Jones returned and unblocked us, and explained why she took the action against us saying the reason was ‘awful harassment’ :

The councillor then further explained, “If you want to speak with me @wrexham you can meet with me. I will not be subjected to abuse by trolls defending your news outlet” adding, “I am disgusted by comments that were made. I am willing to speak with you but not be subjected to abuse”

At that point we could not see any abuse, nor been abusive or harassed the councillor ourselves, pointing out: “Blocking is not being ‘willing to speak’. Which comments from us were you ‘disgusted’ by, and were abusive?”

Cllr Jones clarified: “None from you just by others who decided to get involved and be abusive. I am willing to speak in person”

We replied: “”You said you blocked ‘vile’ and ‘evil’ ’trolls’ (now deleted) shortly after blocking us, and gave the reason we were specifically blocked as ‘awful harassment’. That is quite damaging and demonstrably untrue. All we did was ask questions about the budget you voted on.”

Cllr Jones added: “We are nor awarding ourselves as it hasn’t been accepted yet. I didn’t mean to offend and I am sorry”

At some point between 1am and 5:40am Cllr Jones deleted or deactivated their account on Twitter, after being public on there since July 2011.

Due to this we are unable to ask Cllr Jones for clarity on the last point over ‘accepting’ the pay increase; if that means it is possible to not accept it as a council, and if it is not accepted what the apparent £30,000 sum in the agreed budget would be used for instead.

If one council manages to not ‘accept’ the IRPW increases it could set a precedent that could be copied here in Wrexham, where overall councillor pay is close to hitting the £1,000,000 a year mark.

 



Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email News@Wrexham.com


Share this now:

.