Posted: Sat 15th May 2021

Llay councillor defects from Liberal Democrats to Council Leader’s Independent Group for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Saturday, May 15th, 2021

Councillor Rob Walsh, who represents Llay on Wrexham County Borough Council has decided to leave the Liberal Democrats citing the ‘need to change direction politically’.

Rob Walsh has been a member of the council’s Lib Dem group since he was first elected in 2015. However, says experiences of recent years have made him ‘question the party political system that dominates every level of government’.

Cllr Walsh said, “The last few years has taught me that whilst every one of us is different we must all work together for the benefit of all our local communities”

“We have a duty of care to all our residents to be each other’s allies and opposition at the same time. As a result, I think the party system we have in Wales and further afield prevents that from happening so I want to come out of the party political system. I am not being critical of anyone who is a political party member, but it is no longer for me”.

Cllr Walsh will now be joining the Independent group on Wrexham Council – the largest grouping on the council and the biggest in the ruling administration, “I am really looking forward to working with the members of the Independent group. I have some great friends there who are first-class councillors. I have really missed working with my fellow councillors in person during lockdown. My hope for the future is to work closely with them and all the other members of Wrexham Council from all the other groups. Together we are stronger.”

Leader of Wrexham Council, Councillor Mark Pritchard who is also leader of the Independent Group welcomed Councillor Rob Walsh by saying, “Myself and the Independent Group are delighted that Councillor Rob Walsh has joined our political group. I have known and worked with Rob for many years, he is a dedicated and committed local member who represents the Llay Ward and we all look forward to working with him in the future”.

Cllr Walsh also gave a mention to his former Lib Dem colleague Councillor Alun Jenkins, who is now listed as ‘Non-Aligned’ on the Wrexham Council website as you can’t have a group of one – a move that could delight Plaid Cymru members as it means one less ‘group’ on the council possibly boosting weighting in the all important divvy up of Chairperson positions.

Cllr Walsh said, “It is hard having to leave Alun’s group, as he is a wonderful councillor and a great credit to the council and his ward. However, I still look forward to working with Alun, albeit in a slightly different way. I am also very grateful to my former Lib Dem colleagues for all the support they have given me over the years. I wish them all well on a personal level.”

Back in 2017 as part of our Q&A exercise with every candidate we asked everyone “10. As has happened in Wrexham recently – if you change political allegiance from what you are currently seeking election for (eg. resigning from, or joining another party) will you trigger a by-election? If not, why not?”. Cllr Walsh replied with an answer that pointed to council elections returning an individual rather than a party, saying “I do not think it essential to resign your seat purely because you have left your party”, but then wrapped up by saying “I have no intention of ever leaving the Welsh Liberal Democrats, but if in the unlikely event I did, I would trigger a by-election out of courtesy to the residents I represent.”

We put that position to Cllr Walsh and asked why there was no by-election being called, he told us: “I did consider calling a by-election but with the next election less than 12 months away and all the issues we have faced and still face with the pandemic, I think having 2 elections for the same post in such a short period of time wouldn’t be a good use of public resources in my opinion. I have asked a small sample of residents in my ward what they think and they agree with me that it isn’t worth it so with less than a year to go.”

Despite changing groups Cllr Walsh is adamant he has made the right decision, “At the end of the day, it`s about the residents we represent, most importantly the residents I represent in Llay. I am hopeful this more collaborative approach I am adopting will make me a better councillor for the good people I was elected to represent”.

Top pic: The new line up of the Independent Group.

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