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Online bullying claim over BID consultation

 
Created on 04/12/2019 @ 10:49
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A Newtown county councillor says he is willing to risk a job he loves after standing up to what he saw as online bullying.

Cllr Mark Barnes says online discussion around recent developments in Newtown and now the Business Improvement District (BID) consultation has become “poisonous."

He is a partner in Revive and Thrive, the company which was appointed by Powys County Council to run a consultation and ballot on the proposal for BIDs in Newtown and Brecon.

Questions were raised last year about Cllr Barnes’ firm being awarded the contract for both BIDs.

He answered those criticism by saying he would be staying away from the day to day running of the BIDs.

Many in Newtown believe that projects proposed there need better scrutiny and this leads to rowing online between people for or against schemes.

On the Newtown BID, discussion has taken place in the No BID Newtown Facebook page.

After reading Cllr Barnes’ comments on the No Bid Newtown site Josh Evans wrote to PCC with “serious concerns” about Cllr Barnes and Revive and Thrive.

Mr Evans said: “The behaviours and comments are surely unbecoming of a councillor and also throws Revive & Thrive as a business into disrepute.”

Mr Evans wants to see the process suspended while an investigation takes place.

Cllr Barnes said: “I have stayed away further than I was obliged to. The BID is a 100 per-cent democratic process owned by the businesses that pay the levy and the board of directors are appointed by the businesses.

“I have now opened a business (selling cars) on the Mochdre Industrial Estate. So I am now a levy payer

“Not only am I a resident, councillor, owner of Revive and Thrive the BID contractor, but also a levy payer, so I’m also an investor.

“It’s getting more and more complicated the potential conflict of interest.”

When asked if he had taken legal advice on conflicts of interest for county councillors, Cllr Barnes said “no.”

Cllr Barnes said that he could not continue to allow himself and his company to be criticised without answering back.

Cllr Barnes continued: “The best thing I have ever done in my life, beyond getting married and having children is becoming a councillor, I absolutely love every moment of it.

“I am that upset that I’m putting it on the line – PCC can terminate the contract if they feel I have stepped over the line.”

A spokesperson for PCC said: “A progress report on proposals for Brecon and Newtown BIDs will be going to the cabinet shortly – the next cabinet meeting is scheduled for 17 December.

“Complaints about the conduct of councillors are dealt with by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales:

“Members receive training as part of their initial and refresher training on the Members’ Code of Conduct.”

The vote for the BID in Newtown is supposed to go ahead in the New Year.

Some ideas already proposed by for the Newtown BID include: a Town Champion delivering marketing / tourism promotion, buying local, organising new events, lit pathways for runners and walkers and installing improved signage on the bypass and on industrial estates.

 

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service

 

 

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