Cardiff council’s Labour leader has been forced to make changes to her recently announced cabinet reshuffle after it emerged one of her appointments had a potential conflict of interest.
The Opposition jumped on the double reshuffle claiming it showed Heather Joyce’s leadership was “inadequate” and her administration in “complete disarray”.
The Cardiff Civic Society, which champions the capital’s built environment, meanwhile, said the reshuffle “jeopardises” the city’s crucial Local Development Plan (LDP).
And the new councillor now in charge of the LDP, a blueprint for the city’s growth up to 2026, has already said he will “make some changes” to the document, which is just weeks away from being presented to the council.
On Monday night, Coun Joyce announced Trowbridge’s Ralph Cook was to be replaced as the cabinet member for strategic planning and transport by Splott’s Huw Thomas.
The timing of the decision prompted surprise, including from some Labour councillors, as Coun Cook is just weeks from presenting the LDP deposit plan.
The document – described as one of the most important in the region – maps out the capital’s growth up to 2026 by allocating land for housing and employment.
On Wednesday, the council’s legal team ruled Coun Thomas had a potential conflict of interest in his new post as he also works for sustainable transport charity Sustrans, according to Labour sources.
It was then decided that Coun Thomas would have to swap portfolios with new cabinet recruit Graham Hinchey, who had originally been drafted in to take over adult services.
Yesterday, Coun Hinchey said he had already met with officers in his new department and confirmed he will “make some changes” to the LDP before the deposit plan is considered by the council in September.
“There are some things in there that I would like re-reviewed. I have only looked at the top layer issues, such as bus corridors and those kinds of things.
“We need to make sure that there is some common sense in there as well as some strategic thinking.”
Cardiff Civic Society vice-chairman David Eggleton said the group had been working closely with Coun Cook on the LDP and was concerned at the change of personnel.
“Lack of continuity at a critical stage of the preparation of the LDP will jeopardise the plan’s integrity,” he said.
“Any change in direction at this late stage in the LDP timetable also threatens to undo the cooperative working established between the council and stakeholders and introduce new policy initiatives not yet exposed to scrutiny or discussion.
“This could seriously put at risk the soundness of the plan.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Judith Woodman added: “This just shows the complete disarray the Labour administration is in.
“It clearly shows Heather Joyce’s leadership is inadequate and now we know why her backbenchers are so vociferous in challenging her.”