A COUNCILLOR who received a payout of at least £16,000 for stepping down from his post four years ago is standing for re-election.
Eunydd Thomas, who left his ward after receiving a so-called “golden goodbye” from the Welsh Assembly Government in 2004, is now canvassing for re-election, claiming “great demand” for him to return to the post.
And the Assembly admitted yesterday there was no legal reason he could not do so, despite saying four years ago that only councillors who had “no intention” of ever standing as councillors again could apply for the money.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance last night slammed the situation as “a perfect example of how foolish the scheme was”.
Mr Thomas, 67, stood down as Carmarthenshire County Council’s member for Llwynhendy after the Past Service Awards were passed in the Assembly before the last local elections.
It was claimed they would help council chambers – traditionally seen as arenas for old, grey-haired men – better reflect the demographic profile of modern Wales but, as the Western Mail reported last week, age profiles in many councils remain exactly the same now as they did then.
The scheme meant long-standing council members could claim £1,000 for each year of service – up to a maximum of £20,000 – in a one-off lump sum if they retired.
Eight local authorities in Wales voted to adopt the scheme with 76 retiring councillors benefiting from the policy at a cost of more than £1.6m to the taxpayer.
WAG said they could not reveal how much Mr Thomas was paid but said the minimum amount paid out to any one councillor was £16,000.
But Mr Thomas, a Labour councillor who served 19 years as a councillor and received a community award last night for also serving as a magistrate for 21 years, said he did not want his 2004 pay-off to be an issue.
“I’m standing again due to great demand from residents and the community,” he said.
“Without blowing my own trumpet too much, people have been asking me to stand as they believe I am a good councillor and I care a lot about issues affecting Llwynhendy.
“Even in my four years as a former councillor, I have been heavily involved in many groups and bodies within the community.
“When I stepped down it wasn’t about the money – I didn’t have the full £20,000 anyway. If I had stayed as a councillor for longer, I would have had much more.
“The money was like a form of redundancy – it can happen in any job or profession. There are issues that need to be addressed and hopefully I can help with those issues.
“The scheme was about attracting younger people but youngsters just aren’t interested in these things.
“I decided to come back as I find that experience, knowledge and reliability brings a lot to the table.”
His wife, Barbara, said community support for his re-election was strong.
“My door and phone have not stopped from people supporting his stance and amazed that this has become an issue,” she said.
Mark Wallace, campaign director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This is a perfect example of how foolish the scheme was and how easy it is to take advantage of.
“Welsh taxpayers have been footing the bill for people to stand down who may have been planning to do so anyway and now for people who are simply standing again at a later date.
“I suspect there are others who are standing again having initially stepped down. But the Assembly would be making a fundamental change to our electoral system if they banned people from standing for election.”
A WAG spokesman said: “The Assembly made it clear when it launched the Past Service Award scheme that only councillors retiring at the 2004 elections, and who had no intention of seeking public office at this level again, should apply for an award.
“However, for legal reasons it was not possible to include in the regulations a provision which would prevent a recipient of an award from standing in a future election.”
Phil Grafton, a senior solicitor at Carmarthenshire Council, said: “The awards were two-fold, partly to try and recognise long and dedicated public service and also to create opportunities for new members.
“Some payments were made under the scheme and requirements were produced by the Assembly which included recouping payments if members stood for election in 2004.
“However, there were no requirements which related to standing in subsequent elections.”