A LABOUR council leader has been asked why he overlooks councillors from opposition groups for his ruling cabinet.

Panteg councillor Anthony Hunt is the leader of Torfaen Borough Council as his Labour group holds 29 of the 40 seats, and is the only recognised political party elected to the authority.

The remaining 11 councillors are independents though most sit together in one of two groups.

The largest is the five member Independent Group with another three in the Torfaen Independent Group while the three councillors who represent Cwmbran’s Llantarnam ward sit as “individual independents” outside of any group.

But Llantarnam councillor David Thomas asked Cllr Hunt, at the authority’s most recent meeting, how he selects the seven councillors who sit in the cabinet with him and “why it’s not a cross party cabinet?”

Cllr Hunt told him: “That decision is ultimately for the electorate in which councillors they vote for and whether they give a majority to one part or another.”

The council leader reminded Cllr Thomas his nominations for the cabinet posts have to approved by a vote of the full council. Similarly, Cllr Hunt is elected as the leader by a vote at the full council, though as the Labour group holds a majority it is expected its leader is able to command sufficient support in the chamber to be confirmed in the post and for their nominations to be accepted.

Cllr Hunt said he also looks for a “gender balance and mix of ages and life experiences” when selecting his cabinet as: “I believe diversity leads to better debate and decisions.”

Cllr Thomas, who quit the Labour group in 2019 before standing for the Brexit Party in that year’s UK general election, told Cllr Hunt “he could have a greater choice from 40 members and some may have greater experience within those cabinet roles.”

The leader said he would continue to work with councillors from all groups and “take advantage of their skills, experience and knowledge of their wards particularly” and for them to sit on working groups and task and finish projects, such as Cllr Thomas’ involvement on a recycling group.

Cllr Hunt also said it should be remembered there is a “clear distinction” between the roles of councillors including cabinet members who have political responsibility for council services and officers employed to run them. Cllr Hunt said his role as leader is “often confused” with that of the chief executive.

From April cabinet members will be paid £17,033 a year on top of the basic £18,666 allowance paid to all 40 councillors. Cllr Hunt as leader receives £40,832 on top of his basic allowance while his deputy leader, Richard Clark, is paid £24,616 extra.