Conwy county council elects its new leader

An Abergele-based county councillor has completed a meteoric rise to a top council political job after his predecessor won a surprise seat in the Senedd.

Independent councillor Charlie McCoubrey (Pentre Mawr ward) has been installed as Cllr Sam Rowlands’ successor on Conwy county council, after being elected via a secret ballot with 49 votes – with six abstensions and one absent member.

During an urgent item at the authority’s AGM Cllr Greg Robbins (Mostyn ward) nominated him for the position and Cllr Goronwy Edwards seconded the call.

Cllr McCoubrey replaced Cllr Edwards as leader of Conwy First Independent political group a fortnight ago.

Cllr Robbins said: “I’m proposing somebody who’s a solid councillor and has experience in leadership in many fields including sport, business and politics.

“I’m proposing Charlie McCoubrey for the position of leader of Conwy county borough council.”

The new man, only elected to the authority in 2017, has had a meteoric rise through the political ranks to the £49,450-a-year role.

Cllr McCoubrey, 54, became cabinet member for regulatory and housing in 2019 and was instrumental in the handout of Welsh Government grants during the pandemic.

A former partner in a dental chain with 10 surgeries, his career was cut short at the age of 44 when he suffered nerve damage to his hand.

From there he went into partnership in a successful estate agency but left to pursue a political career, after meeting Cllr Rowlands during a dispute between Abergele Rugby Club and a local football team in the town.

In a speech to councillors outlining his credentials for the post he said: “I don’t think I’ve ever missed the chamber as much as I do right now.

“It seems pretty surreal telling a laptop how wonderful I think I am but we are where we are.”

He went on to detail his back story, which began across the Irish Sea.

“I was born in 1967 at the height of ‘The Troubles’ which was interesting and character-forming,” he revealed. “You certainly had to stand on your own two feet.

“My mother instilled in us a need for education – a desire for education. Fairly shrewdly she ended up with a doctor, a dentist, a vet, a marine biologist who opened a seafood restaurant and a builder who followed my dad.

“So she’s been well looked after and all the times she dragged us out of bed in the morning has been repaid.”

Cllr McCoubrey was also a promising junior boxer, winning a championship in Northern Ireland, before getting involved and gaining funding for a gym in Liverpool while he was a student. He said it was matter of pride the gym was still going to this day.

He first came to North Wales in January 1990, working in a dental practice in the West End of Rhyl, before he worked his way up to being a partner in a firm.

Cllr McCoubrey said his insistence he would only take the position if they invested £40,000 in modern technology transformed the business and allowed them to grow to 10 practices across North Wales.

He said two things were drummed into him as a dentists which informed his approach to leadership.

He said: “You always have to know when you’re out of your depth, you’ve got ask for help from somebody more senior than you, somebody with more expertise than you.

“Because the seond thing is, fundamentally, when you make a decision it’s your head on the block.

“If it goes wrong you will be held responsible. So you’re decision making process has to be spot on.”

Cllr McCoubrey was asked by Cllr Wyn Ellis Jones (Uwch Conwy ward) whether he would commit to raising second home council tax premiums to 100% like Gwynedd.

The new leader said the move could have an adverse effect with people going for lower priced homes to avoid the tax and taking more affordable homes off the market – but he committed to dialogue with Plaid Cymru over the issue.

Earlier in the meeting Cllr Abdul Khan (Glyn ward) was reinstated unanimously as chairman of the council, with Ifor lloyd returned back as deputy chair.

Cllr Khan said: “On Eid Mubarak my family give me gifts but none as lovely as the gift you’ve given me today.”

Former leader Cllr Rowlands has said he will continue as councillor for Abergele’s Pentre Mawr ward until next May’s local elections.

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno