AMMANFORD town mayor Irena Hopkins has explained her dramatic walkout as councillors discussed their budget at the town hall last week.
The Labour stalwart – currently serving a record fourth mayoral term – had an angry exchange with Plaid councillor Emma Thomas as she stormed from the chamber.
During a heated meeting of the town council’s finance committee, chairperson Wendy Evans struggled to keep order and twice threatened to close proceedings.
Matters came to a head when members elected to consider an independent report into the council’s finances by Cllr Andrew Lewis.
Cllr Hopkins and town clerk Miriam Phillips argued it could not be discussed due to “inaccuracies” – but were over-ruled by members.
At this point, Cllr Hopkins got up to leave, saying: “I came here to discuss a budget, not to pander to someone’s ego.”
Cllr Lewis protested: “This has nothing whatsoever to do with my ego!”
As Cllr Hopkins made her way to the door, Cllr Thomas implored her to stay. “We all have to be professional,” she told her.
“Professional? You don’t know the meaning of the word,” retorted Cllr Hopkins.
“Until tonight you hadn’t been to a meeting in five months.”
A furious Cllr Thomas shouted: “Why do you think that is then, Irena?”
Following Cllr Hopkins’ exit, the committee decided to recommend increasing the town’s precept by £15,000 – an increase of £7.65 a year for the average household – to fund the employment of a full-time technical officer.
Speaking afterwards, an unrepentant Cllr Hopkins said: “I was there to discuss the precept, not to have rubbish like that placed in front of the council.
“I feel very passionately about the little people sitting in their bungalows dreading the arrival of the gas bill.
“Pantyffynnon – one of the most deprived areas in the county – is part of my ward so I’m morally opposed to any rise in the precept.”
Cllr Thomas claimed “the behaviour of certain members” had led her to miss several meetings.
“Ever since I’ve come on board this council I feel I’ve been targeted,” she said.
“I got so disillusioned and thought of walking away.
“When Irena didn’t get her own way she threw her toys out of the pram like a child – but just because we don’t like each other doesn’t mean we can’t try and work together for the good of this town.”
Introducing his report, Cllr Lewis said Ammanford’s precept was considerably lower than other towns.
“While we have kept our precept low to help the poor and the elderly, perhaps we’re not doing enough for the town,” he added.
“We need to know what projects we are going to fund and what our running costs are – our reserves are too high and we need to spend some of them."