The most senior Labour councillor in Carmarthenshire and formerly a strong contender to become a candidate MP said he has been suspended from the party.

Cllr Rob James, who has led the opposition group at Carmarthenshire Council for nearly six years, said he looked forward to the opportunity of clearing his name.

The two reasons for the suspension are believed to be a text sent by Cllr James last year in which he wrongly implied that Llanelli Labour MS Lee Waters had two second homes in Carmarthenshire he didn’t live in, and the downloading of data about residents in Swansea in his role as an employee of Swansea West MP Geraint Davies.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has approached Welsh Labour for comment but it did not respond at the time of going to press.

Cllr James is believed to have told colleagues after being removed from a shortlist of MP candidates for the new Carmarthen seat last summer that the text was part of a joke and claimed it was taken intentionally out of context.

The other allegation is much more recent and is said to involve the use of an electoral roll dataset in order to write to Swansea residents informing them of a public meeting organised by MP Mr Davies – who is suspended from Labour himself – about a proposed cycle path in the city.

Cllr James said he was shocked when he learned last Thursday about what he termed his administrative suspension. It is understood this was followed by a letter from the party which cited the two reasons and put a number of questions to him.

While a new Labour group leader will need to be selected, Cllr James said he would continue as a Labour councillor rather than switch to independent so that he could contest the suspension.

He said: “I have been administratively suspended from the party pending investigation. I will continue to serve my residents as I have done since 2017 as a Labour councillor. I look forward to the opportunity to clear my name on all counts.”

Cllr James was first elected as a councillor in Neath Port Talbot in 2012, and also began working part-time for Mr Davies.

After moving to Llanelli he was elected as a Carmarthenshire councillor – representing Llanelli’s Lliedi ward – in 2017. He became Labour group leader in 2018, leading the opposition. Labour has 21 Carmarthenshire councillors out of a total of 74, while Plaid has 38.

Llanelli MS and Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters has previously made it clear that he does not and never has owned three houses, but that he did live in two places as part of his role serving Llanelli.

Meanwhile, Martha O’Neil was chosen by Labour to contest the Carmarthen seat – created following boundary changes – at the next general election.