A PORTFOLIO holder should step down from the Powys County Council cabinet while in New Zealand, according to opposition councillors.

Conservative councillor for Gwernyfed and portfolio holder for Communication, Corporate Governance, Housing and Public Protection, James Evans is over 11,000 miles away and 13 hours ahead of Wales.

Liberal Democrat and Green Party councillors don't believe that he should be allowed to stay in his role while 'down under'.

Independent County Councillor for Llangynidr and Council Leader, Rosemarie Harris has defended Cllr Evans and says he has already taken part in several meetings by Skype and phone calls.

Cllr Evans' trip is funded partly as a he received  £800 as the main winner of the National Farming Union's Gareth Raw Rees Memorial Travel Scholarship.

He is there for two months to study deer farming and venison production.

Members of the cabinet receive an extra £15,700 on top of a councillors basic salary of £13,600.

Welsh Lib Dem-Green Group Leader and Glasbury County Councillor, James Gibson-Watts first raised concerns about the length of Cllr Evans' absence last summer.

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “Given the length of his time spent abroad, it would have been sensible for Cllr Evans to take a leave of absence, with another cabinet member or temporary appointee covering his duties.

“Whilst Cllr Evans has promised that he will continue working via email and Skype, he will not be available for scrutiny at a time when he and his cabinet colleagues will be proposing the 2019/20 council budget that may well involve significant changes."

Cllr Gibson-Watt believed that cabinet members who are unavailable to answer questions and respond to scrutiny of their decisions, should step aside.

His sentiments have been echoed by Green Party  Councillor for the Llangors ward, Emily Durrant.

Cllr Durrant said: "His role is paramount to the council's work over the next few months.

"When an opposition member is prevented form Skyping into a scrutiny meeting, why should a portfolio holder be able to attempt to manage an entire portfolio from New Zealand.

"We are barely able to guarantee that our own looked after children in Powys are safe.

"Unable to find the cash to keep street lights on, struggling to keep council properties maintained.

"It does not sit well with me that a portfolio holder can take a fully paid two month break."

Council Leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harris has no plans to remove Cllr Evans from his role, even temporarily.

Cllr Harris said: "James is already doing his job, he's already taken part in meetings by using Skype and phone calls and we have spoken every day.

"This is a very prestigious award that he's received and a great opportunity.

"I know his ward very well and am looking after it, I'm happy that he'll be able to continue managing the portfolio.

Cllr Harris has said that in the past she's been happy to sack councillors from the cabinet and also pointed out that Cllr Evans' position is "no different" to a councillor who holds down a full time job.

Cllr Evans told the Local Democracy Service that he's keeping up to date with all  cabinet papers and using the "joys of modern technology" to continue his work.