PROPOSALS for cuts in jobs to staff that that organise and clerk Powys County Council (PCC) meetings have been defended.

On Wednesday, January 29, councillors on the economy, residents, communities and governance scrutiny committee met to go through the draft budget proposals that affect the services they look at.

The proposal to restructure the Scrutiny, Democratic and Member Services Team made by the head of legal and democratic services Clive Pinney and published in the draft budget report would save over £282,000.

At the meeting, Mr Pinney went on to explain the cut which has already caused much concern.

This is the complete restructure of the Scrutiny, Democratic and Member Services Team involving reducing the team from eight to six and regrading the scrutiny officer job descriptions which is supposed to save £179,000.

Mr Pinney explained: “The current structure as it is, is that we have three distinct groups in this service.

“Officers that deal with scrutiny.

“Officers that deal with committees how they are clerked and organised and another group that deals with member support.

“In essence the restructure brings all those three groups together, to give better resilience and they can support each other.”

Mr Pinney said that bringing the staff together would mean that in future they would all learn to work across all three different areas.

Mr Pinney added: “This restructure would provide a better service for members.

“I’m confident it would provide adequate support for all issues and I do accept there will be a degree of challenge  in doing so as it will involve working in different ways.”

Portfolio Holder Corporate Governance and Engagement, Cllr Graham Breeze (Welshpool Llanerchyddol) added: “I fully understand why we’ve been asked to come here today, there are concerns.

“We are evaluating the role and the costs within the democratic services department.

“Within that evaluation, there is an understanding of the need to continue an appropriate service to our scrutiny committees, legal support and advice for departments and providing members with the support they need to function properly.

“The three go hand in hand.”

Cllr Breeze added that he had given assurances in front of the joint chairs committee that the standard of support will be maintained and he wrote to the coordinating committee repeating those assurances.

Due to concerns from councillors just before the full council meeting on January 23 an emergency motion was set to be put forward by the chair of the democratic services committee, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan (Plaid Cymru – Glantwymyn), to debate the proposal at the meeting.

There PCC chief executive, Dr Caroline Turner had said that the proposal would go to the democratic services committee to be looked at again.

In 2018, lack of scrutiny was highlighted by the Welsh Audit Office in a report as a weakness and it made proposals to improve the role of scrutiny at PCC.

Since then a new scrutiny committee has been set up and all scrutiny committee have the powers to look at the budget.

The changes are part of a raft of proposals that could save a total of £282,161 by Mr Pinney.

They include:

  • Not recruiting a trained solicitor for a vacant post
  • Not recruiting a part time education/employment solicitor post
  • Registration services redundancies
  • Regrading solicitor from 14 to 12
  • Reducing councillors’ travel expense and printing