CUTS of £150,000 suggested as part of proposals by the Housing and Community Development Service could see staff replaced by volunteers.

On Wednesday, January 29, the head of housing and community development at Powys County Council (PCC), Nina Davies appeared in front of the economy, residents, communities  and governance scrutiny committee to explain £673,000 of cuts in her department for 2019/20.

This is out of nearly £4 million from the Place and Corporate Services and part of an overall £11 million PCC wants to save in the next financial year

There, Mrs Davies told councillors that the service had delivered £1.2 million of savings for 2019/20.

One of the cuts proposed is £150,000 from the Countryside Access budgets.

Cllr Kelvyn Curry (Liberal Democrat – Rhayader) said: “Reading the impact assessment you wonder why on earth it’s rated as a medium risk.

“When you read this it’s so scathing you think, wouldn't touch this with a barge pole.

“Some of the things the proposal would have an adverse affect on is staff, the teams would be reduced, with significant increased workload and high priority work not being achieved.

“It goes on to say it would not be able to meet health and safety responsibilities e.g. collapsing footbridges, reduced capacity would lead to more legal challenges and complaints.

“I could go on.”

Cllr Curry continued: “To have that rated as a medium risk is a bit surprising.

“But then to read the mitigation and how you are going to overcome this problem, the suggestion is to increase the number of volunteers and apply for more grants.

“Obviously this proposal is to cut staff, so who is going to train volunteers and who will apply for grant funding one would ask?

Cllr Curry believed this cut would have a “dramatic” affect  on health, wellbeing and tourism.”

Mrs Davies, answered: “Yes, this comes with a significant risk which has been outlined in the impact assessment.

“The restructure is looking at the team so that we focus on working with volunteers and communities.

“The team would have to work with colleagues from regeneration and economic development in order to hopefully access greater sums of external funding.

“You’re right there are significant risks and the public rights of way network is not  in a great situation.

“I acknowledge and accept that this proposal does come with a significant risk.”

Cllr Curry added: “I really think this needs to go back to cabinet because of the knock on effect.”

Corporate director for resources and transformation Vanessa Young insisted: “The impact assessment shows a medium risk.

“The mitigating action is about increasing volunteering and also increasing grants.”

She added that there was a transformation fund at PCC that staff could submit bids to with a business case to receive funding.

The other proposals for Housing and Community Development are:

  • 25 per cent reduction in funding for arts organisations  – £62,738
  • Cleaning service to develop business and income generating opportunities  £29,000
  • Restructure of housing senior management team – £25,000
  • Library service transformation – development of community hubs model; service redesign and restructure – £30,000
  • Seasonal opening hours for Radnorshire Museum – £16,000
  • Y Gaer, Brecon – Move to a sustainable future operational model with potential partnership options currently being invited – £34,000
  • Funding bid to support work on Mid Wales Growth Deal –  £326,000