SURPRISE has been expressed that a discussion on cuts to staff that organise and clerk Powys County Council (PCC) meetings is set to be held in private on Friday, February 7.

This follows three meetings of, the finance panel on January 17, the full council on January 23 and the economy, residents, communities and governance scrutiny committee on January 29, where the proposal to save £282,000 was discussed publicly.

This includes 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 description which is supposed to save £179,000.

Democratic services committee chairman, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, (Plaid Cymru/Glantwymyn) has questioned the move.

Cllr Vaughan said: “I am a bit surprised at the proposal to exclude the press and public, after all this matter has already been in the public domain and has been extensively reported.”

Cllr Vaughan pointed out that the proposal is coming back to democratic services after an emergency motion was due to be put in front of the full council meeting to discuss the motion.

This is because 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.

At full council, PCC chief executive Dr Caroline Turner said that proposals would go to the committee for scrutiny.

Cllr Vaughan added:  “I  would also draw attention to the fact that when reform of members’ IT support was previously discussed on April 29, 2019 it was in the public domain, hence I do not see why this meeting should be in closed session.

“It sends the wrong message out, especially when the authority claims to have the values of openness and transparency.”

On the agenda for Friday’s meeting the monitoring officer, Clive Pinney, who is also the head of Legal and Democratic Services and proposes the cut is advising the committee to exclude the public and press.

The report says: “The monitoring officer has determined that category three of the Access to Information Procedure Rules applies to the item.”

The report says: “To make this information public would disclose information relating to the the financial or business affairs of any particular person, including the authority holding that information.

“These factors outweigh the public interest in disclosing the information.”

Mr Pinney and Porfolio Holder for Corporate Governance and Engagement, Cllr Graham Breeze (Welshpool Llanerchyddol) have defended the cuts at a meeting of the economy, residents, communities and governance scrutiny committee on January 29.

There Mr Pinney said:  “This restructure would provide a better service for members.”

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

The full list of proposals are:

  • 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