QUESTIONS have been asked as to why nearly £21,000 has been paid to bring in external consultants to help improve the scrutiny process at Powys County Council.

In recent weeks, councillors have raised their concerns over cuts proposed in the Powys County Council (PCC) draft budget for a “complete restructure of the Scrutiny, Democratic and Member Services team.”

This would see the team numbers drop from eight to six.

This is supposed to save £179,000 and is part of an overall proposal in the service to save £282,000.

This could be part of the £11million in cuts that need to be made in the next financial year (2020/21).

Chairman of the Democratic services committee, Cll Elwyn Vaughan (Plaid Cymru – Glantwymyn) asked: “In view of the proposed restructure of democratic services and concerns raised about the possible impact this may have on the scrutiny service and the risk of increased need and costs of external support for scrutiny.

“Can you confirm the level of costs incurred by the council on external scrutiny consultant support for the period September 2014 to date?”

Portfolio holder for corporate governance and engagement, Cllr Graham Breeze (Independent – Welshpool Llanerchyddol) replied: “The only payments made to external consultants to support scrutiny in the period requested were to Public Governance Wales and Learning for Leadership Wales for work in 2017/2018.”

Cllr Vaughan responded: “After seeing that the council has paid over £20,000 in consultancy fees to help the scrutiny process when there has been a full team of officers it raises the question how much will be spent after these cuts?

“Many of us have raised concerns and the Wales Audit Office made it clear how important the scrutiny procedure is and the historical weakness of it in Powys.

“We will be keeping a close eye on this.”

Cllr Breeze defended the cuts at a meeting of the Economy, Residents, Communities and Governance Scrutiny Committee where he also gave assurances that the standard of support will be maintained.