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Powys planning committee numbers set to drop from 21 to 17

FROM next May, Powys County Council’s Planning, Taxi Licensing and Rights of Way committee will be slimmed down from 21 councillors to 17.

It was part of a number of recommendations discussed by councillors at a meeting on Thursday, March 2 ,which will also see membership of scrutiny committee drop down from 14 to 11 councillors.

Making the committees smaller is a consequence of the overall total number of councillors dropping from 73 to 68 at the local election last year.

Committee seats are traditionally shared out depending on how many councillors are in a group – the biggest get more seats and so on.

But non-aligned councillors don’t automatically get put on committees – they can be offered seats if other groups have vacancies – but are under no obligation to take them up.

The Conservative group had opposed the changes and argued the issue point by point including the drop in numbers proposed for the planning committee.

Planning committee chairman, Conservative Cllr Karl Lewis said: “Reducing numbers is a bad thing.

“It’s very important we have people from different walks of life with different opinions on the committee.

“We are making multimillion pound decisions with one vote.

“Reducing the number of people that can sit on planning can only make our decisions poorer in the long run.”

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Cllr Karl Lewis

Head of legal and democratic services, Clive Pinney explained that membership of planning committees across Wales ranged from 11 to 21.

Planning portfolio holder Liberal Democrat, Cllr Jake Berriman said: “It’s about quality not quantity.

“In planning it’s about properly trained members making well informed decisions based on planning policy.”

Cllr Jake Berriman

Cabinet member for a safer Powys, Cllr Richard Church said: “If we follow this logic that big is always good then we’d have a committee of 58 members, the whole council apart from the cabinet.

“21 is a really large committee to manage and involves a high proportion of the non-executive members of this council.”

“It is abnormal to have a committee of that size, and this proposal brings it down to a sensible manageable size that can accurately reflect the representation of the council.”

The meeting moved to a vote, which saw 34 votes in favour of the change, 28 against and two abstentions.

The changes will come into force after the council’s annual meeting in May.