AN UPDATE is due to be given to Powys County Councillors on the future of the North Powys Wellbeing Programme – but it will take place behind closed doors.
On Friday, December 1, members of Health and Care scrutiny committee will receive a presentation on the project from Powys Teaching Health Board (PTHB).
The council is working with PTHB on the wellbeing programme, which is supposed to bring health, social care, education, voluntary sector and even housing together in one place, which is supposed to be The Park area in Newtown.
Legal advice to the committee from Clive Pinney the council’s head of legal and monitoring officer, is that the item should be held in confidential session.
His view is that information regarding to “financial or business affairs” including that of the council could be disclosed during the item.
Mr Pinney said: “These factors outweigh the public interest in disclosing this information.
“Members are asked to consider these factors when determining the public interest test, which they must decide when considering excluding the public from this part of the meeting.”
At a council Cabinet meeting in October senior councillors speculated about the future of the project and wanted to ask for funding assurances from the Welsh Government.
However, this was toned down and became a suggestion to ask PTHB for an update on how the strategic outline business case is progressing.
These concerns are about the squeeze on public finances and the decision by the Welsh Government to make cuts and savings within their budget for this year.
This wellbeing programme is intertwined with school merger and closure proposals in Newtown.
If the programme is shelved due to a lack of funding – council education chiefs could re-look at proposals to merge two primary schools in Newtown and add a third.
This would allow the council to look for funding to build a bigger new school building in The Park area to accommodate children from three primary schools.
But PTHB have stressed that it’s still “full steam ahead” in terms of submitting the business case to the Welsh Government next summer.
The Welsh Government has also said that they expect the outline business case for the scheme to be submitted for consideration next summer.
In May 2019, the Welsh Government announced that £2.5 million of funding was made available to start work on the project.
The cost of the total scheme was estimated to be £122 million last year and will be funded by the Welsh Government.
The hope is that it will be built and open by 2026.