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Powys councillors struggle to attend meetings due to work commitments 

COUNCILLORS not attending council meetings due to their jobs, is one of the reasons why a shakeup of Powys County Council scrutiny committees is set to happen.

The remit of the Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee is also deemed to be too wide and parts of it will be handed over to other committees.

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 Democratic Services committee met on Friday, February 17, to discuss the problems which include groups not being able to fill their quota.

Head of legal and democratic services, Clive Pinney said: “More members are in full or part time employment and having some difficulty in getting released for those committees.

“It’s generally accepted that the remit of the Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee is too wide, it’s basically most things in the council apart from Social Care and Education, the recommendation spreads that workload out.”

The Conservative group who don’t have an issue filling their allocation want to keep the numbers as they are.

Cllr Peter Lewington (Conservative) said: “I’m looking for a better reason than members can’t attend as they have outside employment.

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“Why stand for election if you don’t have the time to do the job?

“We shouldn’t change or reduce our level of scrutiny because it interferes with their employment, we can’t have a part time democracy.”

Cllr Peter Lewington

Labour’s Cllr Sarah Williams (Labour) said: “I work part time and I’m finding it difficult keeping up at the moment – with some of the Labour party members in cabinet the rest of us are left picking up more work.

“Our workload is a huge amount more than non-aligned (councillors) who are not sitting on committees.”

Cllr Sarah Williams

Cllr Peter Lewis (Conservative) pointed out that in the past, councillors would be asked for reasons for non-attendance and might be compelled to appear before the Standards committee to explain themselves.

With meetings being held in hybrid or online formats he believed it was “easier” to attend meetings.

“The council should be policing this like it was when I started in 2008,” said Cllr Lewis.

Cllr Angela Davies (Liberal Democrat) chairs the Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee.

Cllr Davies said: “The remit of my committee is huge we don’t have enough meetings in the year to scrutinise everything we’re responsible for.”

A majority of councillors agreed to drop the councillor numbers from 14 to 11 and to restructure the committees.

Their recommendation will be debated at a full council meeting in March.

The proposed new scrutiny committees are:

  • Children and Young People scrutiny committee with the remit of – children’s social services and legal services.
  • Economy and Environment, with the remit of – highways, transport, recycling, property, planning,  public protection, digital, economy and finance.
  • Adults and Housing scrutiny committee:  adults social services, social car commissioning, housing, community services, workforce and organisational development.