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Powys member champions role set to be scrapped

Powys County Council

THE MEMBER champions role at Powys County Council is set to be scrapped.

On Monday, April 22 the Democratic Services scrutiny committee debated the validity of the role.

In recent years the importance of the role has waned and there are now only three champions when there had been 10 just four years ago.

This is partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions placed on meeting individuals and groups at that time.

They were told by anti-poverty champion, non-affiliated Cllr Joy Jones who has been in the role since 2014 that she had regularly shared information and worked with the cabinet in the past.

But since the new cabinet was formed in 2022 and the “later years of the former cabinet” this had broken down.

Cllr Joy Jones 2022 (Pic: Powys County Council)

Disability champion Cllr Ange Williams of the Independents for Powys group,  said: “We don’t have any officers or funding, so we do this out of love for the job and the people of Powys.”

The third champion is deputy council leader and cabinet member for a Fairer Powys Labour’s Cllr Matthew Dorrance who is the Armed Forces member champion.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Claire Hall said: “I am very aware of member champions and the positives they bring.

“I think it’s more about influencing policy and strategy across the council and championing that particular interest group – to a certain extent it’s almost a lobbying role.”

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Labour’s Cllr David Meredith said that the way of appointing councillors to these roles is “totally undemocratic.”

Cllr Meredith said: “I don’t think it’s right that a member champion is just appointed by the leader, and I don’t think it’s right that after a council term (five years) that people automatically move forward to the following term.

“I equally don’t think it’s a role of a cabinet member to be a champion.”

He believed that an essentially part of the member champion role is that ability to “challenge” and put other “points of view across” to cabinet portfolio holders for that area.

Cllr David Meredith 2022 (Pic: Powys County Council)

Committee chairman, Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Elwyn Vaughan said: “As one who was a member champion, what I’m trying to get my head around is: what is the added value.”

Another question he posed is whether member champions do more than ordinary councillors in their day to day roles.

Cllr Vaughan said: “I think that’s the crux, is the role actually needed.”

Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, Plaid Cymru group leader on Powys County Council

Cllr Gareth E Jones wanted to see “around six” champion roles and they should be linked to the cabinet portfolios or a relevant council staff member.

But it was said by others at the meeting that this would create a cost to the council.

The committee then went to a vote which asked whether the role is required at all.

The vote saw four councillors vote for and four against, which meant that Cllr Vaughan as chairman was left with the casting vote.

Cllr Vaughan used his casting voted against the role.

This recommendation to scrap member champions will now go before all councillors at a future council.

In 2020 the council had 10 member champions with four held by cabinet members- these were

  • Older People
  • Dementia
  • Children
  • Welsh Language
  • Diversity
  • Armed Forces
  • Anti-Poverty
  • Disability
  • Anti-Slavery