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Neath Port Talbot Politics South Wales

Neath Port Talbot councillors request more time to read lengthy scrutiny papers

Neath Port Talbot Council

COUNCILLORS in Neath Port Talbot have requested more time to read through the lengthy scrutiny papers handed to them ahead of meetings, so they are better able to make decisions.

Members backed a motion made at a cabinet scrutiny meeting in December, after receiving an agenda that was described as being hundreds of pages long, with too much included for members to properly scrutinise.

Councillors made the point to officers who suggested one way of tackling the issue would be to add extra meetings in between those scheduled, so members, some of whom have full time jobs alongside their council responsibilities, could better manage the workload required.

Cllr Suzanne Paddison, who is a Labour member for Sandfields West, raised the concerns earlier this month, and said it would be helpful for all members moving forward if they could focus on a smaller number of items in each session.

She said: “I’m worried about the level of scrutiny that can be given to the cabinet at meetings like this when there are 374 pages to scrutinise, and a lot of them are financial tables. It takes an awful long time for each item to be gone through.”

She added: “We really need urgently to address the fact that it’s not sufficient time. I’m not happy with my own standard of scrutiny when there are so many items here. I take my work quite seriously, I don’t want to skim over things, I don’t want to just accept things and give them the nod.

“I work hard as a local member to try and be part of the council, I just hope that going forward we can really knuckle down and not have nearly 400 sometimes 500 pages in other committees, of reports to be gone through within a week.”

Chief executive for Neath Port Talbot, Karen Jones, said there was a review of scrutiny currently being undertaken, adding that it was typical for cabinets to have large agendas with large numbers of items on them, as it was work they needed to get through.

She said: “If it helps members to have more meetings where people have this in smaller bite size chunks that is something we can move to do between now and the start of the civic year, but then we obviously need to be consulting with members because it does mean more time out of your diary to attend meetings.”

The committee later proposed and unanimously backed the motion to add more meetings, so that members will have more time to read reports in depth, allowing them to make “safer” decisions and recommendations moving forward.

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