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Pembrokeshire to retain presiding member but unpaid

Cllr Simon Hancock will remain as Pembrokeshire’s presiding member, but the position will be unpaid (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

PEMBROKESHIRE is to keep a presiding member running full council meetings, but it will not be paid.

Pembrokeshire County Council meetings have been chaired by a presiding member since 2020, first Cllr Pat Davies and currently Cllr Simon Hancock.

Pembrokeshire County Council presiding member Cllr Simon Hancock

The position replaces a role previously occupied by chair of the council, the role of council chairman now taking on more of a civic function, currently occupied by Cllr Tom Tudor.

The October meeting of full council saw heated debate on the subject, with claims there was an “opportunistic political move” to remove the post.

At that meeting, members were asked to consider options for a financial allowance for the presiding member, but a sticking point emerged, giving the option to remove the role, the council chairman taking the position back; which sparked much debate on the legitimacy of including it.

An amendment, to the recommendation to support remuneration of the role, was put forward by Councillor Jamie Adams – leader of the previous council administration – to delete the role of presiding member from the next election, reverting to the previous chairman role.

However, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said the proposal by Cllr Adams was “an entirely opportunistic political move” to oust Cllr Hancock.

During a heated meeting, which attracted the ire of Councillor Alan Dennison and Councillor Aled Thomas – Cllr Miller said some previous elected chairs were ‘patsies’ elected by the-then ruling independent political group, under the leadership of Cllr Adams.

Following that meeting, the matter was discussed at the council’s Constitutional Review Committee of October 31, stating it had “absolute opposition” to abolishing the post.

The matter was again discussed at the December 14 meeting of full council, with a recommendation, moved by review committee chair Cllr Alan Dennison, that the position be retained, and be remunerated, at some £9,000, utilising one of the unused Cabinet Senior Responsibility Allowance allocations.

Councillor Reg Owens told fellow members he could not support the recommendation, saying he felt the salary part “seems to have been brought in through the back door”.

Councillor Jamie Adams said he felt the previous chairmen had all brought something that “contributed to the debate,” adding: “I would beg the question: is this the right time to introduce a new payment to a member of council? I do believe we are at a point in time where this is inappropriate, bringing ‘more jobs for the boys’.”

Amongst the many others opposed to a remuneration was Cllr Phil Kidney, who raised the spectre of a potential need for a huge increase in council tax mooted earlier in the meeting.

“I can’t support this; in a couple of months’ time we’re going to have to go to our constituents and ask them to dig deeper than ever before.”

His concerns were echoed by Cllr Dennison, who despite moving the committee recommendation, said he could not condone the remuneration.

The remuneration recommendation was defeated, with 25 votes in favour and 31 against.

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