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Council's Montgomeryshire committee could be abolished

Created on 12/01/2018 @ 12:09
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Powys County Council's Montgomeryshire Committee, established when the former Montgomeryshire District Council was abolished and replaced by the current county unitary authority, could itself be abolished under plans put forward to councillors.

The shire committees of Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Brecknock have been in existence since 1996 when local government boundaries were changed.

The committees originally acted as local forums for matters requiring decision at a more local level and, politically, were seen to cater for the distinct needs of the larger Powys county.

However, under proposals being put forward to the county council's Democratic Services Committee later this month, then local shire committees could be abolished.

Councillors are going to be asked to vote on three options: retain the area committees; abolish the area committees; abolish the area committees, but with one hour of member development sessions per quarter reserved for discussions with portfolio holders.

The civic roles of Chair and Vice Chair of the area committees could also be abolished and passed to the existing full council Chair, Vice Chair and Assistant Vice Chair of the council.

A report before councillors says council members time is at a premium and is better spent on the main committees running the council. It also states that the cost of officers attending the bi-monthly shire meetings at Welshpool cost £6,962.93 a year and the cost of councillors expenses to attend the meetings is £3,600. This does not include the costs of the Radnor and Brecknock shire meetings.

It says the total annual cost of holding the Montgomeryshire meetings is £11,238.18.

"The role of these committees has been drawn further into question with the council establishing Local Environment Initiative / Neighbourhood Management, with the decentralisation of services to small groups of members in consultation with area managers, town and community councils," states the report going before the committee on 15 January.

In 2014 refreshments for the shire meetings was cut.

The report adds that officers' time at such meetings cannot be guaranteed.

It states: "Currently the Council’s Management Team attend Area (Shire) Committee meetings on an ad-hoc basis but due to the day to day pressures of diary management, senior officer attendance cannot be guaranteed.

"Given the limited decision making power of the Area (Shire) Committees, attendance of senior officers at these meetings is not cost effective. With increasing demands on officers’ time it is questioned whether officer time would be better used elsewhere instead of attending Area (Shire) Committees.

"In addition given that the officer responsible for administering the Area (Shire) Committees is also responsible for Member Support, not holding these committees could release additional officer time for supporting Members."

The report adds that more time could be freed up by councillors if the Montgomeryshire committee and others were abolished: "There is an increasing demand on Members’ time such as an increased number of Planning Committee meetings, as well as an increasing scrutiny workload in order to meet deadlines for pre-decision items before they are considered by Cabinet.

"In addition with the recovery programmes for Children’s and Adults Services requiring a more significant oversight by scrutiny, Members’ availability is currently limited within the current diary of meetings.

"Therefore in order to meet the priorities of the Council and to give Members sufficient capacity to deal with the demands made of them, the removal of Area (Shire) Committees from the calendar would release 16 additional days annually to undertake other responsibilities."

A decision will be taken on the 15 January.

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