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Planned council job cuts discussed in private

Created on 10/02/2020 @ 11:10
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By a narrow vote a discussion on the restructure of staff that organise and clerk Powys County Council meetings was discussed in private.

At a meeting of the democratic services committee, arguments against discussion in public were put to councillors by head of legal and democratic services, Clive Pinney.

This follows three meetings where the “complete restructure of the Scrutiny, Democratic and Member Services team”, which cuts the team from eight to six and re-grading the scrutiny officer's job, had been discussed in public.

The move is supposed to save £179,000 and part of an overall proposal to save £282,000.

Committee chair, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, said: “There’s a resolution to exclude the public and press, there is a divergence of views on this.

“I am very wary of impressions of the culture of this place that things get hidden away. Having had to make a fuss for this to come to committee in the first place, it perhaps makes you more suspicious of any particular agendas rightly or wrongly that may be occurring. It’s up to members to decide.”

He argued that discussion had already been in public on the issues and that this should be the case at the committee.

Mr Pinney explained: “The report that you have is private and confidential and contains information about staff and they have not had the opportunity to consider it. It is never appropriate for staff to learn about it by other means than through the consultation process.

“Some staff may think they know what the process is. But they only think, as nobody knows. I have not told them and it’s really important that we deal with it in an appropriate way.”

Mr Pinney accepted that other scrutiny committees had discussed the proposal.

He explained that it had been agreed that if these committees went in to detailed discussion on the proposals the meeting would go into confidential session.

“We didn’t do so as the committee never asked me a single question so there was no requirement to do so,” said Mr Pinney.

Cllr Sarah Williams asked: “Who has put this report together? How many people know? Because there is hardly anything in the local authority that is ever confidential.”

Mr Pinney answered: “This has been put together by me, it has been shared on a private and confidential basis with members of the coordinating committee and some senior officers.”

Cllr Williams added: “So there’s quite a lot of people who know already.”

Cllr Williams said that “whether we like it or not” many issues became public knowledge.

Cllr Stephen Hayes said: “I would have been comfortable talking about this in open session if the consultation had already taken place. The fact that it hasn’t means I don’t feel we can talk about it in open session.”

He added that if a similar decision was affecting staff elsewhere in PCC they would not know about it.

The vote was held with five in favour of going in to confidential session, four against and two abstentions.


By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service



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