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Council could hold private finance meetings

Created on 16/09/2021 @ 07:13
Many discussions about Powys County Council’s finances and budgets could soon take place behind a veil of confidentiality.

The Democratic Services Committee discussed constitutional changes to the Finance Panel, including holding private meetings behind closed doors and without public access.

Head of legal and democratic services Clive Pinney explained the proposal: “The Finance Panel have concluded that it’s not working.

“There have been long discussions and the proposal reflects a suggestion by the chair of the Finance Panel, John Brautigam.”

Mr Pinney explained that the panel meeting would be split into public and private and that all meetings had once been held in private.

He told councillors that when the set-up had last been reviewed, acting chief executive Mohammed Mehmet (April 2018 – February 2019) “thought it was right and proper that all discussions were public”.

“It’s not been so easy to discuss things in public in an open, honest and transparent way as it used to be,” said Mr Pinney.

Mr Pinney said: “The public meetings would continue to discuss monitoring and performance reports for revenue and capital, future planning of transformation and budgets would be held in private session.”

Cllr Stephen Hayes believed the recommendation to be a “complete dogs’ breakfast” and the result of too much discussion on the topic.

Cllr Dan Rowlands said: “I think it leaves a slight risk that during the public meetings that officers and portfolio holders can bring these snazzy reports of how the finances look and then at the next meeting we have the frank and honest discussion of how it really looks.

“What’s the process to monitor that we are still giving an honest report on what the finances look?”

Mr Pinney assured him that Finance Panel members would make sure that there would be full transparency “where it’s appropriate to do so.”

Committee chairman, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan who is also a member of the current Finance Panel said: “One of the concerns has been, that very often discussions go off on a tangent with a view of getting headlines in the press rather than focussing on the issues at hand.

“The other challenge is when opposition parties in particular felt they weren’t party to the development of the budget.”

Cllr Kathryn Silk added that she felt she was being “bounced” to support the changes as no other options had been put on the table.

Cllr Hayes put forward and amendment recommending the council looks at what best practice is throughout Wales and bring that into place before the 2022 council elections.

Cllr Hayes said: “If we reform with what’s been suggested now, we’re not necessarily going to serve the next council well.”

This counter proposal was then voted on and lost, with two votes in favour, four votes against and three abstentions.

Cllr Vaughan then put the original recommendation to the vote.

Three councillors voted against it and one abstained – the silence of the other five councillors was taken as approval.

The changes will go to a full council meeting to be discussed on September 23.



By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporting Service