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£2,000 meeting for one item on agenda

Created on 24/01/2020 @ 11:10
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Meetings that cost thousands of pounds to get all councillors from around Powys to County Hall in Llandrindod Wells to discuss one item could be a thing of the past.

At the full council meeting of Powys County Council (PCC) on Thursday a motion put forward by Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, to change the requirement, was eventually voted through.

This follows a full council meeting held on December 20 with only a discussion on the merger of Ladywell Green Infants and Hafren Junior Schools in Newtown on the agenda. Full council can only provide an opinion on the issue which is decided by cabinet.

Attempts were made to justify the meeting as there was a training session for councillors held after it finished.

Cllr Vaughan said: “When we discuss the transformation of schools there is a very clear legal process to follow, there are several steps. Individuals, councillors and communities have the opportunity to take part in a consultation process.

“There are other meetings such as the one called around a month ago, which is an extra layer of bureaucracy and are not essential from a constitution or legal point of view and they are only a pointless, toothless talking shop.”

Cllr Vaughan estimated that such meetings cost around £2,000 without including the PCC staff workload cost. He added: “I simply move that we delete these unnecessary meetings and make the process easier.”

Cllr James Gibson-Watt Liberal Democrat and Green group leader, said: “The problem is, it’s a very broad brush motion and covers all aspects of school transformation and I just think that a lot of members including myself are unhappy about that.”

He argued that passing the motion could mean that councillors might not be consulted at all on any aspect of school transformation.

“Yes there are other committees and scrutiny arrangements, this is as much about public perception as about procedure,” added Cllr Gibson-Watt.

Cllr Huw Williams said: “Before Christmas, 73 of us were invited to the chamber, there was a discussion and we could have voted any way we wanted to and it didn’t matter.”

Cllr Williams added that cabinet could take the decision and only receive an opinion from full council.

Cllr Pete Roberts disagreed and said: “This motion abdicates from us to the cabinet all of our rights to discuss any element of transformation. Too much power will be at the centre.”

He believed the motion could influence the current Strategic Schools Review in a detrimental way if it was passed as it was written.

Cllr Jake Berriman said: “I would be happy with this if we replaced transformation for “schools”.”

The meeting stopped for lunch to allow Cllr Vaughan and Cllr Berriman to discuss the amended motion.

The full council then approved the motion by 35 votes to 17 with the words “school closure/merger” replacing “school transformation”.

Earlier this month the cabinet agreed to merge Ladywell Green Infants and Hafren Junior schools in Newtown. A statutory notice has now been issued with a deadline for any objections to be submitted by February 10.

The new merged school is expected to open in September 2021.

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