CLOSER attention should be paid to budget meetings held privately to ensure councillors are aware of any service changes proposed.

That was the result of discussions about the difference between operational and cabinet or council decisions instigated by the chairman of Ceredigion County Council’s democratic services, Cllr Ceredig Davies.

At the committee’s meeting on Thursday, (Jul 4) chief executive Eifion Evans explained the structural make up of the council, reminding councillors that the senior officer team was their point of call if they had concerns about how a service was run.

Cllr Davies asked for clarification following changes to the music service which many councillors felt had not been made clear when the budget was approved.

Any proposals to make savings or areas identified for reductions are presented at quarterly meetings and transformation panel meetings, chief executive Eifion Evans said.

Officers speak openly about plans to “control their budget” he added and councillors attending can raise questions and refer matters to scrutiny at this point.

The education department needed to save £750,000 he added and corporate lead officer for schools Meinir Ebbsworth was “open and clear” about the planned restructure of the music services meet those targets.

It was up to members and scrutiny chairs to follow up the matter, the committee heard.

Cllr Dai Mason asked why he was told that cuts to the music service was “fake news” according to cabinet members, with Mr Evans saying it “boils down to interpretation.”

No pupil will be prevented from learning a musical instrument but the restructure of the service makes savings, said Mr Evans.

Cllr Davies said that because the executive “coalition is so big” it was not challenged and if it were smaller “harder questions would have been asked.”

He added that it would require councillors to take on the role as a full time job to attend all the meetings referred to but it was important they did so.

“This went through because not enough questions were asked and councillors have to take the blame for that. What has happened is a lesson to councillors to be aware of what is being offered so councillors can have an open discussion,” he said.

Cllr Davies asked that Mr Evans write to all councillors to remind them of the importance of attending the quarterly budget meetings and transformation panel in order to pick up matters they feel require further scrutiny.

Making budget papers more detailed will be looked at and areas of concern monitored include social services, teacher pension funding for future years, as well as changes to business support.

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