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£1.8million Covid Recovery Fund for Powys County Council under discussion

THE RULING Independent/Conservative coalition agree that a request to “call in” the controversial £1.8million Covid Recovery Fund for scrutiny, should be refused.

Opposition group leaders have criticised the decision and called for a meeting with the chief executive, Dr Caroline Turner to discuss the problem.

Extra funding of over £2.8 million given by the Welsh Government to fund costs of dealing with the pandemic, had allowed the Independent/Conservative cabinet to re-jig the budget at the end of February.

This saw a Council Tax increase drop from 3.9 per cent, to 2.9 per cent.

At a cabinet meeting earlier this month, it was explained that  charities and groups would be able to apply for 40 per cent of the funding, 60 per cent would go to council services.

Of that, “a minimum of 50 per cent” would go to a “Highways Recovery Fund” to be used on road maintenance which could include fixing potholes.

This information was not available before the budget was set.

Council leader, Rosemarie Harris (Independent) and deputy Cllr Aled Davies (Conservative) say they accept the decision not to allow a call-in of the plan to set-up  fund.

Cllr Harris said: “The request was refused by the council’s monitoring officer (Clive Pinney) and Head of Finance (Jane Thomas) because it did not meet the criteria needed under the council’s constitution.

“It was agreed that the covid recovery fund paper would be discussed at a later scrutiny meeting.

“A meeting with group leaders will take place with the chief executive and senior officers to discuss general scrutiny items.”

Cllr Aled Davies added: “The chief executive received a request to meet the leaders of opposition groups to discuss one specific matte,r and not about the general administration of the council.

“She gave a clear explanation on her reasoning on that single issue.

“Welsh Government made public statements announcing additional funding shortly before the full council meeting of February 25.

“The detailed information of the financial impact was only known to the council a few days before the budget, the additional resource enabled the establishment of the fund, which was subsequently approved by the council.

“The coalition  are really pleased that the fund has been established to help our communities, but at the same time I am so disappointed to see the opposition leaders continually attempt to undermine all the hard work of the council for their own political gain.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Government, said: “We have made more than £600m available to local authorities through the local government hardship fund to help them respond to the pandemic.

“Powys County Council has received £12.2m from the hardship fund.

“While some of this funding is tied to specific delivery, funding relating to lost income is not.

“Decisions about how to use this part of the funding is a matter for the council.”


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