OPPOSITION leaders have lambasted the handling of a controversial £1.8million Covid Recovery Fund, which will be partly used to mend potholes on Powys’ roads.
Opposition leaders had hoped to scrutinise the £1.8 million pot, and the Labour leader on Powys Council had attempted to call in the application for further discussion by the committee he chairs.
However, this was declined, on the basis that senior council officers said it did not meet the criteria set out in the authority’s constitution.
Now a meeting to discuss that decision with council chief executive Dr Caroline Turner has also been declined – although a meeting with all council group leaders about wider issues is to go ahead – leading opposition groups to release an angry statement.
Opposition group leaders, Mathew Dorrance (Labour), James Gibson-Watt (Liberal Democrat and Green group), Jeremy Pugh (Action for Powys), Liam Fitzpatrick (New Powys) and Elwyn Vaughan (Plaid Cymru) issued a joint statetment.
They said: “It is outrageous that the chief executive can refuse to sit down with opposition leaders to discuss concerns we have about the running of the council.
“Something must change.
“We want to make the council work for Powys residents not the cosy club at county hall.
“We need answers from the council’s management about why vital information about additional funding was not disclosed to us, why debate on our alternative budget wasn’t allowed and why requests to scrutinise the much-hyped Covid recovery fund have been blocked.”
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 while 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 at “a minimum of 50 per cent” would go to a “Highways Recovery Fund”.
This information was not available before the budget was set.
Cllr Dorrance as chairman of the Economy, Residents, Communities and Governance scrutiny committee requested that the Covid Recovery Programme decision be “called in”.
The request was considered by the council’s monitoring officer/ head of legal and democratic services Clive Pinney, and head of finance Jane Thomas and they judged it did not meet criteria set out under the council’s constitution.
A spokesman for Powys County Council said: “A request was made to meet the chief executive to discuss the decision to refuse the call-in, which was declined as the decision had been properly made by appropriate officers under the council’s constitution.
“However, a separate request to discuss wider issues with the chief executive has been agreed and is currently being organised.
“The meeting will include all group leaders and the council’s executive management team.”
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