A proposed new meeting structure for Argyll and Bute Council will put frontline services at risk, according to a former leader of the authority.
A new meeting structure for the authority, featuring fewer council meetings but more committee meetings, has finally been proposed after months of work following concern that too much business was being left for the full council to decide.
The model proposes that three executive committees be set up under the headings of policy and resources, community services, and environment, development and infrastructure, and that the full council should meet every two months, rather than on a monthly basis as at present.
But former leader James Robb (SNP, Helensburgh Central) says the proposed changes will centralise power with small groups of elected members - and will result in more front-line services being cut.
“The council is proposing to spend an estimated quarter of a million pounds extra each year on meetings because a few council meetings have run past 5.00pm,” Cllr Robb said.
“Those overruns could have been avoided with better management of the agenda and conduct of the meeting. If the proposals are adopted this will result in further cuts to front line services.
“Currently all council decisions, except the budget cuts delegated to officers, are taken by all 36 councillors when the council meets 11 times per year. The proposal is to create three additional executive committees that could have just 12 councillors taking critical decisions.
“Councillors who want to be fully involved in all council matters and to represent their communities properly will support retaining and enhancing the current inclusive and accountable arrangements. Those that don’t will support the re-introduction of divisive and expensive executive committees.”
The new model also includes increased powers for the authority’s four local area committees, including the one in Bute and Cowal, which would have enhanced financial regulation, enhanced provision in relation to the acqusition, sale or lease of land and buildings, and the power to allocate extra income raised through the imposition of extra council tax on empty properties.
The proposals will be considered at a full council meeting in Lochgilphead on Thursday, January 23.
Click here to read a PDF file summarising the proposal.