Calls have been made to reduce the number of lead members in Wrexham Council after it was pointed out two have yet to present a report – despite being appointed to the roles in June.
The suggestion to cut the number of Executive Board members was made during a debate on the council’s budget proposals yesterday.
Previously there was an element of political balance on the Executive Board, which was made up seven councillors from the majority party holding portfolios and three opposition councillors who were able to take part in the vote.
Prior to the changes the Executive Board had been made up of six independents (four Independent and two Wrexham Independents, one Conservative, two Labour and one Liberal Democrat – often resulting in a seven v three vote.
However all this changed during a fiery (and at times farcical) meeting in May 2015 , which saw 30 councillors vote in favour of removing the political balance from the board and increasing the number of lead members from seven to ten.
At the time it was explained that changing the political balance and moving to a cabinet system would bring Wrexham Council in line with other local authorities.
This was challenged by a number of councillors, with one stating that: “When you switch from the current politically balanced Executive Board model to a cabinet model, you can lose the opportunity for a dialogue and challenge to take place in public.”
The changes resulted in additional £63,000 a year extra in extra salary payments.
The current ten lead members and their portfolios can be found below:
– Lead Member for Finance, Performance, Health and Safety and Governance: Council Leader Mark Pritchard
– Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships Public Protection and Community Safety: Deputy Council Leader Hugh Jones
– Lead Member Economic Development and Regeneration – Cllr Terry Evans
– Lead Member for Planning and Corporate Services: Cllr David Kelly
– Lead Member for Education: Cllr Phil Wynn
– Lead Member for Health and Adult Social Care: Cllr Joan Lowe
– Lead Member for Youth Services and Anti-poverty: Cllr Paul Rogers
– Lead Member for Environment & Transport: Cllr David A Bithell
– Lead Member for Housing: Cllr David Griffiths
– Lead Member for Children’s Services: Cllr Bill Baldwin
This revised politically balanced system has been in place for nearly three years, however at this week’s Executive Board there were calls to reduce to number of lead members to help make savings.
Speaking during yesterday’s budget debate, leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Dana Davies queried how effective the number of lead members are, pointing out that two are yet to deliver a report to the Executive board despite being elected in May and appointed to the role in June.
Similar comments were also made by Cllr Marc Jones, who suggested cutting the number of lead members back down to seven to help make financial savings.
However Council Leader Mark Pritchard noted that he felt the “balance is right with the amount of work required.”
He added: “I take what you say about some members not being called to present a report. It is the way it falls with the work programme and agenda. I wouldn’t consider a review at this time.”
However Cllr Pritchard did note that if there is additional pressure from Welsh Government and Westminster in future to make additional savings, he would consider reducing the number.
Prior to the May 2017 election we contacted all the candidates and posed a series of questions to them – including their thoughts on whether the number of Executive Board members should be reduced. You can see if your local councillor took part / what they had to say – here.
A separate report on the Executive Board’s plans to introduce parking charges for Blue Badge holders and country park visitors can be found here.