Plaid Cymru councillors have begun a process of summoning lead members and officers to Wrexham councils scrutiny committees, in order to challenge their cuts and savings proposals. The 'Difficult Decisions' proposals were passed for public consultation by the Executive Board in October and will potentially see significant cuts to Wrexham's school music service, parks and adult social services, amongst other areas.
The council leadership made up of Tories and Independents had planned to manoeuvre the proposals through several confidential workshops, bypassing the public scrutiny process which will allow Councillors to thoroughly assess the impacts of the cuts and savings, to challenge lead members, as well making recommendations on the proposals to the Executive Board.
Plaid Cymru have members on all 5 of Wrexham's scrutiny committees and they have officially requested that all of the committees scrutinise the areas of the budget under their remit. Two have so far agreed, with the 3 remaining committees discussing the request next week:
Cllr Carrie Harper who sits on the Homes and Environment and Lifelong Learning committees said:" With power comes responsibility and accountability and we feel very strongly that proposals to save £6.2 million next year must go through a robust scrutiny process. As new councillors in May we were surprised to discover that didn't happen automatically".
"Many of the proposed cuts and savings that have been presented to councillors to date have very little information available, with many simply having one line or a paragraph. That's not sufficient for councillors or members of the public to thoroughly assess the implications of each saving and we have therefore requested more information on each proposal. This has been met with some reluctance from lead members up to now, who don't seem to understand why the additional information is needed. Of course seeing as they've already sanctioned these proposals going out to public consultation, we'd have hoped there'd be more information available than we've currently seen, otherwise we have to question what they've based their budget recommendations on?"
The 'Difficult Decisions' consultation is open to the public to comment on until the 30th November, it has already sparked controversy with the council Leader Mark Pritchard claiming that many of the 2000 public responses received to date were driven by political activists. He said " I would be delighted if there are more people who would make the effort and fill it in, and I am on about genuine local people who have no party politics or tricks to play".