I have written several times before about the group that Cllr Walsh created to consider what could be the largest ever cuts to council services. I understand at the moment that we’re looking at losing about £9m from the budget in each of the next 2 years.
The group Cllr Walsh formed is called a project board. The budget cuts process is called Service Choices. There are 8 administration councillors on this project board including Walsh as chair. There are also 4 SNP Group members on the project board. I have been assured that such a group is legitimate BUT:
- It does not have to follow council standing orders, ie it operates outwith the council’s normal rules.
- The papers are only sent to the 12 councillors on the project board and the rest of us never see them.
- There are no minutes taken as far as I know but if there are then these are not published.
- There is an agreement among the 12 that anything said in their meetings is not circulated any wider. (Other councillors don’t even know the dates the group meets!)
The best we get are seminars with little by way of detail on what is proposed. As I have said before, there is a need for some confidentiality around this because every budget cut option has potential job implications and in some smaller departments it may be possible to identify people who could lose their jobs. Nonetheless, there is no need at all for the overly secretive manner in which this group operates.
I have had it confirmed by the council’s monitoring officer that this group is not a committee or sub-committee of the council. His exact words are shown below. Despite this, councillors attending these meetings can claim travel and subsistence costs even though it’s not a council committee. I find this bizarre.
Update late on 28 September. It might be worth reading an earlier post of mine to see how an alternative budget might look. Have a look at this from late May this year.
Finally in respect of your point about the Project Board, I would confirm that the Project Board is not a committee or sub-committee of the Council.