A “belts and braces” report to make changes to the council’s constitution in relation to powers under the coronavirus act was signed off by councillors despite some objections raised.
Cllr Ray Quant, deputy leader and cabinet member for customer contact, legal and governance, people and organisation said he had heard concerns from some that “officers are running the council and that’s not true” adding that there were cross-party meetings of group leaders on a weekly basis.
He said the constitution changes related to “those small amendments” in relation to coronavirus legislation and would grant delegated powers to corporate lead officers to alter these functions.
The Council approved the revised version of the Constitution on March 19 2020 which is a live document, published on the council’s website.
The amendments requiring decision by full council include granting delegated powers to the corporate lead officer relating to health protection linked to coronavirus restrictions, road traffic orders including emergency and temporary closures, as well as minor amendments to the job titles of these senior officers.
Opposition leader Cllr Ceredig Davies said that there had been a cross-party working group focusing on the council constitution for more than two years and a meeting should have been called to discuss these proposals before they came to full council on October 16.
His Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr Elizabeth Evans added that she would not support the amendments due to the lack of pre-discussion with sufficient time for one to have been arranged.
Monitoring officer Elin Prysor said that the corporate lead officers already had the ability to deal with these functions and the powers and functions were within their remit but this was a “belts and braces report.”
The power to operate under the act remains while it is in place, with no indication of how long it will continue, but once it is revoked so to is the officer power linked to it, council heard.
The public perception of the changes was an issue for Cllr Mark Strong who said he understood officers had to make last minute decisions in the current circumstances but “people have the perception that the democratic control has been taken away.”
Chief executive Eifion Evans highlighted the continuation of the democratic process through the virtual committee meetings held, with the investment in technology done to ensure the “power of the council remains in your hands as councillors.”
He added that delaying some decisions for discussion with councillors could lead to a danger of increase spread of Covid-19.
“We as officers do not have any rights beyond what is included in the act,” he added.
The majority of councillors voted in favour of allowing the monitoring officer to make the amendments to the constitution.