Joined Welshpool Town Council tonight for a discussion about issues that matter to Welshpool. I'm really lucky that local Councils are willing to discuss their concerns with me. Big help in my efforts to develop a 'personal' aspect to my election manifesto. 17 of Montgomeryshire's Town and Community Councils have agreed to similar meetings. I was deeply impressed by the scale of activity and ambition of this Council. Welshpool is Montgomeryshire's second biggest town, and its local government is in very good hands.
One important issue raised was Powys County Council's plan to undermine local democracy by abolishing the 'Montgomeryshire' Planning Committee. Bit of history here. Powys Council became the 'unitary' local authority in 1994. A most dreadful mistake. Destroyed local democracy in Mid Wales. In an effort to limit the damage to democracy and in recognition of the huge size of Powys, and the fact that there is a range of mountains that separates the Northern half of this 'artificial' county from its Southern half, the establishing Act allowed for a 'shire' Committee to cover Montgomeryshire (with separate arrangements for Ranorshire and Breconshire). But the great centralist's at County Hall have always hated this arrangement. And they are trying yet again to do something about it - by trying to castrate the 'shires' through abolishing their 'planning' function. Totally disgraceful. Instead of Montgomeryshire Councillors deciding on Montgomeryshire planning applications as has existed for always, there will now be 15 Councillors drawn from across this huge county and 'trained' up to form an itinerant committee. The great god being quoted is 'consistency'.
This issue was raised by the redoubtable Cllr. Annie Holloway tonight. Well done. Cllr. David Senior said that this was an attempt to transform councillors into officers. Well said. And then Cllr. Dennis Thompson said "Officers are there to provide the expertise, while Councillors are there to provide the common sense". Well said again. I do so hope that Councillors stand up and tell their officers to get stuffed on this one.