Cardiff council’s new Labour administration is considering holding fewer full council meetings, it has revealed.
The local authority’s Labour leaders plan to conduct a review of the council’s constitution to improve the way the council runs its business. As part of this, cabinet member for finance, business and local economy Russell Goodway said a reduction in the number of full council meetings held each year could be considered.
He said each full council meeting costs £10,000 to run – with 11 held annually – and Labour “questioned what value elected members get out of it, let alone what value the public get out of it.”
Some meetings run to more than six hours long, and Coun Goodway said the group was considering whether the council should have fewer, more efficient meetings, or a greater number of shorter meetings throughout the year.
He said: “In the past, by the time we get to council questions, the chamber is more than half empty. They have gone home.
“Most members, if they were honest about it, they think, is anybody listening?
“That can’t be the best use of local tax payers money.”
He said Labour were now inviting party groups to submit their ideas for how the conduct of council business could be made more effective, and give members greater influence over the development of council policy.
Group whip for Cardiff’s Independent group Adrian Robson said he would “wait with interest” to see what changes are proposed to the council meetings.
He added: “If it means that there is an enhancement of democracy then they will have our support.”
But leader of the Liberal Democrat group Coun Judith Woodman said: “So much for open and fair discussion and debate and representation for your residents. It’s not good.”
Coun Goodway also said that from the next full council meeting, all members’ questions will be responded to in writing.
Currently, councillors can ask a question prior to full council, receive a written response, and then ask a follow-up question in the meeting. This supplementary question has, until now, usually been answered verbally.
But Coun Goodway confirmed answers to the supplementary question would now be provided in writing within seven days.
He said that in the past, questions have not been “accurately captured”, so the answer was not “wholly accurate”.
But opposition parties again questioned the motive behind the move.
Independent Coun Robson said: “I believe this change is simply made to protect the inadequacies of his Cabinet.”
Coun Woodman added: “What I think they are doing is hiding behind that constitution so their executive members are not put on the spot.”
Coun Goodway responded to these claims by saying: “Any substantive questions put to the council will get a substantive answer, but questions without notice will be answered within seven days.”