THE opposition group on Labour-led Caerphilly council has called for the number of cabinet members to be cut when leader Harry Andrews retires.
Councillor Andrews MBE announced last week that he is to formally stand down as leader of the authority on May 8 to spend more time with his family and pursue personal interests. The council’s deputy leader Keith Reynolds said his retirement was “a sad day for Caerphilly county borough”.
His successor will be elected by councillors when they meet for their Labour group Annual General Meeting on May 6.
But Cllr Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru group in Caerphilly, said the resignation of Cllr Andrews provided the perfect opportunity to reduce the cabinet membership from 10 to save money.
Cllr Mann said: “Reducing the number of cabinet members by one would save around another £40,000 when national insurance and other costs are also taken into account.
“When they came to power in 2012, Labour added another member to the cabinet structure. The resignation of Cllr Andrews provides the perfect opportunity to reduce administrative costs.
“Times are very difficult for residents, council tax has increased by 3.9 per cent, public toilets have been closed and people are being asked to pay to park in country parks. So it is only right that sacrifices should be made at the top.
“There is no justification for keeping cabinet numbers at 10 – the council can function perfectly well at nine which the last Plaid administration did.”
A Caerphilly Labour councillors’ spokesman said: “The Nationalists’ estimates of potential savings are wildly inflated. And recent Wales Audit Office criticisms have shown the last, Plaid Cymru-controlled, administration in Caerphilly did not function ‘perfectly well’ with a nine-member cabinet.”
Cllr Reynolds added: “It’s about time Cllr Colin Mann stopped trying to cover up his own failings while in office, and started coming up with serious ideas for protecting our vital public services.
“Labour’s leading the way on this. The Nationalists are nowhere to be seen - again.”
Last week, the Labour group dismissed Plaid’s demand for the car parking charges at Caerphilly council country parks to be rescinded, calling it “political opportunism”.
Cllr Andrews, who has held his current post for the past two years, said the authority has protected front-line services in the face of “unprecedented” UK Government cuts, and has invested £200 million to upgrade all 11,000 council homes by 2020.
But his retirement ends a highly difficult tenure – with three senior officers including the chief executive facing criminal charges of misconduct.
Michael Anthony O’Sullivan, 55, of Merthyr Tydfil, Nigel Barnett, 51, of Aberbargoed, and Daniel Perkins, 48, of Brynmawr, are each charged with misconduct in public office between June 1, 2012 and October, 10, 2012.
The case, at Bristol Magistrates Court last week, was sent to crown court and the three, charged with preventing proper scrutiny of the senior officer pay award, were granted bail until their next appearance in May.