Council to vote on merger bid

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

A proposal for Wigan Council’s standards committee to be subsumed into another could be given the green light this week.

The cost-saving plan was first floated late last year and elected members will be able to vote on whether it should be approved at Wednesday’s full chamber meeting.

Local authority bosses say improved behaviour among its councillors has meant the standards committee has been less busy in recent times.

It is therefore suggested it be merged with the audit and governance committee that will mean a saving of £3,645.

In outlining the case for the merger, officers argued many other councils had already combined their standards and audit bodies.

However, the move would have been seen as impractical in Wigan in previous years as the standards committee had a packed schedule after regular incidents of code of conduct breaches.

In 2015, investigating accusations of bad behaviour from councillors had cost the cash-strapped local authority £110,000, town hall bosses had said. But a crackdown - led by former monitoring officer Linda Fisher, who left the authority last year - had proved to be effective.

The most recent standards committee’s annual report, released last year, revealed the number of complaints against councillors had fallen from 17 to seven since the previous year, the lowest number in six years.

A report outlining the details of the proposed merger will be presented to councillors this week.

It reads: “A number of other Local Authorities have already merged their Standards and Audit and Governance Committees.

“Given the reduction in standards complaints at Wigan, the panel were informed of a potential decision for Wigan to follow suit and also merge these committees.

“In 2015/16 one standard meeting was cancelled and other meetings had limited business.”

If approved, the new committee will consist of nine members with the cost-saving figure reached because both the chairmen of the previous audit and standards committee received an annual fee, whereas there will only now be one payment.

The report adds: “The merger has merit in that both committees can report directly to council and both have key roles to play in governance.

“There is a resource advantage from the point of view of servicing one committee six times a year, rather than two committees and a more joined up approach to governance is supported by the council.”

l A report from the meeting will feature in Thursday’s Post.