Warwickshire County Council votes to allow chief executive to have extra powers in times of an emergency

The move has been questioned by the leader of the county's Green Party - but others say there are enough safeguards in place

Warwickshire County Council's headquarters, Shire Hall.

A change to Warwickshire County Council’s constitution which hands extra powers to the chief executive in times of an emergency has been questioned by the leader of the county's Green Party,

Councillors approved a string of changes during today's (Tuesday's) full council meeting including one aimed at ensuring important decisions were made as quickly as possible.

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A report drawn up for the meeting explained: “Reflecting on our experiences of the Covid pandemic and the need during that period to operate decisively and swiftly, a new delegation is proposed giving power to the chief executive in consultation with the leader, the group leaders and relevant portfolio holder to make urgent decisions in emergency situations.

“In proposing this new power, we have considered the approach of a number of other councils whose constitutions already contain a similar power.”

Cllr Jonathan Chilvers (Green, Leamington Brunswick) said: “I am not saying in any way that our current chief executive would misuse those powers but we have to think about what might happen in the future and how powers could potentially be misused.

“If emergency powers are going to be in place they should be given to the elected leader.”

But the council’s deputy leader, Cllr Peter Butlin (Con, Admirals and Cawston) said he was satisfied that there were enough safeguards in place.

He explained: “The speed of decision making is imperative and we have taken those lessons learned over the past 18 months and built it into the constitution.

"Nobody can act independently or unilaterally in this authority according to this change - there has to be consultation. The safeguards are there and we are more than happy that no-one can go and be a rogue councillor or a rogue officer.”

Cllr Kam Kaur (Con, Bilton and Hillside), the portfolio member for economy and place, added: “If there is anything this council is very good at it is transparency and all the way through the pandemic we have talked, liaised and engaged with councillors and officers in respect to what’s happening, where it’s happening and who’s doing what. That is something we should be proud of as a council because it doesn’t happen right across the country.”