FARMERS who serve as councillors on Wales' most rural authority want permission to discuss agricultural matters at meetings.

The issue has come to ahead after a Powys councillor was blocked from putting forward a plan for the authority to look at setting up a research organisation to promote wool from mid Wales.

The rural council's standards committee has now agreed the wording of a dispensation that will allow councillors to discuss setting up the body that could be simiar to New Zealand's Wool Research Organisation (WRONZ).

The dispensation from the rule, intended to guard against councillors acting in their own financial or personal interests, would allow councillors who are also sheep farmers – including those with close personal associates in sheep farming – to speak but not to vote on matters relating to wool.

Once they have spoken they would need to leave the meeting.

Deputy monitoring officer, Debby Jones said: “The rationale behind this is that expertise and knowledge is brought to council so that they can make a decision in relation to any motions.”

She added that Powys’ “rurality” makes debate on agricultural issues difficult for councillors.

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Cllr Kath Roberts-Jones said: “There are a lot of farming councillors so it is probably high time that a dispensation of this nature is granted.”

Scrutiny manager and head of democratic services, Wyn Richards added the dispensation could be used as a “template” to other farming issues that might need to be discussed in the future.

The committee approved the dispensation unanimously.
It’s nearly a year since Cllr Elwyn Vaughan attempted to have his plan for a wool research body discussed at a meeting of the full council.

In November 2020, Cllr Vaughan was due to ask for the £110 million Mid Wales Growth Deal to: “Look at opportunities to add value to our agricultural products and specifically to work with the farming unions and the British Wool Marketing Board with a view of facilitating the establishment of the equivalent of WRONZ, (Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand) in Mid Wales.”

The Mid Wales Growth deal is a package of funding, backed by the UK Government, intended to be used to boost the economies of central Wales.

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The item was withdrawn after Cllr Vaughan received advice that he needed a dispensation to allow it to be discussed.

Without it, many councillors who are farmers or have strong ties to farming would need to declare an interest and absent themselves from the discussion.

Back in June this year the Plaid Cymru member appeared at the standards committee and said that the dispensation is needed to avoid a:”farcical situation where only a handful of people could take part in a motion and discuss it.”

Following Wednesday’s meeting Cllr Vaughan said he hoped the wool motion could be discussed at the next council meeting – which is scheduled to be held on Thursday,  December 9.

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