CHESHIRE East could slash travel expense costs, save time and reduce its carbon footprint if fewer officers and visiting councillors attended meetings in person, the deputy leader said.

Cllr Craig Browne (Ind) questioned why some of the council’s officers couldn’t attend meetings remotely.

He also wondered whether members of the public wishing to speak could be given remote access instead of physically attending, if they so wished.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Craig BrowneCllr Craig Browne (Image: Cheshire East Council)The Alderley Edge councillor was speaking at Thursday’s meeting of the corporate policy committee, during a debate on the workings of the committee system.

Members had been told the budget for democratic services needed to be reduced by £135k.

Cllr Browne said: “At last week's meeting of the highways and transport committee, we had 12 officers physically in attendance.

"Whilst, post Covid, there has been a legal requirement for members of a committee to be physically present, there isn't the same requirement for officers, visiting members or members of the public to be present.”

He added: “We've got 11 officers sat in this meeting. Some of those officers should be able to attend virtually to present their reports through the screen.

"We've got the technology in this room to do that, we've got the technology at Macclesfield to do that.”

Cllr Browne said he recognised it was essential for some officers to attend meetings in person and he acknowledged the remote access he suggested wouldn’t save the required £135k ‘but it is going to save time, it is going to save costs and it is going to reduce our carbon footprint’.

Interim chief executive David Parr said officers would look into the legalities of meeting attendance.

One cost-cutting proposal – to reduce the number of planning committees from three to two – was deferred by full council last time it was discussed and is due to come before full council again in a couple of weeks.

Another proposal before yesterday’s (Thursday, Nov 30)  meeting – to make savings by incorporating the finance sub-committee into corporate policy – was refused yesterday by a vote of 11 to two.

But the committee will be recommending full council gives the go-ahead to incorporate the scrutiny committee into audit and governance to save costs.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Mark GoldsmithCllr Mark Goldsmith (Image: Cheshire East Council)Wilmslow councillor Mark Goldsmith (Ind) asked whether it was necessary to have 13 councillors on each committee and whether this number could be reduced, as long as the political proportionality was maintained.

Cllr Janet Clowes (Wybunbury, Con) asked whether it was right that committee deputy chairs were paid a special responsibility allowance.

Director of finance Alex Thompson said all these suggestions would be looked at.