A new row has broken out over the future of the civic roles at Lichfield District Council.
The funding for the chairman and deputy chairman was reduced 12 months ago, with further changes agreed at a meeting of the council this week.
But a number of former civic leaders at the local authority have criticised calls to reform the roles in emails seen by LichfieldLive.
One wrote: “Much of the pre-amble revolved around the committee’s presumed ‘public perception’ that the civic role is an excuse for wasting public money on ‘jollies and banquets’.
“We all know that public perception about many things to do with the council and governance in general, such as, for example, planning permission, is misguided.”
Another former chairman said the cross-party task group that is behind the proposed changes was flawed as it has no former civic leaders amongst it.
But Labour opposition group leader Cllr Sue Woodward said she was perplexed by the opposition to reducing the cost and improving the value for money of the civic roles.
“Of all of the challenges facing the council at this time of financial pressure, I was amazed that this item generated so much heat,” she said. “The council is cutting services to residents or increasing charges, such as with the forthcoming charge for brown bins, and we barely hear a peep yet here are former chairmen opposing the tightening of budgets around civic visits.
“Rather than spending their time and energy on events, I would urge them to spend more time listening to what their local electors say about all this.
“As I said at the meeting, I have never, ever been lobbied to increase the civic budget and the number of civic visits – and I doubt if any single member has either.”
Cllr Woodward added that she recognised the role of the chairman but said the focus on managing meetings and promoting the council’s objectives did require some investment, but in the right areas.
She said: “This is an important and serious role and the Cabinet agreed with the recommendation that chairmen should be trained to do the job. This clearly hit a nerve though with these and other past chairmen who have not been.
“These comments calling for a rejection of the Cabinet’s decision shows an incomplete understanding of the council’s constitution as the council are not empowered to overturn a decision and this has to be done via the Call In process – clear proof that chairmen need training on how the Council works.
“As only 56% of members replied to a recent questionnaire on members’ training needs, too few of the current membership see the need for any training but I believe that, however long an individual has been a councillor, we all need ongoing training in the fast-moving local government world.”