Thursday, 30 June 2011

S4C - Dim byd ar Bedwar?

Yn ôl y BBC, Golwg a ffynonellau eraill, syrthiodd nifer gwylwyr S4C yn ystod yr oriau brig o 30,000 i 28,000 yn 2010 (gweler stori Golwg a rhai sylwadau diddorol yma). Ffigurau sy'n dod o adroddiad blynyddol y sianel, ond mewn gwirionedd mae stori gadarnhaol i'w hadrodd.

Fe fu cynnydd yn y nifer o bobl oedd yn gwylio S4C yn ystod wythnos arferol o 449,000 i 487,000 yng Nghymru, ac o 551,000 i 661,000 (+12%) yn y DU gyfan.

Fe fu cynnydd yn y nifer o sesiynau gwylio rhaglenni ar-lein ('Clic') o 1.1m i 1.6m, cynnydd o 44% ar ffigurau 2009.

Ryw ddau fis yn ôl es i i gyfarfod am ddyfodol y sianel yng Nghrymych a drefnwyd gan Gymdeithas yr Iaith. Fe ddaeth rhyw 30 o bobl ac roedd safon y drafodaeth yn uchel dros ben. Da clywed cymaint o bobl leol yn siarad mor huawdl a mor angerddol am bwysigrwydd gwasanaeth teledu yn Gymraeg i ddyfodol yr iaith, er bod sawl un yn cwyno am arlwy S4C - roedd 'gormod o rwtsh', ac ati.

Ydy hynny'n wir neu'n deg?

Y ffaith yw, wrth gwrs, bod S4C yn ceisio plesio pawb: garddio, ffermio, coginio, adloniant, hanes, materion cyfoes, cerddoriaeth, digwyddiadau fel Eisteddfod yr Urdd a'r Sioe Frenhinol, chwaraeon, rhaglenni plant ac yn y blaen. Hefyd, mae S4C yn wynebu heriau mawr megis sut i gynhyrchu rhaglenni sy'n apelio at y Cofis a'r Jacs ar yr un pryd?

O'i chymharu â sianeli cyhoeddus mewn gwledydd bach eraill yn Ewrop (e.e. Sweden, Denmarc neu'r Swistir - gwledydd sydd â llawer mwy o bobl gyda llaw), mae arlwy S4C yn hynod o dda. Fel arfer, ceir deiat o newyddion, newyddion lleol, rhaglenni Saesneg sy wedi cael eu dybio neu gydag isdeitlau, rhaglenni "cylchgrawn" (e.e. Wedi 7), rhyw ffilm ddogfen leol (e.e. cyfres sy'n dilyn blwyddyn mewn ysgol yn y Swistir heno) neu raglen goginio. Ac wedyn, cyn mynd i'r gwely, rhagor o newyddion.

Heb os, mae rwtsh ar S4C, yn union fel ar bob sianel, gan gynnwys BBC1. Ond mae rhaglenni arloesol a gwerthfawr megis y gyfres Ar Lafar a thlysau fel Con Passionate hefyd.

Y gwir yw ein bod ni, fel cenedl, wrth ein bodd yn cwyno, ond mae S4C yn werth ymladd drosti.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Spin unspun - Dyfed Powys Police and PR

Dyfed Powys Police have finally responded to criticism of the arrest of fellow Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqui Thompson. The statement, entitled "Putting the Record Straight" can be read here. The statement makes interesting reading, and the one thing it does not do is put the record straight.

In my limited dealings with Dyfed Powys Police, I have to say that I have always found that their response has been very good; the officers have been friendly and reassuring, and problems dealt with efficiently and sensibly. On one occasion, I was so impressed that I wrote a letter of thanks to the Chief Constable.

There may be the odd bad or mediocre apple, but on the whole Dyfed Powys Police is a good police service which understands the area it is responsible for, and in an odd way it is reassuring to see that they are not good at PR. Other police services perhaps, and Carmarthenshire County Council certainly, run slick PR machines which are expert in the dark arts of spin. Not so Dyfed Powys.

The press release itself is badly written, with poor grammar and by someone who clearly has a phobia of punctuation marks. That may sound pedantic, but it is not. If you are in the business of communication these things matter. I would strongly recommend, Dyfed Powys, that you buy a copy of the excellent Eats, shoots and leaves by Lynne Truss. If you haven't already worked it out for yourselves, take out the comma from the title and see what happens to the meaning.

The statement gets off to a bad start by claiming that there has been criticism of the officers involved. I don't think that is the case. The officers were clearly very young, and it is very, very unlikely that they will ever have been asked before to respond to a situation which was all about politics, rather than criminal behaviour, road accidents, etc. Apart from the occasional protest by Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Dyfed Powys does not have to deal with public protesters very often.

No, the criticism has been of the police service's hierarchy for allowing itself to be put into this position in the first place. It is abundantly clear that the junior officers who responded were acting on the instructions of someone further up the chain of command, and that it was somewhere "up there" that mistakes of judgment were made.

The overall tone of the statement is almost a whining plea, and it leaves the distinct impression that Dyfed Powys now wishes that it had not got itself tangled up with the issue of filming a public meeting. They even let the cat out of the bag by pointing out that the council has no prohibition on filming; and of course the police service has no opinion on the ins and outs of that. Nor should they.

All the police were doing, they say, was acting to prevent an escalation. There is no suggestion by the police that Mrs Thompson was violent or in any way posing a threat to the council. So what form might an escalation have taken? A lynch mob of elderly councillors storming the public gallery, perhaps? It's a long way up to the gallery, and there is no chair lift. Or just a sullen stand-off until someone in the chamber found enough common sense to suggest that the meeting should carry on, and the matter be dealt with afterwards.

Where the statement is less than honest is when they refer to "previous incidents". If they checked their records, they would know that there had been one previous incident in which the plaintiff was Mrs Thompson, not the council. That little letter 's' is mendacious, and mendacity is not what we expect from Dyfed Powys Police.

Perhaps the most damning part of the statement, however, is the revelation that Carmarthenshire County Council just wanted Jacqui Thompson removed, no matter whether she continued filming or not. Let's just run that one through.

In common with all councils, Carmarthenshire is legally obliged to hold public meetings and to allow members of the public to attend them. What the police are telling us is that even if Jacqui Thompson had agreed to stop filming, the council wanted her to be ejected from the building. That is both unreasonable and in clear breach of the law. You cannot simply throw people out because you don't like them; but that is what this whole incident boils down to.

So if you are reading this, Dyfed Powys Police, do yourselves a favour and tell the council to sort out its own mess. Tell them that you will only respond to calls in future if there is a real risk of violence or criminal activity. And that if they want to prevent some members of the public from entering County Hall, they should seek redress through the civil courts. But I would not bet the budget for the annual Police Ball on a successful outcome for the council.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A really Welsh Secretary of State for Wales

Cheryl Gillan was born in Cardiff and spent several years growing up on her family's farms (note the plural) near Usk before going off to school, as so many young Cardiff girls do, to Cheltenham Ladies College. That was in the early 1960s, and our Cher probably never gave much thought to Wales again until she was brought into David Cameron's cabinet to sort out the Welsh.

Mrs Gillan represents the very un-Welsh constituency of Chesham and Amersham in the leafy commuter belt of the south of Buckinghamshire. You couldn't get much further away from Wales in terms of socio-economic and cultural identity if you tried.

One of the major issues Mrs Gillan is now grappling with is the threat to her constituency and her majority posed by the high speed rail link between London and the North of England. Mrs Gillan is opposing the rail link, and according to the blogger Guido Fawkes has even gone so far as to have questions planted to warn David Cameron that she is not at all happy.

Great news for the lawns and flowerbeds of Buckinghamshire, but odd that a Secretary of State for Wales should be spending so much time and effort on looking after them. Has she threatened to resign over the Government's refusal to allow Wales to decide whether or not to build giant wind farms and put pylons across the Welsh countryside; or the decision to bundle S4C into the the BBC and cut its budgets?

At least we know what her priorities are.

On the other hand, looking at the possible Welsh Tory contenders for the job, perhaps we are better sticking with Cheryl. One of them apparently refuses to deal with correspondence in Welsh, even though his constituency includes a good many Welsh speakers. Letters in Welsh have been answered with a curt statement saying that the writer will only get a reply if they write in English. And David Cameron said the Nasty Party was no more.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Keeping things under wraps - Part I

Carmarthenshire County Council is again demonstrating why we need change in the way the public finds out about its decisions and how it goes about making those decisions.

The last meeting of the full council took place on 8 June. It was an unusually stormy meeting for the council, with issues raised which are of great interest to many people around the county, but unless you were able to attend the meeting in person, you will not know what happened or what was decided. Almost three weeks have gone by, and the minutes for the meeting are still not available.

Let's not get too excited. Minutes are minutes, after all, and they are likely to provide only a very dry bones record of the decisions. Anyone unaware of the dramatic events which took place is unlikely to get a sense of what happened at the meeting, but the minutes are important nevertheless.

At the very least, the unacceptable delays in publishing minutes of meetings show how little importance the council attaches to the rights of the public and council taxpayers to be informed of its decisions. At worst, you have to wonder whether by holding information back for so long, the council is calculating that by the time it does publish, the so-called news agenda will have moved on and nobody will be interested.

Of course, delaying the publication of information which it is required to produce by law is only one way a local authority can keep things under wraps. There are many more tools in the box, and I shall be looking at some more in the coming weeks.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cofio Mynydd Epynt

Dathlwyd Dirwnod y Lluoedd Arfod am y trydydd tro ddoe, ac erbyn hyn mae Help for Heroes wedi codi dros £100 miliwn o bunnoedd i helpu milwyr a’u teuluoedd. 

Yn anffodus, mae hen ddigon o dystiolaeth hefyd bod nifer fawr o bobl yn Irac wedi cael eu cam-drin yn rhywiol neu’n gorfforol gan rai o’n harwyr ni. Faint o’r arian mawr 'na fydd yn mynd atyn nhw a’u teuluoedd? Dim ceiniog, am wn i.

Mae milwreiddio ein cymdeithas yn cynyddu. Fe gawn ni gofeb newydd i ryw grŵp neu’i gilydd yn rhywle bob yn ail fis; mae paredau ymhobman a thywysogion yn eu gwisg ffansi, digwyddiadau i godi mwy o arian yn ein tafarnau a rhaglenni ar y BBC. Etifeddiaeth Tony Blair, wrth gwrs.

Wrth i bobl Prydain ddathlu Diwrnod y Lluoedd Arfog, aeth grŵp bach o Gymdeithas y Cymod i Fynydd Epynt er cof am y bobol ddiniwed a laddwyd gan awyrennau di-beilot yn ogystal â’r chymuned fach Gymraeg oedd yn arfer byw ac yn ffermio yno.

Cymerodd Swyddfa’r Rhyfel drosodd ym 1940 a chollodd 400 o bobl eu cartrefi, ffermydd, ysgol fach a chapel.  Mae 71 mlynedd wedi mynd ers hynny, ac mae’r fyddin yno o hyd. Chafodd y gymuned erioed dod yn ôl.

Mae’n iawn ein bod ni’n cofio’r milwyr, ond dylen ni beidio ag anghofio’r rhai eraill sy wedi dioddef cymaint, weithiau o dan ddwylo'r fyddin Brydeinig.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


The manipulation of language by politicians and people in power is nothing new. When Julius Caesar had to report on a heavy defeat in his conquest of Gaul, he reported back to Rome that there had been a calamitas (setback or misfortune). When he was busy exterminating a conquered tribe, he would describe it as pacere (pacifying) , and in the Vietnam War, the Americans used to say that they were carpet bombing Hanoi in order to save lives. The British are no slouches when it comes to this sort of thing either. In the Boer War the military decided that the best way of defeating the Boers would be to remove them from their homes and put them all into one place. Hence concentration camps were born, and the Nazis took note.

The Nazis took the manipulation of language to new heights in a whole number of ways, and understood that constant repetition of lies or grossly distorted claims (for example the claim that Germany had somehow been stabbed in the back in World War One) made them believable; that only ever using certain words in a negative context, such as Jews, eventually meant that hitherto everyday words became terms of abuse or contempt.

The Nazis were especially productive when it came to coining euphemisms to conceal sinister truths. They borrowed financial terms, such as liquidate to conceal wholesale murder and theft. The Gestapo took people into protective custody (Schutzhaft) in order to care for them (betreuen), and they took an active part in the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Jews and others were sent to the extermination camps in a resettlement programme (Umsiedlung). People who were massacred in secret were the subjects of special treatment (Sonderbehandlung). One SS report from 1942 speaks of 21 people being given special treatment.

And it continues to this day. Hilary Clinton did not lie when she claimed to have come under gun fire; she mis-spoke. And recent British governments have all graduated from PR school with flying colours. Spin itself is a euphemism for lying; you take facts which don’t look good and present them in such a way as to turn them to your advantage or at least minimise the collateral damage (another term borrowed in part from the world of finance). Tony Blair was very keen on liberal intervention to justify the use of military force in various foreign countries. The word liberal in the UK generally has positive conotations (kind, generous, men with bushy bears and sandals), while in the US, the Republican right has worked hard to turn it into a term of abuse. The fact that Blair's government was extremely illiberal in matters such as civil liberties is another matter.

These bad habits have also put down roots in local government. Carmarthenshire County Council is certainly no worse than many others when it comes to this, but it is a practice we should all resist. In Carmarthenshire clubs which provide elderly people with a hot meal, warmth and a chance to chat are being developed (closed) as part of a modernisation programme designed to meet their needs. The old people who go to the clubs are not people but service users. Meanwhile, the jobs of the staff employed to cook and look after them are being deleted (rubbed out like a mistake with the other end of a pencil?).

Why does this matter so much? Firstly because these euphemisms are designed to hide uncomfortable truths; and secondly because they are dehumanising. If someone is no longer a person but a service user, they lose part of their identity; they become a commodity to be processed. In this way a culture is created which allows nurses and professional care staff to neglect or even abuse the people they are looking after; and it allows council officials and councillors to slam the doors shut in the faces of frail, elderly people struggling to stay independent who only want a chance to have a day out, meet others, have a proper meal and enjoy some warmth.

Anyone with any good examples of council euphemisms is welcome to post them as a comment. All contributions gratefully received.
Coming up soon, jargon.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Winds of change in Carmarthenshire

Plaid Cymru took another seat from the "Independents" in Llanegwad last night, and Mansel Charles has been returned as the new member in a ward which has a tradition of returning "Independent" candidates. This reinforces Plaid's position as largest group on the council, but it is still just a little short of holding half the seats.

The voting was:

Mansel Charles (Plaid Cymru) 494
Clive Pugh (Independent) 453

This is a very good result for local democracy because it shows that issues matter to voters. Mansel Charles stood on a platform of opposing the closure of yet more village schools and other issues of real concern to people locally, whereas the "Independent" appeared unable or unwilling to say where he stood on anything, apart from wanting to join the ruling Independent/Labour group in Carmarthen.

The "Independents" set out their stall earlier in the week in a letter from Cllr Stephen James to the Carmarthen Journal. And a pretty threadbare and disingenuous stall it is.

Mr James, who is reckoned to be one of the favourites to take over from Meryl Gravell when she steps down as leader, claimed that the "Independents" were just a group of like-minded individuals, not a party at all. They just happen to agree on everything.

As an example of just how independent the "Independents" are, he cited a debate on the closure of a care home in Llanelli back in February this year, without going in to detail, of course.

Here is the detail. The motion to close the home was defeated by 38 votes to 28, with just 5 "Independents" voting with the opposition. All 28 votes in favour were cast by "Independent" or Labour members, including of course, Cllr James himself.

This was the only time in recent years where there has been any kind of rebellion by "Independent" councillors, and a pretty small rebellion at that.

More recently we have seen strong protests by local people against the closure of schools, day clubs for elderly people and other controversial council policies. On each occasion, "Independent" councillors elected to represent their communities have sided with the council and backed the official line.

Independent councillors who step out of line face the wrath of Meryl Gravell ("absolutely bonkers" and "extreme weakness" are two phrases which spring to mind), while councillors who loyally do as they are told are rewarded with plum new jobs as chairmen of committees, sinecures which bring an additional £11,000 in allowances to the lucky winners highly experienced and deserving appointees.

Cllr James trots out another favourite line in his letter, namely that Carmarthenshire is one of the best run councils in Wales. They have also previously claimed that we have the best chief executive in Wales.

Well, in the last two weeks they have been attacked by both the left-leaning New Statesman and the rather less radical Horse and Hound; they have been reported with approval by the Chinese state controlled press for they way they deal with pro-democracy activists; and they have made it into the rogues gallery of Private Eye's "Rotten Boroughs". Quite an achievement, and I suspect that other Welsh councils will be having a quiet chuckle.

And now the electors have spoken.

Mrs Gravell will no doubt now be giving more thought to life post-retirement, while Mark James is probably checking the golden parachute clauses in his contract of employment.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Tesco ac achos rhyfedd y wasg Gymraeg

Es i gyda'r wraig i Gaerfyrddin yn ddiweddar, ac am ryw reswm neu'i gilydd, bu'n rhaid iddi fynd i Tesco. Penderfynais i bori trwy'r cylchgronau a'r papurau newydd tra bod hi'n mynd yn ling di long trwy'r stor.

Mae 'na ddewis helaeth o gylchgronau yn Tesco - garddio, porn, gwau a gwnio, cwcan, cadw merlod, bochdewion ac ati. Ond dim yr un gair o Gymraeg. Golwg? Nage. Beth am Y Cymro? Nage. Papurau bro? Nage. Barn? Wrth gwrs nage.

Ond wele! Y Jewish Chronicle. Papur newydd gwych am wn i, ond faint o'i ddarllenwyr sy'n byw yn yr ardal 'ma?

Mae hanner o drigolion Sir Gâr yn siarad Cymraeg.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

How Carmarthenshire County Council closed day clubs for the elderly

The row about filming council meetings in Carmarthen was sparked by Cllr Siân Caiach's attempt at a meeting on 8 June to request a debate on the closure of the Noddfa Teilo day club in Llandeilo. Just before she intervened, the council had heard a passionate plea from a group of elderly people who were presenting a petition signed by over 1,500 people calling on the council to reconsider.

It is worth looking at the background to this and the timeline in more detail, because what emerges is a tale which encapsulates so much of what is wrong with the current council administration.

All councils have had to face the prospect of a tough financial settlement and cutbacks. Earlier this year Carmarthenshire highlighted a number of areas in which it wanted to make savings, and went on to publish a very loaded questionnaire in the local press which effectively gave readers the choice between being shot, gassed or electrocuted. Huge areas of council spending, such as spending on large capital projects, were excluded from the survey, and of course we were not given a chance to comment on the massive salaries and pensions enjoyed by the top brass.

Towards the end of March, a list of cutbacks was drawn up, and each of the affected departments was told to go away and draw up detailed plans. Health and Social Care produced a report for a scrutiny committee meeting on 6 May recommending the closure of 5 day clubs for the elderly.

The report makes for interesting reading. Here are the key points:
  • Closing the 5 clubs would save around £400,000 per year, although reading between the lines, this saving is likely to be rather less.
  • £172,000 of the total savings would come from ending transport to bring elderly people from their often remote rural homes to the clubs.
  • Six jobs would be "deleted", although some of these people might possibly find work elsewhere.
  • There had been no consultation with either the users of the clubs or the staff.
  • There would be a significant impact on building assets, and decisions would be needed on which buildings to keep, which could be allocated to the "3rd sector" (i.e. charities and voluntary organisations), and which to sell.
  • There would be a significant impact on transport for elderly people using day services. The implication is that by removing users of day clubs from buses, the numbers qualifying for free transport will fall, which in turn will call the viability of transport services for other elderly people into question and mean that some of the 13 drivers currently employed can be shown the door. Alternatively, charges could be introduced.
  • The report says that the department has been in discussion with voluntary organisations about taking over day club provision, although this does not seem to be true in all cases.
  • The report says that there is significant spare capacity in the day clubs, and that take-up has in some cases been low. We are not told whether the council has made any efforts to promote them and increase visits.
The recommendations made then had to go for approval by the cabinet member responsible for Health and Social Care before going on for approval by the full council and executive board (cabinet).

The report of the scrutiny committee which met on 6 May rather lamely stated "that scrutiny involvement at key stages of the review would be useful before any final decisions were made". In other words, will you tell us if we ask really nicely?

The scrutiny committee report containing these words was presented to the full council at the stormy meeting on 8 June.

Despite this, the decision to close the 5 day clubs appears not to have been approved by either the full council or the executive board, at least judging from the minutes of meetings published so far. And final decisions have been made and clubs closed.

This brings us back to our timeline. Having recommended "development" of the day clubs (county council speak for "closure") on 6 May, the day clubs were told that they would close. In at least one case, that of the Teifi Valley Day Club in Newcastle Emlyn, the club was given two weeks' notice.

Despite the claim by the council that there had been discussions with voluntary organisations, it is clear that no discussions had taken place about the club in Newcastle Emlyn, with Age Cymru telling the press that it was interested in taking over, but had been unable to get any answers from the council.

In Llandeilo, users of the Noddfa Teilo day club were very upset to hear suddenly that their club would close. A petition was started, but the local Independent councillor, Cllr Ieuan Jones, refused to have anything to do with it or to support the campaign. One elderly lady chained herself to railings in protest.

Back in Newcastle Emlyn, the county councillor, Cllr Hazel Evans, managed to secure a three week extension for the club, and only at the last minute was agreement reached between the council and Age Cymru. Despite that, the club will be closed for a month until the new arrangements can be put into place. It seems that the building used is being "leased" to Age Cymru for nothing or just a nominal sum.

One month after the report recommending closure was first presented, the full council met. By that stage clubs had been served notice, staff had been given the standard interviews required under employment law and users of the clubs were upset and confused (remember the bit about 'before final decisions are made'?).

Two days after the row in the council chambers, a press release appeared on the county council's website announcing that a new day club facility had opened in Llandeilo operated by the WRVS. Happy pensioners were quoted, and no mention was made of people chaining themselves to railings, petitions, job losses or any of the distress caused.

Oddly, none of the elderly people who had been so upset appeared to know anything about it, and you have to wonder why the council chose Noddfa Teilo out of the five clubs being closed (sorry, "developed") as the subject for its press release. Surely not cynical PR to try to make protesters look bad?

Back to the savings. The 6 May report says that users of the day clubs will need to be reassessed for care, and that in some cases it is likely that the outcome will be a higher level of care, and therefore more cost. It is also clear that the council will be paying WRVS, Age Cymru and other organisations to take over the service, as the Health and Social Care scrutiny committee heard:

"The issue of amenity funds held by the local authority run day clubs was discussed and the Locality Manager informed the Committee that the level of funds held had varied from facility to facility. He added that legal advice had been sought and the Council could transfer those funds to an organisation taking over the running of the club if certain criteria were met."

What is not at all clear is whether this possible transfer of funds is just once-off for this year, or whether the council will continue to provide funding. Judging from the answer, it would look likely that Age Cymru, etc. will be on their own after this year.

On the subject of transport, the same manager noted happily that,"he had been surprised at the number of people who were willing to pay for transport to a new club of their choice even when there had been provision closer to home." 

How much of this can be believed? The same manager claimed that 3rd sector organisations apporached had been "extremely positive" about the idea of running the clubs. So why was Age Cymru taken by surprise, and why did it complain in the newspapers that it could not get answers from the council?

So what do we know now?
  • Decisions have been pushed through without consultation in a way which has caused distress and anxiety to both staff and the elderly people who rely on the services.
  • The savings will not be anything like as much as those claimed.
  • The programme is receiving only "light-touch" scrutiny from elected councillors. How much money is to be transferred to the 3rd sector? Nobody has asked. What will happen in 2012? We don't know.
  • The day club services, even under the 3rd sector, as well as transport face a very uncertain future.
  • Decisions were made and enacted before they had been approved by councillors, even if that just involves a rubber stamp.
  • There has been a cynical use of the council's PR machine to try to silence and wrongfoot critics.
  • The language used betrays a coldness and contempt for the truth which seems to permeate so much of the CCC bureaucracy. Elderly people are just "service users"; jobs are "deleted". And next time you hear that your local bus service or primary school is to be "developed" or that another service is to be "modernised", you will have cause to worry.
 I will return to the subject of the council's use of language another time.

    Tuesday, 21 June 2011

    Playground bullying

    Jacqui Thompson, the Carmarthenshire blogger arrested for filming part of a county council meeting on her mobile phone, has now been told by chief executive Mark James that she is banned from County Hall and may not attend public meetings there, presumably unless she signs her own gagging order.

    In the last couple of weeks, the story has attracted a huge amount of attention in the media, including a prominent barrister who writes for New Statesman magazine and has taken up the case. His devastating analysis of the circumstances of the arrest can be read here. The conclusion is that Jacqui Thompson had not broken either the council’s own rules, which do not prohibit filming, or the law. She was arrested without just cause on the say-so of the council’s top brass.

    Claims that she was disturbing a meeting have also been quietly dropped, as it was apparent to anyone there or anyone who has watched the video, that she was not making a sound.

    Now the Council is trying a new tack by effectively claiming trespass. County Hall is our building, they say, and we will decide who and what we will allow. 

    The row was sparked off by an attempt to get a debate on the closure of day clubs for the elderly by Cllr Siân Caiach, something I will write about later. The chair of the council and the chief executive used procedures to block any discussion.

    Shortly afterwards, the meeting was suspended while the police were called to arrest Jacqui. The suspension itself contravened the council’s own rules because no motion was brought for the councillors to decide. Many other commentators have also pointed out that the chief executive, an unelected official, took over the running of the meeting from the hapless chairman as well as the council’s solicitor, who was sitting just a few feet away, to dispense legal advice. Again, this is not how council meetings are supposed to be run.

    The decision to ban Jacqui Thompson from attending public meetings in County Hall also contravenes the law, which requires councils to allow members of the public to attend council meetings. The 74 elected councillors have not been consulted or asked to approve the decision to ban Jacqui Thompson either, something which sets a very disturbing precedent because this decision is about the democratic process and the rights of the public.

    Jacqui Thompson’s real crime is to have criticised the chief executive and the way the council is run, and for that she is being bullied by the clique which has gained control of our county council. The clapping and jeering of some councillors as Mrs Thompson was led out in handcuffs is a disgrace and an example of playground bullying at its worst.