Back once more to last week's meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council and the review of the annual Improvement Report submitted by the Wales Audit Office.
The report caused quite a lot of disquiet on the opposition benches for a whole variety of reasons, and the WAO's proposals to reduce the number of scrutiny committees on the council was heavily criticised by some of the most respected and experienced councillors there.
From what we could read in the WAO report, a reduction in the number of scrutiny committees is part of a package of constitutional reforms and changes being cooked up for this spring. What those reforms and changes to the council will be is something the public can only guess at. To date, no proposals have been published and no discussion in any public forum has taken place. Whether the public will be consulted on changes to what after all is supposed to be our county council would also seem unlikely. All we know, apart from the glimpse given by the WAO, is that the package will be presented soon.
Several times during her presentation to councillors, the WAO officer claimed that Carmarthenshire has the largest number of scrutiny committees in Wales. How true is that?
Currently, there are 7 scrutiny committees which meet just once a month. They correspond broadly to each of the main departments of the council (e.g. Regeneration, Education and Children's Services, Health and Social Care), and they each have 12 or 13 members appointed in proportion to political representation. By contrast, Ceredigion has 6 scrutiny committees, and Pembrokeshire has 5; both are much smaller authorities.
The WAO officer also claimed that some of these committees had "attendance issues", although a few spot checks of recent meetings shows that attendance is actually very high. Sometimes, it is true, substitutes stand in, but not to an unusual extent.
Whether some of the councillors who currently sit on those committees should be entrusted with anything or have the intellectual tools to ask the right questions and hold council officers to account is quite another matter. But that's democracy for you.
So what was the WAO up to? The harder you look, the harder it is to escape the conclusion reached by some opposition councillors that the report was written for the Executive Board and a handful of senior officers, and that it reflects their agendas rather than the wider interests of the council and public.