Even for the bloggers who follow the twists and turns of life at County Hall in Carmarthen, the last week has been bewildering. After a lull in activity lasting the best part of six months, the council got down to business this week, and what Kevin Madge, the newly elevated council leader likes to describe as the "Dream Team" woke up to a living nightmare.
So here is a summary of this week's events to help readers as we head towards what promises to be a stormy autumn.
- Llandovery saw the formation of LATRA (Llandovery Area Tenants and Residents Association) to fight plans for a large new housing development, the closure of the town's secondary school, a wind turbine development and the imposition of a regeneration plan on the town. Citing a threat by chief executive Mark James to pursue campaigners against the school closure for legal costs, the group is in defiant mood.
- New revelations emerged about the very peculiar arrangements between the bosses at Llanelli Scarlets and the council, as it was confirmed that the club was hoping to make a quick and rather large buck by selling off a peppercorn lease on public property.
- Meryl Gravell revealed that the leaders of the so-called Independent and Labour groups had stitched up a deal before the council elections in May to ensure that power stayed in the same hands for the next 5 years, regardless of what voters decided.
- The council reluctantly had to swallow a large helping of humble pie in the case of Mr M, whose complaints against the council were upheld by the Public Services Ombudsman. Council officers told councillors that this all happened a long time ago, and all issues had been resolved. The ombudsman noted that the case began in 2008, and that it took the council 3 years to get round to sorting things out.
- Also in the pipeline, it has emerged, are two other very serious cases in which the Ombudsman has taken the council to task. One of these is understood to be heading for the courts as the council does not accept the Ombudsman's findings. There is also understood to be a pending libel action against the council over its treatment of the couple involved.
- A huge row blew up over a decision by the Welsh Government last month to take responsibility for plans for two large new Sainsbury's supermarkets off the council, which had approved both of them. Kevin Madge and the council's Press Office went on the attack against MP Jonathan Edwards and AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas for supporting local people who opposed the supermarket group's plans. But why did the council wait for over a month to do this?
- After 15 months of deliberation on whether or not to film public meetings of the council, the Task and Finish group has still not got around to finishing its task. An application to film this week's meeting of the full council was rejected.
- Allegations of misappropriation of funds by one of the council's favourite charities were made in the council chamber. Expect more on this soon, and as the bloggers have pointed out, serious questions need to be asked about some other pet projects involving "third sector" organisations.
- Despite this, council chief executive Mark James told councillors that the council did not routinely carry out due diligence of the governance and financial arrangements of the charities and other bodies it funds.
- Labour leader Kevin Madge gave what must be one of the most shambolic performances in the history of shambolic performances as he spluttered and waffled his way through the council meeting. Judging from the body language of his party colleagues, the likelihood of a Llanelli-based coup is growing.
- Another fierce row broke out in the Council chamber after two councillors (People First's Siân Caiach and Labour's Bill Thomas) were told that they could not make a verbal declaration as they objected to the rubber stamping of minutes of a planning committee. At issue are plans for massive new housing developments, overloading of Llanelli's antiquated sewers and resulting pollution of the estuary and its cockle beds.
- A Plaid councillor was also told that she had missed the boat when it came to asking a question about councillors' allowances.
- A Plaid notice of motion calling on the council to pay staff a living wage was also ruled inadmissible. A council press release said that Kev did not want to rush into a decision, but was gathering facts. No mention was made of the opposition motion. Staff hoping for news any time soon should be reminded that after 15 months, we are still waiting to see proposals on broadcasting council meetings.
We will have to wait and see how much of this makes it into the Carmarthen Journal next week, but this week's edition did manage to devote a few lines to report negatively on the campaign in Llandovery, and it also ran a story on the cockle beds, but again from a rather different perspective. A temporary re-opening of the beds at Laugharne had run more smoothly than the chaotic scenes last year, when cocklers left a lot of litter behind, it reported. Apparently nothing else much happened in the county, apart from the usual diet of sports fixtures, a real ale festival at Ffos Las, and fines for littering and dog fouling.