An opposition motion calling for a debate on press freedom at the next meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council has been blocked by the Chief Executive under Rule Number 1 of the council's constitution: that the Chief Executive shall decide what the rules are as he sees fit.
Instead of going before the full council, the Plaid motion will instead be directed to a member of the Executive Board for consideration in private (see Plaid's press release on the subject here).
The background to this was the revelation in December that the council had withdrawn advertising from the South Wales Guardian because the paper had published articles and comment pieces critical of County Hall, although the council's control freakery and meddling with press freedom extends way beyond that. As reported extensively on this blog and elsewhere, both the Carmarthen Journal and the Llanelli Star ceased independent reporting of council matters a long time ago, and it recently came to light that blogs critical of the council, including this one, are blocked on PCs provided to councillors (although they are actively monitored by the council's officers).
As readers of the blogs will know, the council's top brass have been resorting to ever more draconian measures to prevent discussion of matters the Council Leader and Chief Executive would rather not have aired. The list since the end of the summer break in September includes reports by the Ombudsman for Public Services, the infamous Sainsbury's press release and pollution in the Burry Inlet. Last month a motion which would have allowed recording of council meetings by the public was negated by a rival motion, contrary to the council's standing orders.
The full council was due to meet for the first time this year on 9 January, but that meeting has been put back by two weeks. This seems to follow a pattern established last year of cancelling or delaying meetings with the result that opportunities for elected councillors to question the executive are also being curbed.
There is no sign either that the council is in any hurry to allow discussion of the Census results which showed that the number of Welsh speakers in Carmarthenshire had fallen by more than anywhere else in Wales, thanks in part at least to the council's policies and disregard for the language.