Cneifiwr and Caebrwyn were unable to attend this month's twice delayed meeting of the full council, but thanks to the miracle of digital technology and a secret squirrel (no, not the cute fluffy one belonging to the Council Chair), here is a quick run-down on what we all missed.
Cllr Glynog Davies (Plaid) complained that his question last month to Chief Executive Mark James about the council's blacklisting of the South Wales Guardian was not in the minutes. A proposed amendment to the minutes to make them reflect what actually happened in the meeting was rejected in a vote.
Linda Evans (Plaid) once again raised the issue of bus services which are set to be cut drastically from April this year as a result of a 25% cut in the grant, and local authorities will lose control over bus subsidies to a new regional consortium. Colin Evans (Lab) responding as a member of the Executive Board agreed that the situation was bad.
And with that, we were back to the council's plans to hive off public toilets to community councils. Thanks to an overwhelming response from the
victims community councils to the County Council's generous
offer, any community councils which take up the offer will now receive 75% of the
cost of running the toilets in Year One, 50% in the second year and 25% in the
third year. Any community councils which were daft enough to accept the County
Council's original offer will not receive the additional funding. Peter Hughes
Griffiths described this as a shambles. He could have called it a U-turn in a U-bend.
Cllr Alun Lenny raised the decay of the old town centre of Carmarthen around King Street. Were there any plans to regenerate the old heart of the town? Deputy Chief Executive Chris Burns gave a non-committal response.
Cllr Lenny went on to ask about the Living Wage. Swansea, a Labour council, had agreed to pay a living wage, what about Carmarthenshire? Kev replied, "At the end of the day, as I've said before..(turn to page 94)..." In other words, "No".
Cefin Campbell raised the decline in the number of Welsh speakers shown in the census. He praised the Rally outside County Hall last Saturday (the one which the council's officers did not want). Mark James replied that the Language Commissioner would be setting up a committee to see what could be done. The ball was safely in the long grass.
Cllr Campbell went on to welcome the Welsh Government's u-turn on council tax benefits. 19,000 people in Carmarthenshire would benefit from this decision, and he asked Kev to offer congratulations to Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid) for his hard work in persuading Carwyn & Co in Cardiff to change course. Kev agreed that Rhodri Glyn deserved congratulations.
Darren Price mischievously asked if there would be any changes in the council's leadership following the defection of Labour's Theressa Bowen to the Independents. His question went unanswered.
Cllr Price also raised the development of a new business park at Cross Hands West, which he supported, but he wanted to know what was being done about council officers who had been found to be acting politically. What was happening to the Ombudsman's investigation into the matter? The Chief Executive replied that he did not know, and it was up to the Ombudsman.
Deian Harries pointed out that car park charges had gone up again, and that people from Tycroes were now shopping in Pontarddulais instead of Ammanford. Cllr Colin Evans blamed the decision on the old council (the Independent-Labour coalition). He agreed that the new Labour-Independent coalition should take another look at it.
Just before the meeting closed, Cefin Campbell rose to say that he had not seen the Ombudsman's report on the Breckman case. Six months had passed, and as the local member he wanted to know what was happening.
Mark James replied that there was no Any Other Business on the agenda this month, and he was right!
Normally, in fact invariably, the meeting agenda ends with the following wording:
ANY OTHER ITEMS OF BUSINESS THAT BY REASON OF SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCE, THE CHAIR DECIDES SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS A MATTER OF URGENCY, PURSUANT TO SECTION 100B(4)(B) OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972.
For reasons which we can only speculate about, the wording had unaccountably been left off the published agenda this time, and so, the Chief Executive purred, no questions could be taken.
Cllr Campbell had apparently taken the trouble following the last show-down about emergency items to speak to the Chair before the meeting to indicate that he wanted to ask a question.
As usual, however, the Chief Executive had the final word, and the meeting was closed.