There is considerable irony that a working group tasked with coming up with recommendations to make Carmarthenshire the "most open and transparent" local authority in Wales is meeting behind closed doors and is not routinely publishing minutes or any other documentation.
Its meetings are not advertised, membership of the group has been tantamount to a state secret, and there appears to be no input from anyone outside County Hall. Not even Sir David Lewis, the distinguished lawyer co-opted on to the Audit Committee, has been invited to the party, although he has more expertise in this field than the rest of County Hall put together.
|The Council Diary for 9 December - no mention of the Working Group|
The press office, which is currently busy telling us about Cllr Pam Palmer, the Independent leader, dishing out toys, Kevin Madge, the Labour leader of the council, pretending to be a postman and a royal visit to the fee-paying Llandovery College (none of the county's state schools being worthy), has not breathed a word about the working group.
Thanks to Jacqui Thompson's persistence, we now know that the membership of the group is as follows:
Cllr Hugh Richards, who appears to be on the guest list for just about everything these days despite being a backbencher, showed his commitment to the process by not turning up to the first meeting on 9 December, which was attended by five officers, including the Chief Executive, Mrs Linda Rees Jones, the acting Head of Law and Administration and Robert Edgecombe from the council's Legal Services department (motto "Cavalier at Best, Incompetent at Worst").
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this list is that it includes three members of the ruling Executive Board: Kevin Madge (Leader), Pam Palmer (Deputy Leader) and Mair Stephens, whose main responsibility is Human Resources.
Apart from Derek Cundy, it is fair to say that the commitment to change, openness and transparency of the other Labour and Independent members is lukewarm at best and downright hostile at worst. Pam Palmer in particular has a long track record of presiding over the subversion of the council's constitution, undermining an independent local press and rampant secrecy.
No democratic body which is remotely serious about reforming itself and giving opposition and backbench councillors a stronger voice would set up a group which is to all intents and purposes dominated by the Executive.
No wonder the council is so keen to keep the public in the dark.