Friday 10 February 2012

Pork Barrel Politics: Part 1 - the butchers spare the piggies, for the time being

Pork barrel politics is normally a term we associate with America, where politicians bargain and blackmail government to win projects and state spending for their home turf in return for votes. It is also a well-worn practice in Britain, of course. You only have to remember Gordon Brown's desperate attempts to win votes in the 2010 election as he raced around promising a new hospital here, a new school there.

Councils are not immune from this sort of thing either, with all sorts of tricks and gimmicks in the tool box, and Carmarthenshire is no slouch when it comes to these dark arts.

At the end of 2011 the council published proposals for massive hikes in charges, council tax and cuts to all sorts of services. In the uproar that followed, Meryl Gravell and her colleagues put the blame on the council's officers, pretending that they had had no idea what would be in the proposals and had had no influence over them.

One of the proposals calculated to cause upset was the closure of the county's two museums, and sure enough the letters pages of the local papers were soon filled with protests. Then, all of a sudden, the ruling group on the council decided that this was a cut too far, and senior Independents started parading around claiming that they had "saved" the museums (smallprint: for this year).

Just this week, the Carmarthen Journal carried a story reporting how Gwynne Wooldridge, executive member responsible for education (quote of 2011, "The only important book is the Bible")  had popped into a primary school where the children had, if you can believe it, spontaneously decided the previous week that they were very worried about the future of the museums; presumably after they had completed their studies of the council's budget and revenue forecasts.

So it was that we had a picture of kind old Uncle Gwynne receiving messages of concern from the tots, which he promised to pass on to that nice Mr Robert Sully, the politically reliable Director of Education and Children's Services, who just happens to control one of the largest pots of money in the county.

To come: oink, oink! Modernising Education, with added pork scratchings.


Anonymous said...

I wont SULLY myself by commenting on this typical underhand and questionable way this council acts - they ALL seem to forget, staff (particularly SENIOR staff) and councillors alike, that they are the SERVANTS of the community - and not their masters....

Tessa said...

5 months before the last local govt. elections, all serving councillors were given £5,000 to (curry favour with) spend on their communities.