A couple of things stand out from yesterday's announcement that the Independents and Labour would once again form a coalition to run Carmarthenshire County Council.
First, the agreement will run for just one year initially, at which point it will be reviewed. We can only speculate why they have chosen to do this, but the most likely answer would seem to be the unhappiness of several Independent councillors about being junior partners in a Llanelli-Labour dominated administration.
Two of the Independents, Giles Morgan (Swiss Valley) and Huw Richards (Felinfoel) are understood to have broken ranks briefly, and it would seem likely that a promise to review the workings of the arrangement with Labour after just a year was the price for getting them to sign on the dotted line.
It is probably no coincidence that both represent adjoining, mainly rural wards on the periphery of Llanelli, so their wariness of their new Labour chums from down the road is telling. Could it be that they fear that a council administration which draws so much of its support from urban areas will ensure that all of the dosh is channelled into pet projects in Llanelli and the Amman Valley?
Which brings us to our second point.
Pam Palmer, who leads the official Independent group on the council, said in her statement yesterday that, "the coalition has delivered record investment in schools, housing and
regeneration, and we want to build on that success, with a particular
focus on rural areas".
Those rural areas again, although for many of us hearing Pam Palmer utter these words, the promise sounds more like a threat.
In common with every other local authority in Wales, Carmarthenshire has been busy in recent years closing down village schools and building large new area schools, sometimes in the teeth of strong local opposition. As far as housing is concerned, the key characteristics of this county council have been a very weak commitment to affordable or new social housing, with most of the building taking the form of large new executive-type dwellings. And regeneration has been the preserve of the urban areas, with a whole string of controversial prestige developments, many of which will be a millstone around the necks of council tax payers for years if not decades to come.
The things which matter most to people in the rural areas of the county include the availability of affordable and social housing for local families; employment; education; public transport and the cultural and linguistic identity of our rural communities.
It is hard to think of anything that Pam Palmer, Meryl Gravell or Kevin Madge have done to make the lot of rural communities better in any of these fields. In fact, they have actively pursued policies which have done more harm than good. Just ask the people of Waungilwen and Drefach-Felindre who fought so hard to stop an executive housing development voted through by Labour and Independent councillors. Or the people of Llandovery who face a future without a secondary school. Or all those parents who from next year will have to fork out to pay for school buses for their children aged 16 and over. Or the people of Newcastle Emlyn whose secondary school is suffering from a dire lack of investment and where Labour and Independent councillors voted through plans for a supermarket which would kill off the town's independent traders.
What Pam is offering us is more heavy-handed planning decisions, a dictatorial schools policy, cuts to services many rural families and older people depend on, utter neglect of employment and housing requirements and policies which are actively undermining the character and identity of our countryside.
We can do without your focus, Mrs P.