Friday 7 September 2012

Carmarthenshire County Council - Mr Davies's socks and an early retirement

Slowly, slowly Carmarthenshire County Council is emerging from its long sleep, and two meetings have been scheduled. The first is the Community Scrutiny Committee, which featured in the last post, and the second is a meeting of the full council scheduled for 12 September.

The agenda is not too taxing, consisting for the most part of rubber stamping minutes of old meetings, but a couple of items may attract a flicker of interest.

The first is yet another critical report from the Public Services Ombudsman. This relates to a complaint made by "Mr M", a wheelchair user who was allocated a council property that was not suitable for wheelchairs. He made his first complaint in 2008, and the Ombudsman discovered that the council failed to carry out the necessary modifications over a period of three years.

The report which councillors will be asked to consider comes with a summary (i.e. the bit most likely to be read by some councillors) written by the council, and the summary kicks off with a fairly lengthy list of reasons why the council thinks it was right all the way along. Despite this, the authority has waved the white flag and agreed to accept the Ombudsman's recommendations in full.

Councillors who read blogs (but not the Carmarthen Journal) may also be aware of another report from the Ombudsman which the council likes even less. The reason for the non-appearance of that report on the agenda is that the council is going to court over it.

It will be interesting to see if any of our elected representatives enquire about that, especially since the ombudsman specifically asked the council's officers to provide councillors with a copy.

The report on Mr M deals with social services, and coincidentally councillors will also be considering the annual report from the Director of Social Services, who takes a staggering 7 pages to deliver his introduction. Parts of the report will be familiar to readers of the council's own annual report (reviewed yesterday), including a tale about Mr D from Llandysul and his socks (he needs a carer to help put them on).

The report runs to 80 pages in total, but manages to squeeze in only 10 lines on the subject of complaints, the same amount of space devoted to Mr D and his socks.These show that complaints relating to children's services fell last year. No complaints about other services are mentioned.

There is also no mention of the Public Services Ombudsman and his findings in the case of Mr M. There is also no mention of another report from the ombudsman dealing with the case of "Sally", although that affair attracted a lot of media attention in the year covered by the Director's annual report (although not in the Carmarthen Journal).

The case involving Sally exposed some very serious shortcomings, and Delyth Jenkins, the whistleblower who became a victim herself in the Sally case, pointed out not so long ago that the body which inspects residential homes, the CSSIW, is not responsible for inspecting day centres of the kind where the abuse occurred.

An honest and honourable approach would have been for the Director of Social Services to discuss the case and its aftermath in his report, explaining what lessons had been learned and what is still being done to ensure that the chances of this sort of thing happening again are reduced as much as they can be.

As you might expect, we are fed instead with glossy pictures and quotes praising the council.

Right at the end of the agenda is a small announcement that the Labour group is reshuffling its committee memberships, even though very few committee meetings have actually taken place since the elections back in May.

Cllr Calum Higgins, Cardiff student, part-time employee of party animal Keith Davies AM and Labour county councillor is taking early retirement at the age of 23 from his duties on the Licensing Committee. Perhaps it was all just a bit too much for him.

As we have seen, the Carmarthen Journal is silent about a lot of things these days, but it did get very excited about Calum earlier this year.

"Age is no barrier as young gun proves his worth on the council" it gushed in an article reminiscent of one of those celebrity gossip magazines for teenage girls. OMG!

Oh dear.


william price said...

general query, election back in may, so far 2 council meetings planned, how few meetings are scheduled by the end of the year?

Cneifiwr said...

There is a forward diary, which you can find here:

This is provisional, however. So far in September 4 of the publicised meetings have been cancelled. Agendas for meetings are published usually about 10 days in advance, and can be found here: